A Gamble Worth Taking
Bill Fletcher Jr.’s wish list for the reinvention of organized labor [“Labor: More Perfect Unions,” June 15/22] is, as usual with him, insightful and incisive.
But his prescription for the crisis in health care costs is just plain wrong. To say that “unions should, of course, defend the health plans that they have” is saying that union leadership should continue to oppose the most sensible and cost-effective way to deal with that crisis: single-payer (otherwise known as Medicare for All).
Yes, there would be additional payroll taxes required. But they would be far lower than the “taxes” taken by employers from wages to support employer-provided coverage or the costs to workers of foregone improvements in other benefits that employers use the increased health coverage costs to justify.
Employer-linked health care is always tenuous, as we are seeing tragically during the current pandemic, when masses of union workers are being laid off and are losing their medical coverage just when they need it the most.
For large unions with contracts that include comprehensive health care insurance for their workers, it may seem like a big gamble to support proposals that would effectively switch from employer to public funding. But it’s a bigger gamble for them to continue to obstruct the revolution that single-payer would mean for all working people.
Protect Old Joe?
Re “On Tara Reade’s Allegations” [Katha Pollitt, June 15/22]: I am very disappointed by what seems to be an all-out effort in The Nation to discredit and humiliate Tara Reade and bolster Joe Biden’s reputation. I have no illusions about the absolute necessity of beating Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the fall. I will overcome my nausea and put aside my principles and vote for Biden, shaming myself for the greater good. Because no one denies Biden’s long history of “handsiness” (what a convenient euphemism!), which has made numerous women uncomfortable for decades. It is repetitious to point out what the situation would be if Biden were a Republican.
Reade may behave in ways that are suspicious and incomprehensible today, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t well have been sexually harassed by Biden back then in a way that was genuinely disruptive to her emotionally. It is discouraging to see The Nation go after Reade in this way in the frantic drive to protect Old Joe, to whitewash his past and his overall record to ensure his election.
There were other, much more principled ways of doing this without giving more fodder to the misogynistic pack of male media mavens reveling in this opportunity to undermine Me Too and the legitimacy of women’s experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.
Katha Pollitt writes that Reade is a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and it may be relevant that her story came out in the pro-Sanders media just as Biden was emerging as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
It is an insult to Amy Goodwin to dismiss Democracy Now! as “pro-Sanders media,” when her journalistic standards are impeccable and she is for most progressive causes, some of which overlap with the Sanders campaign’s, some of which don’t. The Nation, too, endorsed Sanders, so is it fair to label this publication “pro-Sanders media” and dismiss the very column Pollitt writes? Of course not. Even in the time of Trump, some of us see things in more subtle shades than media belonging exclusively to one camp.
Pollitt throws in that it is “possibly relevant” that Reade lied or timed her allegations to help Sanders, when in fact the charges came out too late to make a difference and, not surprisingly, didn’t help Sanders in the slightest.
I expect better from both Pollitt and The Nation.
A Terrible Precedent
Joan Walsh [“The Murder That Threatened to Divide the Two Harlems,” June 1/8] touched on but did not examine how children are treated by the criminal justice system. She mentions that the two accused boys have been charged with murder as adults but makes no comment about it. The context is crucial. There is no mention that two troubled 14-year-olds from well-known difficult circumstances (including one who was cared for by an uncle because he lost his parents) were indicted by a publicity-conscious, so-called reform DA who would rather cater to the monetary concerns and hysteria of Columbia University and some white residents than to act on what he knows well: that the Supreme Court has acknowledged that children who do terrible things are still children. How does the commission of a crime—albeit a terrible one that left a young woman dead—turn two troubled children into adults?
The impact of that legal choice is devastating: They will be tried in an adult criminal court rather than in family court, and if convicted, they can be given life sentences, whereas youths convicted even of crimes involving violence face shorter sentences, with the understanding that the brains of children are malleable and, given better circumstances, they can mature and change. Beyond the consequences to these youngsters, it is a terrible precedent that sets back the national struggle for justice for youths.
The failure of the community to speak out for justice and for treating children—even those who might have done something so terrible—as children and its failure to take into account the toll of their experiences will leave a deep wound within the neighborhood, our city, and the cause of children’s justice.
staten island, n.y.