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Smelling blood, Steele and RNC escalate assault on Obama's healthcare plan

July 20, 2009 |  3:30 pm

Michael SteeleMichael chairman of the Republic National committee

Any time in modern American politics that you hear a member of one party praise a member of another party -- turncoat Arlen Specter aside -- with the utmost insincerity they can manage, we all know now that the next sentence will begin with a firm, contradictory: "But..."

Remember the heartfelt tribute of Sen. Barack Obama? "Sen. McCain is a true American hero and we salute him for a lifetime of service to his country."

So when Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele opened his Washington remarks today (full text and videos below) with "President Barack Obama is a good man who cares deeply about his country," anyone with any savvy knew what was coming next. And sure enough:

"But he is determined with an unprecedented single-mindedness to transform it into something none of us would recognize."

On the president's six-month anniversary, the new polling must be in. And it apparently shows a weakness involving the word "experiment." We know the president's personal popularity has slipped while remaining relatively high. We also know it will likely sink lower, especially if unemployment continues to soar past the 8.5% the Obamas promised as max.

However, Obama's approval on specific programs is fading faster, even as his hastily-arranged economic stimulus plan doesn't stimulate and concern over his spending plans grows. The Ticket analyzed the president's unfolding public relations strategy here. The more the healthcare plan is discussed, the more questions Americans seem to have about it and its costs. Hence, Obama's rush. Hence, the GOP's what's the hurry?

So today, smelling a little blood, Steele's RNC launched a sizable ad buy in Arkansas, North Dakota and Nevada. If you like cute (but worried) kids, you'll love this ad. Watch here:



Of course, cute kids are just props and innocent bystanders in the brass knuckles brawl unfolding on those hot summer days in DC. Asked after his speech if Obama's healthcare plan was socialism, Steele tersely answered, "Yes!" Knowing full well that ...

... quick-hit soundbite would become a go-to for video the rest of the day.

Obama, who always does better when he's got a specific opponent to battle, even if it's Rush Limbaugh, today took a break from his regular golf games to single out South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's reported comment that if Obama lost the healthcare battle he's staked so much on, it would be his "Waterloo."

Shocking that either side would see and try to take any political advantage in a summertime fight with little else going on except a boatload of famous people dying. It does not detract from the president's oft-professed and presumed sincerity over healthcare to also note that a defeat on that keystone issue would be a severe blow, the worst of his term so far.

That's why he was talking about it all last week and today, and will be tomorrow and at Wednesday night's news conference. His polling has told him that the idea of healthcare equity for all Americans doesn't move those who have it already. So watch for it to be framed around protecting the future economy.

And for the other side, read Steele's comments just below here to get a feel for what you're gonna hear much more of before Congress takes another undeserved vacation in two weeks. The issue appears, combined with spending and cap-and-trade, to be providing the GOP with some things to coalesce around.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Remarks by RNC Chairman Michael Steele, National Press Club, July 20, 2009

President Barack Obama is a good man who cares deeply about this country -- but, he is determined, with an unprecedented single-mindedness -- to transform it into something none of us would recognize.

Candidate Obama promised change. President Obama is conducting an experiment.

He’s conducting a dangerous experiment with our healthcare. He’s conducting a reckless experiment with our economy.

And he’s conducting an unnecessary experiment with our tax dollars -- experiments that will transform the very way of life of our country and its citizens.

The president is rushing this experiment through Congress so fast, so soon, that we haven’t had a moment to think if it would work -- or worse, to think about the consequences to our nation, our economy and our families’ economic future if it doesn’t.

The Barack Obama experiment with America is a risk our country cannot afford. It’s too much, too fast, too soon.

Surveys show that a solid majority of Americans are concerned that President Obama has no strategy to reduce the deficit. Perhaps that is because President Obama’s strategy is to increase the deficit.

In only his first six months, this president’s first budget has sought to take on nearly as much debt as we have taken upon ourselves in the entire history of our country. The deficit for this year alone will be the highest in U.S. history, nearly five times as much as it was just two years ago. 

His economic experiments have left all of us, and generations to come, with a staggering bill. And the Obama experiments are not working.

So far, his experiments in that economic laboratory called Congress have simply failed or blown up.

President Obama told us that his stimulus package would keep unemployment under 8%. It’s now at 9.5% and now he tells us that unemployment will go over 10% anyway.

That experiment cost us $787 billion.  To try to understand the enormity of that number, consider this: the interest on the stimulus package -- the interest alone -- costs us nearly 100 million dollars every day.

President Obama has committed to borrowing trillions from foreign creditors.

In return, they get the lion’s share of our nation’s future economic output. In short, our children will be working to build productive capacity and improve standards of living -- but not here in America, but for our foreign creditors.

Let me quantify that a bit. In a typical year, the total profits for all American businesses amount to 6 or 7% of GDP. President Obama’s own budget projections acknowledge that our country’s debt will exceed 100% of our GDP in the next decade. That means that -- even assuming relatively benign interest rates, which is no safe assumption with all the inflationary policies he has pursued -- roughly 5 to 6% of our GDP will go to paying interest on our federal debt.

That means, in short, capital roughly equal to all the business profits in the country -- capital that historically has funded the expansion of our economy and enabled us to improve our standard of living -- will go instead to our creditors, largely China and OPEC, to expand their economy and improve their standard of living.    

Mr. President, you are putting your party’s entire big-government wish list on America’s credit card -- but that card comes with a bill.

It is more debt our children will have to pay -- because this reckless administration has an unrestrainable urge to splurge. 

When President Obama faced a credit crisis, a struggling economy, a housing bust, bankrupt auto companies, Wall Street failures, whatever the problem was, he responded by spending, spending and more spending. And now our president is proposing more debt, more risk, more experimentation.

His next big ticket item is a risky multitrillion dollar experiment with our healthcare, including a government-run healthcare plan.  It not only risks our economy, it risks every American’s health, too.

President Obama says he wants to reduce healthcare costs. Republicans agree -- healthcare costs too much.

Health insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages. Health insurance is costing families and businesses too much and we have to fix that.

But here is my question: How come the Democrats' plan to save money will cost us more money? How come their plan to reduce healthcare costs ... will cost us trillions more in tax dollars? Democrats boast that their plans cost “only” about one trillion dollars -- consider the absurdity of that for a moment -- but that assertion is based on a deliberate misreading of the data.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projections to which they refer are for the next 10 years, but the Democrat plans are only fully implemented towards the end of that window.

According to CBO’s best guess, once the plan is fully implemented, it will cost hundreds of billions each year -- in the case of the House bill, $202 billion in 2019 alone. And note that I said “best guess." The thousand-plus page House bill was not released until less than 48 hours before markup, and CBO said that it still had not completed its revenue analysis.

For example, CBO stated, quote: “We have not yet estimated the administrative costs to the federal government of implementing the specified policies.” In other words, the staggering cost estimated by CBO does not even include one of the biggest expenses in the bill.

Only Washington could make saving money more expensive. It doesn’t matter if your insurance charges you more through the front door in higher premiums or President Obama charges you more through the back door in higher taxes. It’s the same thing. Under the Obama-Pelosi plan, costs are going up. And you are going to pay more money.

Let’s just use common-sense here: When has Washington ever made anything cost less?

If you are a small business owner, you will see a tax hike on your income, your payroll, and your investments ... all of which won’t help you to grow and create more jobs.

If you are a senior, you face 400 billion in Medicare, Medicaid cuts. If you are working, you face 600 billion in new taxes.

And they are just getting started.  Some Democrats are even complaining that they ...

... are not raising taxes enough: if you get health coverage at work, they actually want to tax your health insurance!

But they are not finished.  If you are thirsty, they’re considering a 10% tax on a can of soda. And if you need a stronger drink after hearing this bad news, I’ve got more bad news: They are thinking about raising the alcohol tax, too.

In addition, they are considering a new tax on employers equal to 3% of payroll. Also under consideration is a value-added tax, a sort of national sales tax, of up to 1.5% or more.

Foolish me. And all this time I didn’t know raising taxes on things made them cost less! That’s like those commercials that promise you can eat more deserts and lose weight. Who knew?

The point is this: a good doctor makes a thorough diagnosis and prescribes a remedy that is specifically targeted at what ails the patient. If you come in with a sore knee but are otherwise healthy, the doctor doesn’t remove your kidney, put your arm in a sling and perform quadruple bypass surgery. And above all, for thousands of years, physicians have pledged to adhere to one principal above all others -- first, do no harm.

We should approach healthcare reform in the same way. We must specifically target reforms at what ails our system, do no harm to what is right about it. In fact, much about our healthcare system is in very good shape, and we should make sure those aspects are strengthened, not eliminated.

First, 267 million Americans currently have health insurance coverage, the great majority through private insurers. And polls consistently show that they are overwhelmingly pleased with their current coverage.

Second, America is home to the highest quality and most innovative healthcare in the world. Don’t take my word for it -- ask the Saudis receiving care at Johns Hopkins, the Canadians at the Mayo Clinic or the British at Mass General. Or ask the committee that awards the Nobel Prize for medicine -- over the past 25 years, the vast majority of honored researchers have been Americans.

So what is the diagnosis for what ails our healthcare system, the problem for which we must provide a remedy? In a word? Cost.

We spent a colossal amount on healthcare -- over 15% of our GDP. The next highest industrialized nations spend about10%. And for that amount, in the aggregate, we have similar health outcomes as country’s spending less when measured by such key metrics as life expectancy.

Our uninsured are a symptom of that cost problem, a problem Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once characterized as healthcare “cost disease."

It is true, some of our uninsured have the means to purchase health insurance, but unwisely choose not to in the hopes that they will stay healthy and save the money. Others qualify for government assistance, but for various reasons, do not receive it. But for most of the uninsured, the problem is easy to diagnose -- they just can’t afford health insurance. Yet President Obama’s response is to make healthcare insurance even more expensive.

Let me throw another statistic at you -- one that, remarkably, received little or no coverage from the media as far as I know.

According to the latest CBO estimates, under the house Democrat version of the health plan, after it is implemented, the cost of insuring each additional individual would be nearly $30,000, an amount far greater than the average annual cost of insuring an entire family today. (According to the Henry J. Kaiser foundation, the average cost of an employer health plan for a family of four is about $12,800.)

What’s more, to add insult to injury, CBO tells us that every version of the Democrat health plan, even after spending trillions of dollars, would leave millions still uninsured.

The Democrat plan does not contain costs; it shifts them -- to the taxpayer, to our children and to future generations that will have to cope with this crushing debt -- by implementing huge premium subsidies and establishing a government controlled healthcare plan. In fact, the president’s plan prescribes short-term pain relief instead of trying to fix the source of the pain. If he was a doctor, that would be malpractice.

And his plan is likely to be worse than the plans those Americans have now.

Don’t believe me?  Then believe President Obama.

On his ABC healthcare town hall a few weeks back, President Obama refused to pledge he'd limit his family to getting the same cures and treatments his public plan would give the rest of us.

If the president doesn’t have faith in his plan for his own family, how can we trust his plan for ours?

The American healthcare system should not be more like the European healthcare system, where patients who are over 70 are told, “No, you are too old for cancer screenings.”  Where sick people are told, “You have to wait in line for this test or that medicine.” No thank you, Mr. President.

The president tells us that he just wants the government-run healthcare plan as another choice to compete with the healthcare insurance you have now. He says you won’t be forced to join. But his plan does the opposite.

In fact, the president’s proposal creates yet another government czar -- what are we up to now, 20? -- who will push government-run healthcare while dictating to your private insurance company how they should operate, the insurance coverage they should provide and which healthcare services you should receive.

We all remember Harry and Louise. Harry and Louise helped save us from Hillary Clinton’s healthcare experiment in 1994. This year, Harry and Louise have been replaced by another couple -- Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Harry and Nancy aren't really doctors ... but they are playing doctor in Washington, experimenting with healthcare, insisting on a big government takeover.

Say you have a job in the grocery business, an office supply store or a hardware store. Imagine if the U.S. government knocked on your door and said: “Hi, we are opening up a government-run store across the street to compete with you. And we are going to have lower prices than yours because we are the government and we don’t have to pay our own bills! We’ll just leave them for your children to pay later.” How long do you think the store where you work would stay in business? How long would you have your job? When big government competes, one Congressman said, it’s a like an alligator competing for a chicken. And the healthcare you have now is the chicken.

Simply put, experts tell us President Obama and the Congressional Democrats' government-run plan option could lead to 119 million Americans being dumped out of their private coverage into a cheaper, government-run healthcare program.

That’s why they are forcing members of Congress to vote on legislation to reshape the economy in a fundamental way before a single member of Congress has even read the bill. I don’t know how you read, let alone understand, over a thousand pages of legislative text in a few hours.

Democrats are determined to shove this bill through without permitting any meaningful scrutiny. That’s why they are cutting Republicans out of the process. The Democrats have no intention to have a bipartisan bill. They never have. The president has taken care to arrange for some nice photo ops with Republicans, but that’s it.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Back in 1994, when Hillary Clinton tried to jam a massive healthcare bill down Congress’s throat, Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a highly respected Democrat, gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he flatly stated that he would not vote for a bill, which did not have Republican support.

I am waiting for a Democrat -- any Democrat -- to show that sort of courage today. And please do not mention the Blue Dogs to me. Their press releases may talk about fiscal responsibility, but, in the end, they have been Nancy Pelosi’s most reliable voting bloc.

And don’t tell me that Republicans are unwilling to support a responsible healthcare reform proposal from a Democrat. The very first major healthcare reform bill introduced this year was written by Sen. Ron Wyden, not just a Democrat but a pretty darn liberal Democrat. But his bill had some good ideas and has drawn almost as many Republican co-sponsors as Democrats.

Let me be clear: Republicans support healthcare reform that addresses the biggest problem in our system -- runaway costs. We don’t need to spend more on healthcare; we already spend far more than the rest of the industrialized world.

We need to spend it better, starting by reforming a third-party payment system that promotes waste, limits choice and misallocates resources.

We want the 267 million Americans who have health insurance coverage to keep that coverage.

We want people to choose their own doctors and make their own choices regarding their treatment options. We want to focus on health outcomes, keeping people healthy through preventive care and promoting good fitness and nutrition.     

Under the Obama plan, the vast majority of Americans will pay more to get less. It’s that simple. 

We will spend trillions more -- trillions -- and the 267 million Americans who now have insurance will have fewer options and worse care. And we still won’t cover all the uninsured.

This is one-sixth of our economy. If we screw this up, it could last for generations. And Congress is trying to do this in the next two weeks?! Two weeks? This reckless approach to an ill-conceived experiment should scare the living daylights out of all of us.

So, slow down, Mr. President. We can't afford to get healthcare wrong. Your experiment proposes too much, too soon, too fast. Your experiment with our health could change everything we like about our healthcare -- and our economy, as well.

So, it is time to stop the experiment with our economy and our healthcare and our future! Mr. President if you will only slow down and stop long enough to see a better way of helping our families and businesses get hold of and bring down healthcare costs.

Republicans stand with the growing number of Americans supporting the patient-centered healthcare reform movement. We believe the patient-centered healthcare reform movement offers the best way to reduce healthcare costs, bottom up, with patients and doctors in control.

The old, top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose is designed to grow Washington’s power to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you.

The president wants to make healthcare more affordable. So do we. But Republicans have a completely different vision of how to do it. Republicans support simple common-sense fixes without the big Washington experiment.

Obama-Pelosi want to start building a colossal closed healthcare system where Washington decides. Republicans want and support an open healthcare system where patients and doctors make the decisions.

Reforms

So, Mr. President, let’s talk about some common-sense reforms the American people and their doctors can trust:

Let's have doctors and hospitals post pricing and outcomes. In this day and age, why aren’t the cost of all tests, treatments, procedures and office visits -- as well as effectiveness of treatments posted openly on the Internet. That’ll bring down costs.

And how about if we make health insurance companies compete with each other with simple, understandable contracts and minimum benefit packages so insurance is simpler, cheaper and fairer, just like many banks are doing with car or home loans. And simple, one-page reimbursement forms, too. That’ll bring down costs.

And let’s protect doctors from frivolous, expensive lawsuits so they can work together with other doctors and patients in their communities to reduce unnecessary and expensive tests, procedures and costs.   That’ll bring down costs.

Then we change the law so you can take your health insurance with you if you have to change jobs, eliminating expensive and unnecessary insurance turnover. That’ll bring down costs.

And we cut out the "Washington healthcare middle-man," reducing expensive bureaucracy to produce big healthcare savings. That’ll bring costs down.

Let’s support new paperless, computer-age healthcare IT systems to reduce the cost of healthcare management as well as reduce medical mistakes. That’ll really bring down costs.

And let’s make sure every American has equal opportunity to get the best value and buy the cheapest insurance no matter where he lives or who he works for. Let’s change the law so any American can buy the lowest cost insurance available nationwide, not just in their states -- whether from insurance companies, businesses, church groups, college alumni associations or groups like AARP, who often provide it less expensively. That’ll bring costs down too!

And don’t you agree that companies like Target are best suited to bring costs down than any politician in Washington?  So let’s use consumer-buying power and group-buying power, not Washington price-controls, to bring healthcare costs down.

And by the way, let’s support a bipartisan idea, effective prevention, wellness and disease-management programs because they will improve our health. And that’ll bring costs down.

Let’s support bold new incentives for companies to develop new treatments and cures because that is smarter than paying for chronic long-term illnesses we can't cure today. That’ll bring costs down.

Every American should get a tax credit for their health insurance premiums. That’ll bring down your costs. Further, under current law, employees not covered by a healthcare plan -- a group which disproportionately includes the working poor -- cannot deduct the cost of insurance premiums. Incredibly, rather than remedying that injustice, the Democrats make it illegal for anyone to purchase a new individual plan.

We believe in bottom-up healthcare savings for the middle class and the working poor.

And here is another idea: How about we give small businesses the same cost-saving breaks big businesses get by helping them form small business health plans and small business health co-ops.  That’ll bring costs down.

Then let’s support tough new penalties against anybody who rips off the healthcare system, whether they are corrupt big insurance company executives, unethical physicians or patients, or government pen pushers. That’ll bring costs down.

And one more thing: No lifetime healthcare benefits and insurance for Congressmen who leave their jobs ... unless and until everybody else in America has the same. That’s the right thing to do ... and it will bring down costs, too.

I know President Obama has some tough challenges. We get it. And the president tells us, he doesn’t want to spend more than we have, he doesn’t want the deficit to go up, he doesn’t want to live off borrowed money. But he also told us he didn’t want to run an auto company.

The president has insisted at every step of the way that his health plan will not add to the deficit. But just last Friday, CBO concluded that the Obama-Pelosi plan will add $239 billion to the deficit by 2019, and hundreds of billions thereafter. That means -- according to CBO, not Michael Steele -- the Obama-Pelosi plan does not do either of the two things the president swore that they would do: contain costs and not add to the deficit.

President Obama justifies this spending by saying the devil made him do it. He doesn’t want to spend trillions we can’t afford, but he says he just can’t help it. Even though he says believes in less spending, he says has no choice -- but to spend even more.

Even though Washington is on fire with spending, he says he is compelled to conduct this experiment with reckless spending and pour more gasoline on the flames.

Mr. President, the time to stand by your principles isn't just when it is easy. You need to stand by your principles when it is not easy. The time your character is tested is when doing the right thing is tough.

Mr. President, in your press conference Wednesday night, I challenge you to be honest with us. Tell us the truth. Don’t tell us it is going to cost less when it’s going to cost more. Don’t insult our intelligence by telling us Washington has to spend more money to spend less or save more. 

And I challenge the American people, when you see the president’s press conference tomorrow night, let this president and this Congress know how you feel. If you think his experiment with our healthcare is too much, too fast, too soon, pick up your phone, flood Congress with calls, faxes, and e-mails.

Yes, you can! Show Washington who is really in control of America’s economy and our health.

In America we do not allow one man to roll the dice with our entire nation. We do not allow one political leader to risk our healthcare system and our entire economy. We do not allow one political group, to gamble with the fate of generations. We have never allowed one political party to experiment with the future of this country. That is until today.

It is time to hit the pause button on this administration’s reckless experiment with America’s economy and our healthcare. This type of experimentation is not what America voted for. It is time to put this experiment on the shelf. 

Today, the Republican National Committee is unveiling a multiplatform campaign aimed at informing Americans about the risky experiments that the president is conducting on our economy and our country. We are taking our message directly to voters -- through grassroots mobilization, through our new website -- www.barackobamaexperiment.com -- and through advertising such as the TV ad that we are launching today -- so that they understand what is at stake. We’re then going to mobilize voters to oppose further experimentation on the economy -- especially health care. 

Voters may want healthcare reform, however we’re certain that they don’t want the kind of reform that will stymie the economy with excessive taxes on small business owners, force tens of millions off of their current plans and away from their doctors, and cost trillions of dollars that the president himself has said we don’t have to spend.

Many Democrats outside of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Waxman cabal know that voters won’t stand for these kinds of foolish prescriptions for our healthcare. We do too. That’s why Republicans will do everything humanly possible to remind voters about the risky experimentation going on in Washington and what we all must do to keep members of the House and Senate out of the laboratory.

There is already plenty of change in this world. Keeping what we like about America is just as important as changing what we must to achieve success and to grow. President Obama has his priorities backwards: Our job now is to grow this economy, not bury it under a mountain of debt.

This is a time of great economic uncertainty. This is a moment when the very structure of the global economy, which depends on our economic might, is being challenged.

We will get through this global economic storm. But, then we will have to compete and win in a new global economy that is going to grow dramatically, in size and complexity, in the next few decades.

Who’s going to get all that prosperity? America? Or someone else?

Who is going to own the new economy, with more women and minorities succeeding, the middle class expanding, and the entire workforce earning bigger paychecks, as we build a wealthier world?  Who is going to own the future, the coming era promising the most powerful economic and technological growth the world has ever known?

Who is going to lead a world where healthcare is transformed and people lead longer, healthier lives, building upon the most valuable resource on the planet, the human resource, to transform nations and continents?

Who is going to settle a new global frontier of peace, prosperity and progress?

I say we are. We, the American people.

And I’m telling you there isn’t anything before us we can’t achieve, any challenge we can’t overcome.

Be optimistic, for the opportunities before you now dwarf the opportunities our parents had.

There are new miracles of science to be found and Americans will find them. There are new jobs we cannot imagine and Americans will create them. There are new economic frontiers to be settled and, yes, Americans will compete and win them.

The greatest time to be an American is before us.

All of us here today have a great and noble purpose as our country calls upon each of us to rise to this critical moment and keep America the greatest -- and  healthiest -- country in the world. Thank you and God bless America.    

Photo: Associated Press

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