This Ain't No Tea Party

Friends,

It’s been said that one of the greatest fears humans have is to speak in front of an audience.  If that’s a fear or a recurring bad dream, how about this for a nightmare:  You have the microphone.  You’ve convened a meeting to hear from people.  Five-hundred are before you; they’re overflowing the room.   Before you can explain the ground rules and offer some thoughts, people start yelling at you – individually and in collective chants.  And they’re yelling at each other, too.  At one point a man comes out of the crowd, stands about 6 feet away, and proceeds to berate you, among other things calling you a “fraud.”  Okay, wake up, now.

Want to run for congress?  J

That nightmare is the reception Congressman John Dingell received on Friday, a month after his 83rd birthday, at a town hall meeting he convened on health care.  Congressman Dingell has been throughout his fifty-four years in Congress dedicated to “regular folks” in his working class Downriver Detroit district.  He’s campaigned – and represented people between elections – with an open ear.  I’ve watched him listen to people, and call them “sir” or “ma’m” as though they were the President or a senator – whether they were children, seniors, blue collar workers, people with disabilities, or anyone else you might imagine an “arrogant congressman” would quickly look beyond.  He’s been a gentle man, and someone who takes his duty as a democratic representative as though God and George Washington were watching his every move.  When I think of America fighting for democracy in Viet Nam or Iraq or Nicaragua or Europe in World War II, my image of what representative democracy looks like is John Dingell (Gerald Ford and my friend and mentor Sander Levin typify it as well).  It has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with partisanship.  It has everything to do with civility, reason, and the discipline of rational debate.  I’m proud but not surprised that at the end of the ruckus on Friday, Congressman Dingell held a second town hall, because so many had not been able to get into the room for the first.

Although I’m very interested in the health care debate, I’m more interested for this column in how it’s happening than what it’s about.  I had a professor who used to say, “there’s a thin veneer of civilization” painted atop the behavior of groups of humans.  The veneer wears thin these days.  This debate is so vital.  The values on both sides of the issue are deeply held and deserve to be fully aired.  But let’s be clear: The pinnacle of American history was not the Boston Tea Party.  The tea party was an act of defiance and held awesome symbolic power.  It helped win the right to be represented. . . By people like John Dingell or Pete Hoekstra or anyone else who has the courage, drive and savvy to connect with enough voters (not colonists) who give them the privilege of serving.  The peak of the birth of American representative democracy was not a tea party (or the Chicago convention of 1968) but the Constitutional Convention – and the hundreds of town hall discussions that Adams and Jefferson and their colleagues had with those they represented.  Let’s have those kinds of discussions.

It’s not just politics.  Sometimes at work and at home, people get more and more frustrated.  They don’t believe they can be heard or that their voice matters.  At some point the may get “mad as hell” and say, “I’m not going to take it any more.”  Better that we listen well enough that we don’t reach that point.  So, who’s feeling left out in your world?  And if they finally blow, it’s vital that we actively listen then – with patience and calm.  And return to the issues.  And return to the issues.  And seek first to understand.  And seek win-win.  And if we find ourselves on the other side – feeling left out and unheard – let’s hope we can find a more civil and useful way to engage.  We’d do better to leave screaming to children and adolescents.  Democracies, families and businesses run a lot better on disciplined dialogue.

Have fun engaging as you

Lead with your best self,

Dan

 

follow me on www.twitter.com/danmulhern

 

57 responses to “This Ain't No Tea Party

  1. Dan~
    Excellent commentary today…this really needed to be said. The “noise” created by individuals attempting to have their voices heard, will only insure that they become irrelevant, as people tune them out. We need to “discuss” and debate all sides of the issues to determine an outcome where everyone can live with the outcome. We all will have to “share” in sacrifices for the good life.

  2. Dan,

    In the Stephen R. Covey book you gave me on Everyday Greatness, one of the chapters was on Magnanimity. It said that… ONE OF MAGNANIMITY’S FINEST REWARDS OCCURS WHEN ENEMIES ARE MADE INTO FRIENDS.

    Here is today’s quote from Edwin Markham.

    FROM FOE TO FRIEND~

    He drew a circle that shut me out–
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took him in.

    Congressman Dingle has been turning enemies into friends as long as I can remember. I think that is why he is such a well respected statesman. ~The TIP Lady

  3. I certainly agree that “civilized” debate can seem to be a lot more productive, and is certainly a lot more pleasant, than the style of debate we generally see around strongly emotional issues (healthcare, abortion, etc. . . . they all seem to evoke the same primal response in some folks). However, I wonder if the debate around the Constitutional Convention was any more “civilized” than what we’re seeing around healthcare today. Certainly a few hours of watching the British Parliament in action would suggest otherwise, where ruckus debate often seems par for the course. I’m no sociologist, and would readily admit that I could be wrong, but perhaps this style of debate (as unpleasant and often unfair as it may be) has an important place in our society.

  4. Very interesting article and I like the focus on “behavior” that Dan offers. I know Congressman John Dingell and respect what he has done to serve our country, our state, and our southeast Michigan region. Taking political party out of my thinking, I hope John and the other members of the House and Senate pay attention to the national “blood pressure” that is rising amongst many of us in the U.S. All of this artificial stimulus strategy is crippling, not helping our economy and national security. Saddling us with more and more debt is NOT the answer for getting us back to prosperity. I, and many Americans, who love this country, are absolutely sick and fed up with the strategies of the President, former President, current and past House and Senate members’ actions that caused the credit disaster in the first place and positioned our country for the depression we are now witnessing. I think it does take a Tea Party type of mentality and behavior to get these elected officials inside the Beltway to wake up and connect with the reality of what their actions have caused. Executing strategies to artificially prop up banks, insurance companies, captive finance companies, automakers, and other companies runs counter to the free capital markets system and what this country was founded on. It’s nice to refelct on Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, but I don’t recall from any of my history classes either them or the Constitution or the Bill of Rights promoting the protection of companies from bad judgment and management and/or union negotiations decisions that ultimately drive them out of business. How about this for a stimulus strategy; stop taxing businesses and individuals for whatever amount of time it would take to represent $1 Trillion in revenue to the U.S. Treasury? Then individuals could pay down the debt that they have been encouraged to take on over the past few years and slowly get back into spending, and businesses could do the same and pay down debt and reinvest in their people, plants, and equipment, all of which would ultimately and “appropriately” stimulate the economy and drive it back to prosperity. Getting people and businesses further in debt is no strategy for success. This healthcare proposition Obama is touting is nothing more than a move to socialized medicine (does anyone remember his March 2007 comments in public?) which will result in more mis-management at the federal level, more waste, and higher costs, which will mean more taxation on individuals and businesses. Does anyone remember Hurricane Katrina? There are still billions of approved and approprated dollars sitting unspent (or univested) because the federal government didn’t know how to handle a project of that magnitude. Think about the current Cash For Clunkers $1 Billion fiasco. Again the federal government was unprepared and unable to handle even the small amount of success that program had/is having. So now they are throwing another $2 Billion in articial incentives at the problem in the name of “stimulating the economy.” It wasn’t but a few months ago that GM, Chrysler and Ford were criticized for overspending on incentives of all kinds to artificially keep sales up and production volumes up. Now the President and the federal representatives in both the House and Senate have fallen into the same exact trap; artificially pulling sales forward from future periods. This too will come back to haunt us. Well Healthcare at the federal level will drawf either of these programs by many multiples and what makes any of us hard working U.S. loving citizens think the federal government can efficiently and effectively run a national healthcare program? I’m sorry for the crowd’s behavior towards Congressman Dingell, but enough is enough! We need less government at the federal, state and local levels, not more. I hope he at least heard that much from the crowd. if not, send him a copy of this note Dan.

  5. I agree with Dan. “It has everything to do with civility, reason, and the discipline of rational debate.” There is a big difference between just plain common courtesy and the ability to respond with rationality and civility and what has been happening recently and did happen to Congressman Dingell. Ruckus is not a word that should be used in defining debate. Other than generating a lot of media coverage, what was the positive result of this display? I do not suggest using Roberts Rules but respect for the speaker is a must.

  6. Yes, this next great depression, with one huge government bailout after another (with proposed health care spending the latest government rescue), is unsettling for many people.

    It has been forecast that as early as this year, Social Security, at $580 billion the nation’s biggest social program, will be transformed from an operation that’s helped finance the rest of the government for 25 years into a cash drain that will need money from the Treasury.

    The current BUSINESSWEEK magazine cover story states, “With the government spending untold trillions to bail out incompetent banks, faddish mortgage borrowers, General Motors, Chrysler, AIG, GMAC and Wall Street, it should damn well bail out Social Security old-age benefits—the ones who’ll benefit from the bailout have played by the rules and paid Social Security taxes for decades.” More at: http://www.CoachingTip.com

    Political decisions of the past and present are driving these United States to bankruptcy and placing a huge financial burden on our children and grandchildren. This financial crisis is certainly no tea party for any rational adult.

  7. As I have noted in many of your posts, you have captured a significant topic and distilled an important fact from the maelstrom. What I would like to note is that there is a fundamental lesson to be learned here about leading change. John Dingell is the longest serving member of the House or Representatives (serving since 1955), he has made a career of being reelected and returning largesse to his constituents.

    Commentary on his effectiveness aside, he was returning to a place in which the pace of change has far exceeded the nation’s ability to digest. Additionally, the topic at hand is one of extreme volatility. We are not discussing sewer bonds, but the state of healthcare which will affect every single American. I commend him for holding a second town hall meeting and hope what he hears will encourage him to take substantive action.

    As we manage change – which is the fundamental role of a leader – we must be attuned to how prepared our group is to undertake the change and what impact that will have on the organization. Covey speaks of seeking first to understand and then understood. We have a classic case where an opportunity has been missed and real leaders must speak out to frame the problem accurately and then begin the process of change.

  8. Folks are frustrated with the nanny government. They are so busy selling us stuff that is so wonderful they exempt themselves and their own families from what is supposed to be good for us. Give us a break already.

  9. Dan, I’ve been thinking the same thing a lot lately, both in terms of how this un-civil approach is not the right way to go, and also wondering how many good potential public servants will choose to do something else instead of running for office and risk being attacked in public.

    As you probably know, yesterday was the 35th anniversary of Gerald Ford’s taking office in 1974, and there were a number of Ford-related segments on C-Span yesterday. In one segment, Ford was interviewed at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids in 1999. He said even then that the level of negative rhetoric had escalated to the greatest extent of his own lifetime. (And I think it’s only increased in the last 10 years.) Although he acknowledged that his own Republican party was a big cause of the current trend, my own thought today is that most of the vocal protesters are not actually affiliated with the GOP to a great extent. However, I think Republicans and Democrats alike can do the country a service by asking all of their supporters to be civil; to ask questions and state their positions in a civil manner. Back in 2004, George W. Bush could have done a lot by asking supporters not to deal in negative attacks on John Kerry’s Vietnam record (many of the accusations have been proven untrue) but admonishment was only cosmetic. Ford said that JFK and others were truly friends of his, and judging by how their positions changed, they learned from each other over the years by listening.

    We should try to stop this type of behavior. I understand there are town hall meeting in cities across Michigan this week, and those of us on this page can do service by trying to peacefully de-fuse the situation.

  10. John Agno: I enjoy your posts on this site. I think they provide a good insight and perspective. In your post today, you say that as early as this year, the Social Security program has the potential to turn into “a cash drain that will need money from the Treasury.” If it actually does so, it strikes me that there will be a level of realism there that hasn’t existed for years. I understand that Social Security actually has one of the lowest administrative cost percentages anywhere, public or private. However, for years, administrations have been borrowing from Social Security to pay for other programs. As one particular example, the Bush administration took money from Social Security to pay for the Iraq war, and did not reflect this borrowed money in the budget. So in a sense, any money that needs to come from the Trasury to beef up Social Security has essentially gone to support other programs, anyway.

  11. Dan,

    Thank you for addressing the issues of civility and reason. It is often in the silence, the exhausted vacuum after an emotional explosion of cataclysmic proportions, that the mere whisper of reason is finally heard. Frustration and anger are emotions so powerful that, until they are vented, mastered, harnessed, or exhausted — rational thought is nearly impossible.

    Many, many moons ago, when I worked for Social Security, I took part in a role-playing experience during which I played the role of a union labor negotiator. There was no script, other than a set of issues to be debated and the admonition (privately) that we were in the right and had to fight for our side — if possible, overpowering our adversaries. The other side was given similar instructions. Within 15 minutes, we were on our feet, shouting at each other across the “bargaining” table. The other trainees (not participating) told me that they did not recognize me, because the transformation was so complete. I was on my feet and was pounding on the table. A frightening amount of noise was emanating from my red and contorted face. At the crescendo, the peak of the finger-pointing and screaming, the moderator gaveled a halt and we collapsed in our chairs — slowly coming back to our chagrined and embarrassed senses. The moderator’s calm and quiet voice echoed in that enormous, empty space which only moments before was a scene of verbal battle. Our vicious struggle solved nothing, but the measured comments delivered by our moderator evinced a teaching moment like none I had before experienced.

    I now keep a heavy bag hanging in my garage. It is where I vent my anger and frustration at being unemployed — unable to use my skills and talents to support my family — and at every grandstanding politician and would-be leader who generates more heat than light in the vain effort to garner attention rather than generate action. I love fiery rhetoric as much as the next guy. When a spellbinding speaker takes the crowd by the scruff of the mind and paints a panoramic vision of promise and prosperity, it thrills the soul and powers the spirit. But, if the light show is not followed by discussion, by the cool, clear, liquid dialog drawn from the well of reason, ultimately I walk away empty and exhausted…spent, thirsty, unsatisfied.

    The recent passing of Walter Cronkite may provide a bas relief illustration. Perhaps, he was our nation’s most trusted broadcaster because he was a reasonable and civil man; because his measured and calm voice seemed to rise from the well of reason to address emotionally charged issues and topics with matter-of-fact equanimity. William Lloyd Garrison said, “With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”

    We absolutely need the quicksilver firebrands to power change, and just as absolutely we need the cool power of reason to point the way.

    Mick

  12. I certainly agree that civil discussion coupled with respectful listening is the very best way to understand each others’ thoughts, ideas, and positions. However, I’ve heard that agitators are being paid and brought into Michigan by well-funded organizations from distant places like California to heckle and harass and shout down local constituents so the voices of the voters here have difficulty being heard. In fact, some people came into our local office and claimed to be “grass-roots organizers” for “‘clean’ coal.” But it turned out they were from L.A. We decided that was not really grass-roots, but more like artificial astro-turf.

  13. Dingel did not have his facts straight. People are angry over a bloated bill that will not accomplish the end outcomes.
    Do you really believe Dingel has read all 1000 pages of the bill.
    Credit to the participants that attending the meeting Perhaps they are the true leaders

  14. The awakening of the American Public is happening because of one simple principle………TRUST and the public has lost TRUST in our government. When you have senators and congressmen signing off on bills they don’t read and a president who is rushing everyone through uncharted waters people start to ask WHY? What is in these bills that must be signed into law before the lawmakers understand them and moreover don’t include them or their families in these changes? Why won’t government officials have the same healthcare as they are reccommending for “We The People”? PLEASE can we have term limits at every level. Everyone gets one term to serve the people instead of a life long career in government. Our Founding Fathers never intended for government officials to be life long survivors, heck why wouldn’t any american want the ridiculas benefits that these lawmakers get. The government needs to get out of the way so the republic can survive. People are upset because they don’t TRUST a word the lawmakers are saying, it’s really pretty simple. Mean what you say and say what you mean……..is anyone listening!!

    1. Mike,
      I think the “uncharted waters” is an apt description. This is whitewater rapids – what would it be level 5, is that highest?
      But when you ask “why?” I think the answer is that 50 or so million have no health insurance, and that is untenable for the country as a whole. Employer-focused health care is fraught with danger in such turbulent times. Etc.
      So, the President set a deadline and all hell has broken loose. Deadlines do that. I know in your fast-food business – whether at the local level or in the large company, you used deadlines to drive thinking, energy and decisions.
      Granted it’s hard to read a 1000-page bill when you’re in level 5 rapids. Hopefully, the tone calms down and the real fundamental issues get addressed: is there a business mandate? at what size of company? is there rationing? what are basic services? These are great questions that need rational discussion.
      Let’s have at it!
      Dan
      p.s. I believe the Founders gave us a great blueprint. I don’t think we need to follow every word. But on this one I agree with them: NO term limits 🙂

  15. Well said Dan, and spoken like a true civic minded, rational, intelligent, thoughtful person. Too bad there are so many behaving in just the opposite way. I think you should submit this as an editorial in every major newspaper in the country!

  16. You ask “So who’s feeling left out in your world?” Isn’t it obvious? You wonder what happens if they finally blow? You said:”Better that we listen well enough that we don’t reach that point.” If our representatives were listening, they would hear what these people are saying – they have already reached that point!

    1. Ed,
      This will probably sound like absolute lunacy because of the way the media – traditional and emerging – treat the evil congress. But I honestly think the problem is Pogo-like: we have met the enemy and it is us. The vast majority of congresspeople I have known work really hard. Some are idealogues and their districts allow and encourae that. Some are tough-types who take on the role of party disciplinarian and attempt to force resolution out of 435 wildly different folks, representing this wildly different country.

      But the popular (and unpopular) media goes wild on a Pelosi, a Gingrich, or a Wilbur Mills or LBJ from days gone by. And we act like (a) they are ALL crazy people, and (b) their craziness has nothing to do with the tough issues we face and our own conflicted values and feelings.

      Face it: the mainstream of America has lost ground economically, and as a nation we are in deep debt. That creates a tinder box of social tension. We can scream at the congress, or we can show up at town halls, write about tough issues (as so many have today) and recognize the solutions aren’t easy.

      So, you are right: it’s obvious: many, perhaps most, feel left out. And believe me Congress is listening (through polls that tell them more about their constituents than you and I will ever know). But what do we want them to listen to – beyond the rage? That seems to me the question. And what follows is the further question: HOW will we have the discussions so that we can learn our way to a stronger country!

  17. Hi Dan,

    Good morning, hope you had a lovely weekend. I did, a combination of work, gardening, and just hanging out. Saw a good movie – “Summer Hours” – a French film.

    Regarding what everyone is calling the healthcare debate, and the concern over the civility of the debate. Well, for one thing, and it’s a big thing, let’s stop calling it a debate and framing it as a debate. If we would like to see non-partisan engagement, then let’s not propose an adversarial approach to engagement. Language is important, and we’re often all too casual about it. Sloppy, actually. By definition, a debate is partisan, and assumes two sides to an issue, and that one side must prevail. This is not a helpful approach for anything more complex than deciding where to go to dinner.

    I believe we need a conversation about health care and all the things connected to it, both upstream and downstream. This is a pretty large topic, including as it does the fate of our nation. It is true that nothing else will change for the better until we understand and act on health care as a leverage point.

    I really wish politicians would invite people from the systems thinking community (Peter Senge, Margaret Wheatley, Linda Booth Sweeney), the conversation-based community building sector (Peter Block, The World Cafe, Berkana, Conversation Cafe, PeerSpirit Circle), the dialogue practitioners (Bill Isaacs, NCDD, Adam Kahane), and the proponents of adaptive leadership (Ron Heifetz, Sharon Parks) to help out and design a massive conversation. What I keep seeing is the same old thinking being applied to an incredible adaptive challenge – as Senge has said, “we’ve never been here before”. We need new thinking, because the old thinking will not get us out of this mess and into our preferred future. I believe Mr. Obama is fully capable of the necessary new thinking, and I see evidence of it. However, he faces incredible (in many senses of the word) obstacles, many of which I believe could be dissolved through (more) honest engagement of the citizenry.

    I invite you to come to the Pegasus Systems Thinking in Action conference this November in Seattle. Hang out with people who are striving to see the world from a systems perspective, as an interconnected and interrelated whole. If you can’t attend, please send an aid. It would be so valuable for you and the Governor and your whole organization to engage with this group of thinkers. If you send a small team of people, even better. I’ll be there, and I would personally see to it that their experience was excellent and practical and inspiring.

    Steve Byers
    “Helping human systems think, learn, and work together – better”
    360 259-0340 (mobile)

    1. Steve,
      Thanks for the invite and the thoughtful review of leadership literature.
      I especially like your notion that it’s not a debate – in the traditional pro-con way. There are many variables in the discussion, and we need to move away from some of the tired rhetoric that inflames more than it enlightens.
      Dan

  18. Thanks for reminding me of the value in civility.
    It can be challenging to take the high road when it comes to a topic that clearly hits so many emotional veins.
    I’m going to try keeping my side of the street clean in this area.

  19. Dan:

    When the president sets a deadline on a national healthcare bill without knowing what is in the bill and the short timeframe all but destroys any transperancy; you are going to get blow back. What really gets me is this labeling of anyone with dissent as a “Brookes Brothers Nazi”.

    Shoving a massive bill down our throats that has the ability to bankrupt our contry and then demonize/dismiss those that speak out about it is appalling and I would think you would consider that bad leadership.

  20. Dan,

    Having read the Constitution and taught on its formation, I think that these “town hall meetings” of today are very much like the “town hall meetings” of yesteryear. Let’s recall that the colonists had been “governed” by the British throne (led by King George III) before the Revolutionary War and now these new citizens of the United States clearly didn’t want to replace one tyrannt across the ocean with another tyrannt in this country called the Federal government. Even though Madison (main writer of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) was a Federalist, he too did not want to see a federal government take over the states’ (the people) rights; thus, the 10th Amendment was written. (Also recall that the opposition to a Federal government were such patriots as Samual Adams, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and even Thomas Jefferson, who expressed grave concerns as well.)

    As a citizen and a taxpayer, what I see today is the people (“We the People”) have been awakened. This is exciting because for too long people in this country have pointed to Washington, Lansing, or their local municapalities as the “government”, and not understood that they are the government! I think that this discourse occurring around the country is healthy and a return to those days of the Constitutional Convention! I am sure that you’ve heard that “democracy is messy”, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart if you run for public office (there are even examples of actual fighting among our elected representatives over hot issues in the past, i.e. slavery). This is not to sanction bad behavior, but I see this grassroot (not “astroturf” Ms. Pelosi) movement of the people focusing not only on the healthcare issue, but how we the people are being treated by our elected representatives. When I teach my college classes, my students are frustrated that they are not being heard. They are being asked to make all the sacrifices (living within our budgets), while our “government”, that hasn’t even taken the time to read these bills or allowed us the people to read them either, continues to spend our money with reckless abandon.

    Further, I don’t like the idea of the White House wanting American citizens to report on fellow Americans what they might consider “fishy.” Again, we have a right to privacy as stated in the 4th Amendment, and this attempt to gain information about us goes against the Constitution and our democratic foundation! We the People are angry, sick and tired of being taken for granted, and “we aren’t going to take it anymore!”

    Anyone reading my comments, I do not belong to any conservative group nor am I a Republican. I am an independent citizen of this country, who loves his nation passionately! Do yourself a favor, read the Constitution and discover what it actually says, not what the “government” tells you is in there.

  21. Lets be frank – people who are afraid, or threatened and feel they will not be heard act un-civilized. A lot of wars have started when people talked at each other. I was shocked when Govenor Grandholm held a meeting in Dearborn with the governor of Wisconsin and a representative from President Obamas office. I was shocked for two reasons. First the way the microphone was controlled and passed only into friendly hands while the cameras were running and secondly that when congressman Dingle got the microphone how openly he advocated a single payer system. He has the right to that opinion. I strongly disagree. I wasn’t there last week but perhaps scared people were looking to get their hands on the microphone to be heard. This is NOT a right wing conspiracy 60% of the population are afraid of what is being proposed while a majority are in favor of appropriate changes to the health care system. They want no pre-exisitng conditions and portability of benefits when they say they want change and what they think they are being offered is Canadian style Socialized medicine. Neither side is truly listening to the other side in my opinion.

  22. I would start simply, define where people are now and where they will likely be in the future under any given plan. There has been little “modeling” presented to the American Public and this is the direct fault of our government. When that vacuum exists, it enables people with a vision (good or ill) to fill it – unencumbered by the facts.

    It’s about change management. This basic requirement of leadership exists regardless of “civility”. Emotions can not be managed externally. They represent the hyperbole of our thinking and reactions – including those members of congress (good and not so good).

  23. Dan:

    I would like to see a breakdown of the 50 million uninsured. I have read breakdowns that say 12 million are illegal immigants, alarge portion are 18 – 24 yr olds who don’t want insurance and still others who can afford it but don’t buy it for whatever reason. It is thier choice. This 50 million figure is thrown around like there is 50 million people who want insurance and have no availability to healthcare. What is medicare?

    I think if you want honest dialog you need to use honest numbers.

    1. Terry,
      Here’s a link for you. http://www.nchc.org/facts/coverage.shtml. About 7 different studies. Nearly all come out with over 50 million uninsured (and that was two years ago before the recession had sunk in at such depths).
      The numbers are rising as unemployment increases and employers decide they can’t handle the burden.
      Your turn to cite some facts that support your view.
      And, I’d invite you to venture out of your ideology and ask people whose “choice” it is to not have health care what it is they are choosing to spend on instead. Perhaps food, gas, an old car to go to a job interview, maybe medications.
      You suggest I don’t use “honest numbers.” I’d suggest your ideological views make it hard for you to see reality, Terry. Filters do that. The idea that the health care issue is in some big measure an immigrant issue makes me believe that your views come out of too much time listening to those who support your worldview – Hannity, et al. – and an upbringing of suburban privilege.
      I’ll await YOUR honest numbers, friend.
      Dan

  24. Well said – up until the last when you say to leave the screaming to children and adolescents. I work with a great group of thoughtful youth who are making a great difference in our community through with their energy and opinions. Talk to Rob Collier at Council of Michigan Foundations about the work Youth Advisory Committees are doing all over our state. Talk to Jen Weaver Stroven about Great Lakes PeaceJam and the youth run service projects happening as youth are inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winners who meet with them each spring in Kalamazoo.

    Perhaps you should have said “We’d do better to leave screaming to babies and punk rockers.”

  25. look here for a few excerpted drafts of the new health care plan:

    http://lynchburg.craigslist.org/rnr/1303425902.html

    just for starters…..any rational patriot of the USA will begin to understand the scope.girth.appetite of the nanny state. No wonder those of us who voted for Obama feel betrayed…..he is a sell-out.Bring back Ross Perot/Ron Paul

    I’ll be posting more, once my blood pressure medicine kicks in.

  26. Speaking before a crowd is not easy. Dialogue is important. If we study the rise of Nazi Germany, we can see the same rise in Nazi America. The silence of good people will assist the demise in our country. I recently read an article discussing the five steps for fascism to take hold in a country. The USA is almost there. For all pracical purposes we are a fascist country. Frankly, it does not matter what party is in control. Mr. Obama will be a one term president. I voted for him but I am very disappointment in his embrace of Bush II’s policies and practices.

  27. I am 70 years old and as a youngster I heard all the propaganda of how great my country is. I now have health problems and I can summarize the true America in two articles. The first article is written by Stephen Lendman, “A Culture of Violence.” The second article is written by Ray McGovern, “Christians largely mum on torture.”

    Please read these two articles!

  28. The “how its happening” issue is most useful.

    Recently I spoke with a retired police officer, who said that at the beginning of his career, the people he arrested were violent, cruel, or in some other way anti-social persons, BUT they had a veneer of civility which made them easier to deal with. By the end of his career that veneer was gone.

    When people show up to stop debate ( or prevent the asking and answering of questions), instead of participating in the debate and process, we are entering a time of chaos, or revolution.

    Deceit is often stronger than wisdom. The passions of humans can be stirred with the right words and pictures, to the point that reason is lost. We have reached the point where large numbers of organizaitons know how to use/ misuse this manipulation of human behaviour.

    Focus groups and surveys are done not to find out what you believe or want for policy or law, but to find out how to turn you to support a policy, or to need a law. They know what will set you off, and make you go to a town hall meeting angry, rather than curious. What will make you NOT vote. What will make you send money. There is an industry that knows the right words, and how to tie them to your core beliefs, to make you support ideas, and legislation, even though it is against your best interests.

    How it is done is very important.

    Money

  29. I give Rep. Dingell great credit for his insight and courage in deciding to meet with his constituents. While no one likes to get yelled at we need to remember that it is still a form of communication. Rep. Dingell and our other legislators should encourage their constituents to “communicate” with them at town hall meetings even if it means facing angry people. Our legislators should worry when the people stop shouting and turn their backs to them. When that happens, communication has died.

  30. Town hall meetings…..I truly believe these are done as what the legislator/elected official considers a necessary evil. Their agendas are not ‘of, by, and for the people’ per se, but need to have the illusion that they are…..thus these town hall meetings. With Mr. Dingall being a prime example of why career politicians should no longer be (ie., term limits be put into place, but do allow for a second term,validated by the voters giving that individual another opportunity in time to be a public servant). Furthermore, with respect to health care reform, that is the tip of the iceburg respective of reform needs. Congress doesn’t need a different plan for health care; they should be the example of what they want for the citizenry, by implementing their plans for the country unto themselves first. Does the country respect Washington, D.C., when they ride around in new jets so they look good flying into Monaco for a “government summit of sorts”, thinly veiled as such when the reality is it is a taxpayer paid vacation. Do they deserve respect when the Wall St. thieves are given TARP funding in order to pay $33 BILLION in bonuses for jobs poorly done? When Ms. Pelosi talks down to Americans, calling grassroots efforts to enact change for the better, ‘astroturf’….maybe the air is too thin for her to think properly during her weekly flights on Air Force II back and forth to San Fransisco (to the paultry tune of $50 MILLION + annually).

    Fascism, socialism, communism……rapidly becoming monikers that represent the truth in how the USA is quickly moving. I’ve oft times, going back decades, referred to our country as a mirror image of the old USSR, only about 20+ years of time separating us from that commonality. The old Russia is becoming the new America.

  31. As a ‘new’ American I find the hysteria being exhibited, about the attempts to install a system which would give health care access to all, incomprehensible. I grew up in a country where NO-ONE lost their home due to the cost of their medical care; NO-ONE was afraid to go visit the doctor to deal with a minor issue before it became a major issue; NO-ONE was denied medical care, OR forced to see a doctor they didn’t like; NO-ONE was afraid to leave their job if they disliked it, because they’d lose their health care coverage. No employer has been driven out of business because of the excessive costs of insuring their workforce health care coverage.

    The much sneered at UK health system has flaws, BUT it cares for everyone and no-one in the UK sees it as the responsibility of the employer to provide healthcare.

    The costs to the individual are minute compared to the costs to the individual in the USA. International studies time and time again show that the cost per capita of healthcare in the USA are far above those of almost every other country in the world.

    However, a sensible debate about this issue is unable to occur for many of the reason stated in this article. The facts are distorted to suit the opposer, the voice of reason shouted down.

    The smart money would have been on examining how health care is achieved in other countries and taking the best aspects to develop a ‘best practice’ health care system for the USA. However, the “haves”, the “have nots”, the “won’t shares” are destroying that opportunity.

    Having a standardized cost per individual to access a basic healthcare and emergency care system, would free up billions of dollars which would reinflate our sad economy.

    DO I think the current proposal before Congress is the best deal for Americans – NO! Do I think we will be able to think it through and get a better system – sadly NO!

    At least not until people open their minds and work TOGETHER to achieve it.

    1. The lack of fact in the discussion is disturbing. Americans seem to think we have great health outcomes; we don’t. Americans seem to imagine that our private cost structure creates lower costs; it hasn’t. Relatively speaking our costs and outcomes are both worse than many other developed countries.

  32. Dan,

    Thank you for your comments and I agree wholeheartedly. Rep. Dingell has worked tirelessly for his constituents and deserves to be treated with a lot more respect than he received. He will be the one to voice their opinion in the House and needs to get more than yelling by attendees to understand everyone’s concern.

    I would also thank Sue Martin for her comments – there are many countries with a universal system that provide better coverage for its residents than we do here in the States.

    Deb

    1. Deb,
      Dingell gives it his all every day. And he’s not complaining about the rage.
      Yet the big issue is that Dingell represents us. Not just in the sense that’s he’s elected to represent us. But he represents the very democracy. When we don’t let him run a forum, we don’t let our fellow citizens be heard. It is a greater offense to ourselves than to John Dingell that we trash a a rare opportunity to express views, persusade others, question facts, and even express fear and outrage. The designed protests (that a USA Today survey today indicate have “successfully” increased skepticism) are an offense to us.
      Dan Mulhern

  33. I have to agree strongly with Gary Corbin’s comments. I am afraid many of our legislators have “gone off the edge” recently. They are bankrupting our country! They are spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need.

    Someone needs to throw a bucket of water and say, “ENOUGH!” As Bob Newheart is famous for saying, “STOP IT!”

    Stop claiming you’re trying to fix Health Care when the intention is a government takeover of 1/6th of the US Economy. Of course, our legislators and president will say, “We have no intention of taking over the auto industry, financial industry, health care system, etc.” PAY ATTENTION!

    These clowns need to be run out on a rail! All of them that are caught up in this frenzy to move toward to socialism in a big hurry, so the public doesn’t ask too many questions.

    I hope the sleeping giant awakes before it is too late.

    1. As an adult Democrat for 30 years it amazes me to hear all the talk about the “intention” is a government takeover, or “frenzy to move toward to [sic] socialism.” Believe it or not – and clearly you don’t – the vast majority of Dems believe in a capitalist system! I can almost hear the gasps of disbelief, the howls of laughter, because you all have convinced yourselves that there’s a big plot to take over your capitalist world. Well, don’t let reality get in the way, but other than a few people on the far left of our party, we’re pretty big on a capitalist system, competition and free markets to produce goods, services, and revenues to provide for the greater good – with reasonable regulation and occasional intervention.

      Moreover, like you, and many Democrats, I am concerned about the deficits we’re running. They are huge by historical standards. Not since Reagan and then Bush have we had such big deficits. Those damned socialists Reagan and Bush with all their deficit spending: did they really think that government could create jobs?!? And – now I’m still being truthful but my wicked tongue is out of my cheek – we are running even great deficits. We all HOPE that economic growth will help to reduce that naturally through taxes derived from rising incomes. We ALL (other than perhaps the most sick right wingers who hope for Obama failure and a new great president like George Bush?)
      hope that health care reform can be designed so that it doesn’t cost a trillion or more. That’s the hard work. As Joseph Califano said the other day: No one who has done projections of HC costs expected life expectancy to grow as it has; no one expected CT-scans, joint transplants, organ replacements, expensive chemo drugs, prolonged expensive end of life care would balloon as it has….Somewhere we have to figure out cost control, as well as accessibility.

      These are serious issues. Would that they were as simple as saying “It’s socialism. That’s bad.” We have 50+ million without health insurance. I have super-hard working, college-educated cousins and friends who’ve run out of UI and health coverage. Does the country tell them, “bummer for them.” Are you really prepared for the country to say, “bummer for you” (especially had we not bailed out GM?). Just let ’em all go?

      If we don’t do something with and for these folks, we’re going to (a) see their health worsen, (b) pay for it in the most expensive emergency care, (c) watch more employers move the way of reducing benefits to keep up with their cost-cutting competition, or we can always (d) get really capitalistic and let people either die or hope the churches take care of it. These are hard choices, and face it folks: the market by itself is failing!

      One more thing about all the fear mongering around “Socialism.” Do you recall that the big time bailouts began with Bush, with Wall Street – the bastion of socialism, guys? Hello!!!! Can we spell “free market,” here. Wall Street? You know traders, ROI, top-line, bottom-line. Paulson, Geithner. Do we know where they came from? No, they weren’t smoking pot in a commune just outside of Cal-Berkeley. Is it possible that we really believed that the entire markets might crash and that there were economists – as opposed to Fox News talking head entertainers – who had actually studied the Great Crash. Or is that just too simplistic of me to take smart people at their word? Has anyone noticed that many of the banks are paying back the loans they received? Does any of that weigh against the Great Socialist Takeover Conspiracy? Would it matter to anyone that England, China, Japan, Germany – all developed-country governments acted in the financial sectors to create some stability? Nah, they’re all Socialist countries, aren’t they? Let those fools support their financial and manufacturing industries. We’ll just let ours go under, and they will rise like the Phoenix (with European and Asian capital, in buildings owned by Asian and Middle East companies or governments to offer a good return -on the yen or the euro). Nah, to be Socialist is bad, bad, bad. Don’t you remember that word from grade school. It was like, almost as bad as Communism, wasn’t it?

      That’s too easy and simplistic for me and I hope for you.

      Argue about the deficit and the cost of health insurance. When it comes to health care reform: Push for pilots or interim steps. Lobby for controls or limits. Try some private sector alternatives. But look what’s happened since Hilary in ’92. She at least scared folks into some managed care that actually stabilized costs for a while. But since then: rising costs and decreasing availability. Is that what you want? This is too scary, so let’s just . . . do nothing, and let Adam Smith’s invisible hand save us.

      Everyone is speaking for Americans these days, claiming the noise makers speak for America. Well, I think it’s great that Obama is driving a debate for what Americans really DO WANT: a system that gives some basic health care to everyone, with some checks so that we don’t bankrupt ourselves, and some fairness so that the elderly, disabled, etc., are not marginalized.

      People in the Congress are doing hard work to try to find a way to thread the needle. Meanwhile, the fear-mongering is only driving us towards a solution that may not have the moderate and conservative voices that need to be in this dialogue. That would be a huge shame. Do we really want a bill that no Republican will sign off on – and hope that things go down the tubes so bad we can scrap it in two years and start all over again? Do we really want to take the risk that I – along with you are afraid of – a bill that really does drain the coffers (of citizens, our children, our private markets). I think we need to push for compromises.

      Or just kill the whole thing off and start off where we were post-Clintons. . . except with tens of millions more people without coverage. What a win that would be!

      I’m for thinking, debate, and ACTION.

      Dan Mulhern

  34. Joseph,
    This is either some kind of Zen Koan or just I’m missing something. Your rhetorical puzzler about why Senator K didn’t go to England for treatment might elicit a few potential answers:
    1. England’s an 8-hour plane ride away.
    2. Ted’s got a good doc.
    3. He went to Canada instead.
    4. He has a death wish and so is using American medicine.
    5. He’s pretty wealthy which usually means you can go anywhere you want, period.
    6. He’s still mad at England for what they did to the Irish.
    7. He picked a doctor instead of weighing an entire country’s health care against another and going to England.
    Okay, you win. Don’t look at statistical outcomes; just listen to Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and repeat after me, “America is the greatest country on the face of the earth.”
    Or, perhaps, remain open minded. Explore facts.
    Your argument is like the guy on the radio this morning who really nailed me. “If Mr. Mulhern is serious about (Rick Pitino’s) character issues, then why didn’t he quit being a Democrat when Bill Clinton did what he did?” Huh? So, if Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy do something smart or stupid, then that is all we need to know about the entire Democratic party or the comparative health care systems of two advanced countries?
    Joseph, I think my absurd comments (along with this last serious point) prove that I can be as brilliant in half a page as you can be in a sentence. So, again, I guess you win.
    Lead with your best self!
    Dan

  35. Dan,

    Obama has said since 2003 that he wants a single payer system. The “Public Option” is clearly designed to put insurance companies out of business. WAKE UP! This IS the largest power grab in the history of the US. Bureacrats like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Barney Frank, etc. want to take over 1/6 of the US economy. Then , they can decide what illnesses get money, who gets health care, who should be penalized for eating “the wrong foods”, require “end of life counseling”, etc.

    Isn’t the real key to reducing health care costs to focus on Tort Reform?

    Do you realize that 83% of Americans are happy with their health care?

    Do you realize that the CBO said that the health care legislation being discussed will STILL not cover all Americans even after 10 years?

    This bil isn’t about health care. It is about seizing an opportunity to grow bureacratic government and increase government’s control over real Americans.

    People are pissed and I don’t blame them.

    Joseph

    1. Joseph,
      I don’t think there are people who believe tort reform is a big part of health care. Look at Michigan where Gov Engler, the R-controlled legislature, and Cliff Taylor and Company made it nearly impossible to sue for nearly any significant amount. Hs that brought our insurance rates tumbling?
      Is an 80% reduction of those not covered worth it?
      I don’t blame people for being pissed either. They’re terrified of losing something – benefits, tax money. This is how people respond to change. It’s as if you’re calmly sitting at the gate waiting for your plane and 5 people start yelling at the gate attendant, “that plane has problems; if you take my seat, you can take anyone’s seat; this happened to me last week; you’re just trying to move us to another flight.” Within 2 minutes the calm gate area will be out of their seats, murmuring to each other, lining up at the counter. The level of hysteria and fear is extraordinary.
      The President has tried to drive reform by an August deadline to get it moving. He sure has done that. Whether he can restore calm and rationality remains to be seen. God bless him for trying.
      I’m not sure what the 83% poll is about or when it was taken. But it begs another question: are we happy with the health system overall, e.g, the costs to business and economic competitiveness, the continually rising costs, the continually rising numbers of unemployed. Pollsters will almost always tell you that the say their like their school, their congressman, their councilperson, but they think education is broken, the congress is broken and cities stink. So the 83% number doesn’t do much for me.
      The 47 million and rising number does trouble me. The competitive edge the Canadian Auto Workers have had over the UAW due to health care, that too troubles me. Companies like Wal-Mart hiring people at 30 hours so as not to give health benefits, that seems dysfunctional and scary.
      The beat goes on!
      Dan

  36. Dan,

    I don’t think the so called “Health Care Reform” legislation is actually about health care. 83% of Americans are happy with their health care. If someone really wanted to reduce the cost of health care, they would focus on Tort Reform. That’s what drives up doctor’s insurance and our health care costs.

    If someone really cared about the 47 million (debatable figure) Americans without health insurance they would focus on that issue. I have many friends that are young and don’t want health care insurance. They are healthy and pay out of pocket when they get health care. The 47 million figure included illegal aliens, doesn’t it?

    The current “Health Care” legislation is actually about growing government bureacracy and government power. The CBO even says the current legislation still won’t cover 10 million people even after 10 years of Obama-care.

    Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and others want to increase their power. If they can get control of 1/6th of the US economy, they will be able to decide who gets treatment, what illnesses receive investment, who gets penalized for eating a certain way (or voting a certain way), etc.

    The more Americans learn about Obama-care, the more they will fight it. We all realize that Obama wanted to ram this through in August so no one would see the details.

    Let’s get the facts out.

    Joseph

    1. Joseph,
      These sound like Hannity talking points and largely repeat points refuted above.
      Even your own admission has 37 million more people on health care. Sounds good to me.
      Dan

    1. Joseph,
      Trying to figure out the “moderation.” I was “happy” to see it happened to a pro-health care person, too. I’ll keep approving and try to figure out what’s up. I don’t censor (if there as relevance in some way to the topic and it’s not spam).
      D.

  37. Thanks, Dan, for putting the asinine question, about why Ted Kennedy isn’t seeking treatment in the UK – into exactly the right perspective for the questioner to understand.

    The current health system in the USA is elitist and far from providing the idealism of ‘we the people’ equality so often cited as the backbone of our constitution.

    It is elitist to have proper health care coverage only available for those with enough money to pay for it to a private insurer, or for those who work for employers who pay for it.

    And, pray, what is the difference between a private insurance executive deciding on what treatment you should be allowed to get, and which doctor you can see under their plan and having a government board decide?

    BUT that doesn’t happpen under either the Canadian or UK systems either – your doctor directs your care, not a government board.

    There are some excellent websites about the UK’s national health service, which anyone wishing to know the TRUTH about a system which has been in existence for over half a century, can access.

    I keep hearing more and more hysteria, based on nothing but rumor, about how a public health system will be the downfall of America. Look about you people – in the eyes of the rest of the world we’re descending into a third world country.

    We even have an international humanitarian organization opening up shop in Los Angeles, bringing the same kind of free health care they provided to other impoverished countries.

    A year or so ago, a similar organization took a train all along the east coast providing similar free health care for our ‘underserved’ population.

    How demeaning is that to our international image?

  38. There is an international health survey that the BBC published this week, guess what? America’s health system ranked lowest when compared to UK, France and even Singapore! Shouldn’t we be ashamed that the smartest country in the world, that has had the advantage both in business and achievements over the past 50 years, still hasn’t figured out equitable health care?

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