Is Obama Sending Mixed Message on Public Option?

The answer is yes. Just a day after his Health and Human Services Secretary says the administration can live without a public option, other aides now say he hasn’t given up on it. And what exactly is involved with the health insurance co-ops that would take the public option’s place? Nobody seems to know.

All this is why, in a previous blog post, I argued that President Obama needed to start the health care reform debate with single payer, universal care.


Those who oppose him couldn’t care less about the public option, co-ops, or anything else he comes up with. Their end game is, simply, nothing, no change at all. That’s why they spent so much time and energy packing town hall meetings with loudmouthed screamers, some of whom still can’t fathom the fact that Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Now, progressives are crying foul, saying Obama is abandoning real reform in favor of a watered down alternative. It is, as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert accurately describes it, “like sending a peewee footballers against the Super Bowl champs” when it comes to co-ops vs. big insurance. So the question must be asked, why? Why is the administration making so many concessions?

Do they not see that for some of those who oppose healthcare reform, Obama himself is the issue? Maybe the president is having trouble digesting the ugliness that came out of so many of those town halls. But he doesn’t seem to understand that nothing will mollify that small segment of the American public. Nothing, that is, short of his resignation.

You can say it’s racial, you can say it’s generational, whatever. There is a loud minority in America who see “their country” slipping away from them. They see Barack Obama and his agenda as the cause of that slippage, and they don’t like it one bit. Ditching the public option gives emboldens them like nothing else could. It tells them, “we’re winning”.

Worse yet, big business is winning. They’re the ones bankrolling the politicians and in some cases the groups that are  loudest in opposing reform. They’re the ones whose bottom lines will get fatter if costs aren’t controlled. And they’ll have a giant new pool of clients if everyone’s required to purchase insurance.

And what does the public get? Not a whole lot.

I for one understand politics well enough to know you don’t always get what you want, that compromise is part of the game, a necessary one if you talk to those who play it.

But at what price? You tell me.



  1. I like what you said about where to start, but I say it should have been Congress, not
    the President, to start with Single-payer. Ralph Nader made some good points recently about Obama on DemocracyNow: that Obama is not leading, but looking for compromising (but he put it better).

    It’s not too late to fight for single-payer, whether or not we get it NOW. I’m a believer
    in aiming high. I have never liked the conclusion that politics is compromise (which my
    beloved spouse also likes to say, and whose birthday is same week as Mark Riley’s, I think). Elsewhere, it has been said, that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s great
    achievements, didn’t wait on compromise and pushed and pushed, while JFK and then
    LBJ “caught up”. What we need is a Senate leader like LBJ (See Robert Caro’s
    book on LBJ in the Senate, “Master of the Senate”, one of the books in his series
    of biographies of LBJ. Each volume took about a decade of research and writing!)

    Like John Conyers so eloquently said, sadly, Obama is a disappointment in re health care. (And for me, a continuation of the wars, escalation, rendition, etc. policies
    of the “W” Bush Administration, as well as economic statis–

    a good overview of Obama as politician in re health care, etc. is written by Paul
    Street and posted on Znet, Aug. 15, 2009 “Frank Rich, Obama and the Corporate
    …of America” It’s from a left perspective and
    as Howard Zinn has said, and I repeat, you can have a point of view when writing, just have the facts to back up your point of view.

  2. We elected him to do what needs done.
    The idiots on the right are not doing ANYTHING in good faith.
    Obama should do the right thing, that is

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