Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The 9/9/9 Speech

First off: people watched it. 2500 comments on Fark, the top two slots at Reddit (this and this -- Reddit is pretty liberal, though, in addition to its Ron Paul contingent), headlines in every respectable newspaper, and twenty-three THOUSAND comments at the Huffington Post, plus another five thousand in the sub-stories about Joe Wilson, etc. Now, Internet fancyparties aren't really an indication of what the rest of America is doing or thinking, but interest online is pretty intense. I didn't hear too many televisions through my thin thin Los Angeles walls -- but the speech played pretty early here, and most people likely weren't home from work yet.

From the perspective of someone who believes very much that a public option for health insurance is the best way to limit costs and provide insurance for those who don't have it, the speech was a punt. Congress will decide -- the President pointed out only that legislation needs to pass, that it's Congress's job, and that too much time has been wasted bickering. He remains, it seems, a personal supporter of the public option (much has been made of the text of his recommendation at the whitehouse website) but seems to have no compunctions about triggers, co-ops, or any other way Congress thinks might work to cost-effectively insure Americans. His "door is open" -- his priority is clearly to get effective legislation in place, and to do it quickly. This is hard to hear for me, a little -- because there's a lot of doubt as to whether a public option has enough votes to pass in the Senate, and other policies might have a better chance -- but I, for one, was never expecting him to release some sort of magic fungus that would digest and then replace senators who've been bought off by the insurance industry, mimicking their shapes long enough to pass a strong public option. I wasn't expecting that at all. It might have occurred to me as a nonzero possibility, but I wasn't expecting it. This is okay. I have always suspected that the best policies are those that the people dictate to the government, rather than the other way around: I'll continue dictating, and I invite you to do the same.

As an American, though, and someone who's sat through interminable debates (I got called a fascist AGAIN today -- wassup, guys? Wass! Up!) that use divisive language, code, and 20th-century cliches in the place of substantive discussion of policy, I was really relieved that the President did his best to insist on change without the assumption that he or his party was the sole determinant of that change. He seemed to understand that there is a significant part of the nation that has their own ideas about how to best bring about reform, and that Congressional Republicans and Blue Dogs represent a lot of those people. At heart, he really is a negotiator, and regardless of the right's fears about him, he seems to be pulling for a majority solution. I'm sorry if we lose the public option -- and I fully intend to keep advocating for it as a fiscally responsible, morally preferable, centrist policy -- but it's a small price to pay for a real reform that we feel like the whole nation weighed in on. I poked around the conservative rageblogs a little bit this evening, and their response was muted: a lot of talk about tax-and-spend, a lot of talk about number-fudging with regards to uninsurance rates and cost overruns. Not a lot of "treason" or "Communism". That seems like an improvement, to me, and well worth some negotiations with regards to reform.

I know that a GOP representative from Louisiana heckled the President during his speech -- he's since apologized, probably realizing that it wasn't that sort of speech and that we're no longer having that kind of argument.

, I say if, the reform Congress produces ends up representing a real and positive change. The most valuable plan plank for the insurance companies -- an insurance mandate, with fines for Americans who don't get insured -- seems to have gained wide acceptance in Congress, but cost limiting measures and social assurances for the unemployed and underemployed have not. Luckily, someone's been jamming up the phone lines at the Congressional switchboards (1-877-264-HCAN), and maybe they should just stay jammed until Congress gets the idea.

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