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Politics

Town Hall with Gene Taylor

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Last night, Doug and I attended a town hall meeting in Moss Point, Mississippi, hosted by Democrat Gene Taylor, the U.S. Representative for the 4th District of Mississippi. The 4th District, which covers the southeast quarter of the state, is one of the most conservative districts in the Unites States to be represented by a Democrat. In 2008, the 4th District voted for Republican John McCain by 67%, a margin matched by only one other split-ballot district, Texas’s 17th (CQ Politics). Not surprisingly, Gene Taylor is considered one of the most conservative Democratic congressmen.

The town hall was an interesting experience. Arriving in Moss Point, we found Highway 613 lined with parked pickup trucks up to half a mile away from the conference center. People we passed told us that the venue was full and we wouldn’t be able to get in. However, we stood in line; while we waited, we debated a lady who was passing around a petition to require voter ID at the polls. Eventually, enough space opened up for us to get some standing room in view of the meeting.

The meeting (covered in the Sun Herald and on WLOX, with footage) was certainly tense. The crowd was predominantly, although not entirely, conservative. Outside, I saw at least one “Obama Show Us Your Birth Certificate” poster, as well as a variety of “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Down With Socialism” slogans. Many people were angry, and there was a lot of shouting and booing, particularly at the beginning. However, Congressman Taylor handled the meeting fairly well, and people even calmed down somewhat at the end. (He appeased them by repeating how he is conservative, supports the military, loves America, etc).

There were some good liberal voices who spoke — a doctor, a NAACP representative, and others who made good arguments. But it was a very conservative crowd and most of the anger was coming from that side. So what are people getting worked up about?

First, health care reform. Obviously. There is a lot of concern, both rational and irrational, about the government’s involvement in health care. The rational argument seems to be that private insurance can’t compete with government insurance funded by taxpayers, and that we need to fund our existing obligations, such as Medicare, before we create new obligations that will balloon the national debt. The less rational part includes a worrying lack of compassion for vulnerable members of the population; one lady was booed for pointing out that people who lose their jobs have a hard time affording health insurance. It also includes some confused statements of the “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” genre.

Second, “rights”. This is a confusing but persistent apprehension. It seems to be related to things like government involvement in health care, higher taxes, and gun control. At least, that is my best interpretation of vague statements such as, “Those of us who live in rural Mississippi are afraid that our rights our getting taken away” (a statement that was widely applauded by the crown but never satisfyingly explained).

Third, immigration. The topic was brought up fairly briefly, but it drew a scary amount of anger from the crowd (as in, “We need troops on the border to shoot them as they come over” scary). It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that Mississippians can’t be more tolerant and accepting of the people who have, among other things, contributed immensely to the rebuilding effort after Katrina.

Fourth, Democrats. Many of the folks at the meeting didn’t think very highly of people like Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. Gene Taylor got grilled pretty heavily about why he’s a member of the Democratic party. I suspect there’s a high level of cognitive dissonance among conservatives who know three things absolutely: They Like Gene Taylor, Gene Taylor Is A Democrat, and Democrats Are Evil. It’s actually quite amusing. Is it possible that not all three of those things are 100% true?

So, the meeting was interesting as far as hearing opinions from the conservative side of the population. Gene Taylor’s positions are disappointing, considering his party; he’s staunchly pro-gun, anti-immigration, and so forth. But he seemed intelligent and had some good ideas about increasing competition in the health insurance industry, improving wind insurance, and guaranteeing benefits to military veterans. We need more political debates like this with our representatives and other politicians.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Town Hall with Gene Taylor

  1. So much debate is going on pointing out how bad the collectivist approach of the Obama/Democrats will be for our health care, but where is the advocacy of a workable solution?

    Here is a brief outline of where we need to go with US health care:

    The Modern Health Care Solution

    We need to reset our health care system back to a free-market, patient-driven system. Every other successful part of our society runs this way- why not our health care for goodness sake?! We need:

    1. Market-based pricing of health care. We need medical Care/Service/Procedures priced up front like everything else in our society- not the price/cost black-boxes of today’s employer and government-subsidized health care.

    2. Minute-clinics and similar no-appointment, transparently-priced clinics are going in the right direction of delivering this concept:
    http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2006/01/23_zdechlikm_coninfo/

    3. Just like with the fair, portability of pre-tax 401k’s, we need fair, portable pre-tax health savings accounts for everyone to save their own money over time, make their own decisions on health care, and pay it with their own money.

    4. Make health care ‘insurance’ back into actual insurance. Couple health savings accounts with high-deductible catastrophic health insurance policies that people buy like they do for life insurance or car insurance.

    5. Reform the medical malpractice system and the laws driving it. In some cases, up to 25% of the cost of individual health care is extra tests and procedures run by doctors to ‘bullet proof’ themselves from malpractice lawsuits.

    The above approach gives everyone the access, proper control, and choice over their health- not the opposite helplessness dictated by some far away, faceless bureaucrat.

    Posted by Philosopher | August 18, 2009, 5:51 pm
  2. As someone who went to the town hall meeting, I’m sadden how misinformed people are about Health Care — especially people who say free market capitalism is the ONLY way it can work…..

    Actually, in almost every other industrialized nation, they have socialized and/or government health care. People get better care, they pay no money when they go to the hospital, and they never have to worry about getting sick and weighing the plus or minuses of seeing a doctor. In fact, I’d argue that the “socialist” Scandinavian countries have the greatest health care in the world. They not only provide the highest level of care, but also are leaders in Medical research and technologies. (And yes, I know people who have lived there.)

    The bottom line is the free market doesn’t work in so many cases. It works when you want to buy a computer — you can asses who provides the best computer for the best cost, and buy it. But it comes to really important things, like say affording a doctor, the free market has never really worked all that well. That’s why were are one of the only countries still abiding by a “free market” health care system.

    There is an solid argument behind increasing competition and tort reform. However, will that put a dent into exploding health care costs? Will that make Blue Cross care less about profit margins? No.

    The real issue is this: according to the Census Bureau, in 2007 Mississippi ranked dead last in Average Income, at about $36,000 per house hold. They also ranked near the bottom in education, highest in child and adult obesity, and has, overall, a lack-luster social assistance network.

    It really feasible for someone living in Mississippi making say, 30 grand and supporting a child to pay for: a place to live, pay for transportation, food, and child care, AND be expected to save extra money into a special “Health Care Savings Account?” How can a family afford an abrupt $4,000 health care bill for a freak accident? Who cares if it was priced by the open market — a person making $10 an hour at a casino can’t afford that. The person looking for a construction job can’t either.

    And bottom line: the open market doesn’t care about people. The open market doesn’t care about “patient-driven” tactics. It never has and never will. A government regulated system might. But right now the Executive Board at Blue Cross doesn’t care about my health care concerns — they care about profit margins and dividends.

    How did the free market system work out with companies like Freddie Mac and Fannie May? How about AIG? How about Chrysler and GM? Executives and Board Members made out okay — everyone else got screwed. Do you know how many people just lost 60% of their well vested 401K? A 401K was supposed to be safe — it was the way to save!?!?! Except, well, not anymore.

    Sorry if you were planning to retire Mom and Dad — you have to work another 3 years because your 401K took 10 bullets when the financial market broke down. You played by all the rules, worked hard, saved money, and got screwed in the end. Too bad.

    But did you hear the CEO of Financial Company X got a $10 Million and change bonus?!?!?

    Such is life in the free market — right?

    Posted by Doug | August 18, 2009, 11:02 pm
  3. Good points in both comments. Philosopher, what you’re describing can be summed up as health insurance reform. I agree this is absolutely necessary. And yet I think health care reform has a larger purpose. Specifically, it needs to:

    (1) Guarantee a basic level of care for free (yearly checkups, shots, screenings, etc.) to reduce preventable illnesses and unnecessary emergency room visits.

    (2) Ensure that coverage is available to everyone regardless of preexisting conditions and can be carried over with changes of employment or during periods of unemployment.

    (3) Address the long-term financial shortfalls of Medicare, Medicaid, and other existing programs by reducing costs and moving away from a fee-for-service model.

    Those are just a few things that health care reform must achieve, and, in my opinion, the government’s involvement is essential — the free market won’t take care of it on its own.

    I’ll point out a good article in the Economist on the topic.

    Posted by Vincent | August 20, 2009, 5:11 pm

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