Calling the Social Corps

In the face of yet another police killing of a black man, protesters raise the call to #defundthepolice.  It’s a message of anger, and anger is warranted.  Could there be a positive message?  Yes, let’s #callthesocialcorps.

The task at hand is to reduce police violence without reducing social order.  Wait, that’s two tasks.  Reduce police violence and keep social order.  And while we’re at it, let’s decide that every person who needs emergency help gets the right help.

The Social Corps could accomplish all those tasks.  The Social Corps would be a national corps of professionals trained in the social sciences:  social workers.  Call them social responders.    Social responders would join the ranks of first responders like police officers, firefighters, and medics.  Local emergency dispatch offices would sort calls between the police force and the social corps.

To sort emergencies requires making distinctions between the threatening or dangerous and the merely antisocial.  Okay, true, antisocial can be pretty bad.  But if it isn’t dangerous, it doesn’t require a firearm on the scene.  In fact, what it requires is someone with the social knowledge to evaluate the behavior and respond as needed.

The title Social Corps fits because the responders protect the marginal in society from losing their places altogether.  Someone who sees or experiences antisocial behavior would not need to fear calling for help, because the help would not be armed.  Someone who simply can’t cope with society would not need to fear being harmed.  In fact, someone in crisis would be attended with respect and assistance.

Social Corps responders would be sort of Andy-of-Mayberry style responders: no gun, but good will and understanding of human nature.  They would be uniformed.  They would have the authority to give orders, issue citations, make arrests, and testify in court.  They would also know when an emergency warrants calling a police officer.

Police violence would decline sharply, because police officers would be responding to fewer emergencies.  They would be freed from the call to apply rules of force to someone who is confused or panicky or “suspicious.”  It’s likely that many officers would gladly take the education necessary to cross over from the force to the corps.

Social responders would be especially helpful to parents, schoolchildren, teachers, and school administrators.  An unruly child who must be transported would be escorted not by an armed officer but a social worker.  Children would not be pulled into the justice system.

Creating a corps of social responders would provide more benefits than just reducing violence, keeping order, and helping people.  Responders would add a leavening of social intelligence to the general public.  Moreover, the Corps would be a fertile ground for first-person social science research, and for internships for social science students.

The Social Corps would reduce government budgets, not in personnel but in other outlays.  The number of responders would be comparable to the number of police officers, and similarly paid.  But their equipment costs, and their liability, would be far less than for a police force.

In this moment, there seems to be a popular will to make an end of police violence.  Now, while this moment lasts, is the time to create a lasting institution to carry the principles forward.  The Social Corps could do the job.

Calling the Social Corps
Calling the Social Corps would bring a trained social worker to the scene.
Democrat at the breakfast table holds forth on the day’s news.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Medicare for All Kids

I’m for Medicare for All, but not all at once.  We should expand Medicare to cover all Americans.  But we should do it in steps.  Step one: cover the kids.

What is Medicare for All?  When I talk about it, I mean the current Medicare system, expanded to cover everyone.  People understand the current Medicare, and it was created by our last great President, a Texan.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I voted for him and may again.) and some Democrats define Medicare for All to mean a fully comprehensive system that covers all necessary medical costs.  That would be great, some day.

Back in 2010, when the so-called “tea party” Republicans were demonstrating against the Affordable Care Act, I went to my Congressman’s town hall meeting carrying a sign that I made.  It said:

Universal Medicare

From my little home-made sign, the idea of expanding Medicare caught fire.  (Well, okay, maybe that wasn’t the spark.  But the idea did catch fire.)

Universal Medicare should be phased in for three reasons.  First, there is not enough support, even in the Democratic Party, to get the expansion done in one time.  Second, such a sweeping expansion would be a tremendous shock to the economy.  Third, we don’t want another disastrous rollout like we had with Obamacare.  The best way to expand Medicare substantially while establishing that it is going to be for everyone eventually, is to extend it to all children under 25.

Start with the kids

We should start with kids for several reasons.  First, children are the most vulnerable population.  Medicare, like Social Security, was established for the elderly because they are a vulnerable population.  Children are also a vulnerable population.  Second, covering children will take a lot of financial pressure off families.  Third, we are already spending some of the money to cover children, so it’s not as big a budget stretch to bring them under Medicare.

We spend money covering kids now with a program called CHIP.  It’s a very limited, means-tested program, so it’s inefficient and unfair.  Let’s discontinue CHIP and bring the kids into a solid program.

Forget about expanding Obamacare (Pelosicare, anyone?).  It’s a house built on sand.  Let’s build our house on rock—Medicare.

Life span

The beauty is that, once we have covered both ends of the life span, we will have created a donut hole in the middle that obviously will be closed in time.  Just as the donut hole in prescription drug coverage created by the Republicans was inevitably filled…  What?  The prescription drug donut hole hasn’t been filled?  What’s the holdup?

Do you want to lock in the remaining expansion?  Sure.  Take it in two more steps.  Cover 45 to 65 in the thirties.  Then cover 25 to 45 in the forties.  That’s soon enough to feel definite, but far enough out to feel non-threatening.

Maybe this is our only shot to expand Medicare in this generation.  Let’s don’t blow it.  Social Security was created in the thirties.  Medicare was created in the sixties.  If we get this expansion done in the twenties, we may be waiting another generation or two.  Let’s make it the most important one.