September 09, 2009

Obama Addresses Congress

So, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress regarding healthcare reform. How'd he do? Vote in the poll and tell us your thoughts in the comments here!


sarah said...

I have to be honest. I watched empire record instead, with the hope that one of you would blog about it & tell me what happened.

Dan said...

Leaving aside my disappointment at the explicit abandonment of a single-payer system, I thought it was decent. As always he's an excellent public speaker, but even I was skeptical when he said his proposed reforms wouldn't add to the deficit.

Also, I have to rewatch his bit about Tort reform or read the transcript to get a better idea what he was suggesting.

MosBen said...

What annoys me about tort reform is that it's just not that big of a problem. Tort costs end up amounting to a very small amount relative to total healthcare spending and jurisdictions where they're enacted tort reforms (Texas) have seen a drop in tort litigation but not an accompanying drop in malpractice costs, the number of tests used by the medical system, or the overall cost in the medical system.

Conservatives have latched onto this idea when it has very little relation to the real problems in our system.

Back to Obama though, I thought it was great. Was it the pro-single payer speech I would be jumping with joy to hear? No, but single payer just wasn't in the cards at this time no matter how much I wished it was. The reason I thought it was great was that President Obama did a good job of smacking down the idiocy that's been running rampant in the healthcare debate this summer. Of course, the idiots are still out there and spouting dumb things, but he called them out and called them liars. I'll take that home as a win.

The one major disappointment to me was the line about him not being the first president to try to reform healthcare but planning to be the last. I really hoped that when a bill is signed, and I have every confidence that *some* bill will be signed, the president could use it as a teaching moment. He could say, "Look, there is some great stuff in this bill and it's going to make millions of lives better. At end of the day though, no one bill ever completely fixes any problem, and healthcare is a particularly big problem. There are things this bill doesn't fix, and there are probably going to be things in this bill that we'll have to revisit and fine tune once the rubber hits the road. The important thing today is that a big part of the government's job is to get past the short term political fight and manage to pass laws for the benefit of the American people. I wish more Republicans had participated in this process and voted for this bill, but we're still here today showing people that the government can actually do things to make their lives better."

Unknown said...

Tactically, I think it was a mistake to take single-payer off the table right from the start. We still spent the entire month of August knocking down Republican lies about single-payer systems. If the Republicans are going to pretend your plan is single-payer and attack it on that basis anyway, then there's no downside. At the very least, it's good bargaining strategy. Lead with what you want and compromise down to what you can get.

But that's water under the bridge at this point. I didn't watch the speech, but it certainly seems to have shifted the debate in a very positive direction. I'm more optimistic about reform now than I have been in a long time, but all this talk of putting a "trigger" on the public option is worrying. I have zero confidence that Congress would put in conditions with real teeth and then, over a period of several years, actually make them stick. I think a trigger is just a sneaky way of not doing a public option at all.

And yeah, tort reform is bogus. Giving the states the flexibility to experiment with the idea seems fine on paper, unless you happen to be one of the injured plaintiffs who gets screwed. One trend that we've been seeing in this country for a long time now, though it's rarely commented upon, is Congress passing laws to protect corporate interests from litigation. And it's only going to get worse when the Supreme Court opens the floodgates on corporate campaign contributions.

But I'm still disappointed by the lack of vision among the Democrats. If you look at stuff like Social Security and Medicare, you can see that once these controversial government plans get implemented, they never go away. Republicans know this, which is why they fight tooth and claw. Democrats need to figure this out. Other than the Violence Against Women Act, which the Rehnquist Court gutted, we haven't had any serious progressive legislation in this country since the Nixon Administration (Clean Water and Air Acts). Democrats can change that, but only if they really put it all on the line and fight for a real public option.

"This is more important than re-election." J. Bartlet, "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet".

Word verification: magicat - self-explanatory.