Flickr photo by NESRI
In a primetime speech that had been highly anticipated, Obama made it clear that it was time to stop the bickering and get the job done. He addressed some of the lies and myths Republicans had been spreading and he explained why he would like to not simply scrap the for-profit health care system that had created so many of America's problems.
Obama concluded his speech by describing to Congress what the last days of Ted Kennedy's life had been. He read a part of Kennedy's letter that Kennedy had wanted delivered upon his death and proceeded to use Kennedy to compel Congress and Americans skeptical of reform that reform could contribute to the greater good of society.
The speech put forth a good argument for moving reform forward in Congress, but it was also a blunt reminder to those who think health care should be a human right and not a privilege that Obama has no problem with protecting the interests of private health insurance companies.
Americans were constantly referred to as consumers who would appreciate "choice" and "competition." He explained how a "market exchange" would be setup and it would keep prices down (hopefully). But, what if Americans no longer want health care to be something they have to go shopping for?
What if Americans doubt the capacity of government to change the nature of the beast?
What if they want to take the market out of market-based health care due to what they know about the history of health maintenance organizations and how they will always be interested in what's profitable and not what's cost-effective?
Obama may not think he is intentionally making it difficult for Democrats and progressives to maintain momentum in the fight for health care reform, but some Americans disagree with the fact that much of the proposal stops short of what the fierce urgency of now should compel Americans to work toward.
It also doesn't help that, in his naÃ¯ve quest to create a Washington that is post-partisan, he is constantly making it seem like progressive and Republican camps share equal responsibility for the vitriolic debate the public witnessed over the summer.
Republicans have been allowed to argue their lies and myths about death panels and creeping socialism that will result from reform while progressives have had hardly an opportunity to explain why a single-payer health care system or why a society where health care is a human right might be better than the society and system of health care America has now.
Regrettably, Obama did something last night that will only embolden Republicans especially Republicans like Boustany who wish to ensure Americans fear Obama is planning a government takeover of health care. Obama chose to use numbers that the far right had been using instead of U.S. Census numbers for quite some time.
Typically, Obama had in speeches told the public that 47 million Americans were uninsured. Despite this being the case since 2005, Obama used a figure from the Kaiser Family Foundation and said in his speech that 30 million Americans are uninsured.
Prominent conservative columnist and author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President--and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time wrote in a blog post:
In his speech tonight, the president introduced a new number in the health care debate. Remember all those statements from Democrats, including Barack Obama himself, that 47 million Americans are without health insurance? That's no longer the operative number. "There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage," the president said in tonight's speech.
But on August 10, at a town hall meeting, Obama referred to the "46, 47 million people without health insurance in our country"" And on July 23, he said, "This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don't have any health insurance at all""