Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Unhealthy Speech

About President Obama's health reform speech last night, CNN is reporting both the good and the bad news.

The good news:
Sixty-seven percent of people questioned in the survey say the support Obama's health care reform proposals that the president outlined in his address, with 29 percent opposed.

The bad news:
Those figures are almost identical to a poll conducted immediately after Bill Clinton's health care speech before Congress in September, 1993.
Natch, Democrats are saying the speech was a "game changer." That's very doubtful. Even a great speech by a president on a single night -- and this was at the least a very good one -- can't compete with the boatloads of lobbyist cash being shoveled day and night into the pockets of greedy (and well-insured) congressmen and senators. The real game remains where it always has been: in the Hall of Mirrors that is our dysfunctional Congress, so widely corrupted, as it is, by corporate money.

Natch, too, Republicans are trashing Obama's speech. It's what they do these days. Trash. Just ask North Carolina congressman Joe Wilson.

"You lie!" he shouted at the president from the floor when Obama pointed out illegal immigrants would not be covered by any health reform bill pending in Congress. Anyone who has been paying attention knows Wilson is flat wrong. So wrong that even Time Magazine was roused to point out that Wilson was not only rude, he's the liar:
The President's seemingly simple statement, that "the reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally," is not hard to check. In the Senate Finance Committee working framework for a health plan, which Obama's speech seemed most to mimic, there is the line: "No illegal immigrants will benefit from the health care tax credits." Similarly, the major health care reform bill to pass out of committee in the House, H.R. 3200, contains a Section 246, which is called, "NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS."
But Republicans aren't the only ones who weren't impressed by the speech. Popular blogger and attorney "fflambeau" has a detailed, line-by-line critique of Obama's speech from a rigidly liberal perspective. His central disagreement is that what Obama has described isn't "health reform," it's "insurance reform."

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) goes further. Love him or loathe him, what Kucinich has to say is always well-informed, thought-provoking, and never... never... calibrated to please corporate campaign contributors and lobbyists.

With the compromises being forced by conservative Blue Dog Democrats as well as Republicans, Kucinich says:
This system is a bailout for insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. * * * There might be some short term benefit when it starts, but inevitably you're looking at a decline here. And, we'll be here again. Mark my words. Y'know, a year or two after this program starts we'll be back at the problem where people are having trouble paying through their health insurance; they're having trouble with their co-pays and deductibles.

The system that we have now is wrong. There's an underlying fault with this for-profit system. And as long as we have this system that is now getting fed more money and profits will be further fueled, we're looking at an inevitable demise of the public interest.
Nevertheless, when asked if he could envision voting against a bill of the sort Obama outlined, the normally candid and forthright congressman finessed:
As we learned from a few months ago, there's no telling what [kind of bill] is going to come to us. I'm not very optimistic at this point, based on what I heard tonight. I'm, y'know... and I'm not saying 'It's my way or the highway.' Yes, I'm the co-author of the bill for single-payer. And it would be good if we made progress in the direction of trying, trying to help people survive in this economy. I think a bill that gives broad subsidies to insurance and pharmaceutical interests is a problem.
Some pundits are suggesting that Wilson's outburst, more than anything Obama said, may be the glue that will hold the disparate Democratic coalition of liberals and Blue Dogs together long enough to pass meaningful reform with a public option. We're skeptical about that. But, how delicious it would be if, in the end, the nation has an insolent, misinformed, right-wing congressman from South Carolina to thank for achieving, at long last, "Medicare for all."

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