Last night President Obama gave his 29th speech devoted entirely to outlining his health-care agenda. He did what he does best: expertly deliver a speech, prepared by God knows who, with the aid of twin teleprompters. Unfortunately, as had been hinted at the past few days, he offered the same contaminated medicine that he’s long been peddling, repackaged in a shiny new container. In a pattern that has become familiar, lip service to bipartisan compromise was gratuitously mixed with some of the most polarizing rhetoric ever heard in a joint session of Congress.
In last night’s speech Obama again reiterated his desire for a wide-ranging public plan modeled after Medicare. Obama has promoted Obamacare from border to border and coast to coast; he has spoken to the older generation and the younger generation, the full spectrum of health-care providers, those with health insurance and those without, culminating last night in his address to Congress. He has talked about “health-care reform,” which more recently has been relabeled “health-insurance reform.” The president has been here, there, and pretty much everywhere to discuss his plan, but thus far Obamacare has failed to garner the necessary public support. Yesterday’s Associated Press poll revealed that 52 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of health care.
His problem is substantive, not one of marketing. Unfortunately, the only solution he has tried is better marketing. The difficulty Obama faces is not that people aren’t listening or don’t understand his message; it’s that they understand it all too well. They can see though the fog and realize that putting more money in the system is not “reform,” and certainly not a way to address runaway health-care costs. Furthermore, most people in this country like their coverage and like their doctor. Obama can repeat ad nauseam his “if you like your doctor” line, but it won’t prevent doctors from retiring early or opting out of an Obamacare system, and it won’t preclude businesses from dropping their coverage and forcing their workers into the public plan. The public gets this. They realize that an Obamacare system is unsustainable and fails to address the shortcomings that now exist. Obamacare is not a cure; it’s a prescription for disaster.
Obama campaigned for the presidency as an articulate moderate. The American people, frustrated by Washington, found solace in his uplifting message of “hope” and “change” and elected him to office. Now Obama has misinterpreted his historic victory as a mandate for a radical agenda. He has brought a brand of liberalism typically reserved for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to the executive branch, and the public is showing signs that they are no longer buying it. The president is out of touch; he is searching for “middle ground” between the left and the extreme left, when most of the country is a little right of center. We are a nation of Mr. and Mrs. Jones, not Van Jones.
Obama can gussy up Obamacare. He can change the venue. He can give another 29 speeches on the public option. But ultimately, even his glib delivery cannot reconcile the vast ideological differences between himself and mainstream America.
– Jason D. Fodeman, M.D., is a former health-policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation.