Monday, August 3, 2009

Kagen's Green Bay Town Hall pt. 3

This is part 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Despite the contentious nature of Kagen's town hall, there are some initial conclusions that can be drawn from the experience.

First, people are scared. Literally scared. Two of the more thoughtful and less boisterous speakers from the audience (one man and one woman) both used the word scared and both seemed sincere. During his comment the man rattled off a list of what have largely become buzz words for government intervention (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) and he ended with what was almost a plea for help, stating that he was afraid of his own government.

Next, concern over illegal immigration and, more specifically, about the use of government money to provide services to illegal immigrants is quite high. Those in other parts of the country can dismiss this as flyover country racism or xenophobia, but it is real. People feel threatened by this notion (whether actual or perceived) and this will most likely continue to shape at least some portion of the debate. Kagen did his best to try and persuade people that the current bill wouldn't allow coverage of illegal aliens, but the crowd in front of Kagen clearly wasn't having any of it.

Also, two of the Obama administrations biggest talking points (probably the two biggest) are clearly not being taken seriously by the voters as represented by those in attendance at the town hall.

First, the idea that if you like your current health coverage, you will get to keep it. Every time Kagen repeated this a collective groan went up from the crowd. Absolutely no one took this claim seriously. At one point a man read from the bill itself about the grandfather clause for plans in effect prior to the effective date of the legislation. The question was why is there a need to grandfather in plans that Obama says won't have to change. to which there was no clear answer.

Second, no one was buying that taxes on the wealthy alone would be enough to pay for both the health care bill and all of the other recent spending that the government has undertaken. When Kagen used the line regarding taxing those making over $250k only, he was shouted down. It didn't seem to strike Kagen as incongruous that behind him was a sign put up by his office that included a phrase about no free lunch while he was offering lunch to everyone in the room on the tab of those earning over $250k per year.

Finally, and this is purely a political matter, Kagen acquitted himself well given the onslaught, but at times he was his own worst enemy. If someone would ask him about a specific section of the bill he would occasionally open his copy and begin reading it to us. It is not understandable. Reading it aloud made him sound foolish.

He seemed to bring the crowd around talking about his own previous health care proposal and his support of Ron Paul's bill to the audit the Fed, but within a few minutes he put his foot in his mouth. Someone from the back of the room shouted to ask him why he didn't accept Medicaid patients when he was a practicing physician. He was taken aback by this and indicated that it was an outright lie. He went on to explain that he did accept Medicaid patients, but that concerning those patients he, "didn't sign a contract with the Federal goverment," at which point the room erupted in jeers.

The obvious implication was that if he couldn't sign on to the offer the goverment was making why should we.

And judging by the behavior of those in attendance tonight, no one was.


Johnny said...

Why would anyone care to listen to the answers of their representative when they can have the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh answer all their questions for them. I saw a poll today that said that 28% of republicans dont believe the president was born in the US and another 20% are not sure. With that shockingly high level of ignorance coming from the minority party on such an obviously bogus issue, does one really expect their to be honest debate about issues like health care and cap and trade? Nevermind the fact that the final health care bill has yet to be written, people will spend all day screaming(literally) at the top of their lungs to maintain the status quo on healthcare, regardless of how financially sustainable it isnt. If these folks were really afraid of socialized medicine and the like they would be imploring their representatives to eliminate Medicare, which is pretty plainly socialized medicine, but is also wildly popular among those over 65.

Jeremy R. Shown said...


Point taken. But what happens when people contact their Congressman (sometimes repeatedly) on an issue and then they see that he votes against their wishes?

How do you expect them to react the next time around?

David said...

I am not hearing anyone saying, let alone "screaming at the top of their lungs" that we should do nothing. The present system is bad, but the pending legislation makes it worse, a LOT worse. People over 65 like medicare because it's free. Providing anything free will produce an infinite demand, and expanding medicare to include the whole population will not work for precisely that reason.

Our problem now is too much, too much government, too many lawyers, and too much insurance.What is needed is a pay as you go system with catastrophic coverage only. There are proposals like this out there, however, the Democrat leaders and the Obama adoring media are ignoring them.

This bill is not about health care, it is the holy grail of all power grabs!

Anonymous said...

The tea party folks only made fools of themselves. They can be part of the reform, and act like adults by offering constructive rational debate...or simply continue to scream talk radio spin points, when told to.

There is no place, in any democracy for these rowdy loudmouths. That's what they do in Iran.

Respect your democracy....let Iran embarrass itself, and respect the process of creating and revising legislation. Be smart about it, not act like jerks.
Apparently, the Republican supported tea party people have no respect for that process, or their fellow citizens voices.

Anonymous said...

Annonymous: You're first mistake is to mistake this country for a democracy. We live in a Republic, not a democracy. We elect people to represent us and our interests. A democracy is unsustainable because the people will elect themselves into a tyranny. And those currently in power in this government are definitely not representing our best interests.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for a great descrip-
tive narrative of the events of last
evening. I felt like I was there with
you and I truly wish I had been. Know
first hand what happens when you try to contact your "representative" and
let them know how you feel regarding
the issues of our country - you get
the same old "form letter" from their
Might have been a little more productive if the crowd had been a
little less boisterous but maybe
just maybe he actually HEARD what
the people were saying to him - NO.
Maybe come election time these guys
will finally get it.

Vivian said...

Thanks Jerry for that description of the events inside - seemed pretty honest and straightforward to me. While I was disappointed by the lack of respect from the crowd, I do think that they made a statement to Kagen. I was one of the people on the OUTSIDE of that building - along with 100 + others - all were very frustrated about not being let in. The things I am personally frustrated about are (1) the democrats and liberals calling everyone there "Radicals"(see the Democratic Party of Brown County's website), (2) that more people couldn't have asked their questions in person and let everyone hear his responses,(3) lots of people piping up on the internet claiming that all of these people coming to townhall meetings were staged - excuse me, I've never even been to one and I came solely because I was concerned about the bill and decided I wanted some answers and I wanted my voice and physical body represented as a "vote no", (4) that for some reason it appears when grassroots efforts come from the Republican/conservative/independent side of things, the media/democrats/liberals get bent out of shape and hurl lots of insults because they seem to think it is wrong, this is America, afterall and everyone has a right to free speech. Why is the left condemning the fact the people are wanting to speak up - staged or not for that matter? This is why we like living in a FREE country. For me - I'd prefer it to be more respectful - but I was and am happy to see many people showing up and letting their voices be heard - rather than complaining about it in their living rooms or on the internet and (5) that our liberal congress is in such a HURRY to pass this legislation - that alone ought to scare people. I can't believe that all of the reps and senators in congress have actually read this entire bill themselves. IF they are interested in Government run health care then they ought to be concerned about every line and then they ought to be willing to sign onto it themselves. Did you know that Congressman John Fleming from Louisiana authored a House Resolution that asks that all congressmen who vote IN FAVOR OF HR 3200 agree to forego their FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program) and sign up under the Public Health Option??? Visit his website. Not one democrat has signed it yet! Okay, I'm really rambling here - thanks Jerry for the insider view.

Jeremy R. Shown said...


Thanks for the comment.

Based on what I saw, I do believe that the opposition to the health care bill in evidence on Monday is real. The fact that so many people on the opposite side of the issue are making a claim to the contrary seems silly.

Having said that, I don't approve of much of the behavior demonstrated at the session. I think that neither of us would allow our children to act in such a way.

It is really too bad that bad behavior by some detracts from the genuine opposition of many.

Steve said...

Sounds to me like the "tea party" folks (volk)are actually brown-shirts of the 1933 variety in Berlin. This country has changed too much since those "good old days" of Boston 1717.
We need a national health plan, period.

Steve said...

Oops, make that 1776?