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Obama's Feisty Labor Day Speech

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Barack Obama celebrated Labor Day with a speech to the AFL-CIO that touched, as you might imagine, on health-care reform. And the president sounded feisty.

We've never been this close. We've never had such broad agreement on what needs to be done. And because we're so close to real reform, the special interests are doing what they always do -- trying to scare the American people and preserve the status quo.

But I've got a question for them: What's your answer? What's your solution? The truth is, they don't have one. It's do nothing. And we know what that future looks like. Insurance companies raking in the profits while discriminating against people because of preexisting conditions and denying or dropping coverage when you get sick. It means you're never negotiating about higher wages, because you're spending all your time just protecting the benefits you already have.

It means premiums continuing to skyrocket three times faster than your wages. More families pushed into bankruptcy. More businesses cutting more jobs. More Americans losing their health insurance-14,000 every day. And it means more Americans dying every day just because they don't have insurance.

But that's not the future I see for America. I see reform where we bring stability and security to folks who have insurance today. Where you never again have to worry about going without coverage if you lose your job, change your job or get sick. Where there is a cap on your out-of-pocket expenses, so you don't have to worry that a serious illness will break you and your family. Where you never again have to worry that you or someone you love will be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition.

I see reform where Americans and small businesses that are shut out of health insurance today will be able to purchase coverage at a price they can afford. Where they'll be able to shop and compare in a new health insurance exchange -- a marketplace where competition and choice will continue to hold down cost and help deliver them a better deal. And I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs.

It's not quite right to blame "the special interests" for "trying to scare the American people and preserve the status quo." Not unless you're willing to define the Republican Party as a special interest, at least.

You can watch the speech here. The prepared remarks are here.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 8, 2009; 9:39 AM ET
 
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Comments

barack obama is working with many on the right who want nothing more than for him to fail. no blow or strategy is too low.
and those on the left who demand that all of their needs be met, or nothing is good enough for them. their hope has turned into demanding petulance and unending, withering criticism.
there is little regard for the herculean task for threading this needle. he is abused for trying to restore some civility to public life. anything short of running over others with a bus just isnt good enough for angry liberals.
i pray that this will be a good week for barack obama.
i really pray that all americans will wake up to the fact that a house this divided against itself cannot stand. obama understands this. he makes every effort.
this demanding, selfish, unyielding attitude marked us in our days of abundance....and in our times of misfortune, instead of improving us spiritually, levelling our temperaments, as a nation, it appears that we are getting worse.
the new york times refers to his "struggling presidency."
it is challenging, but not struggling. he is a strong and wise leader.
people ought to appreciate the president that we have in office.
he is only human.
he cannot perform a miracle each day.
and so, once again, we are a complaining, faithless, dispirited bunch, wandering in the desert....and it may well be forty years.
president obama, when you speak to the schoolchildren, when you speak to congress, when you speak to americans and the world, i hope that people's minds and hearts will be opened.
that people can become more reasonable, appreciative and understanding about the nature of progress in difficult circumstances.

i pray for practical and spiritual wisdom, in hearts and actions, for the president and for all of us, throughout these difficult months.
others have failed.
i hope that he succeeds.
and so should everyone else.


Posted by: jkaren | September 8, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"What's your answer? What's your solution?"

But Obama himself can't answer those questions. The Democrats in Congress are divided; the White House staff is divided. The President is left to argue that it's a moral imperative to support "whatever eventually gets passed in some form."

Posted by: tomtildrum | September 8, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Health care reform is only going to happen if Barack Obama is willing to call lies "lies" and liars "liars."

"Outrageous myths" will not do. "Lies" and "liars" are the only words that will cut through the cloud of filth the right has thrown into the air over the last two months. And those words have the additional benefit of being 100% true.

Speaking of which, I enjoyed your comments on Betsy McCaughey. Here's a woman who was so irrational that Republican governor George Pataki threw her off his ticket after having to work with her for four years. And now she's the toast of the GOP again. For what? Her creativity in lying about Obama's healthcare plans.

Posted by: bcamarda2 | September 8, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"What's your answer? What's your solution?"

Ezra- How do we get Obama on the Wyden-Bennet bandwagon? Why is he so afraid of real reform?

Posted by: rixtex | September 8, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

If you don't pass one of the four incoherent bills filftering through Congress then my political career will be in great danger....I mean the nation will be in big trouble. I want you to tremble in fear at the irrational conclusions I'm trying to impress on your little minds and pass something called health reform now.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | September 8, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Obama: "The truth is, they don't have one." [i.e. a 'solution']

Actually, the truth is they do have one. They'll rattle it off to you at the drop of a hat. The problem is it's a complete fantasy motivated and conceived by their right-wing ideology. It's literally bad medicine -- but that doesn't matter because universal health care is our agenda not theirs, so they're free to construct whatever fantasy system they please.

When you don't care about reaching the final destination, you can pretty much choose whatever route you please. It's an advantage the right-wingers have over us.

Posted by: leoklein | September 8, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Being skeptical of the Government's competence is not irrational.

Being concerned about the preservation of economic freedom when the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the Presidency is just as rational as being concerned about the preservation of religious freedom when the GOP was in a similar position.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | September 8, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Any health reform that decreases the economic freedom of patients, doctors and insurers is bad policy. Claiming that the intention of such policies is to increase consumer choice is incredibly dishonest.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | September 8, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I hope that whenever they pass whatever it is they're able to pass, President Obama takes the opportunity to say, "Look, this bill does a lot of good for a lot of people, but this isn't the end. We don't solve all of our problems in one bill, or two bills. This new law will make our healthcare system better, but it won't solve all of our problems. We're going to have to revisit healthcare again but today we took a step in the right direction.

Posted by: MosBen | September 8, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Of course fallsmeadjc, any reform that takes away the freedom of insurance companies to cancel policies when the beneficiary becomes ill and needs health care is an unjust imposition and must be opposed by all means necessary.

Posted by: steveh46 | September 8, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

That was the best Obama probably since the election. If he can keep this energy tomorrow, we might see something special.

Posted by: impikk | September 8, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Of course fallsmeadjc, any reform that takes away the freedom of insurance companies to cancel policies when the beneficiary becomes ill and needs health care is an unjust imposition and must be opposed by all means necessary.

Posted by: steveh46 | September 8, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse


its a shame that people like this have a voice. What about insurers are for an end to pre-ex as long as it comes with an individual mandate don't you get??? They're not 100% evil like you're taught to believe. See Ezra's past posts with regards to Karen Ignani as the voice for AHIP.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 8, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I realize that Health Care is the priority right now and thats what Obama ought to be focused on, but its kind of depressing to me that in his Labor Day speech to union members we hear just one mention of EFCA and that its the only mention we've heard from him in months.

The first time I heard Obama speak publicly was to a union crowd and he promised that he would use the bully pulpit of the President's office to fight for EFCA. Since being elected, the Dems have voluntarily scaled down EFCA before even getting into discussions with the Republicans and have done so without a peep from Obama.

Given how the fight over Health Care has unfolded, I can't say I feel too enthused about the possibility that Obama will actually fight for EFCA, even though I think the nature of that public debate would be one in which strong Presidential support would be far more helpful than its been in the case of Health Care.

Posted by: Matt40 | September 8, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"its a shame that people like this have a voice."

Of course visionbrkr. Only people who think like you do should have a voice.

Posted by: steveh46 | September 8, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

"its a shame that people like this have a voice."

Of course visionbrkr. Only people who think like you do should have a voice.

Posted by: steveh46 | September 8, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse


no i meant people who speak but have no idea what they're speaking about. you just keep railing against insurers like most around here even though they've ASKED for an end to pre-ex as long as it comes with a required individual mandate that most liberal bloggers agree should happen. but hey why let the truth get in the way.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 8, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

"no i meant people who speak but have no idea what they're speaking about."

What a maroon. I work on national health policy. I was responding sarcastically to fallsmeadjc who had written "Any health reform that decreases the economic freedom of patients, doctors and insurers is bad policy." You want an example of ignorance, especially on a day when the front page lead was on rescissions, there it is.

Posted by: steveh46 | September 9, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

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