Politics & Prejudices
Why Obama and Dems should toot their horns louder
Published: October 20, 2010
"Here's my big bitch," a lady who lives in Dearborn Heights and has five kids wrote to me last weekend. "The socialized medicine that BO [President Barack Obama] was supposed to implement is an utter failure."
Wonderful, I thought. Another person brainwashed by the insurance lobby and their front women, Sarah Palin and her mini-me, Delaware's Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell, whose anti-masturbation crusade has inspired the nation.
But I was wrong. Disillusioned in Dearborn Heights had a different take on all this, which may explain some of why health care reform isn't more popular: "I have way too many friends, or just humans I know, [who] remain without coverage. I am not one of them, but for as much hoopla as there was about passing the legislation there should have been a result. I am begging you to make a public comment."
Fair enough, and here it is: There hasn't been much result because most of the health care benefits don't take effect till the year 2014!
That was to give the insurance industry, etc., time to prepare. They seem not to be doing that; instead they are raising money like mad to try to repeal the health care bill.
Some of the health care bill's provisions have kicked into effect in the last few weeks. Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or kick you off the rolls if you get sick. If you have coverage already, you can keep your children on your policy till they turn 26.
But most of the bill, the part that makes it possible for nearly all Americans to have coverage, hasn't taken effect yet.
Politically, setting things up that way may have been a mistake. Consumers are hearing scare stories, most of them pure lies, spread by special interests with deep pockets — and who, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January, are allowed to spend unlimited amounts.
The Obama administration ought to have been doing a lot more to educate people; ought to be running a vast education campaign about what is in this bill and what is really at stake.
"Health care reform is on the way. Don't let them steal it from you." That's what the voters need to be told. But money may be lacking, and the president seems to be making another "mistake" as well: He seems to be too focused on doing his job.
Rochelle Riley, the Detroit Free Press columnist, took part in a mass interview session with the president recently. She said he compared himself with Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball. Obama said he thought that when he was a player, Old Number 42 was largely focused not on his historic legacy, but on his and the team's performance.
"I tend to just be focused on getting hits and making plays." Naturally, you'd think that was exactly what the job of the president should be. Except that he was wrong about Jackie Robinson. He was always conscious back in 1947 that he represented all of black America.
If he had blown it, either by playing poorly or having a bad attitude, he might have ruined his people's chances for years. He wasn't even allowed to fight back when racists on the field attacked or spiked him for his first three years.
Fortunately he was a great player and a greater diplomat, and he succeeded at everything. Unfortunately, he was dead at 52; the strain involved sent him to an early grave. But he went out a winner. The lesson for President Obama is that today a president has to be both superb at what he does, and the most effective chief propagandist of his administration.
Some 40 million Americans without any health care insurance are going to have health care in a few years, thanks to President Obama. This country narrowly escaped another Great Depression — so far — again thanks to President Barack Hussein Obama.
We might all be selling apples on street corners if John McCain had won, and he and the nasty nitwit were now in power. (See the October Vanity Fair if you want to know who Sarah Palin really is, and what she is like.) Closer to home, General Motors and Chrysler almost certainly would no longer exist if it hadn't been for President Obama saving them.
Yet Obama, and the Democrats, aren't doing nearly enough to blow their own horns. Thanks to that, and the nonstop barrage of right-wing propaganda, some masquerading as news under cover of the Fox network, they've allowed their enemies to define them in the public mind.
They need to do better, fast. Responsible journalists need to limit the amount of time they give to Christine O'Donnell, who is running from a state the size of a postage stamp. They need to do more to point out that her record is pretty much a tissue of lies, from start to finish. The so-called "Tea Party revolt" has resulted in some very bizarre candidates, from the outrageous Sharron Angle to one Rich Iott in Toledo.
Iott, a dropout from Hillsdale College, hates "Obamacare," but has a hard time articulating an alternative to it, or much else. He's been running a well-funded congressional campaign against longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, and seemed to be giving her a race. Until, that is, Atlantic magazine revealed that for years he liked to dress up as a Nazi SS officer with a group that re-enacted the exploits of a particular SS division.
Where do they get these people??
News blues: Everybody agrees that an informed public is vitally important, and that newspapers supply a quality and dimension of news other media don't. For one thing, the vast majority of news itself — "content" — is gathered by newspapers.
Gathering serious news is hard, difficult and important work. Yet you'd never know that from the utter contempt with which Gannett treats its workers. Union contracts have expired at the Detroit newspapers, both effectively controlled by Free Press owner Gannett, and the company is demanding a 12 percent wage cut.
That, plus employee health care contributions would go up by 1 percent a year, with perhaps lesser coverage as well. According to a memo from the Newspaper Guild's Lou Mleczko, the company's health care proposal "contains no details."
The company has refused to budge on any of its demands, and the unions plan to schedule votes on whether to accept the contract on Halloween, which seems curiously appropriate.
How they vote probably won't matter, since the company will likely declare an impasse and impose what changes it wants anyway. Meanwhile, Gannett's quarterly report posted a 37 percent increase in earnings!
True, revenue from the company's 80 newspapers was down 4.8 percent, though they were still profitable. But broadcast and Internet revenue soared. Does this justify giving newspaper folks in Detroit huge pay cuts — and then freezing salaries for two years?
Evidently, Gannett thinks it does. Why? Because they figure they can get away with it. Fifteen years ago, the workers went on an ill-planned, ill-prepared strike. Local unions took on nationwide companies with deep pockets, and were utterly defeated.
Detroit can expect even worse newspapers in the future.
> Email Jack Lessenberry