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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  1. Mike
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I like old timey barbershop quartets. All dressed in red and white striped jackets. In straw hats. Singing beautifully as the nutjobs scream. The songs, of course, would be about how the the teabaggers didn’t know what in the hell they were talking about.

  2. Meta
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    See the ad that CNN won’t air:


  3. Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    How about counteracting with a miserable, moaning mob of zombies all with placards around their necks that say stuff like “Pre-Existing Condition”, “Laid Off”, “Denied Coverage”, “Denied Care”, etc.?

  4. HauntedChickenCoop
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I came across this Lloyd Doggett footage and had a real laugh. We’ve had a few fantastic turnouts in Philly as well (in support of NOT-supporting healthcare reform). Mostly lobbyists, but I recently saw one woman holding a Bible. Not sure who she was there to represent. This is my favorite video so far: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVd9q_p7ycg

    It’s amazing (yet understandable) how very terrified many of us are about changing the healthcare system.

    Adding to the chaos, many of my colleagues, who work on the nuts & bolts of the system, admit that they really don’t have any understanding of what is truly being proposed or what the implications are.

    Specter & others are pushing for this to be quickly passed, but I think the nation would benefit from some hard & fast sessions where information is provided (in an unbiased fashion) on HOW this would work & WHAT various options will be. The town halls just aren’t taking that tone, but I think Congress owes it to the American People to put something out that is very straightforward about plan options, etc…..i.e., not the federal hierarchy/org chart developed in coordination with TX Republican Kevin Brady.

    I guess part of the trouble is timing. How long can we wait for some practical literature to be readily available on the subject? How long should we wait before we take the time to read and understand the bill?

  5. Kim
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    If only there were a way to do this on a large scale.


  6. Meta
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    This article is also appropriate:


    We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and cliches. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.

    There are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year. But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence. A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school. Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book.

  7. Nick
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Complete hogwash. All of it. I am a constituent who firmly opposes the current healthcare proposal and I have nothing to do with the Republican party. In fact all of the opponents who are protesting have NOTHING to do with the Republican party. This is a NON-PARTISAN ISSUE, instead it is a very personal issue as it threatens our current lifestyle.

    The Mythbusting you attempt above may be correct in terminology, but not in reality. In reality there WILL be RATIONING because you cannot possibly add 7-50 MILLION NEW PATIENTS into a system with the same number of doctors, nurses and affiliated staff. Maybe you werent aware that we already have a shortage of these folks. As for having choice in your plan, sure the proposal doesnt say you dont have a choice, however the government is going to incentivise companies to opt into this flawed program so that everyone eventually will be on it and private healthcare will be obsolete not being able to compete with the governments highly reduced rates.

    The most troubling is that the government is going to have a say in MY TREATMENT options. The government has NO BUSINESS dictating how, when or IF I get medical treatment, its a horrific idea to have this government controlling our healthcare when they cant even run medicare and medicaid properly or any other government run program they have botched (social security, cash for clunkers…you name it)!

    THIS is why people are speaking out. THIS is why people are going to town hall meetings. THIS is why we are angry. THIS is why Americans have had enough.

  8. Daniel
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    For those gullible enough to think Obama will let you keep private insurance…you need to see this;
    Also, on page 108 of the house bill it introduces affirmative action into the health care bill by allowing grants only to schools with disproportionate numbers of minorites…what does that have to do with health care reform? I just can’t believe what’s happened to this country…so very many people have no idea what it means to have personal accountability. So many are looking for hand-outs and freebies at someone elses expense. Democracy was never intended to be the minority running wild over the majority…many, many Dems will learn that lesson in 2010. The latest poll numbers, from a myriad of polling companies, have a large majority of the American public against this current bill. Is this still a democracy? Better question still…aren’t we supposed to be a representitive republic? Key word…representitive.

  9. Chris
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I agree with Nick, and he is right. This is a non-partisan issue. All you have to do is ask yourself, why would the government EVER care about your health? The answer is, they don’t. This isn’t about health care. All it is is a power and money grab, putting people’s health and lives in the balance. Besides, nobody has the right to dictate to another how to care for themselves. The folks in government will always get the finest care; you can rest assured of that. Draw a parallell to the “cash for clunkers” deal. The ones who are “too old,” or don’t work efficiently any longer, or that can be replaced by younger, newer, stronger, more efficient models; while the older ones get deliberately destroyed; with this bill, it’s a foot in the door, and there is NO WAY we are going to give “them” a foot in the door with our lives. If “they” do find a way to pass this miserable garbage while the people demand it die, I guarantee you this will lead to a physical removal
    (read: Revoltion) against the ELECTED “reresentatives” who are not representing us.

  10. dp in exile
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Mark, yours was a long post, and mine is a long response =-)

    Republicans are doing what they do best, and it is likely the Democrats will lose, yet again.

    Why? Well Dems won’t even allow a hearing on Single Payer, and will cave on any meaningful public option.

    Democrats do not have the strategic aptitude, nor the leadership qualities, to do what is really needed to reform health care: institute universal Medicare (aka Universal Single Payer Coverage). Whatever version of the law passes the House and Senate will be re-written in conference committee, behind closed doors, to most likley end up looking like the senior prescription drug folly under Bush. This reform effort will be a giveaway and continuation of the status quo… as long as “insurance” companies maintain a profit motive, and Pharma continues to advertise a buffet of pills directly to consumers, and in-turn we can sue doctors with or without reasonable cause the system won’t change.

    It’s pretty simple, (1) savings can be found by reducing administrative costs (executive salaries, bonuses, advertising, paperwork, etc.) which are around 30% under the current scheme, to about 7% under Medicare. (2) medical forms should be standardized and digitized between the VA, Medicare, Medicade and the new single payer system. (3) The new universal system must be able to negotiate prescription drug prices, medical supplies, etc. (4) Direct to consumer advertising of drugs should be banned again, as it was before Clinton allowed it, Doctors should be prescribing meds, not Madison Avenue ad firms. If these four things could be done there is enough savings built into the system to cover all Americans and begin funding the next generation of Nurses and Doctors needed to service the 50 million Americans not currently in the system.

    The goal, which is completely lost on Democrat leadership, is not to ensure private profits, but to cover all Americans with meaningful health care coverage.

    What we are witnessing is a grand exercise in pushing off this problem to Clementine’s generation.

    “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.”

    I think you hold the President on too high a pedestal, Mark. He has done absolutely nothing that I am aware of to roll back the powers of the Unitary Executive seized under Cheney/Bush. Here is one recent story concerning where both of your statements are contradicted in the main stream media.


    If there were massive planned protests for a WTO, NAFTA, or an international security summit in the USA, I guarantee there would be a revival of said zones as applied under Bush. If Obama is going to defend Bush era detention practices, extraordinary rendition, and allow his CIA chief to write an editorial in the Washington Post claiming the harm done by investigating and bringing to justice Bush war criminals, then the holding pens are ready and waiting for use.

    That “we won’t handpick crowds” is an absolutely ludicrous statement. Just a few weeks ago a planned town hall meeting morphed into a hand-picked crowd of 2000 at Macomb Community College. It is a routine course of action for Mr. Obama, indeed all modern presidents under television, to hand-pick crowds by invitation only.

    “I’m not sure what the answer is… Any creative ideas?”

    The best way to combat the lunatic crowd issue is to turn out crowds of equal size and verbosity. As I’m sure you saw, MoveOn is working on doing this as I type. By turning out an equally illogical mob, then the media will focus on the stand-off rather than only on the skewed message of the Limbaugh/Hannity tea-baggers.

    Engaging Mr. Dingell on health care (or any other issue for that matter- he sure did a lot to hold Mr. Bush accountable during the last 8 years) is another topic completely. What kind of conversation can you have with a person who has failed for over 50 years to find enough of his own leadership capacity to get his own bill passed? What kind of conversation can you have with someone who is nearly impossible to challenge at the ballot, without 2-5 million dollars and a robust campaign apparatus and infrastructure. What kind of conversation can you have with someone so entrenched with 20th Century politics that during his last serious primary challenge he garnered support from the NRA (aka Grover Norquist), the (then) Big 3, the corporate Union heads and a myriad of other special interests. Do-gooder Ann Arbor Democrats got whooped, fair and square by Mr. Dingell’s political inertia. Town hall meetings are simply an extension of his constituent services operation, they are a necessary part of going through the motions and do little/nothing to influence his modus operandi.

    So… until we break the circular reinforcing web of power politics in DC, by unelecting folks like Dingell, Conyers, Hoyer and Pelosi, nothing will change. These folks need to be replaced by Democrats, Republicans, Independent and Third Party candidates that are more interested in public service than they are in DNC/RNC/lobbyist talking points.

  11. Posted August 6, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    In its report, the CBO estimated the bill will cost about $1.04 trillion over 10 years. That sum would be partially offset by $219.3 billion in Medicare savings and by $583 billion in tax increases over the same amount of time.

    Still, the bill would create a $239 billion deficit, according to CBO.

  12. T'd off
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    An interesting story to consider.


  13. T'd off
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    From the President of People for the American Way.

    On Tuesday, I emailed you about the right-wing mobs that are showing up at congressional town hall meetings in order to disrupt the meetings, intimidate members of Congress and shout down any viewpoint that is not their own. Since then, even more has come out about the nature of this supposedly “grassroots” movement.

    In truth, these mobs are anything but organic and do not represent any sort of real grassroots groundswell — they are fueled by corporate lobbyists, aligned with insurance companies and right-wing interests.

    A strategy memo which recently came to light, offering a guide on how to disrupt town halls, was from a web site sponsored by a group called Americans for Prosperity, headed by a former associate of Jack Abramoff, and FreedomWorks, a lobbying firm led by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey.1 And a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is publicly claiming credit for helping to organize town hall outbursts.2

    A paid-for fraud

    The operatives mentioned above, along with the right-wing media echo chamber, are spreading lies to ignite the anger of the right-wing base — fear-mongering about “socialism,” and outright lies about the health care reform bill itself, like:

    Employees of the “Government Healthcare Bureaucracy” will have access to ALL American financial and personal records;
    The government will set doctors’ wages;
    The choice to purchase private health insurance will be eliminated;
    And one of the most extreme, that the government will control end-of-life decisions and encourage euthanasia and assisted suicide for the elderly.3
    The “real anger” towards the administration’s health care reform efforts that FOX News and other right-wing outlets have been reporting ad nauseam is nothing more than a manufactured and paid-for fraud. The anger is fueled by the Right’s lies and only visible because of its organizing efforts paid for by corporate special interests opposed to real reform.

    We’ve seen this sort of thing before. GOP operatives, many of them Capitol Hill staffers, flooded the state of Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000, forming phony “local” mobs to harass the people conducting the recount. This time, it’s members of the Right’s radical base who are the foot soldiers, but the public outrage is just as manufactured.

    “Health Care, Not Mobs”

    The town hall meetings that the mobs are hijacking are supposed to provide a platform for honest debate and constructive interaction between members of Congress and their constituents. If the representative or senator hosting a meeting cannot even speak in order to answer questions or is forced into an angry shouting match with unruly disrupters, democracy suffers and all the other attendees are denied access to their representative.

    Progressives can’t let themselves be out-organized on the health care issue and need to counter these lie-driven mobs. It’s time for progressives to make their presence known and their voices heard. Tell your members of Congress not to be intimidated and to reject mob tactics.

    Here’s what you can do:

    1. Email your congressional representatives if you have not already.

    2. Follow up your email with a phone call (find contact information here).

    3. Find a town hall event near you this recess and attend.

    Attend a town hall meeting

    The best way to silence the mob, so to speak, is to outnumber them. Show up. Bring people. And if members of the crowd begin disruptive outbursts and attempt to shout down the official hosting the meeting, help restore order with the chant, “Let him/her speak!”

    The phrases, “Let Him/Her Speak” and “Health Care, Not Mobs” both make great chants and signs — so get out those magic markers.

    You can find lists of some town hall meetings on the web sites of Heath Care for America Now and the right-wing Tea Party Patriots (scroll down to the section “Groups and Events By State”).

    Thank you for helping to expose and counter the Right’s attempts to derail and kill health care reform.


    Michael B. Keegan, President

  14. Ryan
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    ball gags, perhaps?

  15. Left Cross
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    So, “government-run” is worse than “corporate-run.” I forgot that lesson in high school social studies.

    One is OSTENSIBLY democratic (hahaha), and the other is UNABASHEDLY totalitarian (what a relief!).


  16. Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Mark, if you could broadcast on Low power radio everyone could pick up the speeches with walkmans or small radios.

    they can yell all they want but the message would come through.

  17. Mac
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Why the hell do you think Guns Sales are at a all time high, because people trust these communists, wrong! It is because people do NOT trust the Chicago Gangsters now running this country into the ground that ignorant people like you have given them. Apparently it will now take a good ole style revolution to square this country back up

  18. kjc
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    this thread is freaking me out.

  19. Steph
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Freaking you out, like the face of someone’s soul trapped in a tabletop, or like an army of angry, racist, armed white men yelling about how our country needs to be cleansed of its all-powerful, black, communist leaders?

  20. Mr. X
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I hope there’s security there tonight.

    Who would have thought that something as innocuous as wanting to provide your people with quality healthcare could be seen as a refutation of the American way? Did Social Security make us any less American? Did it quash entrepreneurism? Did it keep us from getting to the moon, creating the internet, unraveling the human genome? Fuck no. And giving our people access to quality affordable healthcare isn’t going to ruin anything either. These people are truly insane.

    Even Ann Coulter is calling the Birthers “crazy.” That’s how bad this is. And the Republicans keep stoking the fire. Well, I tell you, there’s going to be an explosion, and, when there is, they should be held accountable.

  21. kjc
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    “Freaking you out, like the face of someone’s soul trapped in a tabletop, or like an army of angry, racist, armed white men yelling about how our country needs to be cleansed of its all-powerful, black, communist leaders?”

    haha. well yes, there’s that. but mostly the incredible ignorance.

    and unfortunately i think this bill needs to die. it’s fast becoming total shit. thanks blue dogs, baucus, rahm, and other assorted assholes.

  22. Big Mac
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Mac: Shut your trap. Up against the wall! Put on your mandatory Sony (JAPANESE) Walkman headphones (MADE IN CHINA) Pete Seeger (COMMIE LIBERAL FLOWERLOVIN UNION BASTARD) cassette tape!! You will get on your HONDA hybrid 200mpg shitstain of an electric bicycle and wobble it on back to your MEXICAN MADE trailer, and you will down your foreign nonalcoholic beer and watch documentaries on Jerry Bear, or else your kids will be taken out of their Free New Montessory School and put in foster care with a band of traveling circus hippies.

  23. publius
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I thought community organizing was a good thing? I thought Obama told people to get in other people’s faces about issues they felt strongly about. When they try to ram a 1000 page bill through without any time for representatives to even read it, maybe they’re trying to hide something.

  24. Bob
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    On the teabaggers, maybe one way to handle these people is to out-nut the nutjobs. When the teabaggers receive their orders to hold a demo from their puppet masters, head down to join them with your own signs, such as…

    End Medicare Now – The Young Should Not Have To Pay To Support The Old
    Stop Taxing Us To Pay For Veterans Care – They Volunteered After All!
    Stop Goverment Run Schools

    With those kind of signs, observers would really think those people are wacked.

  25. Glen S.
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    So, let me get this straight … The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries have now been successful in using their paid shills in talk radio and at Fox “News” to convince an army of low-information voters to storm Congressional town halls and coffee hours to prevent any kind of meaningful discussion about health care reform — in order, they claim, to “save America” by stopping “socialized healthcare,” or “euthenizing the elderly,” or “providing free, taxpayer-paid healthcare to 40 million illegal aliens, etc. … ”

    Meanwhile — 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day, millions risk losing their care because of soaring premiums, and millions more are ineligible for care at any price because they happen to have what insurance bureaucrats determine to be a “pre-existing condition.”

    The fundamental question of whether health care should be treated as a “product,” whose price and availability are determined by the market — rather than as a fundamental human right available to all citizens in a just and civilized society — is the real issue here. Unfortunately, at this point, any such discussion is quickly being lost in a blizzard of lies and distortions.

  26. Andy C
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Glen S you’re so cute trying to reason with the nutjobs. Let them rant and then they’ll move on to the next blog.
    I wonder if they just cut and paste the same comment on to all the different blogs out there?
    It’s too late now but how about joining them and holding up signs that say “Privatize Medicare!”

  27. Me
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    You know, my brother bought a Princeton diploma over the internet, and it was pretty cheap. Maybe I could ask my brother if he could get a birth certificate for Obama.

  28. Calvin
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    A great recap of last night’s event can be found here:


    And here’s a sample:

    …He proceeded to scream (literally scream) at Rep. Dingell, telling him that, under this new legislation, his son with cerebral palsy would be euthanized. Although Rep. Dingell assured him that this was certainly not the case, the man became more and more incensed, egged on by the crowd behind him. Dingell staffers were finally forced to move forward to ensure the man did not threaten Rep. Dingell.

  29. EOS
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    80% of Americans have health care insurance and are fairly satisfied with the coverage. The 20% who do not have health insurance include the wealthy who prefer to pay their own way and choose their doctors and level of care. The 20% include young healthy individuals who prefer to take their chances on not needing any care so as to use their funds for other economic benefits. The 20% includes millions of illegal aliens who work under the table and don’t pay taxes and who shouldn’t be provided medical care at the expense of taxpayers. The poor are provided health care under a generous Federal Medicaid system. Those who have no health insurance or money are not denied medical care in any emergency. It is preferable to tweak the safety net to improve coverage than to wreck havoc on an entire population.

    The purpose of a town hall meeting is for citizens to meet with their elected representative and inform the lawmaker of the citizen’s opinions on the issues so that the lawmaker will vote accordingly. I’m going to tell Dingell that 75% of Americans do not want to pay for other people’s abortions. I’m going to tell him about the 30 years of suffering I have endured as a result of treatment received from the VA Medical System. I’m going to remind him of the 40% fraud in Medicaid/Medicare found by recent investigations and ask why the government wants to reward such incompetence and expand its influence. I’m going to remind him of the massive debt that he has already encumbered that has destroyed the economic hopes of an entire generation, if not more. And I’m going to ask him to stop voting on issues when he hasn’t read and studied the proposed law and to encourage his colleagues to do likewise.

    I won’t be screaming or ranting or shouting down anyone. I will be sitting quietly where I have been directed and will applaud other speakers when they voice concerns that I agree with. I am going to be an active participant who values the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. So I would encourage everyone who reads this blog to do the same. Keep your kazoos and sound blocking foam at home and come and share your opinions and listen to the opinions of your neighbors. Ignore those who are fueling the fires of this latest “emergency”, slow down the train and work together for a private health care system that benefits everyone. If we convert to a single payer government run health care system, where are all the Canadians and wealthy Europeans going to go to get their health care?

  30. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Here’s an interesting protest mob story.

    An excerpt:

    “Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with “Don’t tread on me” printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.”

  31. J. Gerard
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Mark: I love the site cause it gets the facts out in accordance with the bill as it is known to date. You also go further than most bloggers because you cover the nuanses of the bill and explain the caveats. But let me post a tough but respectful question to you or the members of your community.
    How can CCongress allow or not want to verify the citizenship status of someone sighing up for health care?

    The Centrist is reading where Macomb (MI) which is the home of the Reagan Democrats will use E-Verify to ‘validate legal residency of county employees and workers at companies that do at least $20,000 of business annually with the county.’

    The Centrist also notes with irony that Michigan Congressional Democrats recently voted against verifying the legal status of an individual who will sign up for benefits under ObamaCare.
    Full post:


  32. dragon
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Because somebody has to do it, the debunking of an idiot begins.

    EOS:I’m going to tell Dingell that 75% of Americans do not want to pay for other people’s abortions.
    __it has only been on the books for 33 years, so I can see how it slipped by you, but…The Hyde Amendment[1] is a provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, first passed by the United States Congress in 1976.

    EOS:I’m going to tell him about the 30 years of suffering I have endured as a result of treatment received from the VA Medical System
    –interesting, given the choice of the great free market system or the terrible gov. run bureaucratic nightmare, you chose the government run? I guess the awful suffering wasn’t quite enough for you to lift yourself up by your bootstraps and get off the government dole.

    EOS:I’m going to remind him of the 40% fraud in Medicaid/Medicare found by recent investigations
    — Columbia/HCA Paid “More Than $1.7 Billion In Civil And Criminal Penalties.” The New York Times reported that a settlement was reached in the HCA fraud investigation. “Under the terms, HCA would pay $630 million in fines and penalties to resolve all outstanding civil litigation with the Justice Department. An additional $250 million would be paid by HCA to the Medicare program to resolve expense claims submitted by the company to the government…Combined with previous settlements HCA has negotiated with the government involving fraud accusations — including its agreement in 2000 to plead guilty to 14 felonies — the company will be paying a total of more than $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties, by far the largest amount ever secured by federal prosecutors in a health care fraud case. “The company admitted to systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about how hospital space was being used.” Forbes.com, 12/15/00.

    EOS: I’m going to remind him of the massive debt that he has already encumbered that has destroyed the economic hopes of an entire generation
    –By him, I assume you’re talking about Bush. When Bush took office, the national debt was $5.73 trillion. When he left, it was $10.7 trillion. That’s a difference of $4.97 trillion.

    And yes EOS.
    “Reality has a well known liberal bias.”
    — Stephen Colbert

  33. Calvin
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Dragon. That was awesome.

  34. Oliva
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I second that thanks, Dragon.

  35. Mike
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I hesitate to think how many teabaggers are on Medicare.

  36. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    “I hesitate to think how many teabaggers are on Medicare.”

    Or drive on public roads.
    Or bask in the safety of a common public defense.
    Or survive because of their publicly-researched vaccines.
    Or use the public road system.
    Or enjoy our national/state/local parks.
    Or use the internet.
    Or benefit from NASA tech research.
    Or been helped by anything invented/created/written by a student of a public university.

    Get off the dole if you don’t like it. Renounce all government assistance. I dare you.

  37. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Hahaha, that’s something like an overbearing father or a meth-dealing pimp might say. But in both those cases, the dependant victem has much more of an option to opt out.

  38. EOS
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Dragon –
    The Hyde Amendment isn’t a constitutional amendment and will be void if Obama passes his health care bill.

    I’m not on the dole and have never been on the dole. My medical complications were a result of a single treatment received while I was on active duty and had no option other than government run health care.

    I fail to see how your citing that a single company was found guilty and forced to pay more than 1.7 Billion dollars is evidence that there isn’t widespread fraud in the Medicare/Medicaid programs. That they were able to systematically overcharge and file false claims of such an enormous amounts over many years suggests that there are significant problems with the government administrated programs.

    Bush was responsible for vast increases in the national debt, as was Clinton and Bush I. Obama is adding to it. I didn’t vote for any of them. If we continue to add more debt, we soon won’t be able to make the interest payments on that debt and we can forget about government funding for ANY services. It’s not about pointing the finger at Republicans or Democrats.

    Stephen Colbert is a comedian, not a politician or philosopher. It was supposed to be a joke, not a validation of your ideology.

  39. dan
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    The two heads of big government, neoconservatism and liberalism, have a symbiotic relationship.

    Only compared to the other can either seem sane.

  40. Lisele
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I was 80% satisfied with my employer provided health care until I lost my job. Anyone want to hire someone rather literate, with organizational skills, and no pre-existing conditions?

  41. EOS
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Lisele –

    Since you were covered under your previous employers plan you can continue to be covered under that same plan while you seek other employment, at least for a limited time period – I think it might be a year. It’s called COBRA and you should have received paperwork to continue coverage from your prior employer. The law states that they can only add 2% to the group rate under which you had been insured. Good luck with your job search.

  42. Oliva
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Not that a passage from a scholarly journal would do a thing to curb the depressing behavior at townhalls or the demoralizing us vs. them style of civic discourse. (Cheney is apparently now polluting the fact-based waters again, this time re. health care. I really do think he’s behind Palin’s resignation, has found his new mouthpiece. She is now saying that Obama’s “death panel” could kill her special needs child.)

    from “Transcending Polarization: Beyond Binary Thinking,”
    Jack Denfeld Wood and Gianpiero Petriglieri
    Transactional Analysis Journal 35, no. 1 (Jan. 2005)

    Reducing complex phenomena or choices to
    a binary set of alternatives is part of human
    nature, a fundamental mechanism deeply en-
    graved in our nervous tissue and passed on
    from generation to generation for our survival.
    But it can continue to exert an archaic hold on
    us beyond its usefulness if it prevents us from
    looking beyond the polarity of “opposites.”
    We can see this archaic mode of thinking es-
    pecially clearly with topics that evoke a strong
    emotional reaction. We hear that Americans are
    good and our enemies are evil. We say that
    men are from Mars and women are from Venus
    (Gray, 1993) (i.e., that they are opposites). We
    argue that “girls have better language skills
    than boys” (or do not) or that “boys are better
    in math than girls” (or are not) (Moir & Jessel,
    1992). We fall into the habit of speaking in
    dualistic categories—in part for linguistic con-
    venience, of course, although we say this sort
    of thing so often that we can come to believe
    that reality is defined by two mutually exclu-
    sive categories.

    This tendency to consider differences not
    simply as variations but as opposites reveals
    how quickly our thinking can regress to the
    markedly archaic mode manifested so clearly
    in childhood development. Psychoanalyst
    Melanie Klein (1959/1985) defined this form
    of psychic functioning—splitting the world into
    good or bad, friends or foes, “like” and “do not
    like”—as the paranoid position. For preverbal
    children, still incapable of dealing with am-
    bivalence and complexity, splitting internal and
    external objects into all-good or all-bad—and
    acting accordingly—is an irrational yet helpful
    way of simplifying and managing reality, at
    least in childhood. . . .

    Intelligence may essentially
    be the general measure of our capacity to make
    numerous, ever-finer, multidimensional distinc-
    tions of the reality around us, and within
    us—to transcend “binary thinking” and our
    elementary tendency toward dualism.
    When we are small children, we first see in
    broad categories: We see plants and animals,
    big and little. Later we begin to make finer dis-
    tinctions: We see trees and birds, bushes and
    fish, evergreens and leafy trees, large white
    swans and small black crows, whales and
    sharks. Still later we see red pines, white pines,
    spruce, and hemlock; bald eagles, red falcons,
    pigeons, and doves; yellow perch, white perch,
    bass, and brook trout.

  43. kjc
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    COBRA is expensive. Most people I know who’ve had COBRA couldn’t keep it until they found another job because the cost was too high. It’s an option, so better than nothing, but not a very realistic one for a lot of people.

  44. Mark H.
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    yeah, COBRA is very expensive — for many who’ve left or lost a job that had employer provided health care benefits, COBRA means now taking on all the costs, as an individual, for buying the benefits that were previously purchased as part of a group, and thus much cheaper, plan. KJC has it right.

  45. Glen S.
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The existence of individuals and groups with informed, yet sharply differing opinions about various issues is natural and, in fact, a positive aspect of a healthy, functioning democracy. However, much of what we’re witnessing now seems to be something altogether different.

    When we see mobs of senior citizens (many of whom benefit from Medicare) showing up at townhall meetings to protest “socialized healthcare;” when we see angry white racists who simply cannot believe that Obama could be a “legitimate” President; or when we see no less an establishment figure than the former Republican Vice-Presidential nominee claims that a primary goal of of healthcare reform advocates is to force old people and special-need children to go before a “death panel” made up of “Obama’s bureaucrats,” who will decide who must be euthenized … the debate has clearly moved beyond principled differences of political or philosophical opinion, and into the realm of dangerous and, ultimately destabilizing, unreality.

    Meanwhile, much of the mainstream media continues covering these issues in a pseudo-journalistic “two-sides-to-every-story” fashion, without actually refuting any of the most outrageous lies and distortions — let alone providing the public with any real facts or information that might actually help citizens better understand such extremely complicated issues. Of course, doing so might require actual research and “reporting,” which would pull away precious resources needed to cover other important “news” such as Michael Jackson’s latest autopsy results, or what “John and Kate” are up to this weekend …

    The fact is that the United States, and the World, face an array of increasingly complicated, urgent, and inter-related issues — including crises related to climate, energy, agriculture, biodiversity, health, debt and inquality — and our capability, as a society, to understand and effectively deal with these issues will play a large role in determining the quality of life for future generations. Of course, that will require thoughtful, engaged citizens, leaders with wisdom and integrity, and an active and unbiased (traditional and non-traditional) news media.

    Most importantly, it will require us to engage seek solutions that are based in reality — supported by facts, vetted by independent analysis — and free from shrill hysteria.

    However, if, as we’re seeing today, even a relatively modest proposal to reform our obviously broken healthcare system can be so easily derailed simply by packing public meetings with mobs of hysterical, yet woefully ill-informed, citizens who are, themselves, being manipulated by insurance- and pharmaceutical-industry titans determined to protect their billions of dollars of profits … what hope do we realistically have for trying to solve even more pressing issues in the future?

  46. EOS
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Mark H. –

    The individual pays the former group rate, but pays 100%. (102% max) The former employer doesn’t kick in the money that they used to. It’s significantly cheaper than the individual rate. Still, it’s hard to come up with extra money for health care when you are no longer working, unless you’ve set aside an emergency fund. KJC had it right, but you are mistaken.

    Glen –

    I agree that we need to seek solutions that are based in reality, supported by facts, and free from hysteria. So why do you present such a spin?

    I’ve watched the videos of town hall meetings across the nation. The people don’t look like paid lobbyists to me. They don’t look very sophisticated and there is no apparent organization. A large number state that they are life-long Democrats. Yes, many are ill-informed, but so are many of the elected representatives who haven’t yet read the proposed bill. Dingell announced that abortions weren’t included in the proposed health care bill last Thursday, but national news services have stated otherwise. I’m on a significant number of political mailing lists and nobody has sent me any organized plan about packing the townhalls with hysterical citizens. (Unless you count Mark’s original post.)

    90% of the seniors covered by Medicare also buy supplemental insurance to cover their real health needs. Many seniors are emotional because health care concerns affect them disproportionately. Obama has stated he wants health care insurance for everyone and wants to rein in the costs. The only way both can be accomplished is through rationing. The AMA is opposed to Obama’s plan, seniors and disabled are frightened, and the insurance providers have been remarkably silent. So rather than take the time and educate lawmakers and citizens, a crisis is declared and an August deadline is proposed for adoption of this highly controversial plan. Thankfully the deadline was ignored.

    Now, you and other the spin doctors are pointing the finger at the “racist Republicans”. The fact is Obama can’t get the bill passed because he doesn’t have the support of his own party. And his approval ratings are sinking daily. The Republicans are so small a minority they can’t even filibuster, much less block the passage of any bill. Democrats own the House, Senate, and office of President. Anything that happens or doesn’t happen is entirely their responsibility.

    The overuse of the “crisis” mode has already become a detriment. The supposed global warming “crisis” led to the quick passage of a “Cap and Trade” legislation in the House. It won’t lower energy use, will be a severe economic hurdle for American business, will cost consumers significantly more, and won’t impact global temperatures even slightly as other nations won’t join in what they consider to be an illogical and detrimental plan. Thankfully, the Senate has no plans to even put this type of legislation on the agenda. The Representatives in the House are catching a lot of flak from their constituents over their votes and are now reluctant to stick their necks out again for the next “crisis of the month”.

    What hope do we realistically have for trying to solve even more pressing issues in the future? Stop pushing for more unread legislation to be passed quickly without careful and thorough consideration. Make government more transparent to all who will be affected. Have townhall meetings before the laws are written and propose legislation that provides the services the customer wants. Let the private sector and competition provide diversity of options to suit the individual needs and incorporate safeguards that will insure private options continue. Start reading responsible media from multiple sources that acknowledge that there are at least two sides to every issue, and often many more. Treat everyone respectfully whether or not you share their political ideology. Stop announcing fictitious motives for your opponents and start listening to their concerns. Things would be a lot better if we all followed the golden rule.

  47. Glen S.
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink


    #1 – You say the AMA opposes “Obama’s plan,” and yet a quick glance at the AMA’s own website reveals instead that they are working actively with Congressional leaders to draft a plan that, in their words:

    * Protects the sacred relationship between patients and their physicians, without interference by insurance companies or the government
    * Provides affordable health insurance for all through a choice of plans and eliminates denials for pre-existing conditions
    * Promotes quality, prevention and wellness initiatives
    * Repeals the Medicare physician payment system that harms seniors’ access to care
    * Eases the crushing weight of medical liability and insurance company bureaucracy

    Sounds like a good start to me.

    # 2 – You say that seniors and the disabled are frightened. I agree, but mostly because the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, through their paid shills in Congress, in talk radio and at Fox “News” have been promoting all kinds of false, ridiculous and insidious stories about about what various proposal would — or would not — do. And, again, I also blame the mainstream media (from which, unfortunately, 95 % of the public get their information about such issues) for their appalling coverage of this important issue.

    #3 – You suggest that Democrats “own” this issue, and must accept responsibility for whether it fails or succeeds. I have to admit I kind of agree with you there … unfortunately, given the corporate dominance of campaign finance in this country, a great many Democrats (especially conservative “blue dog” Democrats) are under tremendous pressure not to enact any kind of leadership on this issue — or even, to actively oppose it (see Max Baucus.)

    #4 – You claim that the only way to expand coverage and reduce costs is to ration health care. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, health care is already being rationed. At its most basic level — those who can’t afford to pay (or can’t afford insurance) simply don’t have access to quality care. Meanwhile, those lucky enough to have decent employer-paid care are seeing their premiums increase exponentially, while being ever-more squeezed by insurance-industry bureaucrats intent on limiting coverage to increase profits. Ask any doctor you know how much time they spend on the phone fighting with insurance companies to get the treatments or prescriptions they say their patients need. Meanwhile 14,000 people day are losing their coverage, and millions more risk losing theirs. The current system is clearly unsustainable.

    #5 – I agree with you that the process should be more open and transparent to as many people as possible … as long as “transparency” doesn’t become an excuse for the the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries to hijack the “process” by spending milllions order to kill any chance of achieving meaningful reform … as happened the last time health care reform was seriously attempted back in the 1990’s.

  48. Mark H.
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Ah, I don’t see where KJC and I disagreed, but whatever you say, EOS, anonymous expert on all things earthly and godly.

  49. EOS
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Mark H. –
    Cobra allows the individual to continue to purchase insurance at the group rate. Since you already owe me a dinner, why don’t you take out a homeless or unemployed person instead?

  50. Mark H.
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    EOS you are misreading my comment above. I didn’t say anything about the “rates” paid for group plans, but rather addressed the fact people buying coverage thru COBRA pay the whole costs of the benefit. In contrast, when one is in a group plan, usually the employer pays most or much or at least some of its costs; if one is no longer in a group plan, but now has the option of buying coverage indivdiually, totally out of pocket, it’s a huge new expense to maintain, for a limited time, the same level of coverage as before. Get it? COBRA involves no employer paying for a share of the coverage. All costs now go to the former employee. KJC and me were commenting on actual real world COBRA, not the idealized, easy to use version you presented. Would that it were so that COBRA was a viable option for all who lose health insurance coverage, but that’s not reality.

  51. EOS
    Posted August 11, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Mark H. –

    You’re right Mark. I was mistaken in my interpretation of what you had written. I’m sorry. It’s clear from your last post that you understand COBRA. I was too focused on the point that an individual rate is often three times more costly than a group rate (or more) and there is a significant savings with COBRA. However, I agree, that when you are unemployed, even a group rate is usually too expensive for most.

  52. Mark H.
    Posted August 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, EOS, for seeing that your arguments weren’t correct. Once, while between jobs, I bought a COBRA policy, and I recall it taking my entire last check to do so for just a couple months. Most people in similar situations, I am pretty sure, forego their right to buy continued benefits because they can’t afford it. (I was doubly lucky – I could afford it and had no health issues over which I’d have been really screwed if I’d lacked coverage for that period of time.)

    You’re absolutely right about how extraordinarily expensive an individual rate is for buying health care coverage. That’s why the nation needs a public option, or better yet, a single payer system, which would greatly reduce costs by eliminating much of the billing and payment collecting bureaucracy, and also ensure that all people had coverage, regardless of ability to pay. No other rich democratic nation on earth has such a strange system for providing health care.

  53. EOS
    Posted August 11, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    You don’t eliminate costs by adding additional layers of bureaucracy. You can’t reduce costs by increasing the pool of beneficiaries. Single payer eliminates all choice and removes the economic advantage of containing costs through competition.

    I didn’t concede that my argument was incorrect, merely that your lack of clarity in writing caused me to misinterpret your argument. That’s a significant difference.

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