Blacking Out Single-Payer–And Killing The Auto Industry

By Jonathan Tasini

When the history of our current economic crisis is written, there will need to be a full chapter devoted to the willful ignorance or stupidity of the traditional media. Right before our eyes stands the solution to a huge chunk of our fiscal nightmare and a lifeline for the auto industry: single-payer health care. And, yet, there is a virtual traditional media blackout on single-payer, witness another example in yesterday’s New York Times.

In The Week In Review, reporter Kevin Sack stumbles through an entirely conventional wisdom article, with this brilliant observation:

Mr. Obama seems to recognize that the recession, with its devastating job losses, affords him the potential to accelerate public opinion. To broaden support for his plan — whatever it ends up being — he insisted last week that systematic improvements in health care would be essential to any lasting economic recovery.

Sacks goes on to chronicle some of the desperation faced by millions of uninsured and under-insured people. And, then, he arrives at the framing of the solutions:

There is a rough consensus, certainly among the Democrats who control both houses, around many key components of the Obama plan — to expand government subsidization of insurance for the poor, to stimulate competition through a new government plan, to require insurers to accept those with pre-existing medical problems and to invest in computerization, prevention and payment incentives for better care.


Less certain, of course, is how to pay for it. During the campaign, Mr. Obama said he would get about half of the necessary total, estimated at more than $100 billion a year, by raising taxes on those making more than $250,000. The rest was to come from savings generated by various efficiencies (their value is a matter of considerable dispute).

Mr. Obama reaffirmed on Thursday that his proposal to roll back the Bush tax cuts might be deferred because of the recession. “We’re probably going to have to, then, find additional dollars to pay for some investments in the short term,” he said, adding that he wants his health plan to pay for itself over a decade.

Some of those dollars may be found by packaging health care initiatives as stimulus measures, a recessionary opportunity presented by the public’s acceptance of deficit spending to spur the economy. What, after all, is $100 billion for health coverage if the government can print $700 billion to bail out the banks?

What is startling–though, perhaps, it should not be by now–is that Sack cannot write the phrase “single-payer” in the entire article, even though it is the only health care plan that would SAVE money and relieve the auto industry–and the rest of the business world–of billions of dollars in health care costs.

Even The Financial Times is starting to get it, though indirectly. In an article today on the auto industry, it acknowledges that wages are pretty much the same between U.S. auto workers and non-union Japanese companies. The big difference is health care, particularly for retirees:

GM and Toyota workers earn similar wages of about $29 an hour.

The big difference is in fringe benefits, such as healthcare insurance and pensions.

The overall labour-cost figures also include retiree benefits. Thousands of GM, Ford and Chrysler workers were on pensions with generous healthcare benefits – foreign carmakers have a fraction of the number of retirees.

I wrote as far back as 2005 that single-payer was the solution to the cost issues of the auto industry. But, The New York Times, along with the rest of the traditional media, repeatedly refuses to include single-payer as a legitimate option.

By doing so, the Times and the rest of the traditional media are killing industries, jobs and, yes, people. Shame on them.

This commentary is from the Huffington Post.

1 Comment

  1. spacecowboy on August 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Your absolutely right as far as being aware of a single-payer healthcare plan. I am totally in the dark about that. Keep trucking your message is bound to be heard. I do not know how that would address our healthcare problems because I really don’t understand the ramifications of our healthcare issues as it affects us today, in the past or in the future. I do know that healthcare costs are getting out of hand from the perspective of issuing tests that might be entirely unnecessary because I’ve had similar experiences first hand. And the rising costs of pharmaceutical products and hospital and doctor visits are ridiculous even though insurance pays for it. But taking AT&T for instance requiring their employees to have to pay the initial costs per member of the family up to $2500 before insurance coverage kicks in is just totally unfair. Our healthcare system must be revamped, NOW!