Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Leftism and Wrestling: The Case for Universal Healthcare

If you care about wrestlers doing dangerous shit, like Conor Claxton and Drew Blood above, you'll support single payer
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Even though capitalists and conservatives run and populate the wrestling business, as an artform, it lends itself to leftist ideals. This series hopes to show wrestling fans why they should embrace the left, not just for the sport/art, but also for themselves.

The United States is in a political firestorm right now with tensions among many groups at an all-time high. Liberals/centrists hate leftists and the right wing alike, even though they secretly want the Republicans to like them enough to let them into their oligarchy. Republicans care not about anything but money it seems, and they'd probably sell out their own families for a chance to accrue more. The left, the true left, not the Hillary Clinton, "I like fracking and Goldman Sachs but say I hate racism" Democrats, but the actual left, would rather everyone stop caring about their own monies and start caring about human beings. Economics are at the heart of all these tensions, but each issue manifests itself in a different battleground. While immigration, gun control, and the debate on whether or not punching Nazis is okay (spoiler alert, it's not okay if you DON'T punch a known Nazi) are all hot-button topics, the most contentious right now is healthcare.

To be honest, the United States has always lagged behind the rest of the free world in healthcare, at least in the last century or so. Norway began the trend towards nationalized, universal healthcare in 1911, and nearly every other industrialized nation has followed suit. Even countries like Cyprus, which has to spend money on a seemingly eternal civil war, and Slovenia, born out of the dissolution of former dictatorship Yugoslavia, have single payer healthcare. But the United States has continued commodifying healthcare. The rising cost of medicine, labor, and equipment have emboldened insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers alike to hide behind those shields to gouge their customers. Whether it be the Mylan Corporation charging $600 for an epinephrine injector, brand name Epipen, that costs $1 to make, Martin Shkreli gouging HIV patients for medication and bragging about it on Twitter, or insurance companies attempting to deny patients coverage because of "preexisting conditions" like cancer, mental illness, and pregnancy (but not erectile dysfunction), the way the healthcare industry, a necessary industry that provides, in my opinion, a basic human right, operates is disgusting.

Former President Barack Obama saw this as a problem and tried introducing a solution, conveniently called Obamacare, which started out as an attempt to get single payer through, but ended up as an insurance mandate instead. While it helped people who couldn't get coverage beforehand, it still left 28 million Americans without insurance, and its administration was problematic for a lot of people it ended up helping. Sure, it was better than nothing, but it was still inadequate. However, it did provide an important rider, that insurers couldn't deny coverage for preexisting conditions. The Republicans, who kept trying to repeal it while Obama was in office, got their chance when sentient bloated fish carcass Donald Trump was elected President thanks to voter suppression and Clinton's anemic and apathetic campaign in states that would have won her the office. Suddenly, Obamacare went from "better than nothing, I guess" to "you don't know what you've got until it's gone," which tends to happen when the people who want it gone are literal ghouls who see inked linen with dead statesmen on it as more valuable than human lives. Thankfully, Trump and Paul Ryan's vision for repealing Obamacare is so ghastly that even current Republicans are hesitant to go all the way. However, unless the Democratic party sweeps through into majority in Congress in 2018, Obamacare's repeal feels inevitable, which will leave in upwards of 58 million Americans without any kind of medical coverage. Furthermore, it would doom millions more Americans as it would strip preexisting condition protection.

So what does any of this have to do with pro wrestling, you might ask? Well, as fate would have it, exactly one wrestler right now is considered an employee of his company, and it's only because he's part of management. Paul "Triple H" Levesque is an Executive Vice President in WWE, so his well-being is taken care of. Every other worker in the company is an independent contractor by name, even though they can't work for any other promotion and are beholden to the company's policies. Basically, they're employees in every sense of the word when it benefits the company, but when it comes to pesky things like health insurance, well, they're shit out of luck. However, WWE wrestlers at least get reactive healthcare. If they get hurt or sick on WWE's watch, they get treatment. Other wrestling companies who either have to use the independent contractor label correctly out of necessity or whose parent companies (ahem, Sinclair, Panda Energy, cough cough) don't care enough to treat them as such, may or may not even get the luxury of reactive treatment paid for, let alone proactive treatment/health insurance.

Inasmuch that all human beings deserve to get medical care without going into deep debt (or any debt at all), wrestling in the United States is even in a more precarious position. You and I and everyone who loves this great art go to shows in dingy auditoriums and dank gymnasiums to see these wrestlers put their health on the line for our entertainment. The further down the economic/corporate structure one gets, the more these performers risk for a diminishing return. If they get hurt, the companies they work for may not pay for their care. They may not be able to afford it for one. The injured party's payout sure as fuck isn't going to pay for whatever they need to heal up unless it's a bottle of aspirin or some gauze. Too many times you see a wrestler have to resort to a GoFundMe to pay for medical bills; how many people in the audience watching them don't have that indignity? Fuck, how many people in the audience are in the same boat?

Human beings need to look out for one another, because the corporate trust sure as hell isn't going to do it. That's why it's morally imperative that wrestling fans of all shapes and sizes support calls for single payer healthcare in the richest country in world history. Helping all inhabitants in this supposedly great land should be incentive enough, but wrestlers, especially ones in low indies who do death-defying spots on the reg with fewer protections than what bigger companies have, need it more. They're in more risk than the average American, and they do so for nothing more than a pop and a meager payout in an envelope afterwards. If you care about the people you watch in the ring or want the business to continue to flourish with healthy and happy labor, then you have no reason whatsoever not to support the fight for single-payer, universal, comprehensive healthcare.