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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Social Justice and The Character of Our Country"

George Wenschhof

President Barack Obama accomplished more than what anyone could have expected when he addressed the joint session of Congress on health care reform. has the full text of his speech here.

He concluded his speech; which included specific plans and suggestions from the Left and the Right, with a reference to a letter he received from the late Senator Ted Kennedy after his death.

In that letter, Kennedy said health care reform was ..."the great unfinished business of our country". Obama continued referencing from the Kennedy letter saying "that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country." The text of the letter from Kennedy can be read here.

Obama pointed out that when social security was passed in 1935 and medicare in 1965, they both received criticism, including being labeled communist programs. Yet today, we are all better off because of these programs.

The president began his speech by offering details of his health care plan, spelling out that if you presently have insurance, nothing will change. Instead, it will be better with no denial of preexisting conditions, insurance companies not being able to drop your coverage, no cap on the coverage you receive, limit to your out of pocket expense, and insurance companies will be required to cover preventive care.

For those who do not have insurance, you will have quality affordable choice. A new insurance exchange would be phased in over four years which will provide competition. Here is where a public option will be included.

In addition, individuals would be required to have health insurance, and businesses will be required to either offer or charge for insurance.

President Obama also called out those who have been spreading lies and using scare tactics about proposed health care legislation and said he will call out any future spreading of misinformation. He debunked the scary myths including "death panels", no federal dollars to fund abortions and no coverage to undocumented aliens. The latter receiving a loud "liar" rebuke from Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), who later was told to immediately issue a apology by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

He also reached out to Republicans including reform to malpractice laws and including reference to ideas put forth by Senator John McCain R-Ariz.). In addition, the president pointed out that 80% of the proposed legislation had bipartisan agreement and that he was willing to listen to ideas from both sides to reach compromise on the remaining 20%.

However, he clearly stated he will not waste time with those who intend to kill the bill, instead of offering ways to improve it.

As to the payment of the plan, he clearly stated he will not sign a bill that adds one dime to the deficit. The cost will be 900 Billion over ten years and cost less than the tax cut for the wealthy enacted under the George W. Bush administration and less than the cost of the inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was a powerful speech, more than equal to the task. As the president said, the time for bickering is over and the time for health care reform is now.

You can read the full details of the president's health care plan here.


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