Friday, August 07, 2009

Town Halls - Angry Mobs? Astro-Turfers? and What About Single-Payer?

If you look at most media coverage of this month's health-reform town hall meetings you would think that crowds are divided between people who support Obama's plan and the conservative opposition. This presentation, which Democrats also encourage, lends credibility to the notion that Obama is proposing the only universal-health coverage plan on the table. What that doesn't tell you, is that the most organized presence at the Town-Hall meeting are real grass-roots single-payer advocates, who don't support Obama's plan because it subsidizes private insurance companies.
Now that Pelosi has finally agreed to actually let the house debate and vote on single-payer plan, it seems even more reasonable that the discussion of Single-Payer at Town Hall meetings should be heard, or at least reported.
Despite the tea-partyish, anti-tax radicals' complaints, it does seem that people other than vetted plants are able to speak at these events (unlike the Bush meetings where people were kept out/expelled for wearing t-shirts or having a bumper-sticker on their car) but it's a shame that a bunch of wing-nuts are dominating the media coverage.

The Republicans and Democrats are both confusing the issue. On the hand, Republicans are arguing that the Obama health plan is a "trojan horse" for single-payer, which, according to most opinion polls, is actually what most people want. On the other hand, Democrats argue that single-payer is politically impossible because of American public opinion, while simultaneously arguing that the "angry mobs" currently disrupting health-care town-halls are a bunch of corporate interests in disguise. The sad fact is that the health-care corporations are likely to win either way. IF ONLY "Obamacare" were the Trojan Horse that the Republicans fear.
Once again, Democrats are in a bind because their corporate ties leave them incapable of defending themselves against right-wing "populists" or supporting the truly populist movement for meaningful U.S. health care reform.

For those who are uninformed, "single payer" means replacing private insurance companies with national insurance that would cover everyone. It is not the same thing as "socialized medicine" because doctors and hospitals are still private businesses, not publicly owned in this model. It is what they have in Canada and France. "Socialized medicine," where doctors are paid by the state is what they sort of have in England. (privatization has been slowly destroying the NHS)

** Just added: Paul Krugman's column has a good analysis of both the mobs and the anti-mob commentary here.

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