protests at Congressional town hall meetings. He was bringing in people to protest
the President's attempt to reform healthcare. He happily admitted his group is supported
by corporate funding including the health insurance industry, and made a plea for more
funding to continue the protests. That the protests are corporate-fueled is not news.
The former Tom DeLay hitman, Dick Armey, heads one of the main groups organizing
the "grassroots" protesters. What was new about the interview as Brown's final question.
She told the organizer she understood what he was against; but now wanted to know what
he was for. What kind of healthcare reform did he want Congress to pass? You could
hear the crickets chirping in the background, the silence was so pervasive. The man
literally had nothing to say.
One of my favorite questions to ask when debating an issue is "...therefore what?"
You know these kinds of discussions; each side stridently makes its points. The rhetoric
is heated. The language is incendiary. Feelings are brought to bear and decibel levels
increase. After an adversary finishes making their points, or takes a breath or concludes
a harangue; I will ask "...therefore what?" I now know what you oppose, but what do you
propose? It is the $64,000 question and it has the ability to create deafening silence.
Brown asked the protest organizer her version of "...therefore what?" You stop
Obama. You block a public option for healthcare. You prevent any legislation of this
kind from passing Congress. Now what? The protest organizer had no answer because
his only job was to stir up opposition. He had no answer because he wasn't seeking one.
He was silent because his job is not to find an answer to the healthcare problem; just
stop anything from passing by creating the illusion of a popular uprising against anything
currently being debated.
The opponents of healthcare reform are unable to answer "...therefore what?" because
they want to preserve the status quo. They are funded by the insurance industry, the
hospital industry, big Pharma, and by the Regressives because they want to beat back
reform once again as they have since 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt made the first attempt
to increase access to healthcare for more Americans. The Republicans in the House and
the Senate have adopted a strategy of delay and obfuscation. They wish to distort and
oppose "anything" that changes how healthcare is funded. They understand, as do their
corporate backers, that Americans pay twice as much per year for healthcare than do
citizens in any other industrialized nation. They know Americans get half the benefits
than citizens of other nations; and that those citizens live longer, have lower infant
mortality rates, and better quality of life for less money. They know that if the system
is "reformed" there will be less money, insurance companies will face competition for
the first time (a novel notion in a capitalistic society); which means they will have less
money to pour into Congressional coffers. Healthcare reform would dry up one of the
biggest revenue pools that Republicans use to fund their political campaigns. (Democrats
are not off the hook here either. The so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats are receiving
millions of dollars of contributions from healthcare industries committed to killing
reform.) Neither Republican leader in the House or Senate has offered an alternative
proposal to reform the system, increase access, and reduce the cost. A few have trotted
out medical savings accounts as an alternative; but know that that does nothing to address
the underlying structural problems in the system.
We go back to Brown's interview and the amazing image of a man looking like a deer
caught in the headlights when asked what he is for, rather than what he is against. It was
a great TV moment. If every interviewer would ask every opponent of healthcare reform
the $64,000 question "...therefore what?", the ensuing silence would say more than the
President can about the nature of this debate. This is not a debate. This is not about two
competing ideas on how to fix a broken system. This is a campaign, well funded and well
organized, to kill reform and have things stay as they are.
Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa is one of two Republicans supposedly trying to
negotiate a middle ground and produce a more moderate proposal. He is on record as
opposing any public option. He is also on record having promised Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell that he would not vote for any bill the majority of Republican
Senators oppose. So what is he negotiating? How would Senator Grassley answer when
asked "...therefore what?"
Try it in any debate you engage in with political foes: You don't like the President's
economic stimulus package, therefore what do you propose? You don't want to change
energy policy in this country: "...therefore what?" You didn't like President Clinton going
to North Korea to bring home the captured American journalists: "...therefore what?"
It is easy to bluster and bloviate, argue and attack, criticize and kvetch, but it is much
harder to answer: "...therefore what?" What do you think? I welcome your comments
and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org