Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's Healthcare Speech

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Listening to Obama's healthcare speech last night is akin to my first listen of the Blueprint 3: obviously it was good because of its author, but it lacked much-needed characteristics. Any speech Obama makes will be good, the man is just a talented orator. The problem with his speech last night is that it was a lot more of the same promises about the healthcare bill, with way too much flexibility on the public option.

I don't think there is a rational American today who would say that healthcare reform is not needed. If you were asked to design a healthcare system for a wealthy, developed nation and this was your model you would be laughed at and ridiculed. If it were a project for school you would receive an F (and rightly so). There is no doubt that healthcare reform is needed, it's just a matter of how we go about it.

It struck me that Obama worried about shaking things up too much. He said (at 14:00) that a single-payer system (or the ill-advised alternative of an entirely free-market system) would be too radical a change. Too radical a change? This is a man we elected to shake things up in Washington, to get things done. Now is not the time to worry about hurting the establishments' (read: healthcare industry's) feelings. If we allow these entrenched interests to dictate the options on the table, the American people lose.

One thing I did like is that Obama showed some passion and fire (albeit not often in the speech). At 16:30 when Obama talks about death panels and all that other nonsense, he sounds fiery and angry. Where has this Obama been? Where is the outrage over the deceptiveness, the malicious and purposeful confusing nature of the debate meant to derail true reform? It's time to get angry, because the bipartisanship vessel has sailed.

But in case you thought the USS Bipartisanship was still in port (let's see how long I can go with this metaphor), just skip ahead to around 27:00. When Obama discusses coverage of illegal immigrants under the current bill, you can hear some jeers coming from the Republican side of the room. But one special Representative waited until things had died down to make his mark on the speech. Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) yelled quite loudly, "You lie!" during a quiet moment in the speech. Since then he has been eviscerated by both Democrats and Republicans for being a national embarrassment (much like his other South Carolina Republicans). And these are the people Obama is supposed to work with? His outburst was the final horn of the ship declaring "Bon Voyage!"

Finally, at 30:00 Obama begins to discuss a not-for-profit option (though not necessarily a "public" option). While I would argue that insuring peoples' health should focus on the peoples' health and not profit margins and bottom lines, this is a good idea. The problem is Obama needs to be more firm on this. We saw what happened with the banks and the bailout: without severe regulation these for-profit companies will do anything to make a buck, including going back to their old ways. Do you honestly think private insurers are any different? Without a legitimate public option, healthcare reform is next to impossible. It's not about the people with these large corporations; it's about money.

All in all, Obama needs to get firm on healthcare reform. Get the votes you need within your own party, forget about those spewing venom like "death panels" and shouting like spoiled brats during a presidential speech. It's clear that folks in Congress have no intention of looking at the other side, never mind reaching across the aisle to come to a legitimate consensus. I hope Obama keeps his promise about calling people out who try to distort the bill for political gain, and I hope he also takes a firm stance on a strong not-for-profit option for healthcare. Otherwise, what's the point? Peace.


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