Kucinich’s Healthcare Sell-out

by Billy Wharton –

The Obama administration cracked a tough nut today in their relentless drive to sponsor a corporate restructuring of the American healthcare system. Dennis Kucinich, who had been one of the few voices of opposition to the faulty healthcare “reform,” announced today that he intend to vote “Yes” on the healthcare bill currently under consideration in the US House of Representatives. The announcement came after a high-pressure visit from President Barack Obama to the Cleveland district Kucinich represents.

For many in the movement for single-payer healthcare, the move is the final in a series of betrayals by Democratic Party politicians. First among these was Representative John Conyers from Michigan, the sponsor of House Resolution 676, a bill that would create a publicly funded National Health Program by eliminating private health insurers. Conyers caved-in quickly, voting yes on the proposal and providing little resistance outside of an interesting quip about having to read a 2,000-page bill in two days. Kucinich appeared as a dissident of a different type.

Kucinich railed against the House bill, claiming that it “…would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care.” This critique was backed up by a “No” vote in November 2009. In House deliberations, however, Kucinich had already moved off his single-payer position, first searching for a “robust” public option and then attempting to create a clause that would allow states to pursue single-payer programs. Today Kucinich went a step further, cowering to the will of a White House bankrolled by big pharma and the private health insurance lobby.

Kucinich called it “a detour” and claimed that all of his previous criticisms of the bill still stood. The healthcare bill had become, he proposed, a contest between the presidency and its far-right critics. More correctly, Kucinich caved to pressure from pro-Obama groups, such as Moveon.org who recently collected more than $1 million to pressure House Democrats who had voted no on the original bill. The extent of the pressure campaign was brought home when Obama appeared in Kucinich’s voting district this week and summoned him to a meeting on Airforce One. There, the terms of Kucinich’s sell-out were determined.

The one powerful voice that has been remarkably absent from the whole spectacular public discussion of healthcare reform is that of the private health insurance lobby. Why so quiet? Because they wrote significant portions of the bill currently under consideration in the House. Because they have purchased the support of Demcoratic and Republican representatives by spending an average of $609,000 a day on lobbying during the first six months of 2009. And, because Obama’s healthcare proposal will open up new opportunities to harvest taxpayer money by providing clunker healthcare plans to the uninsured. Kucinich knows this yet he will still provide his name to this damaging scheme.

Most of all, Kucinich’s betrayal points to the burning need for political activity, both electoral and social movement based, independent of the Democrats and Republicans. The political system is already so saturated with corporate money that Democrats and Republicans are structurally incapable of acting in the interests of working people in America. Now is the time for a green and red rebellion at the ballot box and on the streets. Only then, can we can be done with the wavering Kucinich’s of the world and get down to the task of creating a society that values human needs over corporate profits. We need a single-payer healthcare system now and only an uncompromising movement made up of everyday people will get us there.

Billy Wharton is a writer and activist whose articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Counterpunch, the NYC Indypendent, Spectrezine and the Monthly Review Zine.


  1. Ernie Logan on March 18, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I’m sorry, but this is over the top. I am a strident believer in single payer (just see my DKos diary) but to call Kucinich a traitor is ridiculous. He is clearly strongly conflicted by the decision he has made, as I would be in his position. It’s time we stop attacking one another, and start working toward a common goal. We aren’t going to get single payer this session of Congress. At least we can get 30 million more people with some sort of coverage, and thereby slow the bleed out (death from lack of insurance.)

    • Katie R on March 21, 2010 at 10:56 pm

      “Well, I think you really do have to separate the policy analysis from the political analysis and I’m looking at it as policy. And it fails as policy. Moreover, a lot of people say, “Let’s hold our nose and pass it, because it’s a step in the right direction.” And I say it’s a step in the wrong direction.” Dr. Marcia Angell on Bill Moyers’ Journal

  2. Diana McGinness on March 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Billy, your diatribe appears to put all the blame on Kucinich. There are 435 folks in the House. Did any of you put any focus on blaming the GOP – of going into their districts/states and discounting their lies to their constituents – you know those constituents do need coverage, too. Instead of pushing back on the people who caused all the problems, you pushed your friends into a corner who were doing their best, but apparently, none of you are aware of the political realities. Did you think these people would roll over because you were standing on the street corner yelling I want it now?

    You want to change the system. There is only one way we’re going to change it – get everyone on the same page – every group across the country – put aside every single issue you have and focus on one thing and one thing only until it’s done – GET THE CORPORATE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS! Primary every candidate who refuses to get on board. Make calls every single day, march in the streets every single day – organizations can alternate, and on and on. Overload their systems in every single office they have until they are exhausted with the issue and they start taking action.

    Because until then, the corporations will always win and we will always lose. We will only get marginal change (like we are now) rather than the change we need.

    You’re wasting your time blaming the politicians. Blame the masters who are pulling the strings. They’re the ones you should be having this diatribe against. THEY won, we lost. And we always will until we change the way we go about defeating them and succeed in doing so. And for not organizing together against them, we can blame ourselves, too.

    Now quit whining and start making calls to build a coalition across this country with every group willing to sign up so we can beat them.

  3. Kurt Bateman on March 18, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Many members of the sigle payer advocacy group here in Ohio went to the offices of the good congressman to support his stance for real healthcare reform. Sharp critics are worthless at a time like this. Though federal complete universal HC is not going to happen, members like Dennis Kucinich have always stood for it.

    The legislation does not have a foundation for single payer but as long as the bottom doen’t fall out of people’s acess and we’ve made it easier for some then we have to work harder for state programs. Dennis is with us in this fight! The future economics of healthcare will require it to be so. We need to come together and lead the way.

  4. Ron Meservey on March 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I agree that we can achieve single-payer improved Medicare for all only through a long, hard struggle. It took centuries to abolish slavery and another century to defeat Jim Crow. I know. I was in the Civil Rights Movement. It took us 10 years to get out of Vietnam. I don’t know how long it will take to throw the health insurance companies into the landfill but it won’t be this year. To defeat the current bill now, bad as it is, would be to deny 30 million Americans health care and deny almost everyone in the private sector the minimal protections federal employees and retirees like me now enjoy: no denials for preexisting conditions and at least a limited selection among private insurers, among other things. And it will help sink the Obama presidency and the Democratic majorities in Congress. If the GOP is fighting the current bill so ruthlessly and shamelessly, it can only be because they fear that even the current bill might do enough good to garner some public support. If they thought it would make things worse, they’d let it slip past so they could blame Obama and the Dems for passing a turkey. We’ve got to stop condemning our friends, even if they are far less than perfect. And no matter what happens, we have to keep pushing for single-payer as our final goal.

  5. libhomo on March 18, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    It’s obvious that Obama offered Kucinich a bunch of HMO/health insurer campaign contributions in return for his vote.

  6. Leo Wong on March 18, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Not time wasted. Not that any other progressive Democrat did better – he was after all the last – but they should all be held to a standard of character and honesty. And the more individuals speaking out for character and honesty the better. This will help Kucinich in the future. He is quite aware that he did not change his mind on the bill but only on his vote, because he could not bear the possibility of being accused that his vote brought down Obama. A failure of nerve, like Luther’s, like St. Joan’s. Theirs was temporary. There is still time for Kucinich.

  7. Marc J. Mancini on March 19, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Yeah I agree with the previous comments–this is pushing it a little too far–of course the democrats are betrayers, but Kucinich fought very hard for single-payer healthcare–he even added a provision to the current bill to at least allow states to choose single-payer healthcare. He was completely pushed into a corner, and he eventually realized that something is better than nothing. Yeah this bill does suck, but the civil rights act in 1957 sucked too until it was later improved in 1965 with a strong social movement behind it. So the struggle continues–we must continue to build the single-payer movement and engage in acts of civil disobedience to bring lobbyists, right-wingers, and corporations to their knees–those are the people and institutions who are to blame for this healthcare fiasco–not some petty politician. The people of economic power control politics–attack the root of the problem, not the symptoms of it.

  8. Richard W. Firth on March 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I am sorry but I wholeheartedly agree with Billy. Every step of the way Conyers and Kucinich caved in and never stood their ground and allowed H.R. 676 to advance to the floor of Congress. We cannot allow wimps and sellouts like Conyers and Kucinich to every lead the charge for Medicare for All. The bill couldn’t even advance for a straight up and down vote and learn the real sentiments of the people.

    I was so angered at Kucinich I sent him a seething e-mail and said I would never depend on him to take a firm stand on any bill he backs. I expect to see him cave in on his opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

    We need supporters of Medicare for All to have the caliber of those who fought at the Alamo. They knew they would lose but were will to die for what they believed. This is the type of leaders we need to carry on the fight for Medicare for All.

  9. Thomas T on March 20, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I don’t blame Kucinich. He capitulated because going down in flames would’ve harmed us. I blame the other seventy progressive congressmen. They let themselves be divided and conquered. It’s pathetic.

    And I blame myself, because I don’t know how to unite people, and because I am not willing to get arrested, and mainly because I’m not in the street interfering with traffic and commerce. Instead I waste my energy calling congress and writing diatribes. This is my fault and yours. And I blame the American people, because they’re not civic and won’t defend their liberty. And finally I blame the merging of “Spin” with the “Military-Industrial-CONGRESSIONAL-complex.” (PS: that was the term Eisenhower originally planned on using.)

    I’m so pissed at the Obamacrats, I’m willing to “cut off my nose to spite my face.” ie: I’m willing to vote republican just so they’ll lose their jobs. Perhaps I should vote green? Or should we start the “Medicare for All Party?” Why don’t we all write in “Medicare for All,” and sync that to a creative publicity stunt like Peta, Greenpeace or Michael Moore? That I will organize. Who’s here in Los Angeles? for such a publicity stunt? We could stage mock funerals for the “unknown soldier congressman.” –Get some celebs to attend the funeral?

    Contact digitalcurry(AT)gmail.com if you have thoughts and ideas.

  10. robert ogburn on March 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Totally agree with your post. Gave up on Rep. Conners some time ago and sadly I’ll never be able to look up Rep. Kucinich in the same way, really hurts.

  11. Patrick on March 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    This goes to show you the bankruptcy of remaining in the democratic party as a means of achieving progressive legislation. Kucinich talks the talk, but when he is finally in a position to actually shape legislation (by, for example, withholding what might be the deciding the vote for the bill), he folds like a cheap suit. And why? Because he thinks supporting Obama’s presidency is more important than supporting the American people! Congress critters like Kucinich and Barbara Lee are nothing more than ornaments on the corporate-owned democratic party’s wall. They fool progressives into thinking they have some sort of voice in the party, when in reality they are intimidated and silenced the moment it appears they might have a significant role to play in governance. Kucinich looked so broken on Democracy Now, and rightfully so. Maybe he has finally realized the role he has played in preventing progressive from having a real, independent voice in the political system.

  12. wwwcbl on March 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Too many people refuse to accept the reality of Barak Obama as a shrill for Corporate America. Its hard for the Unions which got out the vote for him. Its difficult for Blacks to accept. Unlike the Republicans, Obama and the Democrats took advantage of their core constituencies to get elected. His short tenure has been a betrayal not ‘Change we can believe in.’ What the major obstacle is that people are to proud to admit their mistake, voting for a man they never heard of before 2004 just because he was Black, handsome and articulating concepts associated with Progressive politics. He co-opted the Union and Civil Rights Movement. Split the Feminist from the Blacks and has systematically represented corporate America on every issue while still practicing his Civil Rights delivery learned from studying the speeches of Black Christian ministers.

    Consider his bailout of the nuclear industry as just one example. He is not alone. Members of the Black Congressional Caucus so proud of their ‘Jackie Robinson’ moment have gone along with Obama to show either solidarity or admit he is a Madison Ave-Hollywood created icon of no real substance. I am not a Christian but can anyone recall a major candidate publicly rejecting his pastor? Obama threw Rev. Wright under the bus essentially because the Glenn Beck’s of the nation didn’t approve of him.

    What many cannot accept is that the Black Civil Rights Movement has elevated such people as to try and show they can be just as cutthroat as White males on denying the working classes. That we, yes, I am Black, can be just as zealous in projecting the Manifest Destiny as White Male Supremacists. Now, Obama is the main culprit here, not Kucinich and people who believed in him somehow being a political version of Martin Luther King are having a hard time with the reality that he shares more in common with Clarence Thomas. The only thing is he uses the naivete of the so-called Left and those said to be aligned with such to push those same policies associated with Reaganomics.

    Obamacare is privatization of US healthcare and where the Teabaggers err in their racist based attacks is that Obama is not following a Socialist agenda but a Fascist one. Everything he has done has been true to the US version of Corporate Fascist Imperialism. It only appears to be Marxist to the Dittoheads because he’s Black and duped the Blacks, Hispanics and Unions into supporting him.

    He’s President so its his fault only the Buck will not stop at him, Blacks will suffer and not really reap any benefit from their belief in him.