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Robert Reich’s Public Option Video

I ran across this on The Huffington Post, and then again when recommended by a friend on FaceBook.  It tries to simplfy the “Public Option” for those of us too stupid to understand it.

At a time when it’s getting ever harder to do so, I still seek out arguments from all sides. I’ve always liked Reich’s calm manner when presenting himself, but he loses me as a fan when he starts parrot things that a man in his position should understand better (the “Bush turned a $5 trillion surplus into a $7 trillion deficit” meme, for example). As somebody who spends his days studying public policy, he simply has to know better. 

This video is duplicitous. I’m sure many here can point out other transgressions, but two grabbed me right out of the gate:

First, he acts as though anybody who is suspicious of the public option is being silly.  Ironically, the best explanation given for why somebody might be suspicious was presented in the very magazine he co-founded in 1990, The American Prospect:

Hickey took UC Berkley health care expert Jacob Hacker‘s idea for “a new public insurance pool modeled after Medicare” and went around to the community of single-payer advocates, making the case that this limited “public option” was the best they could hope for. Ideally, it would someday magically turn into single-payer.

Sounds pretty obvious that the public option was designed as a Trojan Horse to get us to single payer. This explains why (according to Rasmussen) public support for the plan seems to actually drop when the public option is removed: You don’t pick any voters up, but you lose disgusted single-payer advocates.

Second, he refers to the current system as one that “everybody hates”.  Again, he has to know better. As stated in the same American Prospect piece:

But the hard reality, from the point of view of all of us who understand the efficiency and simplicity of a single-payer system, is that our pollsters unanimously tell us that large numbers of Americans are not willing to give up the good private insurance they now have in order to be put into one big health plan run by the government.

Pollster Celinda Lake looked at public backing for a single-payer plan – and then compared it with an approach that offers a choice between highly regulated private insurance and a public plan like Medicare. This alternative, called “guaranteed choice” wins 64 percent support to 22 percent for single-payer. And even the hard core progressive part of the population, which Celinda calls the “health justice” constituency, favors “guaranteed choice” over single-payer.

So, there are only two possibilities here:

1.  The Democrats (including Obama) are lying about the end goal of the public option, and are hoping that nobody will notice.

2.  The public option has morphed into something more innocuous than the original intent, but Democrats are clinging to the name so that they can keep single-payer advocates on board.

Either way, Reich should take the time to address the history of the concept.  Suspicions about motive here are clearly justified.

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