At a health care town hall today, President Barack Obama told a New Hampshire audience that he has never claimed to be an advocate of a single-payer health care system, alleging that his Republican opponents were employing “scare tactics” to derail substantive health care reform.
“I have not said that I am a supporter of a single-payer system,” he said, channeling former presidential contender John ‘I voted for it before I voted against it’ Kerry.
But in August of last year, Obama touted single-payer systems as a promising solution to the ailing health care system at a New Mexico town hall. Eliminating private insurance companies and instead opting for a pseudo-Medicare system with the government footing the bill for all health care-related expenses, he said, would be a more effective means to provide greater coverage than our system’s current iteration.
“If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system,” said then-Senator Obama. “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.”
Evidence of Obama’s open embrace of single payer health care systems dates farther back than 2008, much to the chagrin of the White House’s professional wordsmiths, who no doubt spent hours retooling the president’s message for today’s town hall.
Unequivocally expressing his support for a government-run health care system, Obama said to a crowd of AFL-CIO members in 2003, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer, universal health care coverage.”
Obama’s evolution on the extent to which the federal government should meddle in the private marketplace of health care coverage is one that speaks to the White House’s justifiable concern they may be losing the debate. Obama and Congressional Democrats are anxious to stem the tide of fleeting public opinion, and both have gone to great lengths to cast their opponents as fear mongers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer characterized the town hall protests as “un-American,” while the DNC suggested critics of Obama’s ever-changing health care proposal are fringe lunatics bent on disproving Obama’s citizenship status.
The insinuation that opposition to Obama’s health care system—which, I’ll add, has become increasingly difficult for the simple fact that I’m not entirely sure which iteration we’re to oppose—is grounded in a citizenship conspiracy theory is no more credible than the notion that Obama would, as Saturday Night Live comically suggested, cut taxes for sexual predators and social deviants. Predators, SNL jested, must be found among low and middle-income families, for whom then-Senator Obama promised to cut taxes. Likewise, the DNC posited that “Birthers,” as they’ve been dubbed, must be found among opponents of Obama’s health care plan because, after all, all Republicans are mentally unstable.
“Where we disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real,” President Obama said today. But the distinction between facts and non-facts has become blurred, not for the critics of the legislation, but for the legislation’s highest profile supporters in the previous weeks.
In the interest of wresting control of the debate on health care from those who disagree over trivial matters, like the president instructed, I will give an example of a fact and a non-fact. A fact: As early as 2003 and as late as 2008 President Obama supported a single-payer health care system. A non-fact: Republicans are reflexively partisan and chiefly stand in opposition to the President’s initiatives for an unsubstantiated belief in his Kenyan birth.
President Obama, if you’re interested in meaningful disagreements in the debate over health care, rein in your allies first. Call off the SEIU thugs and put an end to the hateful “un-American” rhetoric. Then, and only then, come talk about a meaningful dialogue. It also might serve you well to decide if you are in favor of “single-payer, universal health care coverage,” too.