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July 2, 2009

Excuse me, but is that change backpedaling?

By Chaz Valenza

At an Organizing for America, Obama's grassroots support campaign, the rank and file object to the Administration's lack of leadership and support for the so-called "public option" in health care reform.

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VFW POST 2636, Neptune, NJ, July 1, 2009, 7:00 PM

Organizing for America, Obama's grassroots campaign, took a stab at New Jersey tonight with countywide "Listening" meetings.  I attended one in my own backyard of Neptune, NJ.  The topic for the night and the moment: health care reform.  It was a good turn out of just under a hundred people, all ages of adults, the majority female and about half & half white and of color. 

At the door we were asked to sign the latest Obama declaration of support, this one for health care reform:

    * Reduce Costs - Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals and families and they must be brought under control

    * Guarantee Choice - Every American must have the freedom to choose their plan and doctor – including the choice of a public insurance option

    * Ensure Affordable Care for All - All Americans must have quality and affordable health care

Since I was early, I had time to digest these statements and my gut reaction wasn't warm and fuzzy.  Cut costs, sure, but even the experts admit they don't know where the saving will come from.  Guarantee you can see the doctor you want, okay, even though I personally believe this is a red herring, what people really want is not to be blocked from getting the care they need when they need it.  "Ensure Affordable Care for All."  WTF?  Where did this double speak, say nothing, promise nothing phrase come from?  Barack Obama is President now, right?!?

Okay, I bite my lip, sign the stupid declaration so they can have my contact information and know I'm on their side, but I feel queasy.  Is the nescient administration backpedaling under the pressure of big pharma and the deny care at will insurance money?  Say, it ain't so, Mr. President. 

Single payer, Medicaid for all, is off the table, we know, but is the public coverage option doing the Michael Jackson moonwalk to oblivion as well?  I'm making too much of this I'm sure.  Come on, Chaz, you're among friends. 

At 7:06 the moderator begins the meeting and explains that organizing behind the President's health care reform agenda, as we are, will make a difference... no ifs, ands, maybes, or buts.  He introduces the Northeast Regional Director of Organizing for American, the woman who actually reports to the White House.  All this take twenty-two minutes and looking around I realize I'm not the only one that's a bit, shall we say, on edge.

The first speaker steals my prepared comments the gist of which are: a) we love Obama, b) we wish you success beyond our wildest dreams, and c) why aren't you saying we must have the public option, the option to choose a government plan over a corporate for profit plan, in any health care reform bill? 

The next speaker seconds that emotion.  And the frustration in the room builds with more people saying that the declaration of support is a wishy-washy load of crap that may not amount to real health care reform, real change.

Holly cow, I'm not alone. 

People go on to mention how it sounds like the public option is being taken off the table, that the lobbyists are controlling the situation, that they want their President to take the bull by the horns and lead, and that they will hold him accountable.

Here were some statements the most at the meeting were not buying:  a) the President doesn't write the legislation. (So what, make a couple calls, isn't that your job?), b) ideas for small time community charity to fill the needs gap, (we can afford this and as has been said, the time is now), and c) The President can't be more specific because there is no legislation as of yet. (See response to section "a" above).

Well, that's what I call a listening meeting.  I hope the listeners, who really seemed more interested in organizing support for a "generic Obama" got the message: you can organize us and we'll support you, but not if you intended to sell us down the river.

Mr. President, as much as I have a crush on you, I hope you're listening.  We expect you to put us, the American people, first.  Here's how you get us to rally around health care reform at this point.  It's a simple, realistic statement of what must be done now.  And, yeah, no pie in the sky single payer system, you've made it clear you're not willing to go that far for whatever reason.  (What is the reason, anyway?  Tell us, just for kicks.) 

State emphatically, "I will not sign any health care reform legislation that does not included the government plan option."



Submitters Bio:

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook's book "Challenger Revealed." He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: www.WordsWillNever.com

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