Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This guy could be Mayor in four years. He is going to be the same age as JFK was when he became president. The point being, he is not going to be too young. I think it is a choice between four and 12 years. I would recommend four. Like JFK once said, "They will forget me, others will come along."
New York history, thanks to him, Chinatown now finally has an Asian American on the city council, a long time coming.
He completes the Blac equation for me, Blac as in Black, Latino, Asian coalition. John's victory has been an Obama moment for New York City. Barriers have been broken.
Barack Obama gets compared to JFK often. But John actually shares JFK's name. Rumor has it he was named after JFK. Did he have hippy parents?
Facebook Photo Albums
Monday, September 28, 2009
Facebook removes "Should Obama be killed?" poll
Jimmy Carter said this was about race. Obama said no, it was not about race. I am siding with Carter on this one. This is about race, or it would have happened also to Bush and Clinton, if it were partisan.
Image by roberthuffstutter via Flickr
I have confidence in the Secret Service. But this is not just about the life of someone whose candidacy I was so invested in. This is about race as it might play out day to day. I feel taunted. This is about people who are not president, or even remotely close. Of course this is about race. As if we were being told, you can have the highest office in the land, but don't you think racism as an ideology is going anywhere. This is problematic.
Granted this is a tough economy, granted health care as an issue arouses many emotions. Granted it has been a big leap for the country to elect a black man, but I did not read about gun toting protesters at Clinton and Bush rallies. Of course this is about race.
Gun Toting Protestors: Racist
Facebook Photo Album: John Liu For NYC Comptroller
NYC Local Races
Obama may sit out New York City mayor's race between Bloomberg and Thompson President Obama is refusing to get involved in the city mayor's race unless Bill Thompson can somehow close the gap with Mayor Bloomberg.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Richard Aborn lost. Eric Gioia lost. But James Liu won, although not handily enough to avoid a runoff election. I am rooting for John Liu.
Liu takes some sweatshop shots as controller candidates duke it out - New York Daily News
John Liu for Comptroller
John Liu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Liu for NYC Comptroller | The Daily Gotham
Richard Aborn For Manhattan District Attorney
Liu and Yassky Headed for Runoff for New York City Comptroller New York Times
Primary Results Show Progress for Gay Candidates New York Times
Firefighters' Union Backs Thompson for Mayor New York Times
Young and Active, the Working Families Party Shows Muscle in the ... New York Times
4G Clear Wireless Internet has got to be your choice wireless broadband type. Super fast internet at home and super fast internet on the go, and you will miss home much less. Clearwire brings you such offerings. Music and videos feel just like static webpages. There is but no lag time. Wherever you are in town, wherever you are in the city, Clearwire is there for you with lightning fast internet. Clear Atlanta is one such big city example.
The importance of broadband in this day and age can not be exaggerated. Broadband is as basic as electricity today, for work, for pleasure, for life activities.
Do you have the power on?
Brownells is the "world's largest supplier of firearm accessories, gun parts, and gunsmithing tools."
Broadly speaking, I am for gun control. I am for a greater regulation of the gun industry. Hunting is a sport, regulate it like a sport. That is where I come from. And in the big cities like New York, you need much tighter gun control laws than in the rural areas. Give those who fight crime a fighting chance. I think many gun manufacturers will go with sensible gun control laws. After all, illegal, irresponsible, criminal use of guns give the industry a bad name.
These are tough economic times. The crime rates are up. Protect your homes. Get an ADT alarm system.
The law enforcement people are your second layer of protection. ADT alarms are your first layer. Stay safe in these turbulent times. Make a small investment now to prevent a big loss to you down the line. Get safe.
ADT alarms monitor 24/7, whether you are home or gone.
Tough economic times or not, New York City is a big city and big cities tend to be high crime areas regardless. Don't be sorry later, be safe now. Make a small investment in ADT.
Inflatable Adventures brings you a ton of fun. It has been "providing California with the biggest slection of party rentals, inflatable games, bouncers, inflatable water slides and carnival game rentals." It is your party, but let them help plan it. You get all the credit. You get to offer a wide selection of fun. Companies, schools, churches plan big events with the help of Inflatable Adventures.
Roar Media blends traditional public relations techniques with the new internet enabled ones. It is one of those Miami pr firms that have been gaining momentum in Miami advertising and Miami marketing.
Traditional marketing is not enough, but those who have not mastered the fundamental values of traditional marketing can not make the best possible use of social media and internet marketing. Road Media blends the two seamlessly.
Road Media has been making a name for itself in the Miami public relations sector.
Road Media is so very next generation. It is in tune with the shifts in media consumption. The old ways are no longer working like they used to. Become a lion in your sector with Road Media.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
And here we have one of them owning up to it.
How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? Paul Krugam, New York Times ....... in a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” ........ the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association ........ Last year, everything came apart. ........ the 1987 stock crash, in which the Dow plunged nearly 23 percent in a day for no clear reason ......... U.S. households have seen $13 trillion in wealth evaporate. More than six million jobs have been lost ........ even as the recession continued to deepen, conventional monetary policy had lost all traction. ....... flaws-and-frictions economics will move from the periphery of economic analysis to its center. ....... has brought the world economy to its knees. .......... “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” ........ until now the impact of dysfunctional finance hasn’t been at the core even of Keynesian economics. ......... financial markets fall far short of perfection, that they are subject to extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds ........ H. L. Mencken: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong.”Globoeconomics: Name Of The Game
Micro To Macro To Globo
70 years back the economic profession went up one notch, from micro to macro. Now is the time to go up another notch: from macro to globo. The churn we see is of a US and a global economy tumbling to the global winds. New, robust, global institutions are needed, old ones have to be reinvented.
Old Jobs: Gone Jobs
The Great Depression saw the loss of countless agricultural jobs that never came back. World War II had to create a new set of industrial jobs. The old industrial jobs now lost in America will likely never come back. The country will have to make new strides and create many, many post-industrial jobs.
A Misguided Stimulus?
I thought a big chunk of the stimulus was going to go to ensure universal broadband. Instead they went to old highways, the offline kind.
Will a full-fledged war to ensure a total spread of democracy in the Arab world finally get America out of the flunk? Could that be a war that brings about Iran-like mass movements? Is that war essentially one of communications technology?
The purpose of stimulus September 4, 2009 the recession — again, as officially defined — is over. ...... But unemployment is still very high and rising
A strange madness September 4, 2009 Something is going very wrong in the heads of a substantial number of Americans.
My whereabouts September 4, 2009
- Jobless in America: Is Double-Digit Unemployment Here to Stay? Time
- Guess What Texting Costs Your Wireless Provider?
- Behold! Facebook Gives Birth to the Retrosexual
- The Next Mayor of Atlanta: A Post-Racial Campaign?
- As Election Nears, Germans Feel Another Wall Rising
Thomas L. Friedman: Our One-Party Democracy New York Times It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. ....... “Just because Obama is on a path to give America the Romney health plan with McCain-style financing, does not mean the Republicans will embrace it — if it seems politically more attractive to scream ‘socialist’ ” ....... no one needs the burden of health insurance shifted from business to government more than American business. No one needs immigration reform — so the world’s best brainpower can come here without restrictions — more than American business. No one needs a push for clean-tech — the world’s next great global manufacturing industry — more than American business. Yet the G.O.P. today resists national health care, immigration reform and wants to just drill, baby, drill.
White House Reveals Obama Is Bipolar, Has Entered Depressive Phase
Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's
Monday, September 14, 2009
Richard Aborn for Manhattan District Attorney
Richard Aborn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Richard Aborn | Facebook
Richard Aborn: A Narrow Victory
Richard Aborn Still Making Inroads in Manhatten's DA Race ...
Richard Aborn | The New York Observer
Image via WikipediaLast Tuesday I showed up for an Aborn event near Union Square. I almost missed it. I thought it was on Wednesday. Lucky for me I logged into Facebook and there was a reminder or two. So I showed up.
I like to stick to following presidential level politics. Local races do not excite me to the same extent. But I had been noticing for months all my Obama 08 friends seem to be excited about this one guy: Richard Aborn. But I stayed away. District Attorney is not even Mayor. That was getting too local for me. But I wanted to check the guy out for the sake of my friends. So I showed up. Once at the bar I realized I had been to the same venue for a few other events by a few other organizations.
I was looking forward to seeing some friends - Faina showed up - and get a feel for Aborn. Also events like this draw interesting people, people you want to connect with. You end up in interesting conversations.
I showed up curious. I left excited. This is a local race, but this guy's election has national implications. You can be a white male like Aborn is and be working for equality for blacks. You can be a male and be taking stands against sexism. That is not odd at all. That is progressi
Image via Wikipediave.
This is a guy who has prosecuted violent crimes for a living. He is not some soft on crime clown. This is a tough on crime guy who wants to make sense. Racism does not make sense.
From having met him only one evening, I am telling you, this guy is impressive, he is promising. Also from what I have been hearing, he is going to win tomorrow. I would not be surprised if he ends up in some federal position in about four years. You will be glad you got to know him and vote for him today.
It was an amazing evening. I went in. Jeff Kurzon - the first time I met Jeff Kurzon was near a Mahatma Gandhi statue - was greeting people as they streamed in. Kurzon's beard was gone. I made a blade gesture to my beard to tease. Last I had seen him was at the Bill Thompson event at Bombay Palace, and he was sporting a beard then. Good to know Jeff is now officially an Aborn staffer. By the time he helps push Aborn to victory, he will be a ripe cadidate for another high flying private sector lawyerly job, granted that is what he wants. Jeff used to work for the same law firm the Obamas worked for in their youth, its New York office. That was so impressive to me when I first found out. I have seen a halo around his head since.
Jeff introduced me to someone from "Brooklyn," and I am thinking this guy still thinks I am in Brooklyn. The NYPD drove me out of Brooklyn!
"I have seen you before!" I teased the person I was introduced to. Then Jeff introduced me to an author. His book was about to show up on Amazon.
Barackface: Jeff Kurzon's Living Room, Union Sqaure, Times Square ...
Give Me A Huge Rally In This City Before Summer Is Over
Barackface: New York City For Barack Obama 1-10
Bush Is Anarchy, Hillary Is Monarchy
March 4 Returns Parties
The Meaning Of An Iowa Victory
Knock, Knock, Knocking On Heaven's Door
Register 100000 New Voters In NYC For Barack
My jaw dropped when Jeff took six months off work and went state hopping for Obama. He started in his native New Hampshire. He ended up as far as California. Then one day I spotted him in a corner at the Irish Rogue. I did not know he was going to be there. So I was visibly, excitedly surprised.
"You are back!"
Jeff Kurzon takes public service seriously. Like Aborn he has progressive white guy ideas on race, that touchy, touchy topic that many people don't know how to talk about.
Then one day Obama's sister showed up in New York while Jeff was in NH. I ended up one of her 10 friends on MyBO. Jeff emailed me saying he was jealous. Then Obama showed up in Harlem. Jeff rode in the car with the future president. They went downtown together. I emailed Jeff. I was jealous. But I was only half serious. The guy deserved the ride. He practically quit his fancy job for Obama. I am surprised he is not ambassador yet. Ugh, maybe after Obama's reelection.
And of course Jeff was on stage for the biggest rally in US presidential campaign history to date: that Washington Square Park rally. Oprah broke that record soon after, but it was a record while it lasted.
I bumped into Deanna Tilley before I bumped into Jeff Kurzon. The video at the top of this blog post comes from one of Deanna's Facebook status updates earlier today.
After having worked the room a little, I spotted this middle aged black woman in a corner. I had run out of people so I walked over to her and said hello. Ends up she is a grad school friend of Aborn's wife. She said she was a "housewife." My mass media trained mind was about to blurt the phrase "Desperate Housewife," but I resisted. Social media makes more sense on such topics.
Aborn showed up. The "housewife" kept nudging me to go say hello. I waited for an opening. Then I was standing in front of Richard Aborn. He was approachable.
I also moved here from the Midwest, I said teasingly. I once showed up for a county fair in Indiana, and I was the only nonwhite person at the fair. It is not like anyone bothers you, but you notice. Aborn is originally from Iowa. Iowa elected Obama. Then Iowa went ahead and legalized gay marriage, before California, before New York. So much for coastal progressivism.
I chatted with Aborn. I told him I was from Nepal. Told him I was a tech entrepreneur when he asked what I did. Then I told him I had read nothing about him to that point, and that I was there because all my Obama friends were so excited about him. Then his wife showed up, and he introduced. My wife, he said.
"I just met your friend Jackie!" I said. The wife got impressed.
Then something happened that really impressed me. A staffer looking woman approached Aborn. Eric will introduce you, she said.
"What do you want me to say?" Aborn asked her. I was touched. This guy was not short on words to speak, but the respect he showed for his staffer won me over. She briefed him. Later I got to talk to her. She was a consultant. I got her card: Jacqui Samuels, Samuels Consulting. Aborn approached us. This was after the speeches had been done, Eric Schneiderman had spoken, Bill Perkins had come and gone. He remembered me as the guy form Nepal. I was impressed. I was bragging to Jacqui I had more than 20,000 followers on Twitter. I offered to send out a few tweets for Aborn.
"Are they all from New York?" Aborn asked. It was like JFK and LBJ are watching a man land on the moon. And LBJ, ever the politician, goes: "If only he were a Negro!"
"No. All over the world. But many are from New York," I said.
Then it was one on one. This was my time with Richard Aborn. I told him now I was excited about him. I am all about tough on crime, I said, but the part that really got me is the one about your progressive ideas, I said. I don't know if I got too excited, or Aborn wanted to sit and chat with some chips, he reached out for chips and salsa at the nearby table.
In the aftermath the husband of someone Aborn sits on the Board of something or the other - interfaith dialogue something - and the wife walked over and the three of us had chips and salsa for a while.
The evening slowly wound down, and I walked away determined to blog and tweet for Aborn.
The guy got me excited.
At one point a George said he had seen my Jordan Thomas video. Jordan showed up. He said he had not seen that video to the end himself. The video is an hour, and it is "raw," like George said.
Towards the end I approached someone from having seen him at many political events.
"You run for office, right?" I said.
This was Brian Kavanagh, a member of the New York state assembly. He represents Union Square, Lower East Side. I guess I was in his district.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Image via Wikipedia
Published: September 9, 2009
Obama’s Health Care Speech to Congress
Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and the American people:
When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.
As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.
I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who have taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.
But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future – and that is the issue of health care.
I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.
Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.
We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.
But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.
One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.
Then there's the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers – especially small businesses – are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally – like our automakers – are at a huge disadvantage. And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it – about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care.
Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.
These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.
I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, 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. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.
We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.
But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.
Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.
The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:
It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans – and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.
Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:
First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.
What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.
That's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan – more security and stability.
Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.
For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should embrace it.
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those – particularly the young and healthy – who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek – especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions – just can't be achieved.
That's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.
While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.
And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that's been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I'd like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.
Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.
There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.
So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly – by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.
Insurance executives don't do this because they are bad people. They do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.
Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don't like this idea. They argue that these private companies can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.
It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.
For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.
Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public – and that is how we pay for this plan.
Here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.
Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn't make us healthier. That's not my judgment – it's the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, I want to speak directly to America's seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.
More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.
The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies – subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.
These steps will ensure that you – America's seniors – get the benefits you've been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That's what this plan will do for you. So don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut – especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.
Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high-quality care at costs below average. The commission can help encourage the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system – everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.
Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money – an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.
Finally, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.
Add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years – less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent – but spent badly – in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.
This is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight – Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.
That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed – the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.
I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.
In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, and his children, who are here tonight . And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform – "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it – would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."
I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days – the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate.
For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.
But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here – people of both parties – know that what drove him was something more. His friend, Orrin Hatch, knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.
On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance; what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent – there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.
That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people's shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.
This has always been the history of our progress. In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.
You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.
What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.
But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.
A Letter From Ted Kennedy
The text of the letter from Senator Edward M. Kennedy referenced by President Obama in Wednesday's address to a Joint Session of Congress.
May 12, 2009
Dear Mr. President,
I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me — and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.
On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.
You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.
When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.
There will be struggles — there always have been — and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat — that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.
And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will — yes, we will — fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.
In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign — and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America's behalf inspires the entire world.
So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.
At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.
And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.
With deep respect and abiding affection,