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Might Gates' case have cost us health care reform?

It would be ironic--and tragic--if Barack Obama's momentary lapse into frankness on the Henry Louis Gates-James Crowley episode ended up costing the nation meaningful reform of the health insurance/access system. But that looks more and more as if it could end up being the case.Remember, Obama's comment--that the Cambridge police behaved "stupidly" in arresting Gates--came at the very end of a press conference in which he had tried to counter the worst of the Republican distortions about the effort to legislate reform. Particularly effective, I thought, was his assertion that the status quo, if it were dressed up as a legislative proposal to be voted on by Congress and polled on by the public, would have prohibitive negatives.But none of that effort counted after the president's Gates-Crowley-racial profiling remarks. All the focus the next day was on the fact that the first black president had responded like...well, like a black man. I wonder if Obama's reaction stemmed from a personal experience during his high school or college or law school years, or whether he became familiar with the black man-confronting-cops phenomenon during his time as a community organizer in Chicago or, perhaps, while he was practicing civil rights law.Whatever the source, Obama's inability to stifle his true feelings has been costly in terms of public support. The latest poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed wide disapproval of Obama's remark and a sharp loss of support for the president among whites, specifically as a result of the Gates-Crowley controversy. The truth is, Obama has been "on probation" with a substantial number of whites, who were willing to take a chance on and tolerate him as long as he didn't act black. When he violated that condition with his remarks on Gates-Crowley, those people yanked his probation. Everything's going to be tougher from now on.Nothing amazes me more than the ability of the GOP to continually sell the American people on the notion that anything run by the government is going to be a disaster. Millions of elderly Americans live in relative decency because of Social Security and don't die on the streets because of Medicare. Every year, millions of Americans ride over the best-maintained public highways in the world to national parks operated by government employees and thank God for the privilege. And I could go on. Meanwhile, I am wrestling for the second time in two years with a giant private human resources outfit--call it All Thumbs, Inc.--to try to collect the pension they administer on behalf of a previous employer.The fact is that Obama was going to need every ounce of public support he could muster to achieve even modest health care reform. The sad fact is that the Gates-Crowley distraction has deprived him of a measurable degree of support. I hope the nation doesn't pay the price in the form of a lost opportunity at health care reform.



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If it's true (and I suspect it is) that many whites put Obama "on probation" post election - then maybe the affair Gates is not just a distraction but in indication of how far we have to go in framing issues.Of course the GOP will use this matter (as any other straw to grasp at) to undermine the president.But the elephant in the healthcare room may well be how we follow the money and are serious about how it influences p[olicy.

Paul Krugman has hit the nail on the head today re: healthcare:, when dealing with huge sections of the US voting public, logic has nothing to do with things. Hence, the continuing popularity of "birther" and "deather" idiocies being perpetrated by the bigoted few on the ignorant many. Maybe there should be a simple test of an understanding of logical arguments prior to being eligible to vote.

The president isn't some kind of martyr for race. If he was on "probation" with white people, it was because of his unbelievable explanations about his relationship with Wright. The impending failure of health care reform, of course, has nothing to do with his. If anything is to blame for sinking that ship, it's math. Blame the Congressional Budget Office, not Crowley-Gate(s).

Easy... It's convenient for Dems to blame Repubs and vice versa. But the healthcare debate has been very complicated, with much having to do with debates among Democrats. While the Gates/Crowley/Obama affair has received plenty of media coverage, let not lose sight of other and more substantial factors. One is below, having little to do with Republicans. targets in most cases are House Democrats, who over the past few months have tackled controversial legislation including a $787 billion economic stimulus package, a landmark energy proposal and an overhaul of the nations health care system.Democrats, acknowledging the increasing unruliness of the town-hall-style events, say the hot-button issues they are taking on have a lot to do with it...

Speaking of Democrats, let's not forget either that Nancy Pelosi's approval rating is very low lately, even less than Dick Cheney's. No matter what side of the aisle one is on the healthcare debate, I think it can be agreed upon that her "I don't care" comment certainly didn't help Obama's cause.

The latest poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed wide disapproval of Obamas remark and a sharp loss of support for the president among whites, specifically as a result of the Gates-Crowley controversy.I thought Obama's initial statement at the press conference was really quite careful. He noted that he was a friend of Gates and could be biased. He admitted to not having all the facts. He did not characterize the incident as racial.If the American people are so stupid as to be swayed by this minor incident that the let the opportunity for health care reform go by, even though it is in their own interest and the country's interest, then it's their own dumb fault. The American people elected Richard Nixon twice and George W. Bush twice. And, much as I didn't care for him, they booted the much superior George H. W. Bush out of office after one term. "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." (Still, I am a strong supporter of American democracy.)

I think this outlook is needlessly dire. The recess between sessions of congress is a political eternity. Why, just about a year ago people were clutching their heads with the paralyzing fear that Sarah Palin was going to prove the nail in the Democratic coffin.The fact of the matter is, Democrats have control of the congress. The media, who prefer to ignore the actual means by which legislation is created, have manufactured the controversy over the healthcare debate, and Republicans are using it to stock up on votes they'd already have had in the next election. People will froth and rant for a month, everyone will wring their hands, whichever side they're on, and then we'll get a healthcare bill through both houses come fall. It will be budget neutral, satisfy Obama's conditions, etc.And ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, we'll have a national single payer health plan. Bank on it. If, as seems to be the case, it is the only way to make coverage universal & affordable, it will become politically meaningless to oppose such a system.Besides, to be blunt, the people who are bitching about healthcare worries don't know what they're talking about. I work in policy and I can barely scrape through the conversation - so I find it hard to believe that politicians are taking their constituents' worries seriously to heart on this. This is one of those occasions where the politicians are going to have to ignore the objections of those who don't know what's good for them. My guess is they will. There are enough level-headed Republicans (Grassley, for example) who are too smart to let this issue get away from them now.

Wise words, Mr. Jacobs. I work in the healthcare industry and interface with numerous Fortune 100 companies. We can not continue as is....yes, for a few more years but then the Fortune 100 will all look like GM.We are in the middle innings of a nine inning game that will go into extra innings. Stay tuned.

What is ironic and tragic about the Louis Gates- James Crowley episode is that although both men profess the desire to improve race-relations and appear to have spent much of their Life working towards that goal, they allowed their pride to dictate the outcome of this encounter doing more harm than Good. There is no correlation between Health-Care and the lack of professionalism in the Louis Gates-James Crowley episode. They should both apologize and work together towards their desired goal.

Thomas Jacobs said,This is one of those occasions where the politicians are going to have to ignore the objections of those who dont know whats good for them.Perfect. I could not have enunciated the liberals' contempt for the great unwashed better if I had tried. We are so superior to the lumpen_proletariat, aren't we?

Bob Schwartz,No, we're not better than anyone. I would never say that under any circumstances. Ever. I cannot enunciate my objection to such a judgment strongly enough. Nor do I think that's a clear or fair implication of my phrasing, about which I could have been more careful, but wasn't because this is a blog post (an inherently glib form of communication).So, I repeat: I don't have any contempt whatsoever for people who lack either the experience or the education to make critical judgments about complex policy problems. Nor do I believe that my capacity to distinguish between myself & my experience and those who have not had the fortune I have is an inherently judgmental statement.Nor, for that matter, do I believe that all opinions are created equal, or that objections to policy founded on misinformation or ignorance should be given equal voice to those which are attempting to work towards a public good with information that more or less clearly points towards a solution to which many would object.I would go far as to say that we live in a system that has failed those "who don't know what's good for them" to such an extent that it has co-opted their better instincts in the service of a crass capitalism which does nothing to serve their needs. Health care is one of the most flagrant examples of this. WHen I say I work in policy, I should be more clear and say that my work attempts to find solutions to problems of systemic urban policy, specifically in education. Of course, this too may be construed as more liberal intellectual self-aggrandizement, but I hope, having chosen my words more carefully this time around, that it's clear I'm coming from what I believe is an honest place, and not some lofty tower of contempt for those whom I know to be fundamentally and unequivocally my equals.Sorry for the rantish tone, but I feel very strongly about this, and don't like to be misunderstood - especially on a blog.

Don Wycliff may be correct in his dire projections; I hope not. Obama's best line at the press conference, re: Gates-Crowley, was the observation that if he tried to break into the White House, he'd be shot! Listening Secret Service? I thought that had a nice touch of irony and possibility that signaled Obama's astute scanning of his digs.Mark Shields, on the Newhour, said that August is a president's month vis a vis the media; I think we'll see Obama and the Democrats out there explaining and selling; they'll win the vote.Nancy Pelosi: I loved this: "I don't care whether people like me or not." Exactly! This is not a popularity contest. It's a serious legislative process.

This is putting way too much emphasis on the Gates incident. Here's an account from Slate of a polling session by pollster Pter Hart:'s a lot of worry about healthcare and the efforts to right the economy, but the Gates matter is insignificant:"But just because they like to hear from Obama doesn't mean they like everything he says. They were irritated when the president inserted himself in the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. It wasn't because Obama seemed to pick a side but because he shot his mouth off and meddled (though everyone seemed to like that Obama tried to improve his remarks later). If there was a more general warning sign in this, it was that later in the session a few in the groupall of them Obama voterstalked about the president's lack of humility."

Tom Jacob:Thank you for your gracious reply to my sarcastic comment.

"Nancy Pelosi: I loved this: I dont care whether people like me or not. As far as Nancy Pelosi's popularity goes, she has about 80 % of her San Franciscan's vote. 20% think she is too conservative!We will see if the 33 'registered to vote' SF Republicans can afford to put up a candidate and run on no health care for working class and tax payer funded bonuses for the 'suits'.

Nancy Pelosi: (I didn't like this) regarding Government funding of contraception including the act of abortion, "It cuts cost."Health Care is a serious legislative process. The purpose of Health Care from the beginning is to preserve Human Life.

Bob Schwartz,No worries. I get so over-worried about the ease of miscommunication (and glibness) of blog posts. They're really not a medium for deep communication, which is too bad, because it tends to bring in a larger audience with whom to engage. Cheers.

I almost never like a Frank Rich op=ed, but todaty he was right about white fear in the changing country/world we live in.Hence, I return to the 'Obama on probation" attitude which underscores the race problem.Do the Dems have problems on heath care? Of course, but that's irrelevant to using subtle race stuff and what's perpetrated by Fox Prop-aganda (I refuse to call them Fox News) is indicative as well as the Lou Dobbs stuff.Fear is an extremely powerful emotion and it's unfortunate that race fear should color this vital legislative process.

Gerald Seib's column today in the WSJ discusses what he calls the "Post Office factor" - the disconnect between government achievements and the people's distrust of government. He lists the Post Office Factor as one of five reasons that people aren't ready psychologically for health care reform."The Post Office Factor. Americans are deeply cynical about government's ability to do anything right. Putting a man on the moon, building an interstate-highway system, fielding history's most lethal army -- nothing has changed that. Even Mr. Obama makes jokes about how standing in line at the post office has convinced him he doesn't want the government running private firms."Yet a health overhaul inevitably involves a bigger role for government in, if nothing else, setting standards and policing the market. And that's where lots of Americans fall off the reform bandwagon. A survey this summer by the Gallup polling organization, which regularly tests confidence in American institutions, illustrates the problem. Some 36% expressed confidence in the medical system, ranking it in the middle of the broad range of American institutions that were tested. But a mere 17% said they have confidence in Congress, which is where any health overhaul would be created, putting lawmakers second from the bottom on Gallup's list (just a whisker above big business)."

Obama's involvement in the incident with Henry Louis Gates, Jr....I don't know if it necessarily cost us health care. I firmly believe that we will have a single payer i.e. public health care system in this country within 20 years. However, my opposition to it at this point is that the costs of health care need to be reduced, and the best way to do that is to threaten the insurance companies - which is what the current discussion over the issue is doing. The only thing that large companies pay attention to is whether or not something is going to interfere with the revenue stream - and a public health care option certainly would fall into that category, even talking about it has them willing to cooperate with the Obama administration so that they can keep the gravy train rolling in. What I'm driving at is the idea that the private sector needs to be allowed to innovate on their own to reduce the costs of their services. Medicine is a large industry, and I don't know if we want the industry that demonstrated their own incompetence in creating the Iraq War (1 and 2) and so many other famous blunders (that being the government) doesn't read $787 billion spending bills, and also doesn't read 1000 page plus documents that compromise the Constitution to necessarily be allowed to touch the medical industry, because that's giving an even larger scope of Power of Life and Death to an organization with a track record that is...spotty, to say the least. Secondly, the services that Social Security and also Medicare and Medicaid provide are obviously invaluable. You cannot discount them on those merits. However, they are disputable in that everyone who works contributes, but since people are living longer, eventually more funds will be due for disbursement than due for collection, and that is 10 years or less in the future. The private sector is where the power for a person to achieve security lies, through properly managed retirement accounts - but for medical coverage, perhaps we should begin a program for a pre-tax medical savings account, akin to the Libertarian platform, which would be far more effective, and same for retirement. Heck, anyone can get a 401(k), all you need to do is find a bank, and cut a monthly check, or start a deduction every month through the payroll department. It isn't THAT difficult. Also, at what point do we declare that everyone has some sort of de facto responsibility to each other? We have a a definitive responsibility not to infringe upon the liberties of our fellow man, to be certain. Through my own office window, I can see people who are obviously "not as well off" as I, though the amount I make at the present is almost at the poverty line. What I'm getting at is that at what point is it be demanded of me that I, or anyone else actively engaged in employment for the purposes of providing for themselves or their families, provide for those that have chosen not to produce for themselves? Those that are unable to by disability - well, perhaps they deserve it. But those able but unwilling to take responsibility for themselves are owed nothing - they have chosen to be unproductive and a drain. If we are going to wind up with a public health system, it should only be available to those who are legal adults and employed beyond a certain number of hours per week, or month, or per annum,. If a person is not working, they are not contributing, and if they aren't contributing, they don't deserve the help as much as someone who is.

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