May 13, 2009 National RN Day of Action

Wednesday, Washington belonged to hundreds of "mighty mighty nurses" rallying for single payer legislation, as well as other critical issues such as legislated nurse-patient ratios and solidarity with individual nurse unionization struggles.

They were marching and lobbying in conjunction with groups active on single payer, including Progressive Democrats of America, Healthcare-Now, and Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Plus me, just some guy.

Actor Mike Farrell, who recorded a set of PSAs supporting single payer, joined with some of the heroes of single-payer advocacy like Roseanne DeMoro, Exec Director of California Nurses Association, and Dr. Margaret Flowers of PNHP, who’d so eloquently laid out the issues on the Ed Schultz show a few days before. Bernie Sanders, who has a single-payer bill in the Senate (structurally distinct from John Conyers’ better known HR 676, but single payer nonetheless) spoke as well.

Dr. Flowers was one of the "Baucus Eight," arrested after standing up and protesting the absence of single payer advocates at last week’s Senate Finance Committee roundtable on health care. Five other activists from this week’s follow-up roundtable brought the arrest total up to 13.

On the march to the rally site, I was able to chat at some length with Katie Robbins of Healthcare-Now (NOT to be confused with its capitulatory doppelganger, Healthcare for America Now), who, I learned, was the protester from last week who prompted Finance Committee chairman Baucus to quip (at least for him it ranked as a quip), "We need more police." That quote was now emblazoned on the back of Katie’s T-shirt.

You’ve probably seen this already, but check out Baucus’s snide crack and even worse, the loud, approving laughter that ensued from the Senators, staff, and "stakeholders." (It’s around 1:40 on the video.) I can’t think of a more shameful display of inappropriate laughter since Dubya brought the house down a few years back at one of those correspondents dinners with a skit about missing WMDs.

As we discussed the challenges of overcoming Senatorial recalcitrance and the strategic failures of certain liberal coalitions, Katie had to interrupt me to smile and wave to the cop who’d arrested her the week before, who she said was extremely nice to her.

Cops need health care like everyone else. And while I wouldn’t bet anything beyond highly discretionary cash on the chances of single payer passing this year, I believe the extent of public comprehension and outrage about the bamboozlement now in progress is deeper and stronger than the snickering stakeholders and their legislative mouthpieces can remotely imagine.