Tea-Baggers Gone Wild: taking back healthcare town halls

    Every year at this time, when Congress goes into recess, our elected officials travel back to their home districts and engage their constituents. And, this year, as you can imagine, most of them are talking primarily about healthcare reform. The problem is, Republican operatives have made it their mission to disrupt such town hall meetings, muddying the already murky waters with shouts of “socialism,” and screamed accusations about birth certificates. As a majority of Americans want – or should I say desperately need – healthcare reform, the Republicans know they can’t win on the facts, so they’ve chosen to do what they do best, which is to confuse the issue, make outrageous, unsubstantiated claims, and create a climate of fear. And, they’re manipulating the tea-bagging fringe of their party to see this accomplished.

    Here, to give you an idea of what’s happening, is footage taken a few days ago at a town hall meeting held in Austin, Texas by Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

    You can find similar footage coming from all around the country. Apparently, our own Congressman, John Dingell, had a run-in on Monday with a group in Monroe, Michigan calling themselves Operation Urgent Fury. And, word is, they are going to be waiting for him again tomorrow (Thursday) evening, when he addresses a group in Romulus.

    I’ve been wracking my brain for the past few hours, trying to think of a clever way to combat this impending attack, but I’m having trouble coming up with something that would be both affective and respectful… That’s the problem with being a progressive – we believe people actually have a right to speak their minds. And, the Republicans are using that against us. They know that we won’t haul people off to “free speech” zones, or make people in the audience of a town hall meeting sign loyalty oaths, as the Bush administration was known to do. They know that we won’t handpick crowds for good photo ops. And they’ve chosen to exploit that fact by yelling rabidly over those in favor of healthcare reform, creating an environment of fear and anxiety, and giving the impression of an enormous, bloodthirsty movement.

    So, how should we respond tomorrow evening when they start screaming about Obama being a Socialist agent intent of bringing down America, and waving around Kenyan birth certificates and tea bags? Should we engage them by yelling back? Should we lift out voices in song? Should we employ kazoos and whoopee cushions? Should we surround them with large blocks of sound-absorbing foam? Should we let a pack of “freedom hounds” loose on them? Or, should we just sit down and stare at them until they lose their voices? I’m not sure what the answer is… Any creative ideas?

    At the very least, I think people supporting a rational discussion on healthcare reform should plan to get their early and fill the spots closest to the stage.

    Tomorrow’s event, by the way, will begin at 6:00 PM at the Romulus Athletic Center (35765 Northline Road, Romulus, MI). I suspect that people will be allowed in after 5:00.

    Oh, and if you can’t make it to Romulus tomorrow, how about calling the Republican National Committee and telling them what you think of this new harassment tactic of theirs? Their number is 202-863-8500.

    And, here, assuming the worst – that the facts won’t come out during the Romulus town hall meeting due to the incoherent screams of tea-baggers in distress – are the facts about H.R. 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, according to John Dingell’s office.

    Myth vs. Fact: What is covered in the bill

    MYTH: The House bill removes current law that prevents employee lawsuits over employer provided benefits.

    FACT: The legislation does not change current law regarding lawsuits.

    MYTH: High deductible plans and health savings accounts will be illegal under the House bill.

    FACT: Nothing in the legislation prevents employers from offering health savings accounts. In fact, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the average HSA today will meets or exceeds the minimum benefits standards. 

    MYTH: The new health care legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives bans private health insurance for individuals. 

    FACT: H.R. 3200 does not ban individual health insurance. In fact, it expands options for people who currently purchase health insurance on the individual market. Under the House bill, companies that offer insurance to individuals will do it through an exchange, where the government sets minimum standards for coverage. The new regulations require insurance companies to accept people even if they have previously existing conditions and to provide a minimum level benefits, among other things. The House bill also allows for existing policies to be grandfathered in, so that people who currently have individual health insurance policies will not lose coverage.

    MYTH: Health reform means fewer choices for Americans. 

    FACT: The House proposal will increase choice among an array of high-quality private and public health insurance options. Most importantly, if you like what you have, you can keep it. More Americans will have access to greater choices in doctors and plans by taking away the insurance industry’s ability to deny coverage and care. 

    MYTH: Health reform will mean government bureaucrats will ration health care.

    FACT: The House proposal will expand and improve the availability of quality health care for all Americans, not ration it. Under this proposal, doctors, nurses and patients will make medical decisions, not big insurance companies or the government. Republicans content with the status quo want to leave patients at the mercy of big insurance companies that make decisions to protect profits not patients.

    MYTH: H.R. 3200 will lead to out-of-control deficit spending. 

    FACT: H.R. 3200 is 100 percent paid for. It is financed through a combination of payment reforms from within the health care sector and revenue-raisers. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) affirmed the reforms will be deficit neutral over the 10-year budget window.

    This is our chance to finally join the rest of the civilized world in providing healthcare for our citizens. It’s not by any means a radical Socialist idea. And, we can’t afford to let the opportunity slip by us. We can’t afford to just sit by and allow the conversation to be hijacked by the tea-bagging wing of the Republican party. We may not have another opportunity. And we owe it to our children, and their children.

    The important thing, obviously, is that the bill passes. And, with that in mind, my concern isn’t so much with Dingell, who knows that his constitutents will support him, but with the more junior Dems in more contested areas who might get rattled by angry mobs of poorly informed constituents accusing them of being America-hating Socialists. We need to turn out in huge numbers, not just in Michigan, but across the entire country, to show them that, despite the few raving lunatics, a vast majority of Americans desperately want for this to happen. So, please find out where your Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators will be speaking, and turn out to show your support.

    [For more information on the recent Swiftboating of American town hall meetings, click here and here.]

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