Obama’s big applause line at USC


Barack Obama got a warm reception at the College Democrats of America confab over at the Russell House today. The kids liked his JFK-style, rise-to-the-challenge-of-a-new-generation idealism. I liked it, too. I think it’s something that sets Obama apart, in a positive way. I might write about it in my Sunday column.

But I had to smile when this was his biggest applause line (up to that point in the speech, anyway).

Now, before you dismiss these kids as totally self-interested and selfish — he’s talking about a real problem. Whether he’s got the solution or not, I don’t know. But as the father of five kids, four of whom are in their 20s, I’ve had to deal with the painful spectacle of watching my kids work very hard trying to make it on their own, yet struggle to pay medical bills when they arise, because their jobs don’t provide them with coverage.

Our whole health care "system" is price-adjusted for those of us who have health insurance, and too expensive even for us. For young adults without that benefit, it’s a cruel joke.

Why should young people starting out in the world have to settle for a job that gives them such bennies? It really limits them to following established paths rather than going out and taking risks to innovate and move our country forward. At least, it limits them if they listen to their old man, who worries so much about them that he keeps saying, "Go for the thing with the benefits!"

Partly, I do that out of frustration. I work myself to death to take care of my family, and once they turn 19, or graduate from college, I can’t take care of them any more, no matter how hard I work. And then I see them struggle without the umbrella of health protection I’ve always had. I try to help them out with cash at times, but at such prices it’s beyond my pocketbook, much less theirs.

In any other civilized country in the world, this would not be a worry.

So yeah, I laughed at the big applause Obama got on this, but what he’s talking about isn’t really funny.

30 thoughts on “Obama’s big applause line at USC

  1. Mark Whittington

    I’m fairly certain that I’ll vote for Obama, yet I’m convinced that systemic change is on the way regardless of which candidate wins the election. American workers will inevitably fix this mess. Five years ago, many men I talked with blamed government for the country’s ills, but today most men I talk with understand that the corporations and moneyed interests that control the government are the problem, rather than the government itself. People are sick of both corrupt political parties and the corporations that own them. Too many people are not going to retire: too many people are worried about their health insurance: too many people have had their jobs outsourced: too many people see themselves becoming second-class citizens through Global capitalism.
    It used to be (during my adult life) that only people on the left thought this way: now I hear non-affluent social conservatives speak in this manner. It has to reach a critical mass however-eventually candidates who are socially conservative and economically liberal will begin to appear-and they’ll win irregardless of how much money the Chamber of Commerce USA throws at the opposing corporate candidates. Responsibility, accountability, culpability, and inevitable justice: positive change is indeed coming.

  2. Karen McLeod

    Brad, I work for the state (not in any upper management position, I assure you). I understand how important health insurance is, and how few have it, and how, even those of us who do are being squeezed by it. I have friends who are trying to get their children to the doctor when they don’t have money or insurance. They do without health care themselves. Health Care’s a no brainer, especially when you see where we rank (the US, not SC) in infant mortality, longevity, and such. But the thing that impresses me most about Obama is that he has an innate understanding that different cultures have diffent ways of perceiving any given action, or situation. Furthermore, he has had the experience, from infancy, of how adults deal with these differing perceptions. I don’t know if he’s going to win, and there are other good folk in the race that I could be comfortable with in the White House (even McCain, as much as I disagree with him about Iraq and a few other things), but that’s a very powerful, and rare, understanding.

  3. Herb Brasher

    Yep, Brad is exactly right, and even when one’s kids have coverage (for example, on the university plan), they have to fight the insurance company tooth and nail to get them to do what the contract says they are supposed to do. When did we get to this stage that insurance companies can put a hurdle at every stage in order to intimidate their customers and avoid claims that they know are perfectly legitimate?
    The only real recourse that works, I am told by my kids, is the government organization for appeal, and just about every claim has to be appealed to them. Somebody needs to crack some heads somewhere, methinks. I imagine some companies are better than others. I hope so.
    Woe betide us if the government shrinkers get hold of this and eliminate the only appeal that consumers have. Just goes to show that we need government with teeth.

  4. weldon VII

    Time was, politicians promised a chicken in every pot. Now they promise free health care.
    Here’s predicting free won’t be cheap.
    But Brad will be happy because we’ll have caught up with Cuba at last, and Doug will be paying for his retirement.
    Sorry, Brad, but Barack Hussein Obama doesn’t remind me much of John Fitzgerald Kennedy any more than Al Sharpton reminds me of Martin Luther King.

  5. Bob McAlister

    Brad: I’m not commenting on Obama, but your new picture. Some advice: Dump the bow tie. McAlister from Oxford

  6. Ronald Abrams

    Why wasn’t Lonnie Randolph screaming BOYCOTT BOYCOTT during the NATIONAL college democrats meeting? I mean the NAACP certainly is right on this..isn’t it?

  7. Lee Muller

    Young college graduates are mostly uninsured by choice.
    The other young who are uninsured are mostly dropouts who had children out of wedlock – bad behavior.
    Then you also need to remove the illegal aliens from the head count of “the uninsured”.
    http://www.ncpa.org No. 460
    Tuesday, October 7, 2003
    by by Devon M. Herrick
    The Census Bureau recently reported that the number of Americans without health insurance rose in 2002 to around 43.6 million, up from 38.7 million in 2000 but below the record 44.3 million who were uninsured in 1998. With health care costs increasing, many public health advocates are worried that this number might rise further. Why do more than 43 million Americans lack health insurance? Who are they?
    Income and Insurance.
    A common assumption is that most uninsured Americans simply cannot afford the cost of coverage. However, the evidence points to other factors in many cases. For example, during the last decade, the ranks of the uninsured have increased among affluent households and decreased among low-income households. [See the Figure.]
    From 1993 to 2002 the number of uninsured people in households with annual incomes above $75,000 increased by 114 percent.
    The number of uninsured in households with annual incomes from $50,000 to $75,000 increased by 57 percent.
    By contrast, the number of uninsured people in households with incomes under $25,000 fell by 17 percent.
    About three-quarters of the rise in the number of uninsured over the past four years has been among households earning more than $50,000 per year, and almost half of that has occurred among households earning more than $75,000 per year. In fact, almost one-third of the uninsured now live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and one in five live in households earning more than $75,000 annually.
    Eligibility for Government Insurance.
    Another common assumption is that most uninsured Americans simply have no access to affordable coverage. Yet according to research by the public policy arm of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, approximately 14 million uninsured adults and children are currently eligible for government coverage, such as Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but have not bothered to enroll. Consider this: Virtually all children from low-income families are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP. Yet the parents of more than five million eligible children have failed to enroll them. In addition, close to nine million nonelderly adults qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled.
    Age, Health Status and Insurance
    Young adults (18-24) are less likely than other age groups to have health insurance, averaging 70.4 percent in 2002, compared with 82.0 percent of those 25 to 64 and 99.2 percent of those aged 65 and above. Indeed, according to the Census Bureau, 41 percent of the uninsured (17.9 million) are between the ages of 18 and 34. Good health is common in younger people, which may help explain why so many of them don’t obtain health insurance. They consider other uses of their money more valuable.
    For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2001 Consumer Expenditure Survey, households headed by young people between ages 25 and 34 spend more than three times as much of their income on entertainment and dining out as on out-of-pocket health care expenses. For even younger heads of household (18-to-24-year-olds), the annual expenditure on entertainment and dining out is almost five times more than out-of-pocket spending on health care. By contrast, households headed by individuals ages 65 to 74 spend almost 50 percent more on out-of-pocket health care than on entertainment and food away from home. If the young uninsured had unmet health needs, they likely would shift some of this discretionary spending into health care.

  8. weldon VII

    Thanks for spreading some facts here. The figures for those not enrolled in government programs when they already qualify are telling.
    Thus Obama (and Hillary, etc.) is selling something a lot of people already could have but are either too lazy or ignorant to pick up.
    How “civilized” is that?

  9. Lee Muller

    That’s right – 1/4 of those counted as “not insured” actually are insured, but do not even bother to enroll and take their children to the doctors for normal care. They wait until they are sick and show up at the Emergency Room.
    The people who want socialized medicine want it because it is socialist, not because it supplies better care. It doesn’t.

  10. Brad Warthen

    RTH, you have to understand that Bob’s writing from a British point of view today. That’s why he mentioned my tie, rather than my crooked, stained teeth — which are a much bigger problem here on the Pepsodent side of the pond.
    And Lee, thanks for the devastatingly logical counterargument. You’re right, that’s it. If we just called our current FUBAR system “socialist,” I’d be thrilled.
    Folks, in my never-ending battle against the meaninglessness of parties, labels and ideologies (which bud and some others willfully misunderstand by choosing to define “partisan” as “anyone who has a position on anything,” but which I think people reading me in good faith understand completely), what Lee just said is EXACTLY WHAT I’M ON ABOUT!
    (I used the “on about” idiom, rather than “talking about,” for Bob McAlister’s sake, since he’s gone all limey on us.)

  11. Lee Muller

    The reason government medical care is so inferior to ours (and it is, when you compare outcomes and delivery), is BECAUSE it is socialist.
    What little functionality exists in socialist economies is only there because of the crumbs which fall off the table of free markets.

  12. bill

    Thanks for spreading those “facts” around.
    Now,could you pass us that joint?
    Never mind.I just reread that,and I’m trippin’,dude.

  13. Bob Smith

    We have to come to some kind of agreement on those issues, but here’s the reality: We could insure everybody in this country tomorrow, by whatever means is decided on, and it will not solve the problems in our health care system.
    Because if we continue our rate of increase in the incidence of chronic disease, and if we continue the rate of increase in the cost of treating chronic diseases—like diabetes, heart disease, cancer—we will go broke; it’s not sustainable. And more and more people will be debilitated and will die from these diseases.
    The only long-term solution to both our cost problems and our poor state of health is to fundamentally shift our health care system from only addressing treatment of the sick to preventing these diseases in the first place.
    With 7 of 10 deaths in America from chronic disease and 75¢ of every health care dollar currently spent on chronic disease, prevention and better management of these diseases is by far the most fertile ground for change.

  14. bud

    “.. in my never-ending battle against the meaninglessness of parties, labels and ideologies (which bud and some others willfully misunderstand by choosing to define “partisan” as “anyone who has a position on anything,” but which I think people reading me in good faith understand completely.”
    Talk about a complete misrepresentation of what someone is saying. This takes the cake! Brad often labels someone as partisan because they have a different opinion. That was abundently clear in his post suggesting that war opponents were simply Bush hating partisans. I’ve pointed out something that is very obvious to most if not virtually all of the readers on this blog. Brad has a clearly discernable “theme” to his thinking on issues. (So do I, and I don’t appologize for it.) Most of us do. But what distinguishes Brad is that for some reason he finds others “theme” thinking partisan.
    I don’t misrpresent Brad at all on this. His writings over the years have established a clear pattern. It’s very undeniable what’s occuring. Libertarians catch the brunt of Brad’s wrath on this because they are probably the furthest removed from his thinking. Brad believes that government should play a large roll in solving almost ALL problems, the antithesis of libertarianism. There is a broad spectrum of thinking on different issues that is between pure liberanism and pure Bradism. Some of us feel government should play an active roll in some issues but not in others. For example, many on the right believe we should take a very active roll in the affairs of foreign nations. Brad certainly does. Others would have government play a large roll in health care. Brad certainly feels that way. There are many people who believe strongly in a very active roll for government in education. Brad eagerly signs on. Some folks see various behavioral issues as a threat to society (video poker, public smoking, marijuana-even for medicinal purposes, etc). Brad is ready to crack down hard on the offenders. Many people want government to play an active rolls in the pregancies of women. Brad is wholeheartedly behind such efforts. Energy issues. Brad says bring on the government.
    Frankly, aside from Brad’s opposition to adding a wing onto the Edventure museum he has virtually sided with the pro-government side of every issue. Just because there isn’t a successful political party that subscribes to this all government intervention on every issue theme apparently gives Brad permission to claim he is not a partisan. Yet in the broader sense of partisanship Brad is probably more partisan than anyone I know. And as I’ve said many, many times there is nothing wrong with that.
    What bothers me is why Brad continues to bring this up over and over and over again. What point does it serve? Exactly who is Brad trying to convince? Denial is a dangerous thing. Maybe we should take away sharp objects from Brad. If he every recognizes his own partisan ways it could get ugly.

  15. Karen McLeod

    I don’t think it’s a case of not bothering to enroll; I think its more nearly a case of don’t know to enroll, or too mentally ill to enroll self or children. Of course young adults are not worried about it because they’re immortal (and if you don’t believe me watch them–they’ll claim that they know they can die, then take chances that not even a sex-crazed adolescent squirrel would take).

  16. Brad Warthen

    Well, bud’s got me, and I might as well drop the pretense: I’m a pure, unadulterated Bradist. And I can’t stand “liberanism.”
    Now, would somebody pass those “large, active rolls,” along with some butter? We got us a hungry Bradist at this end of the table, and he’s on the verge of gettin’ ornery.

  17. Lee Muller

    It is easy to “just think” (imagine) that many of the so-called “uninsured” don’t have enough gumption to enroll in free programs, but the reality is that your imaginary excuses are wrong.
    It is also a fact that a huge number of the uninsured are illegal aliens who have no right to walk the streets, much less get a free band-aid.
    And it is a fact that about 1/4 of the uninsured choose to that, because they want their cash going into cars and swanky vacations instead of medical insurance and retirement plans.
    That leaves about 1/4 of the people who are uninsured…just temporarily… while changing jobs and medical care plans.
    The phony crisis of the uninsured is like second-hand smoke, the hole in the ozone, global warming and every other fabricated excuse to impose more taxes and control over our lives – a baseless scare-mongering to appeal to the laziness and greed of the masses.

  18. Herb Brasher

    Bob McAlister has gone “limey” on us? Well, I hope so–shucks, he may even start appreciating soccer. Maybe there is hope for those of us over 50, even yet.

  19. Mark Whittington

    Perhaps sometime in the future we can discuss how to create better divisions of labor. We have many problems, but none of them are insurmountable. One often hears about the inefficiency of government, but the truth is that corporate management often makes bad decisions, and wastes huge amounts of money. Corporate management usually makes bad decisions because capitalism (like government, in our system) depends on hierarchal chains of command. This system forces power and decision making to the top among people who have imperfect knowledge. It also forces the system to be based on empiricism, so that a few people can control the actions of others. If it were the other way around, and the power and the decision-making capability were among the workers who actually generate the wealth, then the capital investment process would fall apart. A system based on deductive thinking and creativity of workers makes for far superior divisions of labor, and hence better efficiency and productivity. Capitalism by its nature, reduces risk to investors-it by no means creates the best divisions of labor-that’s why it is so inefficient. Since capitalism is inefficient, we have to burn through energy resources at an unsustainable rate to keep the system going.
    The good news is that we now have the knowledge as to why all these bad things keep happening. For example, we know (or we should know) that egregious levels of wealth inequality are intrinsic to capitalism itself. We know that use of fossil fuels is killing the planet. We know that we had better scrap this system pronto, or else the earth will become uninhabitable.
    Do we actually have to wait until the temperature increases (in the South) to the point where we can no longer grow crops, or to the point where coastal areas actually start flooding to make the change?
    Why not free people from economic bondage? Let workers use their creative capacity to solve practical problems. For example, we need to be working on creating efficient heat engines for use with solar power. We need to be designing efficient solar collectors for diffuse light. There are small pockets of people working on the problem, but nothing really organized. The problem is that the only realistic avenues for develop are through corporate investment, or government funding-the two hierarchal based systems that created the problem to begin with. Of the two, government will have to be changed to become democratic and to use the deductive thinking paradigm. Social Democratic government will have to replace what now exists. We’ll have to replace the entire capital investment process with a more efficient and fair economic system that is regulated by Social Democracy.
    This is serious stuff. Obviously, our system isn’t working, and obviously moneyed interests are choking and corrupting the government. I want to encourage everyone to speak up. If you know that capitalism is the root problem, then please say so. I often hear well-meaning people use euphemistic language to imply that capitalism is the problem, yet they refrain from forthrightly expressing their views because of fear of being labeled as liberals, socialists, or communists. There is no need to fear, however. The people who criticize you are going to say that anyway.
    Think about all the brave people in our country’s history who did stand up. Progressive liberals and social democrats (and progressive conservatives, for that matter) made their voices heard without equivocation or fear of being brow beat into submission. They ended child labor, created a 40 hr workweek, ended institutional racism, made unions legal (except here), instituted women’s suffrage, created Social Security and a minimum wage, developed a system of national parks, implemented a progressive tax system and a New Deal, and they advocated a host of other political innovations to assuage the ill effects of capitalism. These people knew what the problem was, and they said what they meant. They were tough, and they were willing to fight for what they believed was right. You can bet that the opposition is going to fight for cheap labor and unfettered property rights.

  20. Herb Brasher

    Sure, mate, but I can’t count on Bob to know the difference, so I have to translate, in case he reads this.
    ‘ave a cup of tea, guvnor?

  21. Karen McLeod

    Lee, I’ve done volunteer work with the poor and the homeless through my church many times. I can tell you straight up that, having listened to many homeless people while they talked, I am certain that the majority suffer from mental illness that makes it difficult or impossible for them to a) trust, or b) jump through the hoops required to get what they are technically eligible for. And yes, many have addiction problems as well. Such things frequently happen when you try to self medicate. In addition, frequently (but not always) the persons who are the front line contacts for these ‘services’ treat them like dirt. I have walked with a few through the maze of trying to get various services. Too often I have stood behind a person, while he talked to one of these bureaucrats, only to hear and see the person who is supposed to be assisting that homeless person speak to him (or her) in a totally disrespectful way while throwing up barriers that essentially deny that person service. In those cases all I have had to do is step around the homeless person and present myself (white, middleclass, articulate, knowledgeable about the system, and clearly able to cause real trouble–and I don’t mean the kind that gets the person causing it in jail–and the bureaucrat’s demeanor changes immediately. It’s amazing how much easier it is to understand when he/she tells me. Even the homeless person can understand it! Its a miracle! Of course I don’t know if the miracle is that the homeless person can now understand the previously incomprehensible, or if the bureaucrat has been given the power to speak intelligeably and politely. At any rate there’s a problem with complexity and delivery.
    Also, for those of us who are insured, prices are soaring, and what’s covered is shrinking. I am lucky enough to be able to afford what I have at this point. But I have friends who have to make choices, hard ones, about what they will get taken care of, because even the co-payments are rough. You say that some prefer parties and expensive cars to insurance. Yes. See my reference to adolescent squirrels. People who have had real experience quickly discover that something as simple as a toothache really puts a damper on enjoying the finer things of life.

  22. Ready to Hurl

    Weldon, I think that you’re being pretty generous when you characterize the statements in an advocacy op/ed piece from a right wing partisan think tank as “facts.”
    These people are professionals at cherry picking technically accurate “facts” and massaging them to support erroneous conclusions on the part of the reader.

    From 1993 to 2002 the number of uninsured people in households with annual incomes above $75,000 increased by 114 percent.

    This could be true (but statistically irrelevant) if the original number was, say, 50,000 and the final number was 107,500.
    Brad’s one of the few people that I know who disregard the source of the information. The organizations that fund the
    National Center for Policy Analysis read like a murders’ row of libertarian/rightwing/reactionary representatives of would-be oligarch members: Bradley, Scaife, Koch, Olin, Earhart, Castle Rock, and JM Foundations.
    Is NCPA partisan? Wikipedia notes:”In 2005, NCPA fired Bruce Bartlett as a senior fellow because he criticized George W. Bush for betraying the organization’s conservative principles.”

  23. Susan

    I am holding my breath until I can re-enroll my oldest daughter in my insurance. She starts grad school next month, and I can put her back on. I had to un-enroll her when she went to part-time student at USC last fall and then graduated, so it’s been a year in which we just prayed she wouldn’t get sick. We looked at the plans, and with my budget I couldn’t afford any of the individual plans with a decent deductible. She was making barely minimum wage working at CVS. Looking at the cost of the plan, it would have been cheaper to pay the doctor bills in cash.
    Interestingly, I did find out that my doctor, eye doctor, and my dentist have separate costs for uninsured people. They charge less.
    It won’t cost me any more or less when I put her on the plan because I and my youngest daughter are the only ones on the so-called family plan. But for another month she’s uninsured. Unfortunately.
    I think she can also get insurance at Washington State because she’ll be a grad ass’t, but I’m not sure if it will be worth it for her to pay it when I can just add her back on to mine.

  24. Herb Brasher

    Brad, what are you doing, posting at 3:48 a.m.? You should be getting some sleep. Doesn’t your wife complain at those hours? I’m guessing you finished your op-ed piece around midnight?

  25. bud

    Nothing separates the two major parties more than their differing approaches to health care. To it’s credit the State did a fine job in today’s paper explaining the differences in the various candidates. (Why was Kucinich plan excluded?)
    The Republicans for the most part don’t have a plan for universal coverage. Instead, they’re more interested in making sure records are computerized. Duncan Hunter did not even list health care among his top 25 issues! Talk about being out of touch. The Democrats on the other hand, seem to take this issue very seriously. All would greatly expand the number of people who have some type of health coverage. The approaches differed but at least they are talking about it. This is quite refreshing after all the GOP blather about the trivial issue of immigration reform.

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