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The Democrats' Latest Hatchetman

Wendell Potter, Single-Payer and the Big Lie

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Single payer, living wage, cutting the military industrial complex. The American people want it. And we can’t get it. Why not?

Because good people continue to lie to themselves.

The big lie? The Democratic Party is better than the Republican Party.

Check out how the big lie tricks good people into doing stupid things.

In August 2004, Michael Moore and Bill Maher got down on their knees and urged Ralph Nader not to run against the two corrupt political parties. They feared Ralph would hurt the Democrats.

In September 2004, a group of former Nader supporters from 2000 — including Noam Chomsky, Ben Cohen, Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jim Hightower, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Cornel West and Howard Zinn — urged voters to “support Kerry/Edwards in all swing states.”

They feared Ralph’s candidacy in those states would hurt the Democrats.

Again a month later in October 2004, a group of more than 75 former Nader’s Raiders urged voters to oppose Nader’s people campaign.

“This November, none of us will vote for Ralph,” they wrote.

Have we learned our lesson yet?

That the Democratic Party is the flip side of the corrupt political coin?

Apparently not.

Case in point Wendell Potter — the health insurance industry whistleblower.

Does Wendell Potter go after Obama and the corrupt corporate Dems?

No.

Instead, Wendell Potter goes after the single payer activists who were in front of the Supreme Court with signs saying — Strike Down Obama Mandate, Single Payer Now.

Wendell Potter goes after the activists who filed a brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of Single Payer Action, It’s Our Economy and 50 medical doctors arguing that there only one constitutional way to cover everyone, control costs, and prevent 120 deaths a day from lack of health insurance — single payer.

In an article in the Nation this week, Potter says that those of us who challenged Obama’s law are playing into the hands of the insurance industry and we must “bury the hatchet” and come together.

Translate — come together to support Obama and the Democrats.

I agree we must come together.

But we must bury the hatchet and come together and oppose Obama.

As Obama’s Harvard Law Professor Roberto Unger put it last month — Obama must be defeated.

Oliver Hall is the lawyer who wrote the amicus brief for Single Payer Action, It’s Our Economy and the 50 medical doctors.

“Single payer is basically incompatible with the ACA, yet Potter says we should bury the hatchet and support the law,” said Hall. “Meaning — give up on single payer. Notice he does not say, as part of his great strategy moving forward, that there is any way the ACA will ever lead to single payer. This is the same thing Democrats always tell the left: support us, even though we oppose your position, because the Republicans are worse.”

“Potter’s main point is to suppress discussion of the only evidence-based solution, as the Dems always have. No single payer advocate I know opposed the entire ACA – just the mandate. Why wouldn’t we continue to do so? Despite his alarmist rhetoric, the law was upheld, and criticism of its obvious and fundamental flaws won’t jeopardize it in any way.”

John Stauber knows something about Wendell Potter.

John Stauber founded the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin in 1993, retiring in the summer of 2009.

Stauber’s last hire was Wendell Potter, introduced to him by Avram Goldstein in a phone call in May, 2009.

Goldstein was a health care reporter now working in PR for HCAN, the huge union funded, MoveOn-backed coalition advocating for what later that year was passed as “Obamacare.”

“I was surprised when HCAN called me because I was a harsh critic of their marginalization of single payer in the United States,” Stauber said. “Av was unaware of that. He told me that he had an insurance industry whistleblower who wanted to work with CMD, and would I speak with him. I said I’d be happy to speak and shortly received a call from Wendell. I immediately told Wendell that HCAN was wrong in its approach, that only a single payer system could actually meet peoples’ needs. He said he agreed. I also told him I would need to do a complete background check before I could consider hiring him, and he consented. The search was clean, Wendell appeared the real deal, and soon I introduced him to Bill Moyers who featured a hard hitting interview with him that aired in the summer of 2009. Wendell had been making a good six figure salary with the insurance industry, and HCAN arranged with the TIDES Foundation for Wendell’s salary while he was with CMD in 2009. HCAN was awash in funds from unions and foundations, much of it delivered via the TIDES Foundation.”

“I formally stepped down at CMD in July 2009 but stayed in close contact with Wendell. I predicted to him that Obamacare would be a political disaster for real reform, and tried to persuade him to abandon it since it undermined many minimum reforms that he himself had advocated such as the long-gone ‘public option’. Unfortunately he stuck with the President and HCAN, and was rewarded with a mention from Obama during a speech to Congress. He became a liberal celebrity, and got himself a book deal.”

Stauber says that Potter’s attack on single payer activists in the Nation “reads like a ‘hire me’ ad for someone regretting the loss of his big corporate salary.”

“HCAN destroyed single payer and Obamacare birthed the Tea Party,” Stauber said. “Now the Right will further eviscerate Obamacare. But Potter blames single payer advocates? Some think Wendell was always an insurance industry agent. I don’t know, but he sounds like one now. This is really about whipping dissidents who don’t carry the Obama line. Friendly, kind Wendell, always the ‘good cop’ PR guy for the insurance industry, and now a darling of Democrats who oppose single payer, is the perfect hatchetman.”

Russell Mokhiber edits Single-Payer Action.