Will Obama be addressing us or them on Wednesday?

As you all probably know, Obama has lost so much ground on healthcare that he’s going before a joint session of Congress next Wednesday to try to regain control. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, I think, hit the nail on the head today when he said that Obama, in his address, needed to say the following three things:

1. I will not stand for a bill that leaves millions of Americans without health care. It’s vitally important to cover all Americans, not only for their and their childrens’ sakes and not only because it’s a moral imperitive, but because doing so will be good for all of us. One out of three Americans will experience job loss and potential loss of health insurance for themselves and their families at some point. One out of four of us who have health insurance is underinsured –unable to afford the preventive care we and our kids need on an ongoing basis. And those of us who don’t get preventive care can get walloped with diabetes, heart disease, and other major illnesses that wipe us out financially, or force us into emergency rooms that all of us end up paying for.

2. The only way to cover all Americans without causing deficits to rise is to require that the wealthiest Americans pay a bit extra. The wealthy can afford to make sure all Americans are healthy. The top 1 percent of earners now take home 23 percent of total national income, the highest percentage since 1928. Their tax burden is not excessive. Even as income and wealth have become more concentrated than at any time in the past 80 years, those at the top are now taxed at lower rates than rich Americans have been taxed since before the start of World War II. Indeed, many managers of hedge funds, private-equity partners, and investment bankers — including those who have been bailed out by taxpayers over the last year — are paying 15 percent of their income in taxes because their earnings are, absurdly, treated as capital gains. We should eliminate this loophole as well, and use it to guarantee the health of all.

3. Finally, I want a true public insurance option — not a “cooperative,” and not something that’s triggered if certain goals aren’t met. A public option is critical for lowering health-care costs. Today, private insurers don’t face enough competition to guarantee low prices and high service. In 36 states, three or fewer insurers account for 65 percent of the insurance market. A public insurance option would also have the scale and authority needed to negotiate low drug prices and low prices from medical providers. Commercial insurers now pay about 30 higher rates to providers than the government pays through Medicare, because Medicare has the scale to get those lower rates. A nationwide public option could get similar savings. And those savings would mean lower premiums, deductibles and co-payments for Americans who can barely afford health insurance right now.

And, for what it’s worth, he seems to agree with me that Obama needs to take a page from the LBJ playbook. In Reich’s words, Obama will need to, “twist arms, cajole, force recalcitrant members to join him, and threaten retribution if they don’t come along.”

But, I’m afraid that the speech Obama delivers is probably going to be quite a bit different, in spite of Reich’s advice, and the fact that administration officials have said that the so-called public option is still on the table. I hope it’s not the case, but my feeling is that, when Wednesday rolls around, Obama won’t be addressing the conservative Blue Dogs in the audience, urging them to get onboard or suffer the consequences, but the progressives in the audience. My sense, and I hope that I’m wrong, is that he’s going to try to convince us that some small gain is better than no gain at all. And, as I’ve said before, if that’s the way he decides to play it, I’m done.

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  1. Posted September 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I think Obama will stand up for what he believes in.

  2. Last One
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The same way he did on torture, Geoff?

  3. EOS
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I heard he’s going to try to have the lawmakers pledge allegiance to the president just as he’s doing with the school children.

  4. kjc
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Did you hear that on Fox?

  5. EOS
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    No, I rarely watch Fox.

  6. Michale Pell
    Posted September 4, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Fox News? What’s Fox News?

  7. Posted September 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Yea… if he doesn’t come through on this… I will be crushed. I think a lot of people will be done with him if after all he’s promised he backs down.

  8. Oliva
    Posted September 6, 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    C-SPAN 2 re-aired a 1996 interview with David Broder in which he talked about Clinton’s try at health care reform. He and Haynes Johnson wrote a book about it back then. I’m grateful for the rebroadcast because it shed so much light, reminding me that Clinton had tried strong-arming the (Democratic) Congress, which was thought to be the complete wrong approach. He talked of Clinton going before a joint session of Congress, as Obama now is going to do. I know that Obama tried to approach it differently by letting Congress hammer out plans first, rather than have a plan crafted out of the White House, via Hillary Clinton’s task force. But at this stage it looks like Obama is about to do what Clinton did–which isn’t very comforting.

    I don’t even know what to make of it and think I could use to hear Broder’s interview again when I’m not sleepy, but he offers some interesting insight–and most of all shows that the forces that had been gathered to fight against health care reform ahead of Clinton even announcing he’d take it on (before he was elected, in fact) had grown potent indeed–potent and skilled at manipulating the masses. But back then there were Republicans determined to fight for health care reform; they got beaten back by the Republican leadership, under Dole and others, who decided to make reform fail so as to damage Clinton’s presidency early. The effort was almost entirely undertaken to harm Clinton and the Democrats, not for any principled opposition to reform–as it is today about Obama and the Dems. (Jim DeMint and others have admitted as much.)

    The same forces are gathered today but just much more beefed-up and committed to making health care reform fail–with a track record that says they can do it again.

    Well, I recommend the Broder interview. It’s an exercise, too, in seeing that even though time moves along and people like Brian Lamb of C-SPAN ages (gracefully), some dastardly things are stubbornly stuck in the past, are fueled by bad, worn-out ideas and people (e.g., Gingrich), and must be overcome at last. It’s also very interesting to hear Broder talk about the fight among Dems back then. The Blue Dogs of today should really study that recent history and see why their approach is hardly admirable or helpful. I hope that Obama’s effort before Congress this week goes a whole lot better than Clinton’s back then.

  9. Posted September 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the note, Oliva. I’ll look for the Broder interview. Hopefully it’s on the net somewhere.

  10. Oliva
    Posted September 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mark–

    CSPAN2 page says you can watch the Broder interview video at the site, but when I clicked on it, it said, “No video found.” Hope it works better for you.

    Encore Booknotes: David Broder, “The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point”

    About the Program
    Mr. Broder talked about Haynes Johnson’s and his recent book, The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point, published by Little, Brown and Company. The book examines in detail how “the system” of congressional partisanship prevented a reform of the U.S. health care system by the Clinton administration in 1993-94. Both Broder and Johnson are Pulitzer Prize winners.


    I noticed an upcoming CSPAN2 show about blogging, so upcoming that it’s at 7 tomorrow morning!

    Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters
    Scott Rosenberg
    Monday, September 7th at 7am (ET)
    Approx. 30 min.

  11. Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Michigan’s John Conyers says it’s time for Obama to channel some LBJ.

One Trackback

  1. By It’s time we demand a public option on September 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    […] passed into law. Well, I’m not ready to give up. Right now, I’m sharing this video of Robert Reich, in which he explains the public option and why it’s so vitally important, with all of my […]

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