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Michigan crowd vents health care fury
Question of the Day
“Kill the bill,” many in the rowdy crowd screamed back.
Perhaps no other state has consistently felt the pain of the recession as much as Michigan, where loss of auto and other manufacturing jobs sent unemployment rising to 15.2 percent in June as such bellwether companies as General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have entered bankruptcy and shed thousands of jobs.
That rising unemployment and the seeping away of the once-proud labor culture here has spawned anger and a resentment of government that has found itself a rebel cause in Mr. Obama’s plan for overhauling the nation’s health care and insurance systems.
Across the country, similar scenes of outrage have played out with Obama supporters and some members of Congress blaming a conservative cabal producing fake grass-roots opposition,” or “astroturf.”
The president prepared for a trip to the West this week, where he will visit national parks and tout his health care initiative amid much resistance. He was hailed as a rock star at the beginning of his term, but winning the health care issue is important as his public popularity sags to an all-time low while the economy shows little sign of a quick correction.
A poll released Aug. 6 by Quinnipiac University found the president’s job approval rating at 50 percent. Voters who disapproved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy outnumbered those who approved, by 49 percent to 45 percent. Voters were even more disapproving of his handling of health care, by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin.
Those against his plan have cited such terms as “Big Brother” and “socialism,” painting the Democratic plans as a veiled government takeover.
“The government can’t run anything successfully,” said Korean War veteran Andrew Brinkman, 78, a retired computer programmer for Chrysler who attended the Dingell event. “Why would we expect them to get this right?”
“It seems to me this is a push to nationalizing everything,” said his wife, Rosemary, 63, a retired social worker from St. Clair Shores, Mich. “The government has put us through so much financial stress. It’s burdensome on all Americans, and the middle class will be squeezed out, for sure. I’m not in favor of it. I’m very angry.”
Barb Cornish, 61, a retired elementary school teacher from Ypsilanti, Mich., described as “heavy-handed” the efforts of the Obama administration to drive the plan through quickly with little bipartisan support.
Mrs. Cornish, a registered Democrat and a teacher’s union negotiator before she retired, said she opposed government’s ability under the plan to make decisions about what level of care she could have as she gets older.
“I don’t want government deciding if I can have a hip replacement or whether I should just be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” she said.
Even as the push was on, she said government was not listening to the will of the people.
“This is not a society that I want to be a part of,” she said, noting that this was the first time she was moved enough to attend such a rally and blast Democratic criticisms of the health care plan’s opponents.
“This is Big Brother. And to hear Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi talk about a mob scene at these events. There are no buses out there. People are so mad, but our elected officials are not listening, so this has become festering frustration. I fear if we don’t do something, this is going to be shoved on through,” she said.
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