The Black-White Fallacy of Public Option

health-care-bizCall 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.

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.

kevin_lynn.jpgIt 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


  1. Kevin Lynn says


    You bring up some very good points with regard to the middle class getting pinched from both sides. I think everything given must be earned in some way. And I agree the knee jerk reaction is often to vote for demagogues over ones own self interest.

  2. MyLeftMind says

    It looks like Congress and Obama are willing to cave on the single payer health care issue. Even Sen. Bernie Saunders says the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are too powerful for the government to create truly useful change. They’ve already bought our government, as indicated by Big Pharma & the insurance industry’s donation & lobbying swing from elected Repubs to Democrats in the past few years when it was obvious that Dems were regaining control of Congress. The competitive government option the Obama Admin is pushing is simply a way for elected Dems to claim they did what we asked them to do, without solving the real problem: Greed and government manipulation by the medical industries. We already have Medicaid, Medicare and VA for government funded health care. We already cover many of our country’s poorest citizens. What we need is some help for the both the poor and middle class, which this “solution” assuredly will not give us. In fact, the likely result is a heavier burden on the middle class funding healthcare for more of the poor, while the rich get richer because they don’t have to change the obscenely profitable business model of today’s health care.

    There’s nothing wrong per se with the middle class paying to improve the lives of the poor, but clearly the system is not sustainable if the rich still make their obscene profits while sticking the taxpayers with the bill instead of corporate America. And we already know that flat out welfare-type diversions of earned wealth from the middle class to the poor feeds the culture wars and results in disaffected middle class and blue collar workers voting against our progressive agenda. People look at their neighbors getting free Section 8 rent, free food, and now free healthcare, while they can’t access our social service because their hard work keeps them out of economic range, and they angrily vote against their own interests for leaders like Nixon, Reagan, Bush1, Dubya and Cheney.

    Since Obama and our Dems in Congress are willing to cave and let the health care industries continue to get obscenely rich off America’s health care problems, this issue is already a lost cause. This half-assed solution will eventually backfire, and the best we can do is try to ensure that it’s not just the poor and the rich who profit from it.

  3. jacksmith says


    It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.


    We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

    And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

    Progressive democrats the Tri-Caucus and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and request that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

    Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

    In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

    If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! He’s doing a brilliant job.



    Join the fight.

    Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

    God Bless You

    Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

  4. LindaSutton says

    SINGLE PAYER has been the topic for THREE recent health care outreach forums led by PDLA and PDSMM here in Los Angeles…and those who have attended are NOT in a quandary anymore. They are FOR SINGLE PAYER. has a wonderful website with all types of links for people to educate themselves. Also, I’m assembling a core article reading list (at bottom).

    In addition, our NEXT FORUMS are to be in Santa Monica, 7/26, at the Santa Monica Library, and then in Thousand Oaks, 8/12, 6:30 at the Thousand Oaks Library. Both will be similar to our previous forums that feature Dr. Jo Olson, a physician from pnhp (Dr. Steve Tarzynski, Dr. Susie Baldwin, Dr. Matt Hendrickson so far), and Emmy Award producer Don Schroeder with his new film: “California One Care:Full Care, For All, For Less.”,0,6622254.story Insurers put on black hat and take off the gloves with politicians–REFUSE to limit rescissions of coverage for sick
    Robert Reich, Robert Kuttneer, Paul Starr discuss perils and warns that a public-insurance option could turn into exactly the opposite of what progressives want.!/?page=entire The Isolationism of Health Reform — discusses the different models of single payer in other countries Health Care Reform: An Online Guide FRANK LUNTZ warns GOP (article on framing arguments)
    Here’s the entire 28 page memo at this link: Will Seniors Kill Health Reform — points out they’re on Medicare already and don’t really NEED reform because gov is already paying their bills
    Kuttner on power of insurance companies controlling outcome KENNEDY PLAN MASSACHUSETTS MODEL OBAMA TO TAKE GREATER ROLE WHY we won’t get the health care system we deserve/Harper’s
    Published on Monday, June 8, 2009 by USA Today Lobbyists Unlimited in Honoring Lawmakers–money skirting contribution limits and going into institutions

    Amazingly, the NY Times also has a fairly strong list of articles, too. And PLEASE ALSO go to the Bill Moyers report on SINGLE PAYER done right after Max Baucus had the professionals who had come to his committee arrested.###

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