On Monday night, former MI-07 Congressman Tim Walberg (shown here with his friend Michele Bachman who, thankfully, did not attend), held a “townhall” meeting in Chelsea, MI to discuss “repealing and replacing the recently passed health care bill.” Given that Barack Obama will be president after the November elections, the premise of the townhall was pretty bizarre to begin with.
But the event itself was really bizarre.
Michigan Organizing for America volunteers arrived at the Chelsea clock tower an hour before Mr. Walberg’s event to show their support for the freshly-minted reform law.
We started out in front of the clock tower itself where we were most visible and then moved to the other end of the complex where the meeting was being held to greet attendees as they entered the parking lot.
We had signs, as usual. Lots of signs. Even some light-hearted ones including a reference to the now-famous “Waffles are Delicious”.
We went inside as the townhall was about to begin and found it was being held in an empty storefront.
In all about 100 people attended, roughly evenly divided between Walberg supporters who used the chairs in front and supporters of Democratic Congressman for MI-07, Mark Schauer. Schauer’s supporters stood behind and along side the seated attendees.
After Mr. Walberg was announced (by a Chelsea businessman and Beatles tribute band member ["Paul"]), a surreal moment occurred when he suggested the group say the Pledge of Allegiance but then realized there were no flags in the empty building.
“I don’t see a flag here,” he said. “But generally we can face east. And I think east is that way. Right? So let’s stand and let’s do it as American citizens of all stripes.”
So we faced Mecca and said the Pledge of Allegiance.
Walberg then launched into an anti-health reform speech full of the usual Republican talking points about mortgaging our children’s future, hamstringing American business owners, and characterizing the new law as a Big Government Takeover of Health CareTM. He vowed that, if he was returned to the seat in Congress he was thrown out of after only one term in 2008, he would work hard to “repeal and replace” the law.
He also claimed that during his time in office, he submitted health care reform legislation that is the basis for the current proposals from the GOP that was simply tweaked to add stuff about “pre-existing needs”, high risk pools and other good things.
Mr. Walberg wants to replace the new law with a plan that would include:
- An expansion of health savings accounts
- Associated health plans (small business pools)
- Allowing the selling of health care across state lines
- Tort reform
- A tax cut for anyone who buys health insurance ($3,500 per person, $7,000 per household)
These are nice ideas (some of which are actually in the current health insurance law) in a country where (a) everybody has a job and (b) big Health Insurance companies aren’t gaming the system and putting profits over the needs of Americans. But reality doesn’t always factor in to the way people like Republican Tim Walberg view the world. In fact, Mr. Walberg stated during the townhall that he believes the figure of 30-35 million Americans being without health care is wrong and that only 12 million Americans are without health care. When you start the conversation from a distorted view of reality, it’s difficult to move forward.
A question and answer session commenced where Walberg supporters got up to cheer him on, urge everyone to suck it up and take responsibility for their own lives, not relying on “the Nanny State” as Mr. Walberg refers to it. The businessman that introduced Mr. Walberg talked about how his family emigrated to America where he’s now blessed with the opportunity to hold down six jobs to pay for his family’s health insurance costs and living expenses.
A woman from England spoke of the evils and horrors of nationalized health care and the “death panels”. “Is that the kind of system you want in America?” she asked. “This isn’t a nationalized health insurance system, lady!” came the reply from a Schauer supporter.
When asked tough questions about rescission and being denied health insurance due to preexisting conditions and escalating costs, Mr. Walberg mostly declined to answer, retreating instead to repeating his talking points. When a college student asked him about how his plan would help her, coming out of college with no job and a preexisting condition, he told her she’d get a tax cut, a $3,500 voucher to purchase insurance nobody will sell her and that she can not buy because she doesn’t have a job.
Tim Walberg is divorced from the reality of the health care crisis in this country. He’s adamant that no tax money be spent to correct this catastrophe and his proposal is set up to actually cost the taxpayers MORE because it is essentially unfunded. The only way to pay for it is to take tax revenues from other areas, achieving yet another GOP goal of “making government small enough to drown in a bathtub.”
The irony, the head-shaking irony, is that several of the most out-spoken supporters of Mr. Walberg got up, demanded that people quit asking the federal government to help them, and then proceeded to ask Mr. Walberg what he could do to help them.
As I was leaving, I noticed that one of Mr. Walberg’s supporters had brought signs. All in the same handwriting, they were lined up in a tidy row along one side of the room:
“Reduce Government!”, “Dems are sellouts! Leave my healthcare alone!”
“I LOVE USA, I don’t love other countries”, “Keep your gov’t hands out of my pocket”, “GOP loves America, Dems hate it”, “Dems have killed Michigan”
I’m pretty sure they were made by the guy with six jobs.
I’m just sayin’…