Monday, August 3, 2009

Health Care Terrorists

The political battle for health care reform is raging at levels beyond anything I've seen in my 25 years in the business. Developments over the last couple of days ought to serve as a powerful wake-up call to proponents.

Case in point: It's now being reported that some conservative "think tanks" -- funded by lobbyists and corporate interests -- are orchestrating a nationwide effort to mobilize protesters to disrupt Congressional Town Hall meetings during the August recess.

First,, a respected news source for national politics, reported that crowds of angry, disruptive and threatening protesters are turning town hall meetings all across the nation into a circus. "Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting," Alex Isenstadt wrote, "the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress."

Then, the Progressive States Network released a copy of an e-mail that has been circulating among health care reform opponents describing, in step-by-step detail, how political terrorists "should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress." Among the best practices recommended in the memo are to "spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half (of the room)," "yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early," and "the goal is to rattle (the Congressman)..."

The Progressive States Network did some digging into these think tanks, and their funding sources, and concluded that "the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests..."

And it's happening right here in our back yard.

WFSE members who receive the Federation Hotline knew that Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) recently held a town hall meeting on health care reform. I wasn't able to attend in person, but an e-mail I received from someone who did has taken on new significance. The following are excerpts from an eyewitness report distributed among the members of the Healthy Washington Coalition:

"I attended Congressman Smith's health care town meeting this past Saturday, and it was a horrifying experience. To begin the meeting, Cong. Smith gave a pretty rational and informative presentation about the state of the health care reform process. When he concluded that this was an issue too important to rush, thus he would not support the President's efforts to pass legislation before the August recess, the room erupted in applause...

Then Cong. Smith asked for comments, and the comments began. The first question: would this new plan include tax payer support for abortion? The next question, from one of the young fellas sitting in front of me: on page ... of the House bill, (reading from a copy he had obtained from the internet) it says plainly that if an individual elects the public insurance option, he can never ever have private insurance again. Then many people in the room started to vocalize and clap, drowning out Cong. Smith's response, and shouting arguments to him.

He asked for people to line up at the microphones for comments. Many people did line up... They spoke of their distrust of the government; the post office, social security, etc; they did not want their health care in the hands of bureaucrats. Several people said in a very angry tone of voice, I just want you (Cong. Smith) to be the first to take this new public insurance, and see how YOU like it. At this, the people in the room jeered, some shook their fists, some said angrily Yeah!

When Cong Smith then took a question from an elderly person sitting up front, who had not lined up at the microphone, a young man shouted loudly that she should wait her turn, why did HE have to stand up if she didn't... Much supportive vocalization from the seated people. More comments from the next person at the microphone: People who are uninsured now can afford to buy insurance, they just don't. Many people qualify for medicaid and they just don't bother. The statistics of infant mortality (the US being number 42 or so in industrialized countries) are false...

I wanted to describe my experience of this town meeting so you all would know that people who I believe are the lunatic fringe of opposition to health care reform are out-organizing us..."

At the time, I thought it was unfortunate that proponents were outmobilized at Cong. Smith's town hall meeting. Now I learn it's all part of a cynical ploy engineered by people wearing $5,000 suits. Is this what political discourse has come to in our nation? Barry Goldwater must be rolling over in his grave

The fact is an overwhelming majority of WFSE members support the President's efforts to reform our nation's health care system, but our voices are being drowned out by a handful of well-heeled interests and some noisy extremists.

We've got to step up our game. If we want to see health care reform happen, we're going to have to earn it. -- Dennis


jabunch7 said...

The rest of us to need to organize before these crazies who listen to corporations and do their deeds cause us and our children and grandchildren to lose and opportunity to have healthcare. I work as an LPN for a healthcare organization and I meet people everyday who are hanging on by a thread and some who are close to loosing their healthcare because they can no longer afford it. These ignorant people have got to be in the minority and are probably on programs that our taxes pay for, medicare and mediaid.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, why is it that it's wrong when conservatives show up to town hall meetings and give their congressmen/women a piece of their mind, yet it's perfectly fine for union members to rally for higher wages and health-care benefits paid for by taxpayers?

Get real! Both sides are playing in this game, and your side certainly doesn't have any more of the high ground than the other side.

The moment you talk about the lobbyists behind the anti-government health-care comments is the moment you open yourself up to the same type of criticisms. You conveniently fail to mention the money, power, lobbying, and influence of organized labor.

The bigger government-run health-care is, the more government (unionized) workers will be needed to run it. AFSCME and other unions stand to benefit greatly by forcing more money out of government workers -- and thus the taxpayers.

If you really want to talk about health care, debate it on the merits. Don't try to hide behind conspiracy theories of conservative think tanks and high-powered lobbyists. Apparently conservatives aren't the only ones anymore who see black helicopters everywhere.

Chris said...

Oh please, you won't find union members shouting down their congressional representatives and trying to filibuster town hall meetings.

This is coordinated political sabotage. I'm tired of hearing the admonishments of "civility" when the right wing chooses to be anything but civil.

jabunch7 said...

When Bush had "town hall meetings" protesters were kept miles away and if some did slip thru they there were escorted out, some in handcuffs. Maybe what we need at these town hall meetings so that our Congressional Representatives can present the healthcare information are Union members, like the Long Shoreman or the Teamsters, to make sure that the so called "protesters" let our representatives from Congress talk. Hey what's wrong with higher wages for the American workers when Ceo's of Insurance companies are making millions and in some cases billions of dollars a year to deny people their healthcare benefits.
Want to know who's funding these "Tea Baggers" it's a conservative political action committee called Freedom Works and who funds them it the Koch Industries, a private energy corporation.
Do you want to know what these deathcare executives are making and why healthcare is costing so much look at the Managed Care

Oh please the rest of us want healthcare reform before we all fall victum to these greedy deathcare executives who are spending more than a million dollars a day to get people like tiresias and the other brain dead "tea baggers" to do their deeds.

Anonymous said...

And the left wing is civil? Remember Saul Alinsky, the radical leftist reformer who encouraged other liberals to attack people rather than institutions? Don't say that the right wing is out of line and that the left wing is perfectly fine. It's just not historically true.

The bottom line is, what gives you the right to steal someone else's money to pay for your health care? And why do people even feel entitled to health care? I don't want government telling me what to eat, where to go to the doctor, what surgeries I can have, or how long they will allow me to live.

The best solution is to get all the bureaucrats and insurance execs out of the health care business. Return real free-market competition to the arena. Prices will fall because of real competition.

Frankly, I'm glad people are finally speaking up. Our elected officials need to hear the message loud and clear that people are pissed off at federal overspending and the prospect of socialist programs and bloated European-style government.

Chris said...

What bloated European health care system are you referring to?

The United States spends 15% of its GDP on health care. We're headed for 20% by 2017. No European country even comes remotely close.

Are you referring to France? They spend 10% of their GDP on health care for far better health outcomes (number one in the world) then the United States (we're number 37). The risk pools are expanded to cover everyone.

All of the European systems have access to supplemental insurance, so the private system still exists. By spending a little bit to cover everyone, health care costs go down. All of this comparative information is actually available at the libertarian Cato Institute's web site.

Why is this so hard for the Tea Baggers to understand? Do you ever extend out of your Fox News comfort zone?

Dennis said...

Tiresias is avoiding the main argument of my post -- I presume intentionally so.

I have no problem with debate, dissent, or protest. What I do object to is boorish, bullying, un-American tactics. No union has encouraged its members to act like a bunch of spoiled children, nor has any patriotic conservative.

The reason these "think tanks" are mobilizing extremists and encouraging them to behave like animals is because they realize they are in a small minority. They don't have any other tools in their toolbox.

If the majority makes themselves heard -- in a respectful and honorable manner -- we will prevail.

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Richard C. Lambert said...

Case in point: It's now being reported that some conservative "think tanks" -- funded by lobbyists and corporate interests -- are orchestrating a nationwide effort to mobilize protesters to disrupt Congressional Town Hall meetings during the August recess. Home Health Agencies