All posts by Senator John Marty

A Message to President Obama

Dear California Democrats – please see my following response to President Barack Obama. I’d love to hear what you think.  Imagine having a governor who fights to put in single-payer healthcare! Imagine the example that Minnesota could provide for California and the other 48 states? In my 23 years in the state senate, I’ve fought for healthcare for all. As the prime sponsor of the Minnesota Health Plan, I’ve organized over 1/3rd of the legislature to co-sponsor the bill.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.



p.s. Please visit our brand new website at  

Single Payer Solution for Obama

by Senator John Marty

January 29, 2010

“If anyone…has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.”

— State of the Union

January 27, 2010

An open letter in response to President Obama’s State of the Union request for a better approach to health care reform:

Dear President Obama,

During your State of the Union address, you explained why you are fighting for health care reform, expressed frustration at the lack of success, and invited others to suggest a better approach.

I’m taking you up on that invitation and offer a bold suggestion:

Take a look at our Minnesota Health Plan — a proposal that covers everyone, saves money, and creates a logical health care system to replace the dysfunctional non-system which currently exists. It is a proposal that would provide health care to everyone, not merely health insurance for many. Our MN Health Plan ( could be readily adapted as a nation-wide plan. It would meet each of the five requirements you mentioned in your State of the Union request:

Bring Down Premiums. Most Americans would see a big reduction in premiums because the plan would be significantly cheaper than our current health care non-system. Because the premiums for the MHP would be based on ability to pay, everyone’s premiums would be affordable. Some would pay more, but overall, costs would go down. Most people would save money, while getting the care they need and deserve. The total costs for the plan would be less than we now are paying for premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and taxes for medical programs.

Bring Down the Deficit. By keeping people healthier and by delivering quality health care efficiently, it would save hundreds of billions of dollars for the federal government, and even more for states. For example, by covering chemical dependency treatment and providing comprehensive mental health services, it would cut crime and human service costs (such as out-of-home placement of children), some of the biggest and fastest growing expenses facing state and local governments.

Cover the Uninsured. It would cover the uninsured and the under-insured. In fact it would cover everyone — 100% of the public.

Strengthen Medicare for Seniors (and everyone else)
. It would cover prescription drugs — with no “doughnut hole.” It would cover long term care, in-home care, dental, eye care, physical therapy, and medical supplies — it would cover all medical needs. And, they would have their choice of doctor, hospital, clinic, dentist — complete freedom to choose their medical providers.

Stop Insurance Company Abuses. There would be no “pre-existing conditions” to worry about, no underwriting, no denials of coverage, no “out of network” problems. I like to use the analogy of police and fire protection. When you return home to find a burglary in process and call 911, the police dispatcher does not ask if you qualify. They do not ask if you have police insurance. They do not ask whether your policy covers home burglary. They don’t ask if you have pre-existing conditions that would disqualify you. They don’t waste time and money having you fill out forms so your insurance company can be billed. The police response does not depend on your insurance status. Everyone is treated equally. It’s the American way. It is time to treat health care the same way.

As a 23 year member of the Minnesota Senate, let me comment briefly on the politics of this proposal:

The MHP is a single payer proposal. You have acknowledged that single payer is the only way to cover everyone. Seven years ago you said that single payer health care is “what I’d like to see. But… we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.” Now that we have taken back the White House and the Congress, it is time to act.

I recognize, as you do, that you do not have the votes to pass truly universal health care at this time. The insurance and pharmaceutical industries contribute so much to members of Congress — they control the debate — so health care for everyone isn’t even on the table.

This, however, is your opportunity for leadership. If you propose and fight for health care for all, as FDR did with Social Security in 1935, the voters would respond. If you don’t win this year, ask the American people to elect candidates who will stand with you. Make it the issue of the campaign: Health Care for All vs. Health Insurance for Some. Instead of losing Democratic members of Congress this year — as Massachusetts illustrates — you would gain votes and could actually pass the bill next year.

Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Almost a half century later, we still have not addressed the injustice in health care that Dr. King described as the most inhumane. Ignoring this injustice is immoral and it is economically unsustainable. People are hurting, some are literally dying, businesses are folding, and it is crushing our national economy.

Please, restore the Hope that you raised in all of us, bring back the inspiration that made the American people so excited by your inauguration. I urge you to step back, reconsider, introduce a health care plan that is truly universal, and fight for it.

Justice requires no less.


John Marty  

An Election, not an Auction

I wanted to share with you my latest column, cross-posted on other blogs.


John Marty

DFL Candidate for Governor in Minnesota  

An Election, not an Auction

by Senator John Marty

November 2, 2010 is supposed to be an election. Unfortunately, it is beginning to look like an auction, with government for sale to the highest bidders. Powerful interest groups buy favors with big campaign contributions.

Special interest money is a dominant force in determining who wins elections and even who runs for office. And it doesn’t simply affect who gets into office. Once elections are over, special interest money influences who chairs legislative committees, who has the ear of powerful lawmakers, which bills receive a hearing, and ultimately what laws are passed. One congressional staffer, after observing the clout of interest groups, said, “If this were NASCAR, members of Congress would have the corporate logos of their sponsors sewn to their jackets.”

It’s an insidious process, in which wealthy interests buy elections and gain access and goodwill through campaign contributions. Most public officials are honorable people who would never “sell their vote.” But this system has a very real, albeit subconscious, impact even on well-meaning public officials.

We can change this and we must change it. In the Minnesota Senate, I have been a leader, authoring campaign finance reform legislation to drive special interest money out. Politicians understandably want the money, because campaigns are expensive, and without the special interest money, they feel they cannot win. That’s why reforms that put in public financing and limit spending are essential. With reform, politicians can win elections without taking the special interest money.

Let me give three examples of the problem: special interest money is destroying our environment, crushing health care reform, and buying big taxpayer subsidies.

Special interest money is destroying our environment. It is the reason we cannot pass basic environmental protection legislation in Minnesota, even though DFLers have a two-to-one margin in the Senate, and almost that in the House. The powerful interests fighting environmental legislation make generous contributions to both Republican and DFL legislative caucuses. Consequently, it is no surprise that legislative leaders appoint committee chairs and structure committees in a manner that won’t upset those donors too much.

Likewise for health care reform. Even with all the talk about “universal” health care in Washington, there is not a single proposal to provide universal care under consideration. Even before the legislative compromising began, the Obama proposal with the public option was estimated to cover only 94% of the public, leaving 6% with no care, and many more whose insurance doesn’t cover the care they need. That’s not exactly universal.

So why isn’t universal health care on the table? Senator Max Baucus, the chair of the committee that wrote the Senate legislation, refused to consider it. Is it any surprise that Baucus wants to require people to buy insurance, instead of providing universal health care, when he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the health insurance lobby? Not surprisingly, the insurance lobby’s money goes to all the key lawmakers involved in the health reform debate.

Special interests are brazenly buying taxpayer subsidies. Four years ago, Zygi Wilf and his family, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, gave $20,000 to both the Minnesota Republican Party and the DFL Party. They gave $10,000 to the DFL legislative caucuses and $12,000 to the Republican ones. In fact, they gave $5000 to both Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty and to his DFL challenger.

Why would they give massive amounts to both parties? Because they want as much as $700 million in public money to subsidize a new stadium. They haven’t won yet, but their proposal is getting a lot of attention at the capitol this year despite the worst budget crisis in memory.

Political insiders are so accustomed to lobbyists and interest groups bearing contributions that many have been desensitized to this influence peddling. Picture what would happen if the Wilf family made similar contributions to NFL officials before the next Vikings game.

A referee taking the money wouldn’t be saluted as a successful participant by either the NFL or its fans. He would be thrown out of his job. The conflict of interest is obvious.

But in politics, unlike football, the special interests who give the most aren’t thrown out in disgrace. They are actually admired for their clout. Candidates accepting their contributions are seen as major players because of the amounts they can raise.

This isn’t acceptable. Isn’t fair treatment from our government as important as fair officiating in our football games?

Do we value our democracy so little that we are willing to turn it over to special interests?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Replacing special interest money with publicly funded campaigns would cost a fraction of what taxpayers pay in subsidies, tax loopholes and other give-aways that special interests buy. And the benefits of a clean environment and a health care system that works for everyone? That’s priceless.


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