Public Option Is Not Dead Yet

According to Gallup, 57% of Americans say President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse. Even more —60% — doubt that the stimulus plan will help the economy in the years ahead.

The Heritage Foundation

The Morning Bell

MONDAY, AUG 17, 2009

The headlines are encouraging: The AP reports, “White House appears ready to drop ‘public option’.” Politico reads, “White House backs away from public health care option.” And the front page of USA Today says, “Obama may drop public option in health care.” These headers all stem from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ comment on CNN Sunday Morning that the public option “is not the essential element” of President Barack Obama’s health care plan. But by Sunday night the White House was already walking back Sebelius’ statement.

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An anonymous administration official told The Atlantic that Sebelius “misspoke” and White House health reform communications director Linda Douglass released a statement explaining: “Nothing has changed. The president has always said that what is essential is that health-insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and it must increase choice and competition in the health-insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals.”

Obama’s allies on the left are equally emphatic about the non-death of the public option. Democracy for America head Howard Dean told the Washington Post, “I don’t think this bill is worth passing without a public option.” And Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN, “It would be very, very difficult [to pass Obama’s plan] without the public option.” But Democrats in the Senate are singing a slightly different story. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told Fox News Sunday that “there never have been” enough votes for a public option in the Senate, and that continuing to fight for it would be “just a wasted effort.”

But that does not mean that Americans fighting against government-run health care are out of the woods yet. Conrad insists that the Senate could pass health reform that includes health insurance co-operatives. Co-operatives do have a long and proud tradition in many sectors of the U.S. economy, but details matter. Conrad says these health co-ops will not be “government-run and government-controlled” but instead “membership-run and membership controlled.” But others in Conrad’s caucus have a starkly different co-op goal. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing a vision of co-ops that are: 1) run by the government, preferably the federal government; 2) funded or subsidized by the government; or 3) includes plans chosen by the government.

If the language that comes out of the Senate looks anything like what Schumer is proposing, then there is no real difference between co-ops and the public plan. If, on the other hand, the Senate produces something that; 1) is not funded by the federal government 2) is not “government-run and government-controlled”; but instead 3) is “membership-run and membership controlled” then co-ops would be acceptable.

Of course, the public plan is just one of the more objectionable parts of Obama’s health care plan. The individual and employer mandates, the expansion and federalization of Medicaid, the creation of a new health czar, not to mention the trillion dollar cost of the new plan, are all still intact. If, as Sebelius insists, the White House wants health reform to increase “choice and competition” than there are a number of conservative alternatives in the House and Senate that do just that by pursuing health reform through a “patient-centered” approach. The White House’s rhetoric is rapidly moving away from an expert/government-centered approach to health care and towards a more market/consumer model. Let’s hope their actions start matching their words.

QUICK HITS

According to Gallup, 57% of Americans say President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package is having no impact on the economy or making it worse. Even more —60% — doubt that the stimulus plan will help the economy in the years ahead.
Without the benefit of trillion-dollar stimulus packages, France and Germany reported an unexpected uptick in economic growth for the second quarter this year.
General Motors workers are bracing to say goodbye to California’s last automobile factory.
Another prominent Democrat, Sen. James Webb (D-VA), visited another dictatorship, Burma, and secured the release of another U.S. citizen.
The incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says under Canada’s country’s health-care system patients are getting less than optimal care and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it..

“Make a soldier of him.” The story of the Hendee family.

Hannah Hendee said, “You are their commander, and they must and will obey you. The curse will fall upon you for whatever crime they commit, and all the innocent blood they shall shed will be found in your skirts when the secrets of men’s hearts shall be make known, and it will cry for vengeance upon you head!”

Wisdom picks her battles in matters of principle and fights them fiercely.  May I illustrate?

October 16, 1780:  A band of 300 Indians under the command of a British captain named Horton moved down the White River near South Royalton, Vermont, capturing, killing, and terrorizing the local inhabitants.  The Hendee family was warned of the oncoming mobbers.  The father set out to warn others of the danger while Mrs. Hendee took Michael, her seven year old son, and a younger daughter and fled into the woods.

As they ran, they came headlong into a band of the mobbers.  An Indian stepped form behind a tree, grabbed her son and wrestled him away.  She demanded to know what they were going to do with him.

One of them who spoke English replied, “Make a soldier of him.”

They dragged the sobbing boy away.  Mrs. Hendee made her way toward the road carrying her tiny daughter who was screaming in panicked terror.

As she traveled down the road, surely as heartsick and grief-stricken as any mother could be, she was suddenly filled with a surge of steeled resolve and a fierce determination.  They could not, they would not keep her little boy!

She went back and faced Captain Horton.  Oblivious to the looming danger, she demanded of him her little boy.  Horton responded that he could not control the Indians, and it was not his concern what they did anyway.

Angry and indignant, Hannah Hendee said, “You are their commander, and they must and will obey you.  The curse will fall upon you for whatever crime they commit, and all the innocent blood they shall shed will be found in your skirts when the secrets of men’s hearts shall be make known, and it will cry for vengeance upon you head!”

Her son was brought in.  Hannah grabbed his hand and refused to let go.  One of the men standing nearby grabbed her son and jerked him away from her, threatening her with a cutlass.  Defiantly, she faced him and grabbed the boy again, telling them that she would follow them every stop of the way to Canada if she had to.  She would never give up; they would not have her son.

This was a unique and singular confrontation:  A lone determined mother fighting for that which she loved and cherished against a mob of bloodthirsty unprincipled men.

How does the story end?  Now – later that day, the British soldiers and the Indians set out on their march with their captives.  Hannah Hendee left that camp and crossed the river for home.  But when she did, it was with her daughter and Michael her son, and eight other little boys she had rescued from a sure and certain death.

Has this kind of will to fight died in America today? – No, I think not.  Is there a need to be roused to fight today? – There is!  For what should we be roused to fight? – Please hear my answer:  Our God, our religion, our freedom, our peace, our wives, our children, and our families.  Lord help us that we may be roused to fight!

Adapted from Evelyn Wood Lovejoy, History of Royalton, Vermont (Burlington, Vermont, Free Press Printing Company, 1911) cited in The Spirit of America, Bookcraft Inc. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, pp. 43-46.