So it wasn’t a surprise when I arrived at the Power Center last evening and saw the same things but the scale was certainly surprising. I counted 980 chairs set up before most people arrived and by the middle of the meeting almost every one was occupied and people were standing around the walls of the very large room. Easily over a thousand people came out to hear and participate in a town hall held by Texas U.S. Congressman Al Green (D-9). Of the 13 people I asked, 5 supported the current reform and were from his district, 7 supported but were not from his district and 1 was against it but not from his district. All of the supporters picked up pre-printed signs and waved them throughout the event.
When Rep. Green arrived he made a complete circle of the room, shaking hands with a couple hundred people and then opened with the Pledge of Allegiance. He then made a short speech which set the tone for the evening, that tone being the rich against the poor. His loudest applause line was when he talked about the public option being lower cost because there was no “profit line” to worry about. He also got a rousing round of support for saying that insurance companies need to go on a diet. Another claim was that the public option would have administrative costs of less than 5%.
Interestingly, one of his lines, clearly designed to elicit applause, received no applause at all. And I mean that literally. His line was: “pregnancy is a pre-existing condition”. I think that what he was trying to say is that if a woman is pregnant and changes jobs, the insurance from the new job should cover the pregnancy. But with all of the talk about this bill paying for abortion and with Apostle Claver T. Kamau-imani targeting Rep. Green in an anti-abortion commercial playing on black radio, it fell completely flat. No applause whatsoever. As I noted in my post on the breakfast for leaders of the Latino community, social issues are still important in minority communities.
After his speech, he made a big show of his system for insuring that the attendees were treated equally and all had the same chance to ask questions. Anyone that wished could write a question on a card and put their name on it. These cards were placed in a big bowl and the bowl was taken to different people around the room to pull, then the person’s name was called out and a microphone taken to them to ask their question. I thought it was a very effective method and know it wasn’t biased because I, yes little ol’ me, pulled the card for a Jane Dorrose.
The questions were very one-sided in favor of reform and single payer, as it should be in a hall stacked with astroturfers. There were a total of 23 questioners and only 2 questioned the proposed reforms. And neither of those questions were particularly negative, both noting the cost and one asking where the extra doctors would come from. Most of the questioners simply made pro-reform statements. Probably the most effective in that regard was one by a Debbie Schulz of Friendswood as she talked about her son Stephen. Stephen was injured in Iraq and she had a picture there with her of the whole family. Her point was that she wished everyone had the same type of care that her son is receiving.
Below is a video of a question by Vietnam veteran Steven Sherman. It was a little funny in that he invited the congressman to sign up for the same VA healthcare he had and pointed out that the federal government has never run a program as promised, they always expand and grow. He also wanted to know how we were going to pay for it and the congressman had no answer and went straight to another question.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
Congressman Green ended his meeting with God Bless America.
And then he autographed an astroturfers pre-printed sign and yes, that bodyguard is as big as he looks!
One thing is certain: the healthcare reform battle is not over and conservatives have not won this fight, although to hear many of them, they seem to think that they have. That is the problem with insulating yourself to a certain viewpoint’s talkers and thinkers, you begin to believe that the rest of the world is that way. If there is anything I’ve learned by listening to those with whom I disagree and by challenging those with whom I do, it is that people love to surround themselves with yes men, people that will do or say anything to keep someone happy. That isn’t for me.
There are problems with the healthcare delivery system and payment system in this country. If conservatives continue to deny that, they will lose a golden opportunity to make real, lasting change.