We’re devoted to militarism

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By Rick Howell

     With so many Democratic presidential candidates going before voters next year, it’s a sure bet that health care reform – specifically, what’s being called “Medicare for All,” will be a major issue.
     We’re the last modern industrialized country not to fully accept the idea that health care is a right, not a privilege, and that we should find a way to ensure health care coverage for everyone, not just those with money.
    In America, though, this requires a rejection of the long-held idea that, somehow, you must pay an insurance company first before you’re “covered” in a health care emergency.
    For all its demonization by right-wingers, all “Obamacare” mostly managed to do was set some limits for how insurances companies can reject your coverage. They’re no longer allowed to deny you for “pre-existing” conditions, and they must allow your children, up until the age of 26, to stay on your family plan if you wish.
    These were modest achievements for a piece of legislation that drove most conservatives to bash their heads against the wall to “repeal and replace” this allegedly horrible law. Do you think they believe in insurance companies?
    But as we know, the GOP has never had a plan to “replace” the law, and it still doesn’t. Trump tried to say that his version of the GOP will be “the party of health care.” Great laughter erupted, because it’s so ridiculous; it’s the party of corporate power and rampant militarism. Those two topics are closely related.
    So, in 2020, we seem sure to have something of a debate on true national health insurance. Republicans will call it “socialism,” which began in the 1960s when their targets were Medicare and Medicaid. They’ll also say it “costs too much,” and of course they’ll refuse to look at how much we spend on the military.
    Here, I have to fault most Democrats as well as Republicans. Too many politicians have a reflexive habit of believing that the Pentagon always needs more money, no matter what. We spend far more on what is actually a global military empire than several other countries combined.
    Surely the many, many billions that go to the Pentagon should be scrutinized as much as any other federal expenditure. We have several hundred military bases around the world. Are all of those necessary? For “defense?”
    We’ve fought too many unnecessary wars – Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan – only a partial list. The connection to health care is this: European countries that provide universal health care don’t throw so much money at war and weapons of war; so they can afford national health care systems.
    In a recent edition of The Catholic Worker, peace activist Kathy Kelly wrote that the U.S. should pay reparations to Afghanistan to help that poor country rebuild after all the years of war we’ve waged there. What caught my attention was this:
    “U.S. citizens often regard their country as a civilized nation that goes to war against demonic tyrants. Dr. Martin Luther King held forth a different vision. He urged us to see the humanity of other so-called enemies, to ask how we’re seen by other people, and thereby gain a needed understanding of our own weaknesses.
    “If we could hear from other people menaced by militarism, including ours, if we could see how our wars have contributed to terrorism, corruption, and authoritarianism that have turned the U.S. into a permanent warfare state, we might find the same courage that inspires brave people in Afghanistan to speak up and resist the all-encompassing tyranny of war.”
    We might also find that, yes, we can provide what we need for basic military defense, and still be able to afford national health care.   
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a journalist and activist who can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.