The health care debate-4: What the public thinks

(For previous posts on the issue of health care, see here.)

The fact that the current US system is broken and needs a complete overhaul with government involvement is becoming increasingly apparent to almost anyone except for those who have some kind of visceral reaction to the government being involved in anything. It is because of the stark reality faced by ordinary people that, despite the incessant propaganda against single payer public plans by the health industry and its allies in Congress and the media, the polls are pretty clear that people favor a greater government involvement in the health care system.

There is a Quinniapiac poll that shows that 69% want a public option.

A recent New York Times poll also finds that 72% favor “the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans.” The poll also found that “most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.”

Meanwhile, as Bernie Horn points out, in another new poll “Eighty-three percent of Americans favor and only 14 percent oppose “creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase” according to EBRI, a conservative business research organization. This flatly contradicts conservatives’ loudest attack against President Obama’s plan to provide quality, affordable health care for all.”

To combat the charge that this was a biased poll funded by single payer supporters, we should note the groups that fund the EBRI (Employee Benefit Research Institute): “EBRI’s biggest donors include: AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Mills, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Northrop Grumman, Schering-Plough, Schwab, T. Rowe Price, UBS Financial, and Wal-Mart. EBRI also receives large contributions from the insurance industry, including: Blue Cross Blue Shield, CIGNA, Hartford, Kaiser Permanente, Massachusetts Mutual, Metropolitan Life, Union Labor Life, and UnitedHealth. And who funded this particular EBRI poll? “AARP, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Buck Consultants, Chevron, Deere & Company, IBM, Mercer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Principal Financial Group, Schering-Plough Corp., Shell Oil Company, The Commonwealth Fund, and Towers Perrin.”

As an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed in 2003, the majority of Americans support a single-payer, government-sponsored health care system, even when they hear the right-wing’s alarmist arguments. David Sirota highlighted some key findings of the poll:

  • Question 48 in the poll shows that 79% of Americans say they support “providing health care coverage for all Americans, even if it means raising taxes” over “holding down taxes, even if it means some Americans do not have health care coverage.”
  • Question 49 shows 62% say they support a universal health care system “run by the government and financed by taxpayers” over the current system.
  • Question 50 shows 57% say they would support this program even “if it limited your own choice of doctors” (which doesn’t necessarily have to be a side-effect of a single-payer system).
  • Similarly, question 51 shows 62% say they would support this program even “if it meant there were waiting lists for some non-emergency treatments” (again, not necessarily a side-effect).

So let’s stop talking about “popular opposition” to government involvement in health care. The people who are opposed are the people in the current system who benefit from the sickness of others or have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that involves the government. What they are really scared of is that the public plan will be so popular that everyone will want to join in. Currently estimates of the people who will want to get in can get as high as 119 million, a number suggested by one of the health industry’s main lackeys, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

What the health industry wants is to get their hands on the 50 million or so who are currently uninsured as a new revenue stream. As Robert Parry points out:

The industry’s hope is that the government will mandate that those Americans sign up for private insurance and offer subsidies for those who can’t afford to pay the premiums.

Fifty million new customers and government largesse to help pay the bills would be a huge windfall for the insurance industry, which otherwise faces a decline in its market because Baby Boomers are reaching the age to qualify for Medicare and because rising unemployment is draining the pool of Americans who have insurance through their employers.

So watch for them to make noises about how they support everyone getting insurance, while at the same time fighting any attempt to change the way the current system works because it has proven so profitable for them.

Since they are aware that the public supports the public option, their strategy is likely to be to make the public option as unattractive as possible.

POST SCRIPT: The Chasers are back

That group of Australian pranksters target torture advocates John Yoo and Dick Cheney.

There was a time when the US was a leader in this kind of political guerilla theater, led by people like Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies. I remember being enthralled by their antics even though I was far away in Sri Lanka.

Remember when they ran the pig Pigasus for president in 1968 under the slogan “Pork Power”?

And who can forget the political theater of the trial that followed the violent Democratic convention of that year? See the documentary Chicago 10 for an excellent encapsulation of the comic drama of that tumultuous event.

And what about the time that the irrepressible Hoffman said that they were going, using meditation, to get the Pentagon to levitate and spin, and the media actually arrived to cover that attempt? Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Armies of the Night offered an insider’s look at the 1967 anti-war March on Washington that formed the backdrop.

Has this kind of political street theater become another casualty of outsourcing to other countries?


  1. peter lafond says

    A good friend on tells the military takes such good care of the fallen becuase they are all brother and sister. In the same discussion0; though, he tells me that although he is christian- and it is a mandate to help people- don’t tell him who he has to help. I though fundimentalists all called each other brother and sister? I though Christ said we are all brother and sister? When we got to specific politics he told he was a member of the constitution party- then I understood how he good have his views.

  2. says

    I currently have no health insurance because I cannot afford it due to some hard, but manageable, financial strains of my business. I have not had health insurance since I quit school two years ago. I do, however, desire health insurance and will invest into a plan whenever I can afford it again, which will require perserverence and hard work. But I will not ask, nor do I desire, any individual to support my health (or any other area of my life) or be forced to support it at the point of a gun. I enjoy helping deserving but underprivileged human beings just as much as the next, but it is not the job of any human being to command another on how to use the fruits of his own labor, whether morality, altruism or ‘god’ commands it.

    Governmental health care is dependent on one thing : slave labor. It depends on the exploitation of self-built, self-motivated individuals to not only work, but work hard and then turn over the products of their labor to another individual at the point of a gun. It depends on a society of productive people and is only brought about by those who are unable or unwilling to be productive themselves. If the society ceases to be productive (an end that the practice of stealing catalyzes) who will be there to produce that value for everyone else? Surely not the government, as the government as it exists today, and the supporters behind it are not producers, they are takers dependent on the skill and labor of the rest of us to carry out their objectives.
    Objectives that require the unwilling support of only one human being or only 14% of them have no business coming to fruition no matter how “moral” they seem, period. America was not built to turn the country into a nation of slaves for political masterminds or even the majority vote, it was built to give everyone the freedom to make their own choices on what they say and believe, where they work, and how they use the products of their labor while protecting everyone from outside forces against their own objectives. Anything the violates that is a slap in the face of the first country in all of human history to allow humans to live in peace and freedom from the strongest brute.

  3. says


    You say “Governmental health care is dependent on one thing : slave labor.”

    Do you hold the same view for all the other things that the government does, such as run the military, the roads, police, fire departments, parks, libraries, garbage collection, street cleaning, snow clearing, etc.” Do you use or depend upon any of these public services that others are paying for because it is taken out of the fruits of their “slave labor”?

    Do you advocate the elimination of all these things?

  4. says


    Thanks for the link. It is a very interesting article by Singer. But why are you shocked that we put a value on life? How can it be otherwise? After all, I am sure we can extend the life of almost anyone for at least a short time by (say) repeated organ transplants. But we don’t do that. We prioritize who gets organs first from waiting lists by deciding on criteria for worthiness. The question is how and who makes these kinds of difficult decisions -- bodies that have the general public health as their mandate or bodies that have profit as their main goal.

  5. says


    When the government has the unrestrained ability to print money and steal from the American public (through taxes) at the whims of any political party or politician and then create monopolies (you listed a few) backed by the military (a service that should be backing my human rights, not entrepreneurial endeavors or ‘public services’) and then make me pay for them, is there any other option for an American citizen but to depend on them and speak against the public opinion that humans have the inalienable rights to another person’s blood, sweat and tears?

  6. says


    Also, yes, I do advocate for the elimination of government created monopolies and services save for the only appropriate service a government exists for: The military and police for the protection of each individual’s human rights against the use of force.

  7. Azulao says

    Stephen, I confess myself stunned. It’s all right to use military and police force to protect everyone against the use of force…but not all right to use our collective wealth to do things that make the use of force less necessary?


  8. says

    I’m not sure I understand your implication, how does the government dipping their hands into private enterprises and entrepreneurial efforts such as the ones you listed protect me from the use of force?

  9. Paul Jarc says

    America was not built to turn the country into a nation of slaves for political masterminds or even the majority vote, it was built to give everyone the freedom to make their own choices […]

    Well, except for the actual slavery.

    the first country in all of human history to allow humans to live in peace and freedom from the strongest brute.

    Greece did a pretty nice job of establishing democracy and keeping out invaders a good while earlier.

    is there any other option for an American citizen but to depend on them

    Yes. For example, you could live by farming for yourself, without any economic interaction with anyone else.

  10. says


    Your earlier question was in response to a statement by Azulao, not me.

    But in response to your statement, why do you think it is appropriate to use other people’s “slave labor” to pay to maintain a military and police to protect your human rights? What makes only those two appropriate for government? Why cannot others say that you are responsible for protecting your own human rights and they shouldn’t have to pay for it?

    Also, since you do not believe in using other people’s “slave labor”, do you not use any public services? Do you use the roads that others also paid for? Do you dispose of your own trash?

  11. Azulao says

    Mano, thanks for the correction, Stephen was talking to me, yes. But, I believe he’s already said that he would happily do without public roads and trash disposal if the government would just stop stealing his money so he could pay for these services himself. I’m not sure the implications have been thoroughly thought through.

    Stephen, I believe that people who are not hungry, who are not worried about their children dying from simple diseases, and who are educated enough to have rich inner lives, are less prone to violence than hungry, anguished ones who know nothing except that “other” is “bad.”

    Also, it concerns me a lot that if the sole responsibility of government is force, it is not a long step to using that force not to protect people’s rights but to secure wealth and power to the forceful. See Myanmar, Darfur, and Los Angeles in the early 20th century.

    Finally, government is inevitable. The moment a group of people starts using their wealth together to benefit themselves beyond the individual (eg building roads to take farm goods to market), there must be processes to decide how much wealth should be given to the public good and how that wealth should be spent — government, in other words. The only way to avoid this is not to participate in society at all, as Paul suggests. Have a nice life with that.

  12. says

    Free enterprise has always achieved more than any Government. This is because the decisions are made by countless individuals who are the consumers, who make choices based on their limited means, “shall I buy ‘this’, or ‘that’? I can’t afford both” So if the majority choose, ‘this’ rather than ‘that’, then the ‘this’ will prosper, make its business owners rich, their employees wealthier than they would have been and they call all go and make thier in-numerable decisions again in the free market place with the money they have made. It is when this decision making process is taken over by Government that things go awry, Like the porverbial head of the communist button making factory who was instructed by his minister to make five tons of buttons this year -- he made one button weighing five tons and then took it easy.

    It is an empirical fact that Capitalism generates wealth and that without it the whole world would be poor rather than just the half that is now.

    We must not forget though where our capital came from in the first place. Slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries gave the USA and many European countries the capital that they now use in maintaining their wealth whilst decrying any other country in the world who dares to abuse ‘human rights’. We should read our history books.

  13. says

    Actually I’m convinced that Capitalism is bringing all the domains into progress even the health one, we just need to pay more taxes …and gain more !!!

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