The Democrats’ Single-Payer Razzle-Dazzle

   Give ’em the old razzle dazzle
   Razzle Dazzle ’em

   Give ’em the old hocus pocus
   Bead and feather ’em
   How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

   What if your hinges all are rusting?
   What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting?

   Razzle dazzle ’em
   And they’ll never catch wise!

   Give ’em the old flim flam flummox
   Fool and fracture ’em

   How can they hear the truth above the roar?

   Back since the days of old Methuselah
   Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

   When you’re in trouble, go into your dance
   Though you are stiffer than a girder
   They’ll let you get away with murder

   Long as you keep ’em way off balance
   How can they spot you’ve got no talent
   Razzle Dazzle ’em
   And they’ll make you a star!

(From the film Chicago)

On Friday, July 31 Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman, honorary members of the “Blue Dog” Democrat Party caucus, agreed to allow the single-payer healthcare bill (HB 676) to go to a floor vote before the end of the year. Pelosi said earlier this year that “single-payer is off the table.” For some reason when Pelosi and Waxman make this kind of commitment I hear the voice of Jon Lovitz in the background saying “Yeah! That’s the ticket! Why of course, we’ll let them have a vote on the single-payer bill, yeah, that’s the ticket!”

A young woman friend explained me that when some creep says to her “hey babe how about giving me your number” while she is out having a drink with her friends she gives him the telephone number of “The Rejection Hotline.” The creep goes away and does not understand until the next day when he “gets the message” on the Rejection Hotline. Then it’s too late.

While it is clear that President Obama is bucking for the coveted title of “Most Incompetent President”, desperately trying to edge out James Buchanan, the Congressional Democrats have long since held the title of “Most Incompetent Legislators”. With only brief rises to competence during the 1930s and 1960s the Democrats have abandoned any pretense of actually representing the people who voted for them.

Why then suddenly are Pelosi and Waxman giving the “liberal” Democrats a vote on single-payer health care? Waxman is the dandruff-eating pimple-nibbler who cut the outrageous deal with Obama and the Blue Dog Democrats which ensured that health care reform legislation would be unsustainable, and would consequently put off meaningful reform for another 20 years. When over 70% of Americans and over 59% of American physicians want single-payer health care, why would the corporate owned Democrats risk the passage of the single-payer healthcare bill?

The move came about somewhat as a fluke. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner threw a curveball. He introduced an amendment that would have created Medicare for the entire nation into the Energy and Commerce Committee healthcare markup session. That blew Waxman away! Nevertheless, Weiner was so surprised when Waxman said he would allow a vote on single-payer healthcare, he made Waxman repeat the statement making sure that it was clear and on the record. I guess we can see how much Representative Weiner trusts Pelosi and Waxman! They are the moral equivalent of a pair of leeches.


Largely the vote is seen as symbolic but at least for the first time, the concept of universal single-payer healthcare: government-funded, privately delivered health care will be given public exposure to the nation. Furthermore, when the bill comes to a vote, members of Congress will be forced to declare a position. When the bill fails, as is expected, Democrat rank-and-file should understand that the “Blue Dog” Democrats are, in essence, Republicans. Just as the Republicans had their think tank “Project for a New American Century” the Democrats have their “Progressive Policy Institute” which is anything but progressive. It is in fact the think tank of the so-called moderate or Blue Dog Democrats and is right in sync with PNAC.

It’s important to understand this reality because the Democrat Party’s talking point disseminators, the Democrats’ version of Rush Limbaugh, as well as the average Democrat voter, appear bewildered that health care reform has taken so long given that the Democrats have an overwhelming majority in both houses. But of course there is simply not an overwhelming majority of “Democrats” in the House or the Senate.

The Blue Dog Democrats are in effect Republicans. There are about 52 of them in the House and a handful of “unofficial members” in the Senate. While the House Blue Dogs actually have a caucus and a website,the best guess as to whom the Senate members are includes: Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Udall of Colorado, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

If President Obama had any concept of what it means to be a Chief Executive he would have brought pressure to bear on the Blue Dogs through the power of the bully pulpit as soon as he took office. He should have made it clear that any Democrat who opposes single-payer will face a challenger in the next primary. He should have kicked Pelosi and Reid in their collective butt to discipline House and Senate members to fall behind the House and Senate versions of the single-payer legislation. He should have done that for the Employee Free Choice Act as well. Just as the Employee Free Choice Act has been gutted, if Obamacare passes — that means any form of a public option which still allows the existence of private insurance companies — meaningful healthcare reform will be put off for another 20 years.


Up until this point the “Liberal” Democrats — the single-payer advocates — the antiwar Democrats — have essentially behaved like sniveling cowards having nothing to say as the various versions of a “public option” wash away the hope for meaningful health care reform. Usually when people like the liberal Democrats call the Suicide Hotline they are advised, “Go ahead; do it.”

To their credit however the liberal Democrats reacted swiftly when the conservative Democrats — 52 Blue Dog members of the House — said that they might block the healthcare bill from moving forward through the Energy and Commerce Committee. The liberals issued a letter bitterly attacking Waxman’s deal saying:

We regard the agreement reached by Chairman Waxman and several Blue Dog members of the Committee as fundamentally unacceptable. This agreement is not a step forward toward a good healthcare bill, but is a large step backwards.

Representative Lynn Woolsey of California said at a news conference “we have compromised, and we can compromise no more.”


Just one day before Pelosi and Waxman agreed to permit the vote on single-payer healthcare, advocates of single-payer health held a press conference at the National Press Club. They unanimously urged Congress to defeat “Obamacare” which is defined as a weak or no public option plan which is bound to break the bank and not cover tens of millions of Americans; pretty much what we have in the United States currently. Dr. David Schneider — Obama’s personal physician for 22 years — said at this conference that he opposed Obama’s plan because it’s “a bad program that will set health reform back….It will give people a sense that something has been done — and it hasn’t been done…It’s a bad bill….No bill [at all would be] better than this bill….It will make things more complicated than ever.”

Sidney Wolfe, from Public Citizen said of the various “public option” plans that they are “false promises. It’s incumbent upon us to oppose something that cannot work.”

Jim Ferlo, a state Senator from Pittsburgh said he would “rather wait to get a single payer plan than any half baked Obama plan… [Obamacare is] just not going to work. It’s not sustainable. Any time you see Harry and Louise in paid commercials in the millions financed by big Pharma — now backing the Obama plan, and spending millions of dollars in daily commercials in favor of Obama’s plan — I say hold onto to your wallets. Something’s wrong.”

Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program said the Obama legislation “will not address the fundamental problems we are facing. It will not control costs.” Katie Robbins of Healthcare Now said her group would not support it even with the Kucinich amendment which would allow states to enact single-payer healthcare legislation.

Seeing liberal Democrats stand up on their hind legs is incredibly refreshing. It is as though we went back 500 years and heard Martin Luther say to the Church of Rome, “Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders” (Here I stand, I can do no differently). A dangerous position for someone to take back in those days when people who challenged authority were often given the choice of cold chop or a hot steak! Perhaps it is even more startlingly reminiscent of Milton’s account of Lucifer when he looked into the face of God and said “non serviam” (“I will not serve”). Everyone remembers what happened to good old Lucifer however!


The reason the Blue Dogs have been able to swing so much weight is because they issue ultimatums — “if you don’t do things our way, we will throw your crummy healthcare plan in the shredder.”

If the Blue Dogs had written Patrick Henry’s speech it might have sounded something like “give me liberty or give me a reasonable facsimile thereof.” Instead of saying “I am Spartacus” we probably would have heard Blue Dog Roman slaves say “I am Spartacus…er…but only figuratively… I mean…er… HE is Spartacus.” A Blue Dog Benjamin Franklin might have been heard saying “those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve a little peace and quiet.”

The Blue Dogs are fiscal conservatives. They support pro-gun legislation, free trade, bankruptcy and tort reform, have anti-abortion voting records, oppose amnesty for economic refugees (called “illegal immigrants” by the mainstream media as well as the Blue Dogs), and they oppose welfare and entitlements. These positions would constitute an excellent platform upon which to build a party. But of course there already is a party with such a platform. It is called the Republican Party.


If the 85 House Democrats who pledged their support for HR 676 (John Conyer’s single-payer healthcare bill) remain firm and declare they will not support Obamacare or any other health care Reform Act than HR 676 and drew a “line in the sand”, then at least they would get a hell of a lot of press and the bill might actually stand a chance of passing. Unfortunately none of them have said “no” to Obamacare. Their moment of defiance was short-lived and mostly rhetorical.

Alarmingly, when the “liberal” Democrats acquiesce so easily to the Republicans even within their own party we find ourselves living in what Michael Parenti calls one “the worst forms of tyranny”. This is not one of those tyrannies “we rail against” but one of those insidious types of tyranny “that so insinuate themselves into the imagery of our consciousness, and the fabric of our lives, as not to be perceived as tyranny.” It is the tyranny of the duopoly.

To live as if our choices make any real difference in the long run may be the act of a fool, but to live as if they do not, that is the act of a coward.

— Albert Camus

John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in Pennsylvania's 16th district in 2006 and 2008 . He is a founding member of the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition where he represents the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader. He can be reached at: Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. skip said on August 5th, 2009 at 12:41pm #

    What poll are you looking at that shows 70% of Americans support a single payer system? WashPo poll reports support for Obama’s plan at below 50%. Do I need to report you to the White House internet police?

  2. philldavies said on August 5th, 2009 at 6:21pm #

    Yeah! Dems just cooked up this health care thing to distract people from the fact that BO has never produced a birth certificate! Nobody cares about health care! More and more care that the President may be an imposter! This is a nation of LAWS so he should show his birth certificate. We need one of OUR OWN KIND in the White house!

  3. Phil said on August 5th, 2009 at 7:33pm #

    Skip: That’s the point. The people do NOT support Obama’s plan, they support HR676. Even Obama has publicly admitted that HR676 is the only method which would allow universal health care.

  4. Peter S. said on August 5th, 2009 at 11:40pm #

    New York Single Payer (Governor Paterson in NY is reported to be hiding this final report from public view)

    The Urban Institute Final Report:
    Achieving Quality, Affordable Health Insurance for All New Yorkers:
    An Analysis of Reform Options

    Prepared for the New York State Department of Health and
    the New York State Department of Insurance

    July 17, 2009

    “Public Health Insurance for All [SINGLE PAYER for NY] would result in a significantly smaller addition to health system spending than Individual Mandate approaches [“PUBLIC OPTION”] that achieve coverage for all largely through a subsidized private insurance market.”

  5. mary said on August 6th, 2009 at 5:32am #

    This is what we are fighting for in the UK. Our much valued National Health Service founded after the war and funded by National Insurance deductions from pay is under serious threat from privatisation by NuLabour. Many American healthcare companies have already been given contracts to run polyclinics in place of GP surgeries and specialist treatment centres to carry out surgical operations.

    Labour will probably be thrown out next year and the Tories will come in with stringent and sweeping cuts as the budget is completely shot after the banking bail outs (£125 billion) and the financial collapse. The Tories claim to support the idea of a nationalized health service free to all at the point of need but we know that is unlikely to be the case.

    This is from
    Thursday 6th August 2009

    Across England NHS patients and local communities have been linking up with nurses, doctors and other health care workers to meet, march, protest and lobby as they fight to stop further closures and cuts in local NHS services. Beds, wards and even whole hospitals are closing down. Thousands of health workers’ jobs are being axed.

    But alongside the cuts, an unprecedented process of privatisation is under way: vital services and precious NHS resources are being handed over to the private sector, including companies run for profit for shareholders here and overseas. Now is the time to fight back to Keep Our NHS Public!

    The campaign was launched in September 2005 and has won the backing of hundreds of senior doctors, academics, health workers and trade union leaders, celebrities, MPs and local campaigners for its launch statement. Now we are inviting all those who support our appeal to JOIN Keep Our NHS Public, and to work with us to build local broad-based campaigns that can stop and roll back the juggernaut of a government policy that is wrecking our NHS.

    We campaign for our aims and principles. Chief amongst these:

    1 To inform the public and the media what is happening as a result of the Government’s “reform” programme.
    2 To build a broadly based non-party political campaign to prevent further fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS.
    3 To keep our NHS Public. This means funded from taxation, free at the point of use, and provided as a public service by people employed in the NHS and accountable to the public and Parliament.
    4 To call for a public debate about the future of the NHS and to halt the further use of the private sector until such a debate is had.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~They sound rather woolly on point 4.

    I wish the Americans success in getting a single payer healthcare system.

  6. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on August 6th, 2009 at 7:02am #

    debating one’s legit and morally right inheritance from late americans may be compared to a debate whether a good son and daughter shld receive their inheritance from late parents.

    constitution had robbed americans of their basic panhuman rights: healthcare, right to be informed, free higher education….

    interpreters of the US constitution do not restore to americans right to be medically cared for because they fear americans wld be demnading more of their rightful inheritance.
    once the door to a better life is ajar, it is not going to take long for it to burst wide open or fly off its hinges! tnx

  7. Deanna McGowan said on August 6th, 2009 at 3:17pm #

    Single payer public plan HR676 would dramatically reduce Health care cost in this country. Big medical insurance industry is spending millions daily to sway Congress and public opinion against government-run health care, WHY? There is so much profit in health care now why change it. Please tell congress you support single payer for health care reform it is the only reform that removes the insurance-middleman.

  8. clmaxwell said on August 6th, 2009 at 8:08pm #

    Aw, say it ain’t so, O’–you sold out the audaciously hopeful voters who dared to give you a real mandate to lead progressive, transparent change forward from a cowardly Congess, luring followers for a “transformative” movement during historic challenges.

    Obama: Getting universal health care and ending an insane U.S. war debacle are the core reasons the Democratic Party failed to lose the past two elections. Only determined individuals, who long ago despaired of dynamic national campaign coordination, bothered to fight and overpower the Republican dictatorship.

    Democratic Party “leaders” lost all credibility from the time Ms. Pelosi unilaterally refused to investigate any Bush Administration crimes and misdemeanors right down to:

    TODAY, Obama admitted he has made secret deals with insurance thugs to guarantee Americans continue to have the worst health care in the industrial world.

    That act, Mr. President, marks your place in history with the most–and the many–corrupt and ignorant corporate henchmen who force constant warfare, while keeping down American healthiness, life-expectancy and -quality, infant mortality and education.

    The stupidity, along with the immorality, of an Administration that gets its marbles stolen away every time it goes for a fabled “bipartisanship” is so frequent and horrible to contemplate that this writer must again slam the door against even stoical observance of the mortal foolishness that control political destruction throughout the nation.

    At least we can make fun of savvy Chicago politicos, even with “sharp elbows” along with

  9. clmaxwell said on August 6th, 2009 at 8:12pm #

    May I finish the final ‘graf of my little rant?

  10. clmaxwell said on August 6th, 2009 at 8:37pm #

    pls cut my piece after “sharp elbows.”


  11. Paul Double said on August 8th, 2009 at 4:49am #

    We do not need a new version of Medicare A,B,C,D with E-Dental and F-Vision. Let people see the premium cost of the Medicare parts and the complexity of D. This single payer model is not the low cost simplistic model most believe. Congress needs to focus on providing 100% coverage for the 5% of society who really needs the help, create a catostropic plan(not high deductable) for medical expenses over the 7.5% normal allowance annual cost IRS Rules elimimatin personal bankruptcy for medical bills. That it!!!!

  12. Bilba said on August 9th, 2009 at 9:37pm #

    We know that the supposed debate between the Elephant and the Donkey is a diversion tactic, propaganda. Unfortunate for some of us, too many Americans believe it. But, I have to admit, that the Elephant and the Donkey (think: guardians of special interests) are cunning: get the American people to believe that the Elephant (who we have now successfully got many to believe is the “bad guy” right now who hasn’t been very nice to “our” President) oppose ObamaCare and we’ll get lots and lots of support for it. Won’t that make the Industry real happy!

    My prediction: as under every Administration since this nation’s founding, the people will not be getting what we need.

    I know there are a lot of people who are depressed. We have been abused since before we were a country and continue to be abused in America. But, I wish the day will come in my lifetime when I witness the Wake-up.

  13. Kathleen Bushman said on August 13th, 2009 at 10:47pm #

    John Murphy is one smart man. – anyone who thinks as I do can’t be all wrong. 😉 The tyranny of the duopoly sounds a lot like what I’ve been calling the 2 party shell game since last summer. I take exception to only one of the points this writer, Murphy, has made: “If President Obama had any concept of what it means to be a Chief Executive he would have brought pressure to bear on the Blue Dogs through the power of the bully pulpit as soon as he took office.” John seems to think that Obama is just incompetent or using lame tactics – as if Obama is really truly the “progressive” he rhetorically claimed to be. I don’t believe for a minute that Obama’s failure to act had anything whatsoever to dowith incompetence. Obama – whatever else he may or may not be – is NOT in the least stupid nor incompetent. Anyone with good common sense should know that actions – and failures to act – speak far more loudly than words. WORDS ARE CHEAP – DAMN CHEAP – and never cheaper than when coming from the mouth of a politician.

  14. Kathleen Bushman said on August 14th, 2009 at 12:49am #

    In case I didn’t make myself entirely clear, I meant to say that I consider Obama, himself, a blue dog Democrat who sold us out before he ever got to the White House. I’m convinced that the corporate media would have obstructed his candidacy if he hadn’t been a blue dog sell the same way the media obstructed the candidacy of Dennis Kucinich when it excluded him from the televized debates.. The one headed pro-war party’s most powerful members are all and always corporatists in my opinion; I think it;s been that way for a long time, even if I’m only lately aware of that fact.

  15. Ronald Moreno said on August 17th, 2009 at 7:16pm #

    lets face it, Americans cannot afford their healthcare insurance anymore. Its too expensive. Thats why Americans need the Single option plan, The corporations know it and so does the senate and congress. I sincerely hope in 2010 all the people who went against single payer get voted out of office. Their not epresenting the American people anymore. And he American people cannot afford to line their pockets for the things they really need now. Please vote them all out and send a clear message.

    Thank you,