Does 'The Bern' Still Have Heat? Colorado 69 Is Thermometer

Weary. A nice, tired word that describes how most folks I know feel about the current Presidential election cycle.

Weary, of Trump, tired of the coverage and weary of being tired of it all. So for people who like politics, or are at least concerned about what is going to happen in November, which should be all of us, what's to do?

Look down ballot. The Senate is in play, the numbers could change in Congress, and there are plenty of ballot measures you'll have to consider in November at your local polling place, or at your kitchen table when you decide to vote early by mail. In fact much of the true 'democratic process' that we Americans are so proud of takes place down ballot. Measures that affect your local schools, or roads, or dope supply-we're voting on legalization of marijuana where I live. One of the most interesting such items is the Colorado State Health Care System Initiative, Amendment 69.

Catchy title.

In short, it's a proposed amendment to the Colorado state constitution that will create universal health care for all Coloradans. Everyone, for all health care issues, including mental. As you would expect there are those who think supporting such an idea qualifies you for having your head examined. Those in favor agree, just not on which heads. It's basically a single payer system which will be paid for by a new 10 percent state payroll tax. Employees will have an additional 3.33 percent taken out of their paychecks, the employers will kick in the additional 6.67 per cent. Self-employed folks or businesses with no payrolls will pay the full 10 percent extra. The new tax would raise a projected 25 billion dollars per year to fund ColoradoCare, that's what they're calling it. It would not be administered by the state but rather by a board of trustees, elected by the residents of Colorado. ColoradoCare would be responsible for administering Medicaid, basic health care for kids, all other state and federal healthcare monies and working with health care providers to create a seamless system. Well, maybe not seamless... This is all outlined in a 43 page booklet that supporters of the measure put together.

If this all sounds familiar it's because you've heard it before. Single payer health care systems have been discussed for years, most recently and most passionately by Senator Bernie Sanders in his run for the Democratic Presidential nomination. It is an idea, among many in Senator Sanders' campaign, that lit a fire beneath the new political wings of the 'millennial generation'. I've never really understood that term, so let's just say that a lot of people, millions actually, loved Sanders and most of his ideas, including universal healthcare and a single payer system much like the Colorado proposal. Many of those smitten were young, first timers, newbies. Unfortunately, as often happens with affairs of the heart, love waned when the Senator came up short in his battle with Hillary Clinton. In fact, it's been a while since I've even seen or heard of Sanders. Where did he go?

More importantly, where did his supporters go?

I bring this up because while candidates come and go, ideas do not. True politics and political action can not be a 'take my ball and go home' sport. That's what looking down ballot is all about.

So does ColoradoCare stand a chance? It all depends on how much passion is left over from the Sanders campaign. Does 'The Bern' still have heat? Sanders easily won the Colorado Democratic Caucus, 59% to Hillary Clinton's 40%. Clinton, by the way, is on record as opposing Amendment 69, as does the Democratic Governor, the current Democratic Senator, and a whole list of predictable opponents, including the insurance industry and business groups. The arguments are also the expected ones--it's too expensive, will drive business out of the state, will cause an influx of people looking for a 'free ride', bureaucrats will be making healthcare decisions and so on. They also point out that Vermont, Senator Sanders' home state, tried a system very similar, and it failed, miserably.

Those who favor the measure, including the League of Women Voters of Colorado, Noam Chomsky, and a number of unions, have a different opinion of course. Those include, but are not limited to, it being a 'net gain' to the state because it'll replace the current very expensive system, it'll lead the nation, free up emergency rooms by creating regular healthcare for the undercovered, and is simply the right thing to do. Remember there is that 43-page booklet you can read. As for the Vermont experiment the explanation is simply one of numbers. Vermont is small and simply didn't generate enough extra revenue to support the system. Colorado is not small and won't suffer from that fiscal short fall. And speaking of money, which of these two groups do you suppose has more and is spending more in the political arena? That's correct, the opponents, by a very large margin. But here's what you have to remember...

This is Colorado. And Coloradans have an interesting history when it comes to politics and knowing their own minds, the legalization of marijuana just the latest example. And then there were the 1976 Olympics in Denver, remember? Of course you don't, they didn't happen. In 1970 the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1976 Winter Games to Denver. Huzzah! Except that in 1972 the voters of Colorado turned down a proposed bond measure to fund the games, 60% to 40%, and the 1976 Olympics in Denver disappeared. The Olympics that year were held in Innsbruck and all that supporters of the Denver Games had to remember them by was a little pin that said 'Denver 76' and had the Olympic rings on it. I'm looking at mine right now.

So does the underfunded ColoradoCare campaign stand a chance in November? Well, if 'The Bern' still has a little heat and enough folks look down ballot, you never know. After all, I did have my heart set on competing in the Nordic Combined in Denver in '76.