Obama vs. Obama on Single Payer

by: David Sirota

Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 09:15

I think President Obama is doing a pretty good job pushing a pretty good health care message. But I just want to point out that he doesn't help himself when he makes verifiably dishonest statements without any explanation whatsoever. Specifically, I'm talking about this from his New Hampshire town hall meeting:

"I have not said I am a single payer supporter." - Barack Obama, 8/11/09

As I noted in a column a few months back, Obama in 2003 explicitly said he supported single payer health care - and that the only obstacle to its enactment was Democrats taking back the White House and the Congress (which, of course, they've subsequently done).

Obama has never really offered up an explanation for his about face on single payer, other than implying that it's not politically realistic now - even though, again, back in 2003, he said it would be politically realistic when Democrats obtained the presidency and Congress.

Let me repeat: I'm really supportive of Obama's health care efforts right now. But I'll never - ever - be supportive of any president lying and/or not at least explaining their broken promises.

David Sirota :: Obama vs. Obama on Single Payer

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UH OH (4.00 / 1)
The Obots are going to come out in force against you. :-)

you should have seen Dkos go after sirota this last year. (4.00 / 1)
he's already heard it all.

i can't believe obama is trying to do this after we all heard him support it a few short years ago.  what a dolt.  i heard the exact quote on NPR a little while ago.

"we have the tapes mr. president," can now apply to nixon and obama.

[ Parent ]
But he certainly didn't support it (0.00 / 0)
during his campaign. He had the weakest health care plan. I don't see how anyone can have thought he would push for single payer.

[ Parent ]
By way of explanation regarding: (4.00 / 2)
Obama has never really offered up an explanation for his about face on single payer, other than implying that it's not politically realistic now - even though, again, back in 2003, he said it would be politically realistic when Democrats obtained the presidency and Congress.

How 'bout he was LYING much like his about face on FISA???

I dont know why he lies about single payer. (0.00 / 0)
But the work being done for the intermediary step of covering 98% and using a Public Option, while allowing Single Payer in any state, even allowing federal public option money to fund it, is, in and of itself, "a good thing."

But it is odd.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
"...while allowing Single Payer in any state..." (4.00 / 2)
That's currently not true in the Senate versions, nor in all but one of the House committee versions -- and it's certainly not true in the D leadership's version.

[ Parent ]
I have no idea who the dem leadership is, unless you mean Obama, and I have not herard him say anything on the subject. (0.00 / 0)
The Senate version is going to be determined by the dems of the entire house, that ois who we need to press, and for it to be 50% plus one.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
"Dem leadership" (4.00 / 2)
The Obama administration (loaded with DLC single-payer opponents) and the Dem Congressional leadership, both House and Senate.

Whether or not single-payer by states will be criminalized will be decided by the vote on whatever comes out of a conference committee (unless the Senate adopts a House bill without amending it, or vice-versa), if it gets that far.

Of course, given Obama's penchant for signing statements, he might state that such criminalization is unconstitutional, and that he will not enforce it. And our ponies are in the mail.

[ Parent ]
I am understand your need to be careful watching what going on, but Obama vetoing single payer in the states is just bizare. (0.00 / 0)
And second, the law doesn need to be passed, California has twice passed Single Payer, requiring only that Governor Groper not veto it.

The 'rules allowing" isnt to prevent criminalization, but instead to facilitate program transfer funding, regulation etc.

be careful, watch closely, but lets be a little realistic.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
That in itself is demonstrably a lie. (4.00 / 2)
The so-called public option, in its disastrously weak current form, would come nowhere near covering 98% of the uninsured, and the few who would be covered won't be so until 2013 - by which time any legislative or executive act can and likely will be enacted to repeal it.

Face the facts.  Obama is not now nor has he ever supported genuine health care reform.  He is a craven liar who will say and do anything to obtain power, and once he has it, he will say and do anything to keep it - and if the price is the deaths of thousands of Americans, and millions of Middle Eastern people, that's our problem, not his.

[ Parent ]
Thank you for your take on this. (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
This came up at the Santa Cruz Town Hall (4.00 / 2)
A tea bagger at Sam Farr's Santa Cruz Town Hall brought up this specific quote last night. She referenced the date of the AFL CIO event and gave a full quote.

It was intended as a slippery slope argument. Of course Farr is a cosponsor of H.R.676 (Medicare for All), so it was actually a germane point. But she didn't manage to phrase it as a question, so Farr didn't really respond. A large majority in the hall favored reform and a majority of those vocally favored single payer.

Farr got questions from the left on whether there was going to be floor debate on 676 and if it was going to be scored by the CBO. He said he didn't know on the first part and didn't address the second.

The biggest applause line of the evening was from a reform protester who said that the bill would inevitably lead to a single payer system.

Great report thank you. (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Politicians change. (0.00 / 0)
And lies happen.  I think this is more "I am not NOW a ..."
(I'm only going on the text above so, Maybe, Maybe not.) If find the flip flops on release of White House visitors, Torture memos/records and sell out to Pharm (which may have been necessary to the whole deal) much more worrisome.

This, I'd let pass, If his stance is acceptable.

Come on.. (4.00 / 2)
Regarding your comment: "I think President Obama is doing a pretty good job pushing a pretty good health care message."

Just curious, Sirota, what message are you referring to?  Obama is all over the map on health care, or haven't you noticed?

And this comment:  "But I'll never - ever - be supportive of any president lying and/or not at least explaining their broken promises."

WTF does this statement mean?  Obama has lied repeatedly - over and over again!  Why are you surprised NOW? What...are you just finding that out?  He's flip flopped, backtracked, just plain lied like hell since he's been in office!  

Go drink another gallon or two of Koolaide will ya? The gallon a day you currently ingest just doesn't appear to be enough!  

Right (4.00 / 3)
I'm an Obama Kool-Aide drinker. You got me.

[ Parent ]
Well (4.00 / 1)
Glouglin42's got a point. Not about you being a Kool-Aide drinker but about your praise for Obama's health care message. You have to be the one non-Obama lover in the country who thinks it's strong.

[ Parent ]
Feel free to disagree... (4.00 / 3)
...but calling me an Obama sycophant is fucking hilarious.

[ Parent ]
His explanation (0.00 / 0)
Last night, Obama did actually offer an explanation for his opposition to Single Payer: he said that he thought it would be too "disruptive" not that he thought it was politically  unfeasible.  He said that he didn't want everyone who currently has insurance to quickly be transitioned into a new system.  So that is where he stands now, but this doesn't really explain why he has come to this position -- or why this critique didn't bother him in the past when he spoke favorably of single payer...

[ Parent ]
If I am not mistaken Medicare was up and running in 11 months, how long would it take to expand it (4.00 / 1)
to cover everyone?

Certainly not longer than 11 months.

The 'disruption' he speaks of is to the insurance companies pretty much exclusively.

[ Parent ]
All workers with withholding are already signed up for Medicare, at least (4.00 / 2)

No, it could be done in very little time.

With cost savings for almost all providers and facilities.

Imagine: No more doctor's time spent trying to persuade a clerk, a supervisor, escalating, escalating, escalating to get a necessary procudure or treatment OKayed??

[ Parent ]
yep (0.00 / 0)
and something like 80% of doctors are already signed up as providers with medicare. don't know how many hospitals are already signed up with medicare, but i can't imagine that there are very many that aren't.

[ Parent ]
Can you tell us then what YOU think is Obama's message on health care? (4.00 / 1)
I hear some great reasons for change, but the logical conclusion to the problems Obama delineates is single payer Medicare for All (with a robust private option).

He, however, makes a sudden and inexplicable leap of illogic to a possible public option and mandates to buy mostly private insurance. Now, the Big Insurers will be tweaked a bit, with no rescission's (fer sure, Mr. Obama?), no cherry picking, no dropping customers due to illness. What he doesn't say is how the Big Insurers will maintain profitability and satisfy Wall Street while providing coverage a rates people can afford.

I haven't heard him talk about the costs to insurance purchasers very much, except for saying that doing nothing will result in 100% premium increases in 10 years. He says that with his plan he hopes to limit the increases to 50-70% over 10 years*. How??? And, OMG, that's a huge increase! But...my insurance has gone up about 15-18% every year....

Do you think you know what he's actually going to cut in Medicare and Medicaid (Medicare? Cuts to a program chronically underfunded and unable to meet the needs of the people eligible in many states!)? Some of the things he talks about sound like the bad days of HMO's with incredible denial of care.

You think he has a good consistent message--but, please, what is it?

Also, can you tell us what Obama wants as a public option?

Thank you. When I attended my local OFA meeting, the leaders had no idea of what Obama's plan was, is, etc.
Since you do, I'd love to hear what it is.

*Important to understand that wages and incomes below the top 20% have either lost purchasing power or increased very, very little.

[ Parent ]
try this link (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
yes, and I still don't know (0.00 / 0)
whether his deal with big Pharma stands or doesn't. Does anyone?

[ Parent ]
Jobs (4.00 / 3)
Obama was depressingly clear in Iowa about why he does not support Medicare for All.  He said that insurance companies employ three million people.  I have no idea where he got the number or what it includes.  Car insurance,for example, employs people and has nothing to do with health insurance.  The hundreds of billions sucked up for advertising and overhead and the further hundreds of billions sucked up by doctor's offices, hospitals and patients gathering information or appealing insurance decisions could be spent better elsewhere.

Insurance industry jobs for healthcare are worse than "do nothing" jobs.  In many cases they do harm.  Build some roads.  Do some of the things that Ben Nelson and Susan Collins find "wasteful" like building maintenance and landscaping.  It's all good.  That is a far better use of the money than insurance overhead and denial of coverage and care.

Obama's usual line is that single payer would be "disruptive" --of what he (4.00 / 3)
doesn't usually say. Big Insurance Parasites' (BIP) profitability? Their employees? The docs hired to deny care could get jobs providing care. If they're able to do so.

Some paperwork needs will still require workers, even for Medicare bill summaries are sent out, but not as many will be needed. There will be fewer office people for doctor's offices with no need to make 20 calls to get a procedure okayed and paid for.  

Obama seems to think people are attached to their BIPs--but actually it's the BIPs attached to the public's pocketbooks. People are attached to their doctors many times, which makes employer changes in health insurance coverage so hard for so many. Having to choose new doctors is not easy, especially for those with chronic ailments. No, losing their BIPs will not be disruptive for most people. IF they get single payer Medicare for All.

With Medicare for All...with a robust private option...people can choose the doctors and facilities they want (unless the docs' aren't taking new patients). That is something to cherish.

My elderly neighbor, when she could get on Medicare, actually held a celebratory party! Finally, she could stick with doctors of her own choosing. Her small business employer changed coverage almost every year, continually seeking the lowest cost plan.

Until, of course, in recent years when there's been much less actual competition.

The BIPs are getting what they want: an increased mandated customer base.  As their prices have soared, they are losing customers and businesses and individuals can no longer afford coverage. The Obama plan does give them a stable customer base --subsidized by the taxpayers-- for awhile.  To satisfy Wall Street, they will must make good profits. To do that, they will have to increase premiums or cut coverage. Sooner or later, the public will realize they've been had.

[ Parent ]
health insurance only employs about 450,000 people (4.00 / 2)
and health care administration employs another 2.4 million [give or take], so that's close to 3 million.

but not all the health insurance jobs would necessarily go away with single payer, since companies could sell supplemental insurance. and probably half, maybe more, of the health care administration jobs are non-insurance-related, since you still need people like payroll clerks, and people to order supplies, and human resources departments, and ...

[ Parent ]
I take his quote to mean... (0.00 / 0)
...in the context of the current debate.  And as such, I don't take it as a lie.  I mean, if he'd written a pro-single-payer paper in college, would that count too?

And really, I'm fine with him changing his mind since 2003.  I could be wrong, but I don't recall him being pro-single-payer during the campaign, so I don't really feel like he's going back on a promise that he's made.

David, check out this article from 2006 (0.00 / 0)
It might help you to understand how Obama might be predisposed to compromise Progressive goals, make deals with Big Pharma, shut out Progressives from his economic team, etc.  Check out http://www.thenation.com/doc/2...  The piece is entitled "Mr. Obama goes to Washington."

My advice for the Progressive blogosphere is not to be an "Innocent Bystander."

Obama said he supported single-payer. (0.00 / 0)
He lied then, just as he is lying now.  He never supported single-payer in practice.  He gave one, maybe two speeches in nominal support, just vague enough so people would read into them what he wanted them to.  But as a legislator, and as dictator, he has done everything he can to gut any and all prospects for genuine health care reform.

Never, under any circumstances, support a liar.  Oppose him at every turn, on policy matters great and small, for when he says he's for something progressive he is really against it and will do everything in his considerable power to ensure it will never be implemented.

Fact Check (4.00 / 2)
I've heard Obama say at other times he would be in favor of single payer if he could start from scratch, so I wanted to double check he wasn't being misinterpreted by David and others.

Nope, they got him on this.

Obama has no health care plan (4.00 / 1)
Obama has an advertising slogan. He wants to sign a bill, any bill. He would be perfectly happy to sign the Baucus Bailout Plan for Health Insurance Parasites, just so he could say he got something passed.

Lying politicians (0.00 / 0)
Dealing with political lies is a very large category.  The day I realized Wes Clark was lying about how he would have voted on the Iraq war was the day this stopped being a black and white issue for me.*  

The fact is our system rewards lying and penalizes the complete truth.  How should a fundamentally honest person deal with that system?  And in other cases, how long does one need to give detailed, more accurate responses when simple responses work better?

In the case of Obama and this quote, he would have not been lying if he said "I have not said I am a single payer supporter as president or as a presidential candidate."  Has he used this longer answer before?  I don't know.  But if you assume he did, at what point is it okay to drop the details?  When is it obvious he is only discussing his current campaigning and not past history?

My own belief is you have to be as honest as you can in context and never try to deceive.  When simplifying an answer you must resist the temptation to mislead.

"Pi is 3.14" is a lie.  "Pi is about 3.14" is not.

* Clark was honest in his initial interview when thinking out load, but I never believed his later explanations.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.


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