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The Black-White Fallacy of Public Option

Call me a cynic, but I am deeply skeptical of the rhetoric I hear coming out of the Obama administration regarding healthcare reform. I am concerned at the pace with which a plan was adopted, the apparent lack of curiosity when it came to evaluating and embedding best practices of other countries, and the use of a propaganda ploy known to those in the trade as the Black–White Fallacy.


The Black–White Fallacy as defined by the New World Encyclopedia is the presentation of “only” two choices, with the product or idea being propagated as the better choice (for example, you can have an unhealthy, unreliable engine, or you can use brand X oil.) So after all the years of clamoring for reform we have now in front of us two choices when it comes to deciding the future of how healthcare will be paid for and delivered in this country.

One choice, the choice that has been quietly incubating in the dimly lit areas of the Washington Beltway is the insurance industry’s response to the inevitable collapse of the dysfunctional tripartite that currently exists between private insurers, doctors and patients. Former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle’s book Critical spelled out in general terms how through the creation of a quasi-public/private system modeled on the Federal Reserve the same for-profit insurance companies that are gouging us today will with the coercion of the Federal Government continue to do so well into the future, or at least until they once again trip over their own greed.

The second choice, or rather “option” we are being offered is the same system as in the first choice but with an expanded Medicaid type facility that would include those that are either too poor to pay for private insurance or wish to simply opt out. This option, the “Public Option” plan is not Single Payer. In short, nothing here is going to get at the root of the problems and engineer a system that is focused on prevention, making Americans healthier, and reducing costs.

So those are our choices. If you are starting to feel a little squeamish right about now, you probably should be.

You can see now why Montana Senator Max Baucus worked so fervently to ensure Single Payer didn’t have a place at the table. For the ploy to work there can only be “Brand X” and a “Brand Y” that is framed through the use of clever neuro-associations as the bad choice. But try as they may, they will not succeed. They won’t succeed not because the American people aren’t stupid enough to be duped – sadly, we are. The reason they won’t succeed is because the more the citizens of this country learn about Single Payer, the more they like it.

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There are also couple other propaganda ploys at work here as well. Let’s see if these sound familiar:

  • Appeal to authority – Citing prominent figures in support of a position, idea, or course of action.
  • Appeal to prejudice – Using loaded or emotive terms to attach value or moral goodness to believing the proposition. For example, “A reasonable person would agree that our healthcare system is in crisis and something needs to be done.”

Right now millions of progressives across the country are in a bit of a quandary. On one hand they understand the benefits of a Single Payer system, but on the other, Dr./Governor Howard Dean is steering them to Brand X. I was in a bit of a quandary myself. There is a lot I respect and admire about Howard Dean but I am not about sacrifice my principles for him.

If in his estimate we cannot get from Congress the best health insurance system possible, then it is probably too corrupt a Congress to even attempt to pass any kind of healthcare reform. Perhaps the priority should not be reforming our healthcare system but reforming the way we finance our political campaigns. After all, if we really had our priorities straight wouldn’t we expect to first pass the “reform that makes all other reforms possible!” I bet Single Payer would have a place at the table if it were taxpayer money funding Senator Bacchus’s campaigns and not the insurance industry.

It must not be lost on Progressives that President Obama did not run under the banner of REFORM, but rather under the banner of HOPE. And that is certainly indicative of what has been coming out of the Oval Office and through the bowels Congress since January. So we’ll have to continue to hope they’ll some day stop cutting the tops off mountains in West Virginia, stop escalating the conflicts in the Middle East, not pass environmental legislation that lines the pockets of coal and oil companies with taxpayer dollars, and pass true healthcare reform.


Kevin Lynn