Gibbs Says Single Payer Supporters on Drugs; Was Obama Using in 2003?

By Jon Walker for FireDogLake

President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, decided to attack single payer health care, a system used very effectively in many first-world countries, as some wacky, crazy idea.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

It pains me to see a Democratic administration attacking the idea of single payer as an idea so unrealistic that you must be high on drugs to push for it. The push for universal single payer health care, Medicare for all, has been was a goal of the Democratic party for decades. Virtually every single health care economist or policy expert on the left, after examining the domestic and international data, has concluded that single payer either is the best way or is among the best ways to provide universal health care. I guarantee that you won’t find a single expert on the left who thinks the system created by the new health care law is markedly superior to single payer.

We know that single payer is a fair and dramatically cheaper way to provide health insurance. America’s single payer health care system for those over 65, Medicare, is very popular and is a clear success.

As recently as seven years ago, even Barack Obama was a public supporter of adopting single payer health care. So, according to Gibbs, I guess we should question whether Obama was under the influence of drugs when he advocated for that logical position.

I’ve long accepted that we didn’t elect a Democratic president who is willing to fight for single payer health care, but today is truly a new and sad low. I never thought that we would have a Democratic administration that would actively mock and attack the idea of Medicare for all. Yes, the right wing and the private health insurance industry have won. Even a Democratic administration has thrown empirical evidence out the window and is now attacking “Canadian healthcare” as crazy for some reason.

I guess someone should tell Canadians, or even American seniors on Medicare, how terrible their single payer health care systems are, with their dramatically lower costs and much higher life expectancies. Either tell them, or parhaps just order up a whole heck of a lot of drug tests for them.


  1. Robert L Saunders on August 11, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I didn’t vote for President Obama because I wanted him to bend over backwards to appease the far right Republicans, but that’s what he seems to do at every opportunity. I thought Obama would be a leader with great oratory skills that would be able to counteract the Fox propaganda machine and lead America to real solutions to our problems.

    I don’t think Obama was high on illegal drugs when he said he was a “proponent of single payer” seven years ago, but I think he was high on pharmaceutical money (and insurance company money) when he decided to start working on his health care plan as president and began by ruling out single payer at the beginning and not even inviting single payer supporters to the table.

    Secretary Gibbs’ comments have added insult to injury by claiming that the left (of which I am a non-professional member) must be on drugs to want single payer health care, a longtime goal of the Democratic party. Canadians live three years longer than we do and nearly every modern nation in the world has universal, government supplied, health care for their citizens and in many cases even visitors.

    While I can’t blame president Obama for not being able to overcome filibusters in the senate, I will be blaming him for losing ground in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s not so much that he hasn’t lived up to his promises, it that he isn’t even trying.

    • Reg on August 14, 2010 at 2:36 am

      The reason why I voted for Obama and the Democrats because I thought they were gonna open up Medicare as an alternative. Every chance Obama and the White House staff get a chance to bash the base they do. I guess low turnout and less money in the coffers of the Democratic Party will motivate them to listen to the base voters again. Every modern economy has a national non profit health system except the United States. I guess other countries think were crazy.

  2. Chris Hagel on August 17, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Sometimes we just have to get it out of our system. I contacted the White House with this quick in house email:

    I would like to reply to some remarks by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
    He said that Canadian health care and elimination of the Pentagon are not reality.

    Every credible study shows if we pooled the risk across the young and healthy people of our country (HR 676, improved and enhanced Medicare for all) we can cover everybody and save billion$ annually.
    Medicare and social security were once considered socialistic and unrealistic.

    National health insurance is unrealistic as long as we continually have a corrupt and elite cabal in the White House in lock step with their buddies in the health insurance industry and Big Pharma.

    What is realistic to you is to continue propping up the bureaucratic and expensive health insurance industry middleman causing millions of people mental and physical suffering and thousands of deaths annually and an economic burden.

    What is realistic to you is for YOUR health care to be paid for mostly with OUR tax money…as you keep your buddies in the health insurance industry and big pharma flush with incredible wealth.

    What is realistic to you is for my friend to worry about a growth on her breast and she has no health insurance and she has to get into a clinic.
    What is realistic to you is for my co-worker with extreme back pain who needs an MRI, to have to put it off until October when he’ll “probably” get health insurance.
    This is going on all over the country to millions of people.

    What is realistic to you is to link health care to employment.
    What is realistic to you is health care as a commodity and privilege and not a public necessity/service and human right.

    Your realistic corporate welfare world is the uninsured forced to buy their stripped down over priced health insurance.

    In brief, the ardent supporters and authors of this fake health care reform Bill are complete and total propagandists.
    It was virtually written by the health insurance industry and big pharma. The true HR 676 Medicare for All solution was completely censored from the hearings.
    Axelrod, McMahon and the rest of your propaganda artists are such liars for saying on TV how historic health care reform has been passed.

    Regarding Congressman Dennis Kucinich (and Congressman Conyers), Robert Gibbs’ thinking and philosophy is so unenlightened and not even close to being as evolved.

    Robert Gibbs could not possibly wrap his mind around (true) National Health Insurance and a Department of Peace.

  3. sharon scott on August 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Why do we even bother to contact Obama, anymore. He only listens to the powerful,moneyed interests. Taking it all to the streets and funding only true progressive candidates is the answer.

  4. Alan8 on August 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    The Democrats (like the Republicans) receive THE MAJORITY of their funding from corporate sources.

    This explains why they’re incapable of doing what’s right for the American people when it interferes with corporate profits.

    They ignore the left with impunity, reasoning the left has nowhere else to go. We have to motivate them to take the left seriously.

    The Green Party doesn’t accept ANY corporate money, AND HAS BEEN DEMANDING SINGLE PAYER FOR YEARS. They DO represent citizens’ interests.

    Leftists need to start supporting the Green Party if only to send a message to the corporate Democrats that selling us out will cost them votes. Continue voting for the Democrats, and they’ll continue taking you for granted.


  5. Herbert on August 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Sad part is, we progressives (oh! i mean the “professional left”!) in part voted for Obama because we hoped he would get Medicare for All. His slogan should now be, “No I didn’t” . . . he’s abandoned his base and just like in Massachusetts voted for Scott Brown, the independents are probably not going to vote for Obama next time around OR people will just stay home, achieving the same result. We gave it all to him: the presidency, senate and house and he squandered it all. He could’ve been one of the best presidents of all time, but it was more important to pander to corporate interests, and listen to Rahm Emmanuel who cares not about us peons . . . “we won’t be fooled again”

  6. Robert Ross on August 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    If Robert Gibbs thinks the Canadian health care system is so horrific, maybe he should suggest that the Obama administration should invade Quebec to save the Canadians from the horrors of single payer.

  7. lauren serven on August 19, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Now would those drugs be covered under our existing health insurance???

  8. swimdoc on August 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    After more than 20 years fighting for national health insurance to cover everyone (like Canada), I was overjoyed to elect Barack Obama President. I assumed he would put together a group to study health care financing systems around the world, and that some kind of single-payer proposal for the U.S. would emerge from it.
    Boy, was I wrong! I entirely underestimated the corruption that the large corporate donations necessary to finance 21st century interminable election campaigns has fostered.
    The lesson we must learn is that we must first get the big money out of politics, and explicitly make illegal the huge lobbying bribery (er, excuse me, “expenses”) spent on influencing legislation. Even if what goes on in campaign financing and lobbying is technically legal, IT IS CORRUPTION – of our elections and of the functioning of our Congress.
    Each of us can start by donating money ONLY as individuals, and ONLY to support candidates we actually can vote for – our local and state government officials, our local state legislators, and our local candidates for Congress. And finally, we need to support exclusive public funding for national presidential campaigns. And, oh yeah, the Electoral College has to go the way of the dinosaur.

  9. Debra on August 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I didn’t read Gibbs’ comment as an attack on single payer at all. He seemed to be responding to the comparison of Obama to George Bush. The Obama Administration has always rejected the idea of a Canadian style health system, so that is no surprise. And Gibbs referenced calls to eliminate the Pentagon which does sound crazy.

    I’m not happy about the comments attacking the left, but any response must linked to his actual statements, not the implication of those statements. We all know what time it is. Conventional wisdom is that although the Left or Right may help a presidential candidate win an election, s/he is to govern from the Center.

    Obama just needs a little bit of pressure applied, that’s all. Like the March on Washington scheduled for October 2nd. I hope you all plan to attend. I will be there marching for jobs, healthcare and peace.

    • martha on August 22, 2010 at 1:01 am


      Obama just needs a little bit of pressure applied? What planet do you live on? Listen to what he says, then check in with reality. He never tells the entire story about anything – just the points he wants people to believe.

      He doesn’t care about you or I. He was branded and marketed as a charistmatic guy to win over the people by running a cool dude campaign. Pelosi et al are the same – everything the Democrats/Progressives have done so far is for their money masters on Wall St. which really means they are no different than Republicans.

      The myth of the Democrats/Progressives is that they are for the working class, yet, they have all gone to the other side while making excuses in an effort to keep the base rallied.

      In reality, red and blue eat at the same trough while they play good cop, bad cop. It sounds rather grim, but this is reality. Right now, they’ll tell you anything you want to hear b/c they want to win in November.

  10. CH on August 20, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I to voted for Obama in the hope that he would champion Universal Health Care for American citizens. A healthcare system that has proven to be successful in so many other countries. But I believe that he indeed sold us out to benefit the insurance companies. Everyone is now required to purchase insurance FROM AN INSURANCE COMPANY. It’s being called the AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE ACT, but no one knows exactly how much it’s going to cost. I read that President Obama went to the insurance companies to request that the premiums for the insurance coverage that they provide not be too high, now that everybody is required by law to purchase it. I think this should have been determined before making the law. It seems as though the insurance companies are in control, when it should be the other way around. We elected him President because we wanted him to be the leader and not to have to go asking the big
    corporations to be considerate of the American citizens. Big businesses run this country, not our elected President.