( – promoted by buhdydharma )
Note: A story told on a holiday ought to be able to meander. So, pull up a chair….
I posted this on Big Orange to a resounding thud and I am determined to give more people a chance to enjoy it despite its length.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I want to thank Ms. Daniels for allowing me to attend her classroom here at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where eight years ago this week former President Bush famously read “My Pet Goat” to her second-grade students as planes destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and crashed into the Pentagon.
As you know, Senators Baucus, Conrad, Enzi, and Grassley asked me to change the date of my address to Congress on health care because Fox News had scheduled a one-hour prime time Glenn Beck special on “The Morality of Political Violence” opposite it. In the interests of bipartisanship, I concurred, but I could not agree to the October 2012 date that they suggested.
As I was already scheduled to address schoolchildren today, and as all schools who objected to the supposed politicization of such an event have already withdraw from the process and accepted the alternative Glenn Beck children’s show that Fox News has provided, I’ve decided to combine my two speeches.
OBAMA: First, let me address the education component of my speech: “Don’t be a fool, stay in school!” Ha-ha — I rarely get to try my Muhammad Ali impression in public. I hope that you kids enjoyed it. I hope that you know who Muhammad Ali is, for that matter. I see that my Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is waving his hands at me … his eyes are bugging out … he’s mouthing something … yes, “he’s a Muslim!”
You wanted me to mention that, Rahm? No, I see that you did not.
All right, let me turn to the health care reform portion of my speech.
Aside from Mr. Emanuel, I am joined here today by the Congressional leadership, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, Senators Jay Rockefeller, Olympia Snowe, Mark Warner, and Lindsey Graham, Representatives Maxine Waters and Mike Pence, and my Communications Director David Axelrod. I am also joined here by Ms. Daniels’s new second-grade class, here on their first day of school — let me see if I have this right — Jacob, Emily, Madison, Michael, Jacob, Madison, Ethan, Madison, Emma, Emily, Emma, Michael, Madison, Ashley, Madison, Madison, Madison, Madison, Jennifer, and Esperanza. Esperanza, did you know that your name means “hope”? Yes, of course you do.
My hope — mi esperanza — is … I’m sorry, Esperanza, am I embarrassing you? I won’t do that again. My hope … is that by explaining my health care reform proposal to you second-graders, I will be able to show how simple my plan for reform really is. I am inviting you, the schoolchildren of this class, to ask me whatever questions come to your mind. Yes, Jacob?
JACOB 1: What sort of name is “Bark Obama”?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, it’s “Barack” Obama — Bah-ROCK — and it’s Kenyan, although — Rep. Pence? Rep. Pence, please try to hold yourself together, sir. — although I was not born in Kenya. Rep. Pence, that is not a word you should say in front of children, and coughing while you say it doesn’t fool anyone.
Now, I want you to understand why I want to reform our system of health insurance and health care. What happens to you when you get sick?
ALL CHILDREN: We go to the doctor.
OBAMA: That’s right, you go to the doctor. Now, do you all get sick at once?
ALL CHILDREN: Yes.
OBAMA: Actually, actually I don’t think that you do.
ALL CHILDREN: OK.
OBAMA: Let’s say that it costs $20 to go to the doctor. Now, that’s a lot of money to a little kid, right? So let’s say that Madison over here gets sick. If she has to pay $20, she’s really going to be in trouble. She may not even go to the doctor because it’s so expensive. And then she could get really sick, even die.
MADISON 1: I’m going to die?
OBAMA: No, Madison, not anytime soon. It’s just an example. Of course, you could die, but you’re no more likely to die soon than anyone else in this class, to the best of my knowledge.
ALL CHILDREN: We’re going to die?
OBAMA: No. Back to the example. So let’s say that everyone pays $1 a week — that’s much cheaper. You can afford that. Now, if one of you gets sick, whoever it is, Madison or someone else, that person can use the money collected from everyone to go to the doctor. That’s what we call “insurance.” It helps to spread the risk around.
MADISON 1: Am I going to die?
OBAMA: No, Madison. But I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you lie down on one of the mats in that corner where Esperanza is. OK? That’s a good girl.
Now let’s say that Madison, who’s lying down there — Madison, please don’t listen to this next part — let’s say that Madison has a really terrible disease. Madison, this is just an example. Madison, calm down, you’re not sick. Now let’s say that she has an awful disease. Madison. Madison. OK, let’s say that this Madison over here has an awful disease.
MADISON 2: I have chronic ear infections!
OBAMA: OK, that’s great. Not great in real life, but great for this example. … Are you seeing a doctor?
MADISON 2: I have chronic ear infections!
OBAMA: OK, David, please make a note to check that situation out.
Now, let’s say that after Madison collects her $20 to go to the doctor to cure her ear infection, the company that collected our money says to Madison “we want our money back. We found out that you’ve had ear infections before.” Is that fair?
MADISON 3: Are you pointing at her Madison or me Madison?
OBAMA: At her. Should it matter to whether it’s fair, though?
MADISON 3: Yes.
OBAMA: Really? I mean, she paid her dollar a week in case she ever needs it.
MADISON 3: No?
OBAMA: That’s right. It’s not fair. They took her money and then when she needed it they said “too bad, here’s your money back, and you can never get our money to go to the doctor again. Madison, is that fair to Madison?
MADISON 3: No?
OBAMA: Madison, do ear infections hurt?
MADISON 3: Her or me?
MADISON 3: Because I don’t know.
MADISON 2: THEY HURT!
OBAMA: All right. All right. So, Madison, if they told you that you could never go to the doctor again for your ear infections and that you’d have to suffer, would you like that?
MADISON 2: NOOO!
OBAMA: You would not like that! Good! Not “good,” but … OK, you understand. Now, what if we say that the company that sends people to the doctor has to send Madison to the doctor if she has an ear infection. Would you like that?
MADISON 2: Yes!
SEN. GRAHAM: But then the company goes out of business!
OBAMA: Sen. Graham … Sen. Graham, I’m getting to that. Please let me interact with the children.
Now, here’s the problem. This Madison needs insurance so she can see the doctor for an ear infection, right? But that Madison doesn’t get ear infections.
MADISON 4: Are you pointing at her Madison or me Madison?
OBAMA: Her. But do you get ear infections?
MADISON 4: No.
OBAMA: So, you might not want to pay for ear infection insurance, right? Because you think you’re too healthy to use it.
MADISON 4: I don’t know.
MADISON 3: I get it! I don’t want to pay!
OBAMA: Great! Not, “great” that you don’t want to pay, but — I’m glad you get it.
Now, if you don’t pay for your health insurance because you think you’re not going to need it, where does Madison get her $20 to go to the doctor?
It’s not that easy, is it? Jacob, you look like you may know.
JACOB 1: From the company that gives out the money?
OBAMA: No, they don’t have the money anymore because you all stopped paying your $1 a week.
REP. GRAHAM: They went bankrupt!
OBAMA: Senator Graham. Please. Well, I guess they might. So then where does Madison get the money?
JACOB 1: From her Mom and Dad!
ALL CHILDREN: Yeah!
OBAMA: But what if they don’t have the money?
JACOB 1: From … Grandma and Grandpa?
REP. GRAHAM: Actually, that’s a great solution!
OBAMA: Senator Graham!
Grandma and Grandpa don’t have the money either, and maybe the company does go bankrupt, and then Madison is writhing in agony because she can’t go to the doctor … Madison, do you know what the words “writhe” or “agony” mean?
MADISON 2: No.
OBAMA: Good. Not “good,” I mean, but … convenient.
So here’s the plan. What we do is, we pass a law that says that you have to give the company $1 a week, so it can give it to Madison or anyone else who has an ear infection, including maybe each of you. That’s called a “mandate.”
Yes — Other Jacob?
JACOB 2: What if I don’t have $1 a week to pay?
OBAMA: That’s a good question. That’s a good question. If you can’t afford your $1 a week, then the government will make some or all of the payment for you.
JACOB 2: OK.
OBAMA: That’s called a “subsidy.”
JACOB 2: OK.
OBAMA: Now, if you make everyone pay to the insurance companies, there’s a problem.
SEN. GRAHAM: No, there isn’t.
OBAMA: Senator Graham! Please, sir, this is my Presidential address, not yours.
SEN. GRAHAM: But there’s no problem with making everyone pay. You’re lying to these children.
OBAMA: All right, Senator Graham, go lie down in the corner with Esperanza and the first Madison.
Here’s the problem. Once the companies have a law saying that you have to pay them, why can’t they start charging you $2 a week even though they just need $1 a week?
MADISON 3: Can they do that?
OBAMA: Well, how are we going to stop them?
SEN. GRAHAM: You’re not going to stop them! They deserve to be able to … oof!
OBAMA: Heh-heh. Esperanza. Heh-heh. I know that the Senator was being bad, but you can’t hit him like that.
ESPERANZA: He was yelling in my ear.
OBAMA: I know. You’re a good girl. Heh-heh. Senator Graham, I think there’s more where that came from.
OK, Jacob, you have your hand up. How would you stop them from charging you $2 a week?
JACOB 1: We could pass a law saying they can’t do it.
OBAMA: We could pass a law! Right. And that’s called “regulation.” Now, does regulation tend to work?
Esperanza, I see that Sen. Graham seems to be trying to say something — by the way, Madison with the ear infections, that’s “writhing in agony” — can you make out what he’s saying?
ESPERANZA: He says “noooooo….”
OBAMA: Thank you. And that’s right. Generally, regulation of these companies hasn’t worked that well. It works in some other companies, like Switzerland, and we could try it, but it turns out to be an expensive and unreliable solution, as we found out with the SEC regulation of people like Bernie Madoff. Do you know who Bernie Madoff is, children?
ALL CHILDREN: Yesssss.
OBAMA: You do?
ALL CHILDREN: We’re in Florida.
OBAMA: So anyway, is there an alternative to regulation? Um, Senator Snowe, why are you sitting at Esperanza’s desk? In fact, how did you even fit into …
SEN. SNOWE: We can hope that the companies behave well!
OBAMA: And if they don’t behave well.
SEN. SNOWE: [mutters]
OBAMA: What was that?
OBAMA: Madison, you’re sitting next to Senator Snowe, what did she —
SEN. SNOWE: I said “Then we can do something else!” God!
OBAMA: Uh-huh. Does that make sense to you, Jacob?
JACOB 2: Not really.
SEN. SNOWE: We’re not stuck … we won’t here forever … maybe we can get out of it.
OBAMA: I’m sort of surprised to hear you saying that out loud, Sen. Snowe. You’re saying that you want to wait to try to solve the problem and hope that I’m out of office before you have to act?
SEN. SNOWE: No — I — I can’t get myself out of this desk. Sorry, I was talking to myself.
OBAMA: OK. Now, is there any other way to keep the companies from charging you $2 instead of $1 a week for your ear infection insurance?
SEN. GRAHAM: Noooo! OOOOOFFF!
OBAMA: You keep on defending your ears, Esperanza. Now, what if there was more than one company?
MADISON 3: Then they’d both charge $2?
OBAMA: You know, you’re probably right. We assume that there would be adequate competition, but with a small number of players in a market with high barriers to entry it might not occur. Did I just lose you all?
ALL CHILDREN + REP. PENCE: Yesssss.
OBAMA: The point is: if all the companies want money and they think that they can charge $2, they will. So how do we solve that? Senator Reid?
SEN. REID: Don’t call on me!
OBAMA: I’m sorry. Jacob?
JACOB 1: Will someone else do it and only charge $1 a week?
OBAMA: That’s an excellent question. Yes, someone else could do it. Any guesses?
JACOB 1: Grandma and Grandpa?
OBAMA: No. Bigger.
MADISON 4: Ummm — you?
OBAMA: Well, in a way, yes. Not me personally, but me as the representative of the government.
SEN. GRAHAM: Noooooooooo!
SEN. GRAHAM: OOOOOF!
OBAMA: Thank you.
ESPERANZA: I like this game!
OBAMA: That’s right — the government might be able to do it for $1 a week. Or it might be a little more — maybe $1.25 a week, or $1.50. But we’d know that, if you had to pay $2 a week, it would be because there was no other way to do it for less money, because the government was trying to do it and couldn’t do it. That keeps the companies honest!
JENNIFER: But what about the comparative advantages that the government has over private industry in not having to pay property taxes, make a profit, etc.?
OBAMA: That’s a fair question. You know, I have to say, before I answer: you do not look like a second-grader.
JENNIFER: Looks can be deceiving.
OBAMA: In fact, I’d peg you for early twenties, at least.
JENNIFER: I’ve matured early.
OBAMA: You aren’t, by any chance, a diminutive intern for private insurance lobbyists, are you?
JENNIFER: Don’t be absurd. As if they’d hire a second-grader.
OBAMA: And, seriously, how many second-graders are named “Jennifer” anyway? You were born in the ’80s, weren’t you?
JENNIFER: I fail to see what that has to do with —
OBAMA: And perhaps you registered for this class just to take part in this press conference?
JENNIFER: Just answer the question, Mr. President.
OBAMA: All right, I will, but I hope that the media takes note of this.
[CAMERA SHIFTS SLOWLY BACK AND FORTH SEVERAL TIMES FROM RIGHT TO LEFT.]
OBAMA: If the government has certain unfair advantages over private companies when it comes to providing insurance, then we have to be aware of and account for that. Not paying taxes, exemption from certain regulations, enhanced ability to raise capital — we can adjust for these things to ensure fair competition. But I’m not sure that the profit motive itself requires such an adjustment, and I’m quite sure that money spent on lobbying efforts and executive bonuses do not. Yes, Madison?
MADISON 4: I don’t understand what you just said.
JACOB 1: You’re totally losing us.
OBAMA: I’m sorry. You’re right. At any rate: competition, fair competition, is good. That’s the American Way. This is called having a “public option.”
I have to admit, I thought that I might hear something from Sen. Graham there.
ESPERANZA: He’s asleep.
OBAMA: Is he breathing?
ESPERANZA: I think so.
OBAMA: Good enough. So, I would like to see a public option offered in our reform plans, to help keep private companies honest.
[RESOUNDING APPLAUSE FROM PELOSI, WATERS, ROCKEFELLER. WEAKER APPLAUSE FROM AXELROD, REID. GOLF CLAP FROM WARNER.]
OBAMA: In fact, I expect to see a public option included in those plans!
[SAME AS ABOVE, EXCEPT WARNER EXAMINES HIS FINGERNAILS.]
OBAMA: Yes, Jacob?
JACOB 1: But Mr. President, are you saying that there has to be a public option in the plan or that it won’t work?
EMANUEL: Jesus! I knew it this speech idea was for shit! We’re totally —
OBAMA [SPEAKING LOUDLY TO DROWN OUT EMANUEL]: I want to warn our viewers that there will be a five-second pause while we move to tape delay.
[AFTER FIVE SECONDS OF A “PLEASE STAND BY” PLACARD, THE WORDS APPEARING NEXT TO A PHOTO OF A SMILING SENATOR SNOWE, ACTION RESUMES. THE CHILDREN ARE NO LONGER VISIBLE IN THE DESKS IN FRONT OF OBAMA, WHICH ARE STREWN IN VARIOUS DIRECTIONS, EXCEPT FOR THE ONE CONTAINING SEN. SNOWE, WHO IS STILL WEDGED FIRMLY IN PLACE].
OBAMA: Children, I am telling you, there is no reason to be scared, although I understand and support your desire to watch the rest of this speech from the safety of the corner. Yes, it’s all right if you sit on Senator Graham.
Now, to get back to your question.
OBAMA: Please excuse my friend Mr. Emanuel, children. He has a brother who is a talent agent.
To get back to your question, “is the public option necessary?”
REID: Excuse me, Mr. President. I need to sit down.
[REID WEAKLY SLIDES HIMSELF PARTWAY ONTO THE SEAT OF A CHILD’S DESK.]
OBAMA: Is it necessary? Let me see how to phrase this….
EMANUEL: SEE, I F[bweeeeep]ING TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN!
OBAMA: Well, as I said, we pretty much do need a mandate, or something very close to a universal mandate.
[SEN. WARNER CLAPS ENTHUSIASTICALLY]
OBAMA: And I’ve been open to alternatives to the public option. I really have.
EMANUEL: JESUS F[bweeeeep]ING CHRIST DON’T DO THIS. GOD, COME DOWN AND MAKE HIM NOT DO THIS.!
OBAMA: I’ve been listing to the Republicans, hoping to hear constructive ideas.
EMANUEL: OK, OK, this could still work.
OBAMA: Senator Snowe has offered the idea of a trigger, that would implement the public option only if insurers didn’t act in good faith …
EMANUEL: Yesss, trigger-trigger-trigger-trigger-trigger …
OBAMA: And I would like to think that that there is some bipartisan approach possible …
[WARNER STARTS CLAPPING HANDS SO HARD THAT SPECKS OF BLOOD SPATTER, ONE HITTING THE LOWER LEFT CORNER OF THE CAMERA LENS]
OBAMA: And … and … yes, Madison, you had a question.
MADISON 1: My little brother is always good when my parents are watching. Then they go away and he’s bad again. Is that what you’re worried about?
OBAMA: Yes. Yes, Madison. I won’t be President forever. Some day I will go away, and someone like Senator Graham may be President, and I don’t know if he would be willing to punish them if they were bad.
[SENATOR SNOWE TRIES TO JERK HERSELF OUT OF THE DESK TO GET OBAMA’S ATTENTION AND TOPPLES OVER SIDEWAYS].
So yes, I guess what I’m saying is that the time for waiting is past. I wish that this weren’t the case, but we’re past the point of trusting and hoping for the best. For this plan to work, we need the discipline of competition from public option.
EMANUEL: JESUS Motherf[bweeeeep]ING CHRIST! YOU C@#$SUCKING CHILDREN! YOU. HAVE. RUINED US!
[REID TRIES TO STAND UP FROM THE DESK, STEADIES HIMSELF, SLUMPS TO THE GROUND. AXELROD RUSHES OVER TO REVIVE HIM. WARNER LOOKS CONFUSED.]
OBAMA: I wish that there was another way, I do. But to make sure that people can afford their mandated insurance, we need to give them the opportunity to buy into a public option like Medicare.
JENNIFER: You want death panels!
OBAMA: You know, you have got to be the rudest second-grader I have ever seen.
My fellow Americans, this will be a difficult fight, but as these children have forced me to explain as simply as I can, it is a necessary fight. I ask for your help and support in creating a more just society in which people do not live in fear of coverage denial and medical bankruptcy. Good night, and may we all strive to build a better America for these children and us all.
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