More questions for the single-payer deniers
None other than Michael Barone introduced me to the latest hacked together group of quotes today in his column. Barone is no bomb-thrower, and he throws his full support behind this latest one, featuring quotes form Obama and a couple of more behind-the-scenes types who are nevertheless very influential and excellent examples of two kinds of liberals: the unlikable, unprincipled anything goes cut-throat (chief deputy whip in the House Democratic leadership); and the likeable principled and soft-spoken radical (professor Jacob Hacker). As an aside, things would go on a lot easier at SMD if our favorite commenter had the honesty of either of these two folks.
The first quotes are from the unrefuted AFL-CIO video from 2003 (unedited version):
“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
Obama is clearly equating single payer and universal health care. They are one and the same. And he knows it’s going to take a while to get people to go for the socialization of medicine, so complete Democratic control of the Government is needed.
As a collary, which is obvious to all except the most credulous lickspittle, is that announcing your intent to socialize the American medical system as a candidate for, or occupant of the White House, is also a necessary tactic. The dogs might not know what’s good for them. So you have to lie, distort and make half-truths 24/7 until you get them to want what you want them to want. Because universal health care (and the power that goes with who administrates it) is a very, very desirable thing to have.
Lest you think this is made up, I have Chicago Democrat Rep. Jan Schakowsky to thank for her extreme honesty. As Barone relates:
The video shows her speaking to an enthusiastic group last April. She cites an insurance company spokesman as saying, “A public option will put the private insurance industry out of business and lead to single-payer.” The audience cheers. “My single-payer friends,” she goes on, “he was right.” Later she adds, “This is not a principled fight. This is a fight about strategy for getting there, and I believe we will.”
They couldn’t be more clear. Says Prof. Hacker:
(speaking of the government option in 2008) he says, “Someone told me this was a Trojan horse for single-payer. Well, it’s not a Trojan horse, right? It’s just right there. I’m telling you. We’re going to get there, over time, slowly, but we’ll move away from reliance on employer-based health insurance as we should, but we’ll do it in a way that we’re not going to frighten people into thinking they’re going to lose their private insurance. We’re going to give them a choice of public and private insurance when they’re in the pool, and we’re going to let them keep their private employer-based insurance if their employer continues to provide it.”
Until their employee dumps them into the the government option; or they change jobs; or their plan changes even slightly and it no longer complies with government standards. Then it will be government run healthcare for the employee despite the false promises being made right now. And to think that just a few years ago Wal-Mart was being criticized because too many of its employees were on Medicare! That’s exactly what’s in store for up to 100 million American households according to one study.
As for Timmy’s disputed quote from May 2007, here’s the full transcript at the progressive Center of American Progress. For the record I actually think is one of the best Obama interviews I have seen or read, and is definitely one of the many reasons Americans trusted him with the Presidency and health care. He does sound quite reasonable too, and that’s where the devil gets in those details. Here’s some fuller context:
As I indicated before, I think that we’re going to have to have some system where people can buy into a larger pool. Right now their pool typically is the employer, but there are other ways of doing it. I would like to — I would hope that we could set up a system that allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort. But I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out where we’ve got a much more portable system. Employers still have the option of providing coverage, but many people may find that they get better coverage, or at least coverage that gives them more for health care dollars than they spend outside of their employer. And I think we’ve got to facilitate that and let individuals make that choice to transition out of employer coverage.
I do believe that employers are going to have to pay or play. I think that employers either have to provide health care coverage for their employees or they’ve got to make a decision that they’re going to help pay for those who don’t have coverage outside the employer system.
See how the more seasoned candidate Obama has learned to fuzzy up the picture so that a great many people can hear what ever they want in his proposal. “Single-payer” and “universal health care” are out. As he said in his first book:
It was usually an effective tactic, another one of those tricks I had learned: (White) People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied;they were relieved – such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t seem angry all the time.
That doesn’t keep him from clearly stating his goal however: the elimination of private insurance in 15-20 years. Why else would he say that? The mechanism for that change is not important to him “a federal or state pool of some sort”. Change is important: “The most important challenge for us is to build a political consensus around the need to solve this problem. ” He also wants to help business: “You know, large corporations recognize that they can’t be competitive on the international stage if their health care costs are rising at a constant clip and their competitors don’t have to pay any health insurance because it’s all covered through a government system.”
The unspoken answer to the problem? How about something where American businesses “don’t have to pay any health insurance because it’s all covered through a government system. ” Sounds like a good idea to me!
He’s watching the little guys paycheck too: “I get most disturbed when I start hearing the best way to save the system is basically to cut reimbursements to hospitals or cut reimbursements to doctors or, you know, stop giving raises to nurses or have nurses work 10, 12, 15 patients or 20 patients.”
You know what disturbs me and most Americans? Rationing, specifically rationing by a government run health care system. Because when an insurance company denies you coverage they promised you, at least you can sue them. When health insurance companies ration health care it’s evil money grubbing. But with government, rationing becomes savings! And if Obama is disturbed by the idea of rationing, he doesn’t show it in this interview. It’s all about being the most red-state friendly in language possible at the time he’s seeking votes. But based on the company Obama keeps, his original ideals- which I think any honest person knows Obama still harbors on some level- its utterly logical and fair to think that at the very least, Obama would not veto any legislation passed by the most vigorous efforts of a very left-leaning Congress. There are no red lines to cross, not even funding for abortion. That would be just a distraction for this “anti-abortion” President.
The tragedy of the situation is that if the President actually was some kind of centrist reach across the aisle type, he might get some traction from Conservatives on the exchange idea on a State level. Decoupling health insurance from the employers and bringing it to employees on an individual or non-employer specific group that is portable would also have some support. The President, much to his credit, has made health care an important issue for everyone , even though most people are happy with their coverage. Sadly, much of the interest comes form not wanting to get screwed by the Federal Gubment.
Contrary to he Presidents insulting straw man argument against “those who would do nothing” there is a great many Conservative ideas out there on health care. House leader John Boener shares some good Republican ideas blocked by Democrats. Here’s a good column by Charles Krauthhammer with some great ideas, like questioning why we get health insurance from our employers. Given Obama’s supposed friendliness to the idea of eliminating employer health care, couldn’t that be a point of agreement? Because according to Krathammer “It was advocated by candidate John McCain. Obama so demagogued it last year that he cannot bring it up now without being accused of the most extreme hypocrisy and without being mercilessly attacked with his own 2008 ads.” Ooops.
His heart wouldn’t be in it anyway. Even though Timmy tries to pass off the idea of an exchange as completely having nothing to do with government run health care, I think that position is believable only if you take Obamas talking points at face value, which given his past statements, plus his undisputed position that if he was “starting from scratch” he would create a single payer system, is unwarranted, not to mention unwise for those opposed to the idea. Single payer is clearly his ideal. Yet because he obviously can’t start a system from scratch one is supposed to believe that he’s is going to be vigilantly on guard against the encroachment of a government run plan? Ridiculous.
For an entirely sensible critique of the House and Senate health bills, I highly recommend this piece by the Heratige Foundation: A Federal Health Insurance Exchange Combined with a Public Plan.
Their take on his use of an insurance exchange:
the President is not pursuing a national exchange as a way to create a robust and competitive national market for health insurance. Health insurance is an odd exception to the general rule. There is a robust and competitive market for virtually every other set of goods and services in the economy, including complex items, and none of these requires the congressional creation of anything like a national exchange, administered by a commissioner, to facilitate their availability to consumers. If the President wanted to create a national market for health insurance, he could simply propose the repeal of outdated provisions of federal law that erect barriers to the purchase of health coverage across state lines. The President is obviously not interested in creating anything like a normal national, competitive market for health insurance.
…. most important, the national health insurance exchange would become the mechanism for the new government health plan to compete against private health insurance plans. This would seem to be its main function…
…based on the best independent evaluations of such an arrangement, millions of Americans throughout the United States would end up losing their private coverage, particularly if employers dumped workers and their families into the new public plan.
By millions, they mean 100 million- a 48.4 percent reduction in private coverage when full coverage is achieved. This will not happen by Americans choosing anything. It will be a transaction between the employers and the government, to nobody’s benefit. Obama, and the Congressional Democrats are in no way trying to create something along lines acceptable the Heritage Foundation. At each and every stop we find a passivity to, if not outright on-fire support for government-run health care at the expense of private insurers.
PS: I know I used some excess invective. I always like to give one the out if you’d rather focus on that than the substance of the argument!