Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Real World: Westwego

Last night I went to Congressman Joe Cao's town hall event in Westwego.

It was pretty uncomfortable.

Nobody flew off the handle and there were no gun shows. It certainly wasn't the worst of the worst. The small auditorium was probably 75% against. He took maybe ten questions but only one from someone in support of healthcare reform.

I'd never heard Congressman Cao talk off-the-cuff for such a long period of time. His explanations of the healthcare reform proposals were kind of disjointed. I'm not sure how much of that is related to his accent and how much of it is related to his lack of confidence about his knowledge about what's actually included in the HELP bill.

For instance, he then went on for awhile about how he was worried that illegal immigrants might be exempt from the individual mandate, which of course is a ridiculous argument because if you're worried about benefits going to undocumented workers, you certainly wouldn't want them in the mandate system, which would make them eligible for subsidies, the insurance exchange, or the public option.


House Bill: "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens." According to America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, Page 143, Line 3, Section 246: "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens. Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States." [America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, accessed 7/22/09

Favorite question from audience member:

"I guess I understand that we need some kind of reform. But why does it have to be a bill."

Cao cracked a nice smile at that one. Because that's how laws are made, my dear.

A high percentage audience questions were phrased in terms of how wrong it is that "lazy" people would get health insurance on the backs of "hard-working" people.

One of the more disappointing moments came when a woman went on a long and inarticulate rant about how because the Obama administration is answering emails with questions about healthcare reform, their should be some sort of investigation. This is the latest Fox News fear-smear. Cao should have knocked it down but instead said he'd have to look into the woman's claims.

Cao's office also collects email addresses and answers questions via email.

After the event, I walked up to the stage to ask the Congressman if he was still "leaning" toward supporting the bill. If he said yes, I was going to thank him.

But instead he just hedged a whole bunch. He backed off. He wouldn't say he was leaning toward it.

At some point or another he's going to have to say what he believes. He's going to have to vote on this at some point very soon. We're all going to know about it.

So he might as well just come out now and say what it is he's going to do for his constituents on this.

Make a decision and live with the consequences.



After the event I stayed around for a little while and discussed my thoughts on the bill with some of the anti-reform folks that were there. It's amazing how people react when you start telling them the facts. When you explain that we have the highest costs in the world and the 37th best outcomes, when you explain how taxes already pay for people's healthcare except only at its most expensive point - the ER, when you inject a little reality into things... well, it just confounds people.

It made me feel bad. We're so far apart on what the basic facts are.

People are being taken advantage and they're being lied to. It's a shame.


Anonymous said...

Joe Cao is a really good, ethical, decent man. I'm going to venture he's in the top 5 in Congress in those categories.

Now, if you want to vote for Juan laFonta or cedric Richmond, instead of Cao, on this basis and on this issue alone, when Obama himself seems to be ready to leap his most die-hard campaign supporters in the lurch on the very same issue - or at least is no clearer, or even less clearer than cao on this very same issue - then I think you are doing our City a great disservice.

E said...

I have no doubt that Cao is ethical and decent. But I fear he's extremely ineffective.

This isn't the only issue on which I base this charge.

He voted against the stimulus after doing little to nothing to maximize the value it would have for New Orleans.

He voted against the Ledbetter Act to guarantee equal pay for women.

These are bad votes. I will take them into consideration when it is time for reelection.

Anonymous said...

Ok, E, but just do me and New Orleans a favor:

Find an ethical, reform minded Democrat who will be effective before you go ahead and pull that switch.

Because Jefferson wasn't effective, and Juan LaFonta won't be either and Richmond just got slapped with a 6 month suspension from the bar for ethical violations and etc.

Please just put first things - real ethical, real effective leadership - first.

On the Stimulus, hey, Obama hit us with *the* lowest or one of *the* lowest payouts of any city anywhere? WHY - because of Cao? What about Landrieu? We are recovering from Katrina, but thanks a lot for the campaign talk and the thought?

And the Ledbetter act? You would bring in a LaFonta or Richmond because of that vote?

Cao has met with Obama and he appears to be open minded which is more than we can say for most of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress on this issue. In fact, even Obama himself is not 100% backing a public option these days.

You scored a meeting with Cao. Do you really think LaFonta or Richmond would be any different from Jefferson - unavailable and self-interested - in this respect?

Please just find a decent, smart, capable, truly effective, responsive, and ethical Democrat - someone you and we can all be proud of, or at least won't find ourselves ashamed of one day - before you sign your name under your endorsement.


Anonymous said...

Anon 1 again:

Here's an exercise:

-> Compare Obama's statements on public option in the last few days to those of Cao to you.

And the Pharma deal?

Cao is the least of worries for health reform:

Editilla said...

Good points all.
Cao does seem (to me) to be waffling however, or at least becoming more ambiguous about his positions.
He may be the most ethical person to hold that office in a while, but he must face re-election and we all know that takes money from somewhere.

E said...

On the Stimulus, hey, Obama hit us with *the* lowest or one of *the* lowest payouts of any city anywhere? WHY - because of Cao? What about Landrieu? We are recovering from Katrina, but thanks a lot for the campaign talk and the thought?

I would argue that yes, it is partially but not entirely because of Cao. Nagin and Jindal and Landrieu also deserve blame for that. So does the RPC. So does Blakely.

Your larger request for a progressive, ethical democrat is mine as well. I really hope someone steps up to the plate.

Cao's bad votes really do matter. How someone thinks, believes, advocates, and ultimately, votes, is really important. I won't debate whether it is more or less important than ethical behavior because I'm not sure of the answer to that. But voting against something like comprehensive healthcare reform hurts New Orleanians just like unethical behavior does. He should think about that.

It would be great would if the Cao of now - nov 2010 would be the ethical progressive replacement for the Cao of Dec 2008 - now.

mominem said...

Cao may have meant what I think you said he said about illegal immigrants He has been involved in working with immigrants for a long time and may believe or at least be conflicted about who should be included under the mandate.

E said...

No, I think he was throwing red meat to a riled up crowd of conservatives with whom he's probably not particularly popular.