Quote of the Day

‘No more government, the free market can do it better’

Chanted by a crowd at Jim Himes’ town hall in Greenwich. According to this report the crowd was largely composed of Wall Street traders and their wives.

In September 2008 Wall Street traders, with the assistance of a government that looked the other way, played a significant role in the collapse of the American economy. In the aftermath, many firms received government assistance to keep them from going under. I guess a year is a long time.

It’s also worth noting that the free market thus far has left millions without health insurance.

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8 responses to “Quote of the Day

  1. In September 2008 Wall Street traders, with the assistance of a government that looked the other way, played a significant role in the collapse of the American economy. I guess a year is a long time.

    The government did a lot to help the crisis by what it did. First, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, with their implied government guarantees, allowed many more mortgages to be underwritten than normally would. Republicans and Democrats both pushed much more home ownership than was sustainable through their policies. They had different reasons for doing it, but they both pushed the policies. Republicans did it because, in short, they thought that if the “ownership society” took route, the people in the houses would tend to vote more Republican, because before the housing boom, homeowners were more likely to vote Republican than renters. Democrats were concerned about fairness and making sure everyone could have their own home. Neither side asked if this was something that could be afforded.

    It wasn’t all government, but without Freddie, Fannie and various regulations and policies to force or strongly incentivize banks to make more loans, the financial crisis would be much less.

    The people who thought this was all unsustainable were the free market economists. Go back and look at the Youtube videos of Peter Schiff making his predictions. Yet he’s very free market.

    As far as healthcare is concerned, both sides seem to think that we have a free market in healthcare now. We don’t really. A large portion of healthcare costs are paid for by some department of the government. It might be more free market than other countries, but it’s not a free market the way other products or services in the US are.

    There’s always going to be a lot of govt. involvement in healthcare, so it doesn’t make much sense to be doing the free market chanting. I’m not a big chanting guy for much of anything, but that aside, the Republicans really ought to push their reforms that will help provide more choice and reduce costs (malpractice reform, for instance).

  2. I think that if you look at a lot of the rallies, there’s a lot of ignorance about what’s actually being proposed. More “death panels” nonsense, for instance.

    Malpractice reform is a good idea, but I don’t think it’s a cure-all. It should go hand in hand with other reforms that are out there.

  3. I agree that there is plenty of nonsense in this town hall meetings on some of the specifics – though with our Members of Congress being so unwilling to deal in anything other than generalities, its no wonder…

    The role of government in the free market, as gmr pointed out re: housing, and I’d point out re: health care, has had a distortive effect on the market that has in many ways made health care less accessible.

  4. Malpractice reform is a good idea, but I don’t think it’s a cure-all. It should go hand in hand with other reforms that are out there.

    There’s rarely a simple cure-all to “fix” 16% of the economy.

  5. “Malpractice reform is a good idea”

    Malpractice reform would be great!

    But how do you get medical professionals and healthcare facilities to police themselves and institute processes and procedures to lessen malpractice — so that we can start lowering the almost 98,000 deaths that medical malpractice causes in the US each year?

  6. I’m pretty frustrated by the lack of any specifics as well. That’s what I wish the president would do–just lay out specifics. Give us a plan to debate instead of rumors and wild speculation to debunk.

  7. Jonathan Kantrowitz

    There is no lack of specifics. The bill furthest along is HR3200. For a summary of the specifics of that bill, please go to my MLN diary here:
    http://www.myleftnutmeg.com/diary/11681/inside-hr-3200

  8. This report is a pack of lies. First, Teri Buhl did not attend Lawrenceville Prep with Jim Himes, because Jim Himes never went to Lawrenceville Prep. He attended and graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School in New Jersey, a public school (a href=”http://himes.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=2&sectiontree=2″>. So Ms. Buhl can record her first bald-faced lie. Second, the strong majority of the audience was in favor of health reform and the public option. I was there, sitting half way up on the middle isle on the right side. No one who attended that meeting could suggest that the anti-reform people were in the majority. It was a clear lie. And the audience inside was closer to three hundred people counting all those standing in the back. It was also not true that anyone packed the venue. Lots of people showed up early enough to get in. The person at the front of the line to get in was against reform. That woman, who had a nametag with “Ann” on it, started out by defacing an entire sheet of stickers that said “I support the public option”. Real class act! And according to Greenwich Post reporter Ken Borsuk whom I spoke with as we were leaving the meeting hall at the end, the crowd outside numbered about a hundred and were evenly split between supporters of reform and those against. So most of the people who wanted to get in did get in.

    Furthermore, I went outside afterwards to the front of Town Hall where Congressman Jim Himes came out to address the crowd. There were not eight police officers out there. I could see the gathering clearly, as I stood to the left of the main entrance about ten feet away from the steps. There were about fifty people remaining, most of whom were against reform. There were three police officers: two who were stationed at the front door of Town Hall, and had been stationed there since before the meeting began, and one additional officer who stood at the back of the crowd. The suggestion that Jim Himes was somehow protected by a phalanx of cops is a lie, although that sort of dishonest reporting is the hallmark of Greenwich Time’s Neil Vigdor, who reported that. There certainly was a need for police officers, however, because the people in the crowd were ugly and bent on trying to harass and intimidate anyone who disagreed with them. When Congressman Himes came out to talk with them, they yelled insults, shouted him down, and generally acted like the low-life thugs they were. They frequently refused to permit him to answer their questions, and shouted him down when he tried to. It was a thoroughly disgraceful display by people whose behavior treaded the line that could have had the cops putting them in handcuffs.

    Regarding the venue, let’s be clear that Greenwich Town Hall has served as the site of all of the town hall meetings that our congressmen have held for many, many years. Chris Shays held all of his town hall meetings there as well, and they were well attended, especially during the Iraq War period. Indeed, I was opposed to Mr. Shays and his policies and attended numerous town hall meetings over the years and asked him pointed questions. But at no time, at no public meeting was he ever shouted down, interrupted, or treated with any hint of disrespect by me or by anyone else. If one attended the town hall meeting Mr. Shays held in February 2003 on the eve of the invasion of Iraq at Westport Town Hall, or watched it on C-SPAN, or listened to the recording later, it was evident that though a large majority of the people attending were against going to war, no one ever treated Mr. Shays with disrespect or attempted to disrupt that meeting. His May 2005 town hall meeting in Darien regarding the Bush administration’s attempt to privatize Social Security was also held in Darien’s Town Hall, not in the high school, though it was highly controversial, and most in the audience were opposed to his position. But in Darien as well, which I also attended, no one tried to shout him down, disrupt the meeting, or verbally or physically intimidate Mr. Shays or anyone else. So the behavior of those at the Greenwich meeting on Monday who intentionally tried to shout down Mr. Himes and to disrupt his appearance inside Town Hall disgraced and embarrassed themselves and set a sad precedent for our democracy.

    The report mentioned that Jacqueline Walsh had “done her homework”. You’ve got to be kidding. The right-wing reporter for Greenwich Time stated that she “put Congressman Himes on the spot.” Again, ridiculous. Ms. Walsh asked Congressman Himes about “death panels” and about the public insurance plan’s making decisions to stop health care to the elderly or the terminally ill. That gave Mr. Himes the opportunity to inform her of the truth: there is no death panel in the bill; no one will be killed off because they’re old, or denied care because they’re elderly. It was completely false. Far from “doing her homework”, Ms. Walsh was exposed as believing myths and lies.

    The grossly dishonest Puhl article completely left out all of the people who spoke out in favor of the public option and health care reform. Again, for anyone who attended it was abundantly clear that the majority of the people attending were in favor of reform. There were about twelve rows of roughly fifteen chairs on each side of the room. On the left side there was a group of anti-reform people in one row who occupied about twelve of the seats. Most of the rest were pro-reform. There were only scattered individuals on the right side of the room who were against reform, with a number of anti-reform individuals standing in the back.

    At one point early in the meeting, Mr. Himes asked all those with health insurance to raise their hands, which was a large majority. Then he asked those who were satisfied with their coverage to keep their hands up. A number of people’s hands dropped, though most stayed up. Then he asked those who were on Medicare to raise their hands. Roughly a quarter of the audience seated raised their hands (so much for the assertion that the meeting was packed with investment bankers). When he asked those who were satisfied with their Medicare coverage to keep their hands up, I think one person put her hand down. That showed everyone in attendance who feared what government-run health care would do to them how American seniors are, indeed, satisfied with the health insurance they are receiving from the government.

    The reports also left out the fact that Congressman Himes and the moderator from WGCH in Greenwich worked hard to identify and call on those people who seemed to be against reform. Congressman Himes repeatedly pointed to people standing in the back who were clearly against reform, even though in the beginning they were behaving like cheap thugs bent on disrupting the meeting and repeatedly tried to shout him down.

    Mr. Himes was calm and dignified the entire evening, responding to one bizarre assertion after another with the facts, treating each questioner with dignity and respect. What Teri Puhl failed to report was all of the people who stood up to tell their stories about private insurance nightmares. Ann Lyons, whose family has suffered from Lyme Disease, described the hardships they had suffered at the hands of private insurers who repeatedly denied her family the treatments they required. Said Ms. Lyons, whose eyes brimmed with tears, “It’s hard enough to fight the disease; I can’t fight the insurance companies, too.” Congressman Himes made a point of recognizing Greenwich Republican selectman Peter Crumbine, who called for tort reform as a part of any health care reform program. Mr. Himes also recognized Greenwich’s former Democratic first selectman (mayor) Richard Bergstresser, a retiree from IBM.

    One woman pointedly and accusingly asked Mr. Himes whether he’d read the health care bill. Congressman Himes, a Harvard graduate and former Rhodes Scholar, responded that not only had he read the bill, he also pointed out the other voluminous bills he had read in their entirety. Mr. Himes was also asked whether he as a congressman, would subscribe to the public option himself. He answered first by saying that he would demand that the health care options for the American people included in this bill be extended to all members of congress, and that he would oppose carving out any exceptions for congressmen. He then said that just like every other American, he would evaluate the insurance options available to him and choose the best one for him and his family.

    As the meeting proceeded, and Mr. Himes answered question after question from scared, angry, distrustful opponents with the facts and with a calm demeaner, the mood in the hall began to calm down. Though the anti-reform individuals began the night intent on disrupting the meeting, frequently shouting him down and casting derisive comments at those supporting health reform, as it proceeded, and it became evident that all of their suspicions were not based in reality, they quieted down. By the end of the hour and a half the room was quiet, respectful, and everyone was focused on Congressman Himes’ responses to the questioners and everyone listened to the questions coming from the audience without trying to shout them down.

    Congressman Himes stood his ground. He stated clearly and repeatedly that he viewed health reform as a moral issue. He stated that he never wanted to have any child in America to be denied health care because its family couldn’t afford it. He expressed his support for a public option to compete with private plans in order to reduce costs and improve service to patients, though he also made clear that he was not in favor of a change to a single-payer system. He said he was open to tort reform, but that he would not back any plan that precluded the right of any American to go to court to seek redress from a hospital or doctor who had through malpractice inflicted injury. Though he expressed the caveat that he did not want to see drug prices reduced to the level below which R&D was discouraged, he expressed his support for permitting Medicare and the public option plan to use economies of scale to negotiate lower drug prices from the pharmaceutical makers. Congressman Himes also repeatedly pointed out that health care in America was already rationed, and that it was far preferable that whoever was making decisions regarding what procedures or medicines were necessary would be individuals selected by elected representatives and held responsible to the American people by their elected representatives than private insurance company employees who could not be held accountable. He also expressed his support for ending the hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies that the Bush administration had begun to pay to get them to take seniors off of traditional Medicare.

    The quiet tone of the meeting by the end was punctuated by the last questioner, Dr. George Ubogy, an elderly doctor of internal medicine in Greenwich. Dr. Ubogy, in a quiet voice, began by saying that he was surprised at all of the comments raising doubts about a government health plan, because in his experience as a physician it is the private insurance plans that are far more inflexible. He pointed out how restrictive the private plans are in requiring patients to see only those doctors and specialists who were in their provider network. Medicare, on the other hand, permitted all of its patients to go to virtually any doctor who accepts Medicare patients, which Dr. Ubogy stated, includes most doctors.

    At the end of Dr. Ubogy’s comments, Mr. Himes concluded the meeting. By that point just after eight o’clock, the audience had quieted, pointed questions had been answered, sometimes more than once, and it appeared that the warm applause he received came from everyone in the audience. And he deserved it. Mr. Himes had treated everyone with respect, answered every question, clearly made a concerted effort to seek out questions from those opposed to health reform, stood his ground on his own positions on health reform, and acted like a leader.

    It’s just too bad that some, like Ms.Puhl, would report so dishonestly about what happened at that meeting. Those who attended that Monday evening meeting, as I did, know the truth.

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