"They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.
What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.
But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.
Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America." -- President Barack H. Obama, speaking about health care reform before a joint session of Congress held on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.
Some Quick Thoughts:
There were no real surprises. He basically regurgitated or represented the outlines of a plan he laid out during the campaign season. The basic components are the same - a health insurance exchange, mandatory treatment without precondition discrimination, no health insurance mandates and some undefined cuts in medicare fraud.
Two things that are new - individual mandates and a relief fund for those who cannot afford health insurance until the new exchange is created.
The president's defense of the public option was forceful.I was most particularly impressed with his attempt to repudiate the socialized medicine claim by comparing the public option on health insurance to a public college or public university. Public colleges do provide students with an affordable (relatively speaking) means to obtain the four-year degree that was at one point. The president obviously will not let the public option stand in the way of a health care reform bill. It will be sacrificed in order to gain whatever votes are necessary to win final approval. Nevertheless I was pleased to see him make the case for the public option while demolishing the argument that he is somehow socializing health care.