Obama will endorse public option in Congressional speech

Posted on September 9, 2009

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In the much-anticipated health care speech before Congress on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal says that President Barack Obama will push for the government-run public option. You can expect the usual talking points about “choice and competition” and how a federal insurance plan will somehow provide both. Also expect to hear for more calls to dial down the “rhetoric” and get down to business. Translate that as: Stop criticizing the plan and get in line, already. Never mind all the pro-legislation rhetoric and anti-opposition rhetotic spewed the other way. I guess this is another instance where dissent isn’t patriotic anymore, eh, libs?

Details are still scanty on a compromise worked out in the Senate with Sens. Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe heavily involved in the bargaining. Much trumpeted is the so-called “trigger” which would make the public option a reality if the private health insurers don’t meet some arbitrary goalpost set by Congress. With fines for the uninsured and increasing fees for the insurers, you can almost bet that the deck is stacked against a positive appraisal of the private industry whenever the trigger is supposed to take effect. Indeed, health industry lobbyist Karen Ignagni said regarding the new fees, “Our members are talking about that being at odds with the goal of cost containment.”

You’re seeing now the entire point of health care reform. It’s not about cost containment – it’s about squeezing the “evil” private insurers out of business so a single-payer system can be the default. I take Rep. Barney Frank at his word when he says the public option is the best way to get to a single-payer system, and this is the mechanism – tax and fine private insurers to death until there’s no one left but the benevolent government to take care of your every medical need.

Rep. Mike Ross, chair of the Blue Dog Democrats, has pledged to oppose the bill if a public option is included. On the other hand, a substantial portion of liberal Democrats have promised to vote against the bill if a public option is not included. It leaves Obama with playing a partisan and ideological hand that sees him endorsing the public option to endear his base, but potentially alienate moderates and independents.

One need only look at the continuing horror stories coming out of the UK and the National Health Service to realize that a public option, or single payer, or whatever term is given to taxpayer-funded and government-run health insurance is simply not the answer. Obama had a chance to forge a moderate path, but with an endorsement of a public option, he casts himself out of the role of a centrist and into one of a liberal ideologue. The left may rejoice, but you can bet a lot of moderates and independents aren’t going to be happy over this decision.

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Posted in: News, Politics