Amy Goodman appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal live on Saturday, June 24, with host Kimberly Atkins, where she discussed the critical role of independent media and responded to audience members calling in about the Affordable Care Act, the proposed healthcare bill and the growing movement for a single-payer healthcare system in the United States.
Watch the full video below or click here.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: And joining us now is Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of Democracy Now! She is here to talk about the efforts by Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act and also the fact that the book, Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the [Movements Changing] America, is out on paperback.
Amy, thanks so much for joining us today.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to be with you, Kimberly.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: So, remind our viewers of what is Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Democracy Now! is a daily global news hour that airs on over 1,400 public television and radio stations around the country and around the world. We began in 1996 as the only daily election show in public broadcasting, on nine stations, radio stations.
Then, the week of September 11, 2001, the week of the terrible attacks, we were the closest national broadcast to ground zero. And one TV station in New York said, "In addition to radio, could we run you?" It was a public access TV station. So we ran as emergency broadcasting. And then public access stations around the country said, "Can we run Democracy Now!?" And so we would FedEx the videocassettes—it was videocassettes at the time—because I thought, "It’s breaking news. It can’t go slowly." And then the NPR stations in a town that was running the TV would say, "Can we run the show?" And then the PBS stations. And so we grew to 1,400 today. And a station a week is picking us up.
And I really think it’s a testament to the hunger for independent voices around this country, on every single issue—not your typical pundits that you get on the networks, that know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong, but people in their own communities talking about their own lives. They are truly the experts on every issue. And that’s, you know, what we do, is we provide a forum for people to speak for themselves. And people can check it out at democracynow.org.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: So you got ahead of me; I was going to give the website, too. So talk about the role of independent media in dealing with issues here in Washington, including the healthcare debate, which we’re going to talk about in just a moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, that’s a perfect example of why independent media is so important. I mean, well, let’s start with war and peace. When we cover war and peace, we’re not brought to you by the weapons manufacturers. You know, we don’t break every six or seven minutes to be brought to you by McDonnell Douglas or by Boeing. When we cover climate change, we’re not brought to you by the oil, the gas, the coal companies, the nuclear companies. When we cover healthcare, we’re not brought to you by Big Pharma, the pharmaceutical industries, or the insurance industry. We’re brought to the listeners, viewers and readers by the listeners, the viewers and the readers. And that is so important, especially when it comes to healthcare, I mean, because who is this legislation brought to us by? The very advertisers on television. And I think it’s critical that we actually talk about healthcare in America, what’s good for people in this country, not just what’s good for the large corporations.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: OK, we are joined by Amy Goodman. She is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, also co-author of the book Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America. Republicans can join in at (202) 748-8001; Democrats, (202) 748-8000; and independents at (202) 748-8002. Now let’s talk about the debate over healthcare, as the Republicans are unveiling the latest version of their efforts to replace and repeal Obamacare. You write in a column in Democracy Now!—you say that there is a movement for single-payer healthcare. Talk about this movement. How big is it?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you know, my colleague Denis Moynihan and I write a weekly column in newspapers and websites around the country and around the world. And, yes, we didn’t look at Obamacare and/or Trumpcare. We focused on the idea of Medicare for all.
And, Kimberly, I want to tell you a story. It involves Kiefer Sutherland. You know, Designated Survivor? But not exactly Kiefer. And before that, he was the great action hero of 24. I want to talk about his grandfather, Tommy Douglas. Tommy Douglas was this pioneering Canadian, and he almost lost his leg as a kid. And because a doctor saved his leg, for free, with medical students looking on, he made his mission in the world to bring healthcare to anyone, rich or poor, in Canada. He ended up becoming the premier of Saskatchewan, and he fought for, well, just that: Medicare for all. And he was fought by the doctors, who were supported by, interestingly enough, the AMA, the American Medical Association. They went on strike for like three weeks. The AMA didn’t want the contagion of Medicare for all going south to the United States. But ultimately he won. He got single-payer healthcare, Medicare for all, in Saskatchewan. And then, immediately—soon after, I should say, all of Canada adopted it, because it was so popular.
The question is: Why don’t we have this in the United States, a version, our own version of it? Now, there’s one thing that everyone agrees on, including President Trump and progressive Democrats, independents, Greens. When Trump ran for president, when he first announced in 2015, he said, "We’re not going to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid." He wants to cut Medicaid now, at least the bill does. But Medicare? No, he’s not touching, at least for the moment. And all over this country, you don’t touch Medicare, because people, 65 and over, they say, "No, this is one thing that works." Well, why don’t we just extend that? Medicare, you know, 65 year old and older, why don’t you just extend it, make it lower to, well, like zero, from the day you’re born? Why don’t we have that system in this country?
How is it possible that we are looking at plans—for example, the one right now, that will be debated, after a fashion, in the Senate—where, well, many people call this—they say, "Don’t call it healthcare, call it wealthcare," where you have $33 billion in tax cuts that will go to the wealthiest 400 American households, the richest 400 American households? That’s what this is about in this country, the households that don’t need it. I mean, the level of cuts in Medicaid right now, half the births in this country are paid for by Medicaid. They’re going to massively cut Medicaid. Do we really want to live in a society, whether we’re rich, middle-class or poor, where a mom is dying holding her infant in the streets? That is good for no one. And we have to come up with a better plan. It’s not Obamacare. It’s not Trumpcare. It is a plan we’ve had for over half a century, and it’s called Medicare. We just need it for all.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: OK. Tim is calling from Mesick, Michigan, on our independent line. Tim, you’re on with Amy Goodman.
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Tim.
TIM: Who’s this? Is this Kim, or is this Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: I said hi, but so did Kimberly.
TIM: Oh, OK. Well, I got the volume off. Hey, Kim, I used to work at the Herald.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Oh, awesome!
TIM: God bless you, and God bless the boys of Local 264 IAM back in Boston. Anyway, Amy—
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Appreciate that. What’s your question for Amy?
TIM: Yes. Could you do me a favor? I’m a contributor to your network. I love your network. OK? And thanks to Steve, the guy that doubled it, I’m into you guys for 200 bucks. Keep up the great work.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much. Where do you live in Michigan, Tim?
AMY GOODMAN: I was just—we were just on this Democracy Now! book and media tour, and we were in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
TIM: I know that, and I wish I could have came, but I’m a peasant now, because I’m recently retired. My ma is 86, and I’ve got no brothers and sisters, so I had to quit. But anyway, my question to you is—oh, and by the way, I am an independent, and I have always voted in—you know, every time. And I even voted for a Republican twice. I’m not going to mention his name, but his initials were Bill Clinton. And could you do me a favor and have Stephanie quit bashing Bernie? I mean, I didn’t vote for Obama. I voted for Nader. I voted for Barry Commoner. And—
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Well, Tim, I just want to make sure you get your question in, because we have a lot of folks waiting. What’s your question for Amy?
TIM: Oh, no, it’s just, you know, if she could have Stephanie please—you know, the Clintons, they’re Republicans. The Democratic Party is basically Republican-lite. Bernie is the guy. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you know, it’s interesting. I think you’re referring to Stephanie Miller, who is—comes on after Democracy Now! on Free Speech TV, one of the networks that we’re on, on satellite television, DirecTV and Dish Network.
But talking about Bernie Sanders, I was just in Chicago at the People’s Summit, where 4,000 people—one of the organizers of the summit was the National Nurses United, the biggest nurses’ union in the country. And it’s very interesting what’s happening in all of these different movements. Bernie Sanders addressed people. It was two Saturday nights ago. It will be interesting to see if he actually introduces a Medicare-for-all bill in the Senate. Word is that he will. But that is, you know, very interesting, because it seems that when you look at all different fights—fight for 15, $15 an hour, you look at the issue of Medicare for all—polls show across this country that most people support this. You know, I really think Democrat, conservative, liberal, Republican, independent lines—I think those are all breaking down right now. People are talking about how we survive in this country and how we live in civilized society and take care of each other. And I think these are the big questions of our day.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: All right, Greg is calling from Huntsville, Alabama, on our Republican line. Hi, Greg.
GREG: Good morning. How are you guys doing? Hey, yeah, I’ll tell you what. I was actually in a doctor visit here not too long ago with my son. He was having an epidural done on, old football injury. And we went in, and he actually—he wants to go to Bama and become an attorney. I have two that just graduated from Bama, which is another—a whole ’nother subject, when we talk about what student loans have done to the price of—the price of education, by artificially inflating the value of an education.
But he pointed out something that I thought was brilliant from a young mind. He said—we were going in to have a procedure done. They were going to charge $300. They called it a copayment. I don’t have a copayment with my insurance. Now, my insurance has gone from $740 a month to $2,051—$2,051. I hear caller after caller that gets really cheap insurance through somewhere. They may not have a job. They may not have whatever. And I understand, and I really want them to have insurance. But, boy, I can’t singly, by myself, shoulder the burden. And $2,051 is breaking me, considering I just paid $75,000 for two kids to go to school without student loans.
Now, he pointed—we found out this wasn’t a copayment. It was actually a facility usage charge by the hospital. We went to another hospital that didn’t charge that fee. Later, we begin to talk with some docs in there about a couple fees, and he pointed out one thing. It’s not healthcare—it’s not the insurance portion that’s truly the problem. It’s the cost of the procedures and the things that are being done. We’re not controlling the costs. No one, no company can insure at the rate. I just recently was in ultrasound for a pregnant family member during their pregnancy. It was 700 bucks. I can buy an ultrasound machine for $3,999 online that’s identical to the one that they had there.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Well, Greg, let’s give Amy a chance to talk about these costs.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Greg, all the best to your son. And congratulations on your kids going to school. You raise every different issue, from student debt to healthcare. And you’re right. We need a cohesive system in this country. And it’s not going to be arrived at by a couple of men behind closed doors, not consulting with any large—you know, all the different stakeholders in all this, but secretly writing a bill and coming up with it and then saying that, you know, senators have to sign on. It’s a matter of your future political life.
We need a system that is rational and that works in this country, that includes the cost of drugs, pharmaceuticals, that has to do with doctors’ visits and hospital care. And it all has to be integrated. It can’t be piecemeal. And that’s what happens in the United States. That’s why it’s just critical that, I mean, I think that we look at what works and what doesn’t. There is one thing that works. It still, itself, has problems, but it’s Medicare. So why not use that as a model for the treatment of everyone, for a healthcare system for everyone?
KIMBERLY ATKINS: OK, Guy is calling from Fall City, Washington, on our Democratic line. Guy, you’re on with Amy Goodman.
GUY: Yes, Amy, I’ve been a fan of yours for years. This is what I want you to bring out. Since the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, the media has gone with Adolf Hitler: "I can control the media, I can control the people." There wouldn’t be any Rush Limbaughs. There wouldn’t be any false advertising. The Fairness Doctrine, when that went out, so did the media, and so did six companies controlling 80 percent of the mainstream media. Talk about that.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s very important to talk about the media today, because it’s really how we learn about the world, right? If you don’t come from another place in the world or have a friend who does or family member, we learn about the world through the media, and the rest of the world learns about us through the media. And I do think it has to be through something other than a corporate lens. It’s very important.
I think the five wealthiest men in the world—the number just came out. And it’s Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon. It’s Carlos Slim. It’s a Spanish businessman. It’s Warren Buffett. And it is Gates. Right? Those are the five. Two of the five own major or have big stake in major media outlets, right? Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, Carlos Slim involved with The New York Times. You know, these are the wealthiest men in the world. And that’s just talking about newspapers there. What about the corporate media, the elite media in this country?
We need a media that is truly independent and that serves a democratic society. There’s a reason why our profession, journalism, is the only one explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, because we’re supposed to be the check and balance on power. And it’s absolutely critical. It’s why Donald Trump actually hates the media, right? Or at least he says he does. He calls us the enemy of the people, because we’re supposed to hold those in power accountable. Actually, presidents past often have conflicts with the media, because the nature of our position. But it’s essential. What did Thomas Jefferson say? If I had a—if I had a choice between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government, I would choose the latter. It’s absolutely critical that in these times of enormous government and corporate power, that we have a true Fourth Estate, the media, not for the state. We don’t occupy a comfortable position, but an absolutely necessary one for the functioning of a democratic society.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: So, after the Obamacare bill was—law was passed, there was a lot of criticism about that, with rising costs, from many officials. Now, with the latest version of the GOP healthcare plan, there’s also criticism. According to The Washington Post, Republican governors are voicing doubt about it. It says several moderate Republicans, including John Kasich of Ohio, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland issued separate statements criticizing aspects of the legislation, including the secrecy under which it was written, as well as the impact it would have on state budgets and low-income residents. We were talking about single payer, a single-payer option. How can advocates of the single-payer system use this discussion about both Obamacare and the Republican bill to advocate for their position?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, first of all, the media has to open up and start to provide a forum for people to have these debates. You know, all week, because this was all happening behind closed doors—what, 13 white male Republican senators were discussing this—and everyone’s guessing, "What are they talking about?" And no one knows. "What are they talking about?" So, all the media, all day and all night, are just speculating. Why not actually—don’t have the politicians determining what you are providing a forum for discussion about. Have substantive discussions about what people want in this country, not what they are trying to craft behind closed doors.
And that is, for example, the issue of single payer. What about this? It’s so interesting that the one plan that is the most suppressed when it comes to discussion on television is the one that polls show is actually the most popular. And, I mean, there are all different groups that advocate for this—National Nurses United, the Physicians for a National Health [Program], Health Care Now, all different groups. And you don’t have to support it, but we have to have a discussion, an airing out. You know, you never know when the magic moment comes, when just the whole discussion changes. But if you’re a part of being involved in these discussions and building a foundation, when that moment comes, you know, you’re a part of making history, of determining the future.
And we’re at a critical juncture. Healthcare costs are, as we just heard from the people who are calling in, they’re astronomical. They’re out of control. And the legislation cannot be written by the corporations. Again, this figure is so important to remember, why people often call this wealthcare and not healthcare: $33 billion in tax cuts as a result of the Republican plan that’s being put forward, that will go to the 400 richest American families. This is not good for anyone. I mean, it’s why, for example, Senator Heller, who is a Republican senator in Nevada, also his governor, came out very early on against this—Sandoval. He just spoke in Las Vegas, and he said no. He said, "I will not support legislation that will lead to tens of millions of people being thrown off healthcare."
KIMBERLY ATKINS: OK. Harry is calling in from Norcross, Georgia, on our independent line. You’re on with Amy Goodman, Harry. Hi.
HARRY: Hey, hi. Hey, Amy. I wanted you to know, I’ve been listening to you since Pacifica days—
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
HARRY: —on Radio Free Georgia here.
AMY GOODMAN: WRFG in Atlanta.
HARRY: That’s a plug that I want her to make.
AMY GOODMAN: I was just there in Atlanta.
HARRY: I’ve been—I’ve been talking to friends about—you know, I’m finally on Medicare—how the—Medicare has about 2 to 3 percent overhead, where these medical insurance companies have 15 to 20 percent overhead. Of course, if Obamacare is repealed, they’ll be able to go back to as high an overhead as they want. But the point I try and make with them is, when I’m on Social Security and I’m on Medicare, I have—the government knows how much I’ve paid into these programs my whole life, which is couple hundred thousand dollars at this point, whereas I’ve paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to medical insurance companies for my family over 40, 50 years of working. And there’s no accounting for all that. I paid $7,000, $8,000 in a year for medical insurance for a family. I might receive $500 or $600 in benefits in a year. There’s no accounting for that. They just want to know what you’ve done for me lately.
AMY GOODMAN: Right. I mean, this is a question of whether the life and death of a nation, or, you know, its citizens, should be determined by these for-profit companies, whose executives make inordinate profits. And they—that is really what this legislation is about. The for-profit sector is very important in many different ways. But when it comes to this essential service, why is it that we do not just have a system where people aren’t gouged to be able to survive in this country?
KIMBERLY ATKINS: So the president recently said, after the House bill was introduced by the GOP, that he wanted a bill to have more heart. He called the House bill "mean." What’s your reaction to that?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I mean, that’s really significant that President Trump has said this. And many have called the Senate bill even meaner. You know, President Trump has been all over the place as president, and before, that when it comes to issues of healthcare. He has talked about universal healthcare, supporting it, single payer. But I think really what counts in this country is what people feel all over this country. Democracy Now! is committed to giving voice to grassroots movements all over this country. And the polls show people want a system that is fair, that is rational. And this doesn’t have to be created out of whole cloth, you know, completely new, throw everything out. We have a system. It’s called Medicare. Ask of the folks over 65. There are problems with it, but people demand that it remain. And every politician knows it. It’s why Donald Trump said, "We won’t touch it." So why don’t we just lower the age to the day you’re born?
KIMBERLY ATKINS: And a reaction today from the president on Twitter about healthcare, since we brought him up. It says—he tweets, "Democrats slam GOP healthcare proposal as Obamacare premiums & deductibles increase by over 100%. Remember keep your doctor, keep your plan?"
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, I mean, it’s easy right now to attack Obamacare, because the underpinnings of it are being cut out, and so it is not sustainable when you cut all the guts of it out. We need a new system in this country for everyone. And none of these politicians can hide behind attacking each other, because right now we’re talking about the life and death of a nation.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: All right. And Bob is calling from Grand Rapids, Michigan, on our Republican line. Hi, Bob.
BOB: Hello. How are you?
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Bob.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: Go ahead, Bob.
BOB: I wanted to reiterate that, Amy Goodwin—or Goodman, about the Medicare system, what you’re going to have to do, if Medicare is going to be given to everybody, which will take another 20 years of going back and forth anyway, is get rid of Medicaid, get rid of the senior prescription drug program, so it’s all rolled into one big national plan. If you keep Medicaid and the separate other programs that are—we have right now, it never will pass. And then you have to convince the political establishment in D.C. that this is what the people want, not what they want. Right now, the Republicans are hashing out another Obamacare bill. It’s going to be just as bad, because that’s what they think their power is, is having healthcare hang over the whole population. And it’s going to take another political cycle like we did with Trump, and tell the establishment this is what we want. Get rid of the junk. It doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, I think that’s so interesting. And you call in on the Republican line, and you have Democrats and independents calling in. At least this morning, it sounds like everyone really agrees on this issue. We have to come up with something that works. And it’s also why the media plays such a key role. This is not up to just a few men behind closed doors—it should not be—and, you know, the corporate media vying for which of those senators they can get on their programs. The media must be there for everyone, to have these critical discussions. I see the media as a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe, that we all sit around and debate and discuss the most important issues of the day—war and peace, life and death, healthcare for all. And anything less than that is a disservice to a democratic society.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: OK, Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, also co-author of Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America, which is out now in paperback. Thank you so much for joining us today.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s been great to be here.
KIMBERLY ATKINS: And up next, we will be taking your calls with open phones. It’s a chance for you to bring up the public policy issues that are on your mind right now. Give us a call. Republicans, (202) 748-8001; Democrats, (202) 748-8000; and independents, (202) 748-8002.