The contest between Fear and Hope

Yesterday, President Obama spoke on the subject of healthcare reform in Grand Junction, Colorado. Here’s a clip from the transcript of his speech, which I think gets right to the heart of the matter:

…And when you hear about these experiences, when you think of the millions of people denied coverage because of preexisting conditions, the thousands who have their policies cancelled because of illness, the countless folks like Nathan, I want you to remember one thing: there but for the grace of God go I. These are ordinary Americans, no different than anyone else, held hostage by health insurance companies that deny them coverage, or drop their coverage, or charge fees that they can’t afford for care they desperately need.

It’s wrong. It’s hurting too many families and businesses. And we’re going to fix it when we pass health insurance reform this year….

Because we are getting close, the fight is getting fierce. The history is clear: every time we are in sight of health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they’ve got. They use their influence. They run their ads. They use their political allies to scare the American people. In fact, whenever America has set about solving our toughest problems, there have been those who have sought to preserve the status quo. And these struggles have always boiled down to a contest between hope and fear. That was true when Social Security was born. That was true when Medicare was created. It is true in this debate today…

So far, I think the Democrats have done a dismal job of pointing out the parallels that exist between what we’re going through now and what we went through during the fight for Medicare. I think they need to keep hitting this. The world didn’t end then, and it won’t end now. And, more importantly, we need to keep telling the stories of “regular,” hard working Americans that have lost their health insurance due sudden illness, changes in employment, etc. People need to be reminded that we’re all just one tragic illness away from finding ourselves on our own, bankrupt, and an facing unnecessary death. The folks like Beck, Limbaugh and Savage have done a great job of making this about illegal aliens, Socialism and government incompetency. We need to take control of the debate again.

But, of course, none of this really matters if the administration isn’t serious about healthcare reform. And, in spite of the President’s words on Saturday, I’m not sure that they are. Last week, we got word that, working with lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry, the administration had made huge concessions to drug companies, and, now, word is they’re getting ready to cave on the so called “public” optionthe core of the President’s plan – which would put a free government insurance plan in place to compete with private plans. So, it looks like what we’re going to get in actuality might be a lot less significant and meaningful than we’d hoped. Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at it in 20 years, if we can make it that far without imploding.

Or, here’s a better idea… What if we all demand that Obama not back down, and, instead, play hardball with the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, FOX News and the D.C. Lobbyists? What if we make him fight as hard for healthcare as Bush and Cheney fought to get us into Iraq? What if we told him that, as much as we know he needs a win on this, we’d rather try our hardest and lose going for something meaningful, than come away with a victory in name only that doesn’t really help American families?

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  1. Posted August 16, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Amen. Here’s to finally having the opportunity to fix the foot that I broke in July 2007 working at the art fair.

  2. galan
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Many people have to stay at jobs they hate because that is the only way they can get health care for themselves and for their families if they have them. People are also trapped by this system if they have developed a disease which would become a pre-existing condition if they changed jobs and had to qualify for health insurance again in the new job setting.
    There are those who oppose health care change who say “Do you want the government standing between you and your doctor?”All people who have health insurance have someone standing between them and their doctor, frequently a managed care professional, not a doctor or nurse, but someone who makes decisions about what level of care you can receive or what type of care is appropriate by looking in a book of protocals. This happens in all managed care. That is why it is CALLED managed care. The purpose is to save the insurance company money and increase their profits. On the other hand, the care is more and more expensive to provide as health care institutions compete with each other for patients. As soon as one gets a new type of cancer treatment modality for instance, they all have to get it in order to compete. Hospitals could co-operate and only one of the hospitals in a given geographic might have the “laser knife” machine while a different hospital would have something else.
    I think the key to all of this is the phrase “…follow the money” and see who opposes change and why.

  3. Generic Registration
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Bill Maher recently showed tape from LA of Remote Area Medical, whose mission has apparently until recently been to provide free health care to people in “remote areas” (i.e. third world countries), but whose services are now so in demand here in the states that thousands of people are waiting literally DAYS to get free care. In case it’s not become blindingly clear already, this looks like the issue that really will make it clear that we are indeed already on a dedicated course to becoming the next third world country.

  4. Posted August 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t had time yet, but I’ve been wanting to post the most recent statistics concerning the growing gap between the poor and the super-rich… We’re more lopsided now than we were even during the gilded age.

  5. Steven
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    It’s absolute bullshit. I know Obama needs a victory on this, but accepting a plan that has no public option is bullshit.

  6. Meta
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Mixed messages coming from the White House this weekend on the public option:

  7. Camera Tech
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    We need him to channel his inner LBJ and start really twisting some arms.

  8. Oliva
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Please call Blue Dog Mike Ross of Arkansas, and tell him that thing about bullshit, please! Congressman Ross’ office at 1-800-223-2220 (online email form only for his constituents). On CNN yesterday, this Dem said:

    I can tell you, I’ve laid down my set of principles, so I will not force government-run health care on anyone. If there ever is government-run health care, the first ones to sign up should be the president and every member of Congress, including myself. You should be able to keep the insurance you’ve got today, if you like it, and always choose your own doctor. No federal funding for illegal immigrants or for abortion, and no rationing of health care. I will never vote for a bill to kill old people, period.

  9. dragon
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Not trying to spomp on a future post, but just a taste.

    Income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression, according to a recently updated paper by University of California, Berkeley Professor Emmanuel Saez. The paper, which covers data through 2007, points to a staggering, unprecedented disparity in American incomes.

    Saez calculates that in 2007 the top .001 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000.
    As of 2007, the top decile of American earners, Saez writes, pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that’s “higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the ‘roaring” 1920s.'”

    –To see this disparity in graphic form is even more telling. Telling in that Carter’s biggest sin was his unwillingness to transfer enough wealth from the poor to rich.

  10. Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Exactly – the thought of watching a half-assed attempt at reform play out is incredibly depressing. I want to see Obama fight for this, fight for it as hard as he fought to be in the White House.

    If he tries his hardest and it fails, I’m ok with that. But caving on the public option… makes my stomach knot up.

  11. Oliva
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I want to see Obama fight for this, fight for it as hard as he fought to be in the White House.

    I’m with you. I also want to see all of us fight for this, fight for it as hard as we fought to get Obama in the White House. (Not by screaming and carrying hideous signs, and sentiments, but with ferocity of the hopeful, urgent, no-question-about-it kind.)

  12. Glen S.
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    For me it comes down to this:

    1.) We have a popular and impressive President who earned a sizable popular- and electoral-count majority by running on a platform that promised meaningful healthcare reform.

    2.) We have a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives that is among the largest in generations.

    3.) We have a 60-vote, fillibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate.

    4.) Polls consistently show that — hysterical townhall theatrics, aside — nearly 70% of Americans support some form of universal access.

    If, given this amazing and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Democrats manage to squander this mandate by failing to deliver meaningful healthcare legislation that guarantees all Americans’ access to quality, affordable care, I personally promise to support primary-election challenges to every Democratic officeholder — from the President on down.

  13. kjc
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, the Democrats are not a party of the left. And health care reform (no, not health *insurance* reform, Democratic handlers) is considered an issue of the left. however stupid and untrue that may be.

  14. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t had time yet, but I’ve been wanting to post the most recent statistics concerning the growing gap between the poor and the super-rich… We’re more lopsided now than we were even during the gilded age.

    I agree that returning to the policies of the gilded age would be a good place to start to help rectify this situation.

  15. Oliva
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    BA, Mark didn’t advocate a return to gilded age policies. But you knew that and were just being . . . super charming, right?

  16. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    SUPER charming.

  17. Camela
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    E-mail Obama here:

    And C.C. your representatives.

    Do it right now. Decisions on the public option are being made as you read this.

  18. Meta
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Maybe there’s hope. Here’s the new spin. According to the Atlantic, Sebelius misspoke when she said that the public option wasn’t essential.

    An administration official said tonight that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “misspoke” when she told CNN this morning that a government run health insurance option “is not an essential part” of reform. This official asked not to be identified in exchange for providing clarity about the intentions of the President. The official said that the White House did not intend to change its messaging and that Sebelius simply meant to echo the president, who has acknowledged that the public option is a tough sell in the Senate and is, at the same time, a must-pass for House Democrats, and is not, in the president’s view, the most important element of the reform package…

  19. Oliva
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Phone calls work well too, especially when you reach an actual person and the aide is respectful, listens, gives articulate answers on behalf of the senator or representative. At least you feel like your message is being registered.

    Congressman John Dingell, DC office: (202) 225-4071; Ypsi office: (734) 481-1100
    Senator Carl Levin, DC office: DC office: (202) 224-6221; Detroit office: (313) 226-6020
    Senator Debbie Stabenow, DC office: (202) 224-4822; Detroit office: (313) 961-4330

    Anybody out in Candace Miller’s district? She came out against the stimulus, followed up about a month ago with her criticisms, saying that it had failed, and then a week later she came out demanding more $$ for Cash for Clunkers. And nearby Plymouth and vicinity has Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a quirky, learned, nineteenth-century kind of guy with some really unpleasant ideas. He was all ready to introduce a measure calling on Obama to apologize for saying that Officer Crowley had acted “stupidly,” but I think it was the day before the so-called Beer Summit, and maybe he realized this ploy was pitifully transparent and, well, stupid and dropped it. I don’t even know what eventually happened and hardly care. But do call him too, if you live in his district. They all deserve to hear “Yes on Health Care with a Public Option, Now.” Appeal to their sense of courage and duty!

  20. Oliva
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    The government isn’t about to take away your health insurance—but Republicans seem determined to take away your summer vacation.
    –Bruce Reed,

    Encouraging piece–what a rare pleasure. Here’s another bit:

    for once, the long-suffering health care faithful can take heart and need not panic: Health care reform remains a good bet. If supporters keep their heads while others don’t and the president continues to center the debate on what’s really at stake, reform will still cross the finish line this year.

  21. EOS
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Health Care with a Public Option is a thinly veiled transitory step in eliminating all other options. The Public Option doesn’t have the support of a majority of Democrats and will never pass this year. Britain and Canada both have universal public health, both ration care, and Canada recently announced their system is on the verge of collapse.

    Sebelius didn’t misspeak. She floated a trial balloon for Obama with disastrous results. The insurance coop idea didn’t gain the support of Blue Dog Democrats or conservatives, but the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has gone ballistic. It really never was about health care – it’s about redistributing wealth.

    I support universal access to health care. There needs to be a safety net to allow those who lose their insurance coverage to get medical treatment. That is a totally different concept than Universal Health Care – a government managed single payer system.

    So far, Obama is 0 for 4. He hasn’t stopped the war in Iraq or closed down Guantanamo. He has expanded the war in the mountains of Afghanistan where the terrain favors the terrorists. He strongly supported the stimulus that gave massive amounts of tax payer dollars to corrupt bankers and CEO’s and has not reduced unemployment rates. And his health care plan has done nothing but cause division – even within his own party. His lack of executive experience is obvious and his ability to enact national policy is minimal.

    On an earlier thread, Dan told me that Social Security and Medicare will be there for me when I retire unless the nation undergoes complete economic collapse. I think economic collapse is more likely with each passing day. If Universal Health Care taxes the wealthy at 70%, where’s the money for the bailout of social security going to come from?

    Buy gold. Fire the Fed. Do everything you can to stay as healthy as you can and avoid the need for health care. Pray for revival.

  22. Glen S.
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    EOS: Claiming to support “universal access to healthcare,” while dismissing actual attempts to achieve that goal is simply disingenuous, at best.

    Also — If, as you claim, both the British and Canadian single-payer systems are “rationing care,” and “on the “verge of collapse,” then why aren’t masses of citizens in both countries storming their own townhall meetings demanding an end to “socialized healthcare” and calling for an immediate return to a for-profit system?

    Could it be, perhaps, because single-payer systems in both countries enjoy wide public support, at least partly evidenced by the fact that both systems have been maintained and enhanced by successive left- and right-wing governments (including that notable socialist Margaret Thatcher) for several decades?

    EOS, I couldn’t agree with you more that we should all pray for revival … but, in my case (and especially regarding this issue), I’m hoping for a revival of logic, reason and common sense.

  23. EOS
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

  24. EOS
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink


    Tried to post a link to Canada’s top doctor saying that their system is on the verge of collapse. The post is still waiting for moderation. You can get her comments on Google : CMA and Dr. Doig

  25. kjc
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    seems like dr. doig is for health care reform in her country. unlike you in yours.

  26. EOS
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    kjc –

    Maybe it’s because she’s trying to move back to a competitive system, while in our country some are trying to do away with competition.

  27. Oliva
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    “Ration[ing] care” is a relic of the 1990s health care reform debate, a term designed to frighten people.

    Glen, look beyond Doig (per EOS), who is just beginning her one-year term as prez of the CMA, to next year’s prez-elect, Turnbull, whose views seem highly enlightened and whose advocacy for the Canadian system (described by outgoing CMA prez as “14 different healthcare systems [provinces each have their own] and they’re not at the same level of organization”), and concern for marginalized people, is front and center.

    how to make the scientific evidence stand up to the rhetoric. Yes, it should be the other way around — the rhetoricians should have to back up their claims with evidence. But in reality, often it’s the science that has to be bolstered by rhetoric in order to have an impact.
    One of the most basic points that is often ignored is the enormous cost that private insurance schemes add to the system. In the US, 31% of health care costs go toward administration, compared with 16% in Canada. That’s because filling out lengthy insurance reports and battling with insurance companies takes a lot of physician time.

    . . . the CMA’s comprehensive document on health care system change (It’s About Access: concluded: “Although private health insurance can provide greater choice and access to services for those who can afford it, it has not been found to improve access to publicly insured services, lower costs or improve quality.” You may also be interested in the executive summary of the Romanow Commission, available here:

    . . . The evidence that privatization will solve the problems facing the Canadian health care system just doesn’t stand up to critical appraisal.

    When you think about it, it’s not really that surprising. Private hospitals tend to spend more on advertising and less on patient care, and they tend to pay their staff (including doctors) less so that they can turn a profit. The only way doctors can do better in a system with private hospitals is if they own the hospitals — and that puts doctors in a very difficult ethical position.

  28. Meta
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Cool flow chart by Nick Beaudrot:

  29. Meta
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Salon today asks “Why do Senate Democrats Give Up So Easily”?

    About a month ago, Sen. Jeff Bingaman voted for a sweeping healthcare reform bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. At the time, the New Mexico Democrat said he was glad the “landmark legislation” was moving along, and particularly pleased that it included a “strong public option” that would let people without insurance buy into a government-run plan.

    Not long after that, Bingaman joined up with a bipartisan gang of five other senators on the Finance Committee for ongoing negotiations on a compromise plan. The talks are likely to strip the public option right out of the bill, replacing it with a nebulously defined system of nonprofit co-ops. Most reform advocates think that won’t do anything to keep private insurance companies in check. Bingaman doesn’t think he was wrong before; he’s just trying to be pragmatic. “If we’re going to get a bill off the floor, it needs the support of at least 60 members of the Senate,” says Jude McCartin, Bingaman’s spokeswoman. “He is definitely someone who wants to see as strong a bill as possible signed into law. And I don’t think he thinks it’s better to do nothing than [to do] the best you can do.”

    Bingaman may be the prime example of the way some Senate Democrats seem to have approached the healthcare debate this summer: count votes first, figure out what should be in the bill later. And while you’re counting, take the most pessimistic view possible. Though three committees in the House and one in the Senate have all passed versions of the legislation with more muscle behind the reforms than what the Finance Committee is working up, that doesn’t seem to matter to centrist Democrats, who think those other versions won’t get enough support to overcome the threat of a GOP filibuster.


    Posted August 19, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Tell Obama that the public option isn’t optional!

    Please sign now.

  31. Mike T
    Posted August 19, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Word is, the Dems might be getting ready to cut the Republicans out alltogehter and go it alone.

    Also of interest is this quote from Dennis Kucinich.

    The masquerade is over! The “public option” is … dead.

    Health care reform is now a private option: WHICH FOR PROFIT INSURANCE COMPANY DO YOU WANT? You have to choose. And you have to pay. If you have a low income, under HR3200 government will subsidize the private insurance companies and you will still have to pay premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

    The Administration plan requires that everyone must have health insurance, so it is delivering tens of millions of new “customers” to the insurance companies. Health care? Not really. Insurance care! Absolutely. Cost controls? No chance.

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