Web extra: Congressman Herger calls Obama plan ‘threat to democracy’
By Paul Boerger
Republican Congressman Wally Herger of northern California denounced president Obama’s health care plan at an Aug. 18, 2009 town hall meeting in Redding, Calif.
Redding, Calif. –
Republican Congressman Wally Herger held a health care town hall meeting Aug. 18 at Simpson University in Redding, where a partisan crowd of over 2,000 people loudly cheered Herger’s position that a public option was “unacceptable.”
Although Herger called several times for the audience to “respect each other’s opinions,” those opposed to president Obama’s health care were greeted with cheers while the few in favor were interrupted with catcalls.
Herger did not hold back on his opinion of the health care plan and the administration’s appointment of “czars” to head various departments and task forces.
“Our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today,” Herger said to a loud standing ovation.
Although there were not the kind of disruptions that have been reported at Democratic representative’s town hall meetings, an altercation in the back of the auditorium resulted in Redding police having to intervene and hustle two people out of the room. Police reported that a woman is alleged to have clawed a man’s face in repose to his having pushed her while arguing over the health care plan. The investigation continues.
After denouncing the Obama plan to wild cheering, Herger offered a few solutions of his own including opening up competition among private health care companies by forcing companies to sell policies nationwide rather than just within individual states, tort reform to bring down malpractice costs and “risk pools like automobile companies” for those with preexisting conditions who Herger conceded are unable to get coverage. He also suggested “bargaining groups and associations” could help bring down costs.
“Health care costs have soared,” Herger said. “But I will oppose a public option with everything I have.”
Speakers included several opposed to Obama holding up copies of the Constitution and asking Herger to show where it says Congress has the right to be involved in health care.
Herger said the federal government does have a limited role to play in health care noting, “We do lots of things that are not in the Constitution.”
“There are things we can do with health care, as long as the government is not running it,” Herger said.
One speaker said he could trace his ancestors back to the Mayflower and said “they did not arrive holding their hands out for help.”
“I am a proud right wing terrorist,” he declared to cheers.
Herger praised the man’s attitude.
“Amen, God bless you,” Herger said with a broad smile. “There is a great American.”
The majority of citizens came to the microphone to denounce the health care plan as “socialist” and “a government takeover,” but a few, including several from Siskiyou County, spoke in favor of Obama’s plan.
Mount Shastan Craig Vivas asked Herger if “health care is a right?” and if not, “Who should be denied?”
“Forty seven million people are without health care insurance in America,” Vivas said.
Herger responded by saying “everyone should have access to health care” without declaring it a “right.”
“You call it a right. I call it something else,” Herger said.
Vivas said in an interview that Herger “believes in the unfettered free market as the solution to all social problems. That is a fallacy he shares with many other Americans.”
An Redding obstetrician echoed Vivas’ right to health care question saying, “We need to debate the issue.”
“If we decide it is a right, however, we have to have fiscal solvency,” he said.
Mount Shasta physical therapist Neil Posson said the United States is “the only democracy in the world that does not have universal health care.”
“We have average life expectancy compared to other countries and spend huge amounts of money,” Posson said.
Although opposed to the Obama plan, several speakers said that family members had been forced into bankruptcy because of medical bills “and that was with insurance.”
“There are many things we can do,” Herger responded without going into specifics.
Speakers brought up subjects far afield of heath care that included illegal immigration and the carbon cap and trade bill recently passed by Congress. Herger called the cap and trade law “environmental extremism.”
“Health care is not the only threat to our democracy,” Herger said.
Herger noted that the last election resulted in the Democrats having a majority in both houses of Congress.
“They can vote in anything they want,” Herger said. “The only thing standing between you and them voting in anything they want is you.”