Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Public Option & Po’ Folks

by Richard Ivory

As President Obama takes his message of healthcare reform to the nation tonight, it is quite clear that most minorities and low-income people are siding with with The Democrats. The Republican Party has failed again in explaining its healthcare reform positions to inner-city and urban Americans. The GOP does have a variety of plans but for the most part it has failed again to market or tailor it to a largely urban audience.

The large minority and urban presence in this debate on healthcare reform gives Democrats the imagery they seek in making their case that a public option is about the “The have-nots” vs.” the haves”. The battle sounds of racism and class- warfare are evident in Democrat talking points.

Listen to Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) speak out for a public option:

“I believe that this debate is as historic as the debate for civil rights, historic as the debate to get the ERA,” “The fact is that the people who are standing opposed to the public option, these people are standing against reform, they are siding with big insurance industry bosses against the American people. Simple as that. And we’re simply not going to stand for it. No more so than Susan B Anthony stood for it, or Martin Luther King stood for it - or any of those people who fought for real reform to make America better.”

Such statements leave little room for disagreement and reek of rhetoric that rarely produces bipartisan reform. Moreover, with Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King on your side, why even bother having a debate? Perhaps the Congressman could have added George Washington and Thomas Edison to the foray just to cement the support. While quoting Susan B. Anthony and MLK might conjure up nostalgic imagery of “power to the people”, such rhetoric does nothing to pass effective bipartisan healthcare reform. Neither does accusing those who disagree with you on the public option as being opposed to civil rights.

Did it ever dawn on the Congressman that perhaps the people opposed to the public option are opposed on principle and not hate? Perhaps the Public Option seemed to be too expensive to those people opposed to it. Perhaps there is a real concern that Uncle Sam with his huge wallet and maker of rules might destroy Little Sarah’s lemonade stand?

To many people on the left, like Congressman Ellison, the public option seems to be the only way to give poor people healthcare. This is a fair and understandable position. Their position- the position of people opposed to the public option) should be respected. Given that the American people are going to be paying for such an option, however, they should at least have the right to review it. Many people reject the plan because they feel it is too expensive. They prefer other, less costly, plans.

Let’s take a look at the expenditures for this debate and why there is an outcry:

The CBO estimates that the House committee versions of the Obama health plan would add more than $1 trillion to federal deficits over the next decade. But the actual costs would be much higher.

For starters, $1 trillion of extra debt-financed spending would cause the government to pay about $300 billion of extra interest in the next decade. Moreover, the CBO’s method of estimating the cost of such a program doesn’t recognize the incentives it creates for households and firms to change their behavior.The House health-care bill gives a large subsidy to millions of families with incomes up to three times the poverty level (i.e., up to $66,000 now for a family of four) if they buy their insurance through one of the newly created “insurance exchanges,” but not if they get their insurance from their employer.

The CBO’s cost estimate understates the number who would receive the subsidy because it ignores the incentive for many firms to drop employer-provided coverage. It also ignores the strong incentive that individuals would have to reduce reportable cash incomes to qualify for higher subsidy rates. The total cost of ObamaCare over the next decade likely would be closer to $2 trillion than to $1 trillion.

The administration’s claim that the health-care plan would be
“self-financing” is both false and irrelevant. It is false because it would only be self-financing if one counts a variety of President Obama’s proposed tax increases-and even those would produce much less revenue than is assumed in the budget calculations. The claim is irrelevant because those tax increases have nothing to do with health care and could be used instead to reduce other projected deficits.

With such daunting figures it is no surpirse that the American people are up in arms over the potential cost of healthcare reform. They want to know who is going to pay for it and what proof is there to show it will over the years cut cost. The Democrats and liberals pushing for a public option must understand that the American people are shopping. The American people want to choose the plan they are going to pay for.

This is not being bigoted, but it is called “shopping around”. We “shop around” every day in our everyday lives. We take in the cost and the durability of the item we seek to have and then we purchase it. On both concerns, with regards to cost and durability, the public option is found wanting! Perhaps, instead of ignoring the poor, these people are shopping for an option that considers cost, durability and the poor!

Perhaps these skeptics of the public option know that if you have a low budget and are in debt you cannot do much but make promises. As the rapper Jay Z so adamantly put it, “I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them”.

Richard Ivory is a political consultant and writer for
New and is the founder of, he has worked for the Republican National Committee and was the college outreach director for the Republican Youth Majority


Conservative Black Woman said...

"The Republican Party has failed again in explaining its healthcare reform positions to inner-city and urban Americans."

If Jesus himself came back this afternoon and identified as a "Republican" neither inner-city, urban or suburban black folks would have ears to hear. The information is available and these same folks are intelligent enough to understand but they so throughly indocrinated by the left that they are truth resistant if they dislike the messenger.

Malcolm Haynes said...

Swagger, I respect your argument, but aside from your assertion that the left is invoking some sort of "us vs them" dynamic to this debate, you have to concede that the right and its obstructionists agenda does not foster healthy debate on this topic either.

I truly believe that the cost ramifications of President Obama's healthcare plan are a serious concern which should be examined more closely. However, the majority of the objections posed by the right about this plan rarely reference its costs as a point of concern. Rather than express a ligitimate and very reasonable concern for their opposition, the right and their media cohorts would much rather misrepresent and caricaturize other aspects of this plan in order to invoke seething, misguided opposition by the less informed masses. That is where I am in disagreement with the strategies and positions of conservatives.

The second point of concern that I have with the right's handling of this debate was expressed by President Obama on Monday and Swagger you briefly addressed it in your piece. That is, what specifically is the right's plan for addressing this issue? I can safely say that we are all in agreement that something needs to be done to fix some of the longstanding problems associated with our healtcare system. However to date, I have yet to see a comprehensive plan put forward by Republicans in Washington to reform the healthcare system. This fact further bolsters my argument that Republicans would rather play the obstructionist role instead of try to forward a plan which would initiate healthy debate. My only question is why?

While I respect your positions on this subject, the only thing that I can say in response is that conservatives have not been able to reach "urban minorities" simply because the have plan to improve on the current system. Therefore, they have no substantive message which could possibly rally support from us. Again, the cost issue is a major concern and that alone should be the crux of the opposiitions argument, not "death panels," socialism or other sorts of government takeovers.

So with that said, I'll quote the words of brother Eldridge Cleaver: If your not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.