“Yes we can!” – Barack Obama, 2008
“I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.” – Barack Obama, 2009
Obama 2008: Change We Can Believe In
Obama 2009: An adjustment to the status quo so Republicans will stop yelling
Barack Obama has shifted from grand promises inspiring hope in fundamental changes to make things better, to pragmatic speeches in which he tries to get us excited about technical adjustments that might save us a little bit of money.
Barack Obama once promised us, the entrepreneurial uninsured and underinsured, that there would be an affordable, government-provided source of health care. Tonight, Obama told us that he’s just going to try to create a new marketplace for getting health insurance, with the hopes that the outstandingly high premiums we have to pay for health insurance as self-employed people might be reduced a little.
Oh, and we’ll get a tax credit. You know, like the ones that are already in place. Tax credits that go to insurance companies, which will motivate them to raise their rates even higher, given that they’ll be able to count on a big government check.
Furthermore, this change won’t even start to be put into place until four years from now. That’s after the next presidential election. How convenient.
In the meantime, there will be a band-aid solution only available for gravely ill low-income Americans. Swell. Should I hope for cancer, and an end to my work, so that I qualify?
2008: Hope that if Barack Obama gets elected, he’ll make strong moves in favor of universal health care.
2009: I hope that I’ll get more ill, so that I can get coverage.
Right now, I’m paying for health care insurance for my children, and paying out of pocket for all the health care expenses for me and my wife. In his speech tonight, President Obama said that people like me “game the system” by making arrangements like this. Me, I don’t think of it as gaming the system. I think of it as doing what I have to do to pay the mortgage, given that Obama’s huge government checks to corrupt corporate executives haven’t brought the economy out of the hole.
But, President Obama is going to make it a requirement that I get health insurance. He says that’s going to help me, requiring me to get health insurance without the government willing to provide an affordable source of health insurance itself. The public option, a compromise from the start, has been edged out to the side of Obama’s proposals, and he made it pretty clear tonight that he’s willing to give it up, just so that he can say that he passed any kind of health insurance legislation at all.
Obama says to progressives now that we shouldn’t insist upon the public option, but without a public option, the same old health care problems exist: Insurance companies drive up the price, and find ways around whatever regulations exist to deny coverage, so that they can make a profit. Without any option that exists outside of this system of making a buck off of people’s illnesses, there’s not much reason to expect that health insurance will be much more affordable than it was before.
So, it looks like I’ll be left without a reasonable expectation of affordable health care, along with a new legal requirement that I pay for it. What is Obama going to do if I can’t pay for health insurance without losing my house? Is he going to throw me into a special prison for the uninsured?
Obama says that he will always listen, and that “My door is always open.” However, those who have paid attention to the politics of health care this year know that’s not true. President Obama excluded proponents of single-payer health care reform from being part of the discussion in his White House from day one.
There was a time when I might have given Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt on his speech tonight, looking for a way to make excuses, interpreting what he said generously, with the presumption that he would be trying to get a progressive measure through by whatever means were at his disposal. At this point, however, Barack Obama has long since lost my trust. I’ve seen him break too many promises and betray too many progressive ideals to presume that he’s got everything in hand and is doing the best he can to create meaningful change.
Yes, Barack Obama has a nice speaking voice. Yes, he has good speechwriters who can begin and end a speech with some nice lines. However, I’m not impressed by that eloquence any more. It’s merely style, and the substance is lacking. Tonight’s speech deepens my concern that Barack Obama is more interested in getting re-elected than he able to lead a movement for genuine change.
President Obama said tonight that he believes that “a broad consensus exists” for this new, double-watered-down, plan to tweak health care in America. I don’t know anyone who has been hungering for the weak measures Obama proposed, but maybe Barack Obama isn’t really thinking about people like me when he speaks of “a broad consensus”. Maybe he’s just speaking of “a broad consensus” among the insurance companies, to whom he will be delivering a whole lot of money if his plan is approved.