As public debate on health care continues, it's apparent that not just the 47 million uninsured in this country stand to lose big. The American public is squandering an opportunity to advance the conversation surrounding health care reform, while political officials exploit our collective anxiety.
Between the misinformation spread by conservative interest groups and the unapologetic fearmongering by Republican lawmakers, our nation's health care debate is being hijacked for political gain.
After weeks of emotionally charged town halls, where rumors of death panels and government access to bank accounts have dominated, it's apparent that not just the 47 million uninsured in this country stand to lose big. The American public is squandering an opportunity to advance the conversation surrounding health care reform, while political officials exploit our collective anxiety.
The hype and hysteria of the last several weeks are continuing to escalate. It's gotten so bad that simply using the word "reform" these days is enough to get you labeled a socialist. But the hard truth is that our health care system is no longer sustainable. This year, health care costs are on track to outpace the GDP. Yet, the American public refuses to address what isn't working--or the fact that a government option might be the only viable one for millions of people--out of some misguided sense of fear. And that fear is causing us to act like self-absorbed adolescents.
The heckling and the tantrums have to give way to level heads so we can start conducting business like grown-ups to secure our country's future. President Obama has to step up, too. While I admire him for wanting to take the high road and remain above the fray and the rumors, hes much more effective when he dispels the blather and sets the tone of the conversation.
He's been given another chance to do so following information released last week by the Congressional Budget Office. In a letter to members of Congress, the head of the CBO, Douglas Elmendorf, contradicted claims by the Obama administration that preventive care would help curb skyrocketing health care costs. Instead, Elmendorf reported that preventive care costs more money than it actually saves.
This is the time for the president to shape the discourse by, say, pointing to experts from the Centers for Disease Control who are concerned about the increasing number of HIV cases. Prior to 1992, the number of people contracting the disease had started to decline. Most HIV advocates cite preventive care as the crucial missing component. The president might also mention the 1.4 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year, many in the critical later stages when the disease has already spread. In these cases, preventive care, including targeting at-risk populations and developing early screening methods, would undoubtedly be cheaper than the costs of long-term care.
Furthermore, preventive care is about more than just identifying who may develop cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure. It's about overall wellness, diet and nutrition, and exercise. It's about Americans taking responsibility for their health and deciding to become their own advocates. In the long-run, that saves everyone money. This is the message the president should be promoting to bolster support for his plan.
As we gear up for whats likely to be an exhaustive dialogue in the months ahead, well see whether President Obama can get the nation back on track or whether his government option will fall by the wayside. In the meantime, I'm hoping the angry protesters will take a chill pill and decide to pull up a seat at the grown-up table.
Nevermind Republicans. The number of Democrats and independents who believe the "death panels" lie suggests depressing things about our democracy.
Polls are coming at us fast and furious these days. But two stood out to me this week as proving, once again, all you have to do to make a lie into the truth is repeat it loud enough and often enough.
First, the Pew Research Center for People & the Press’ weekly survey of news watchers finds 30 percent of those polled still believe the “death panels” nonsense, and another 20 percent don’t know if it’s true. Yeah, that’s half. Sure, many of these folks are Republicans and Fox News viewers—47 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Fox watchers said the proposed reforms would create “government organizations that will make decisions about who will and will not receive health services when they are critically ill.” But what’s more striking is how many Democrats, independents and viewers of every other news channel believe it, too.
Democrats—20 percent say it’s true; 16 percent don’t know
Independents—28 percent say it’s true; 21 percent don’t know
MSNBC viewers—27 percent say it’s true; 19 percent don’t know
CNN views—26 percent say it’s true; 20 percent don’t know
Network news viewers—25 percent say it’s true; 23 percent don’t know
WTF?! Those are depressing numbers, not just for the health care debate, but for the prospect a functioning democracy in general.
Second, Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the blur between truth and lie has left seniors in particular confused. One of the ironies of this debate is that seniors, who report overwhelming support for Medicare, nonetheless are most likely to distrust government involvement in the broader market. This dissonance may be due to the fact that seniors just don’t know what to make of the whole discussion. In Kaiser’s survey, 62 percent of people over the age of 65 said they felt “confused” about the plans being debated, compared to 43 percent of people under 65.
What’s all this add up to? The alliance of rightwing media, corporate lobbyists and the Republican Party has succeeded in making an informed, intelligent discussion about health care in America impossible.
Conservatives will find a way to raise hell about the first black first family living lavish on The Vineyard with Secret Service in tow.
Not everyone’s going to be happy to see the first black first family tossing the Frisbee around next week. In the last month, the president’s critics, particularly on the right, have, in their customarily hypocritical, player-hating fashion, been holding him to a higher standard than past presidents: No other president would be expected to cheerfully put up with armed dissenters at their events. No other president would be expected to turn over a birth certificate—after he had already turned over a birth certificate. No other president would be denied a little R&R after six grueling months. But the vacation backlash is already starting.
Earlier this week, I suggested that Obama might want to consider a “staycation,” because: "...Bush vacationed more than he worked, but he was a legacy hire and a trust-fund baby, and everyone understood he was just being himself. Obama won’t get the same leeway when he hits The Vineyard with his Amazon Kindle. By the time you can say, “chill, mark,” the far right will have tagged the president as a Chablis-sipping nobleman living it up on Joe Six Pack’s dime." Sure enough, here comes “Conservatives for Patients’ Rights” with the first shot across the bow:
So, after two years of campaigning, six months on the job, and four town halls in the last week alone, Obama can’t take the kids to the beach before school starts? Do they not remember this?:
When Obama’s on vacation next week, look for progressives—who should be happy that black people can attain the “good life” like anyone else—to be unhappy that he’s taken his foot off the gas on health care reform. Conservatives, who should be happy that he’s taken his foot off the gas on health care reform for a few days, will find a way to raise hell because they can’t reconcile the images of the first black first family living lavish on The Vineyard with Secret Service in tow.
Perhaps more disturbing, though, is that no one in the White House seems to have anticipated this, because there was an opportunity to turn this situation to Obama’s advantage. He could have pulled a Don Draper, sent the wife and kids to the beach, ordered some takeout, spent the weekend huddled with his team in the Oval, and thrown the old George W. “We’re workin’ hard” routine on folks. Then they could have played the shame card with Congressmen and Senators spending August back home in their districts while health care goes unlegislated. The Obama team is used to generating cozy photo ops that help the president’s regular guy image, but this time around won’t be one of them. It's going to look great to those who are already admire the first family. The "swing" (read: working-class white) voters that they need to reach/hang onto won't be impressed. It’s too bad that there’s a double standard, but there is. Mr. President, it’s not too late for a “staycation.”
Halfway through the make or break congressional recess, team Obama has given liberals (and 60 House Democrats) something to shout about. Is rejecting the public option a triple-bank-shot negotiating tactic or a losing proposition?
On the heels of Jack White's breast-beating cry for Barack Obama to stop punking out on health care reform, it's worth reposting "The Daily Show"'s equally impassioned cry for Obama to do the same:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
It's understandable that progressive-minded Americans might want the president to show a little Bush-era salesmanship, and start acting like the party that won a sweeping electoral mandate in 2008—but what if the Obama White House is two steps ahead? That is, what if the public option head fake (and there's a good case to be made that the administration didn't mean for the story of the week to be the death of the one mechanism that would keep greedy insurers honest) was actually a ploy to rally what had been a dispirited progressive base?
We've seen gun-toting conservatives apply loud and sustained pressure on both Obama and on Congressional representatives, but, all August, few rifle-strapped Democrats were mounting their own defense of Obama's plan to bring affordable health care to every man woman and child in the United States. In other words: It's always easier to be against something rather than for something.
Now, halfway through the make or break congressional recess, team Obama has given liberals (and, if reports are to be believed, 60 House Democrats) something to shout about. Noam Scheiber shares his wisdom on what could be a White House triple-bank-shot strategy:
The benefits arise both in the broader national debate and in the congressional negotiations. In the national debate, Obama now looks like the centrist voice of reason instead of an over-ambitious lefty (I'm caricaturing, of course, in the spirit of the cable-news coverage). Inside Congress, Obama may not get a public option, but if he doesn't, he was never going to get it. And now he can extract a ton of concessions in return, because he can point to a left-wing of his party that's ready to eat him alive for failing to deliver on it (whereas that left-wing outrage was largely hypothetical before now). That kind of leverage is extremely helpful.
Indeed. And between Jon Stewart and Jack issuing a full-throated “Knee-grow, puh-leeeze!” the debate may yet take a progressive turn.
No, that's not a flashback to 1993: Hillary Clinton, fresh off a ten day trip to sub-Saharan Africa, and former president Bill Clinton are meeting separately with president Barack Obama to discuss foreign affairs.
No, that's not a flashback to 1993: Hillary Clinton, current Secretary of State and former president Bill Clinton are meeting separately with president Barack Obama to discuss foreign affairs. Hillary, fresh off a female-focused ten day trip to sub-Saharan Africa, is keeping her standard weekly appointment at the White House, while her husband will have a special session with Obama and his senior staff, to share the gritty details of his 20-hour rescue mission to North Korea earlier in the month.
After talking about the current state of affairs in seven African countries, it's not clear if Hillary joined in the later afternoon meeting with Obama and her husband in the White House Situation Room. She may not feel the need—Bill, who as an ex-president is entitled to the same security updates as the sitting president, has no doubt already briefed theSecretary of State on his harrowing excursion to meet the reclusive and increasingly dangerous Kim Jong-Il. But after Obama catches up with the program north of the DMZ, there's still one subject that would be on all three minds: health care reform.
While both Clintons have become experts in geostrategy since leaving 1600 Pennsylvania, both Bill and Hillary are likely bursting with advice on the national debate over how to solve the problem of skyrocketing premiums, inefficient care and a nation's worth of uninsured. Obama faces a tense moment—perhaps a turning point—on what was once the Clintons' undisputed turf. He would likely relish the guidance of these seasoned hands, still "two for the price of one"—this time on the pressing issues that face America, inside its borders and out.
And while the relationship has appeared tenuous in the past, it's certainly not the first time that Obama has taken a page from Bill: Just this week, he announced that the infamous Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminates against gay Americans, should be repealed:
in an unusual turn, Obama issued a statement Monday affirming that he would continue to seek repeal of the law, which has been upheld by federal judges in Florida and Washington state. The president said that he would "examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) couples under existing law."
This stand came days after Clinton publicly expressed regret for both his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy, and signing DOMA into law in 1996. The DOMA example, if anything, is a big reminder that this ain't the 1990s, and that the political climate in Washington is more open to progressive reform—on health care and much more—than even Obama realizes.
UPDATE: The White House releases this statement about Bill's meeting--which Hillary didn't join:
President Obama today met in the Situation Room with former President Clinton for nearly forty minutes to thank him in person for undertaking the humanitarian mission to secure the release of two American citizens who had been detained by North Korea for over four months. Former President Clinton described the process, including a meeting with Kim Jong-il, that culminated in the North Korean leadership granting "special amnesty" to the two journalists and permitting them to return to the United States. President Obama said he was gratified that the Americans had been safely reunited with their families. After the meeting, President Obama invited President Clinton to the Oval Office to continue their conversation for another half hour.
No word on what was discussed.