Republican radio address

For the weekend of September 12-13, 2009

Greetings, this is Josh Tardy, leader of the Republicans in the Maine House.

Congress is getting set to move on the health care issue, and where it moves is anybody’s guess. In this increasingly bizarre drama, there’s a massive, 1,000-page bill in the House and several bills in the Senate. We have the Gang of Six, the hard left Democrats, the Blue Dog Democrats and the fallout from the hundreds of town hall meetings. A grassroots uprising of Middle America is rattling the halls of Congress. Meanwhile, a Republican alternative plan based on common sense and fiscal sanity is gaining traction. Reasonable people are coming to understand the wisdom of junking the radical components of the Democratic plans and proceeding with a practical approach.

We all care about health care, of course, because it’s personal, an issue of life and death. Understandably, people are frightened. As more details of the Democratic plan emerge, the alarm is growing. People are sensing that this is not so much about health care reform as about a vastly expanded federal government, squeezing us tighter and tighter. The House bill, HR 3200, would create 55 new federal agencies. While it would explode government hiring and spending, it would wipe out at least four million private sector jobs. And when our country is spending more than $500 million a day in interest on the $12 trillion national debt, people wonder how in the world can we pay for all this. The official cost is pegged at $900 billion, but government cost estimates are notoriously low. For example, the projections on Medicare were off by 1,000 percent. The president says he will pay for most of his plan by eliminating waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. That’s hard to believe. If eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of waste and fraud were easy, it would have already been done.

Despite the president’s earlier demand that Congress pass the House bill before the August recess, we have now discovered that the health care plan wouldn’t even take effect until 2013. What was the rush? It seems clear that he wanted it passed before the American people understood what it did. This is no way to run a democratic republic. What happened to all that campaign talk about transparency? No wonder people are outraged.

According to public opinion polls, 80 percent of the American people like the health care they have; but they want rational reform. They want lower medical costs and more affordable insurance. But they also understand that changing the system is immensely complex. It is nearly one-fifth of our economy. We can’t afford to get it wrong. We need to proceed with caution and intelligence, not with some kind of political agenda. Four out of five Americans say they want a broadly bipartisan plan. They want Republican involvement and something that is good for the whole country. Few people are interested in a massive overhaul of health care orchestrated by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night and missed a golden opportunity to demonstrate leadership. He could have acknowledged that the unruly mess on Capital Hill has been rejected by the American people. He could have said, let’s hit the reset button and start over with something that makes sense. He could have said the public option is a dead issue, because we hear that no bill with the public option can pass the Senate. He could have said, let’s make sure Democrats and Republicans are involved and on board for a plan that meets with widespread approval. That would have been real leadership, and the American people would have responded with strong approval.

Instead, the president stood before Congress and tried to defend the abysmal plan put forth by House Democrats. When you have a product that nobody wants, it makes no sense to keep trying to sell it. But undeterred by reality, he plodded on.

Now we learn from the Associated Press that the president gave us misleading information on nine major points of his plan to make it seem more acceptable. But he rejected one of the best ways to reduce the cost of health insurance – letting people buy health coverage across state lines. There are 1,300 health insurance firms in the United States. Imagine the cost savings if those companies were all competing for our business, the same way companies compete for auto insurance customers. Opening up a national market for health insurance is part of the Republican plan. It costs virtually nothing and promises great financial benefits. Why would the president reject such a commonsense idea? What is he not telling us?

This is Josh Tardy. Thank you very much for listening.