Monday, March 02, 2020

Bernie for AFT, and Bernie for America

 I received a request from AFT to write about which candidate I supported. Here's what I sent them. I don't know what they plan to do with it, if anything. I'll share it with you here. 

In 2016, America lost both the Presidency and its voice. The candidate who won got fewer votes than the one who lost, and now pushes policies and appoints judges most Americans don’t support. In 2016, millions of Obama voters simply didn’t come out. Obama ran on a platform of hope and change, and Americans crave that as much as ever.

In 2020, the candidate who most clearly stands for hope and change is Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders. as President, will not place the interests of corporations over people. The Sanders campaign, fueled by small donations by working people, will reflect our priorities. In a Sanders administration, corporate suitcases full of cash will not be the President’s priority.

We have a healthcare crisis in the USA. While Obamacare helped, there are still tens of millions Americans who remain un or underinsured. Catastrophic medical emergency remains the number one cause of bankruptcy in our country.

I’ve seen what being underinsured means. Years ago, my friend’s father went broke paying for the medical care of his wife. He had to sell his home, and one Christmas Eve, while living in his son’s basement, he took his own life. More recently, a musician friend of mine had chest pains and didn’t go to the ER. He was concerned about the thousands of dollars he had to pay. Two days later he was dead. My own father, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, had to divest himself of everything he’d worked for to be eligible for end of life care. In the richest country in the world, this is unconscionable.

Americans overwhelmingly favor universal health care. Even those of us with relatively good insurance are hit with copays, fees, and huge bills from doctors that won’t accept our plans. You could be traveling and face and incredibly high bill your insurance won’t cover. Full-time nursing care and end of life care can leave Americans destitute.

Bernie Sanders has a plan for that, a plan resembling what every developed country except us has. Some people suggest universal health care is radical and Americans will never support it.

If we had Medicare for all, there would be no more imposing payroll deductibles on teachers, or indeed, any working Americans. Unions could negotiate what used to go toward health care toward salary instead. With the time and effort previously spent toward negotiating health care, we could work toward improving teaching and learning conditions.

In fact, Sanders  won over a Fox News crowd with his ideas.  In the general election everyone will get to see his ideas contrasted with status quo. Once we get past name-calling and into actual policy, it’s quite clear Medicare for All is the way to go.

Sanders wants not only available free college, but also to forgive existing student debt. This would be a great benefit to many Americans, including hundreds of thousands AFT members. My local, UFT, just set up a program to help manage student debt. It’s a great program, but with a national loan forgiveness program, we could focus on other priorities.

Sanders wants to raise minimum teacher salaries, so that working teachers no longer have to choose between fixing their teeth or their cars. A group of teachers, myself included, wrote to his staff in 2016, and his staff listened to us. Sanders’ education positions have improved tremendously since 2016. He opposes vouchers, and like my local, demands that charters be accountable in the same way public schools are. The Network for Public education gives him high marks all around.

Bernie Sanders also stands for expansion of union, and wants to get rid of so-called right to work. Expansion of union will be a boon to all Americans, and hopefully we’ll see far fewer single parents working multiple minimum-wage jobs just to make ends meet.

If that isn’t enough, Sanders plans to begin realistically facing our dire environmental issues, rather than sweeping them under the rug. Sanders believes in science, even if corporate interests find said science inconvenient.

The Sanders plan would benefit not only teachers, but also working people across the country. Sanders will inspire Americans not only to vote for him, but also to enable a blue Senate that will support his programs.

I will do everything in my power to help this happen. It’s one thing to vote for a candidate simply because we oppose the opponent. It’s quite another to vote for a visionary whose program is a better life for all Americans.

AFT will be a big factor in the next election. With candidate Bernie Sanders, members will make extraordinary efforts to make sure we will succeed. We’ll be acting out of commitment rather than fear.

Our country has been headed in the wrong direction for the last few years. It’s time to put on the brakes and start moving in a direction that serves not only AFT members, but all Americans. Bernie Sanders inspires people all over the country.

We need to expand on that and help insure his victory in 2020. I’m all in, and I’ll be proud to work toward an America that serves all of our children and students. Sanders provides us with a much-needed choice. Let’s vote for what America needs, as opposed to going to the ballot box, holding our noses, and choosing the lesser of two evils.

I can’t wait to vote for what America needs, first in the primary, and then in November.
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