September 18, 2009
I'm Bill Moyers.
Congressman Joe Wilson was rebuked by the House this week for heckling the president during Mr. Obama's joint address to Congress. But that shout heard round the world is still reverberating out there in conservative circles, most recently over the weekend where it became a chant for protestors at that huge taxpayer march on Washington.
PROTESTORS: You Lie! You Lie!
BILL MOYERS: They came from all over the country to register their opposition to President Obama and big government.
Their anger was palpable - at taxes...wasteful spending... health care reforms they fear would lead to a nightmare of bureaucracy.
But there were sinister fears, too -- as protestors equated their president to dictators like Stalin.... Mussolini... Hitler...and Saddam Hussein.
MAX: Who do you think is more dangerous Al Quaeda or OBama?
MAX: Obama's more dangerous than Osama?
MAN: He's trying to change the country from within. We can fight Al Quaeda, we can't kill Obama.
BILL MOYERS: The sentiments got even uglier...
I'm afraid he's going to do what Hitler could never do...And that's destroy the United States of America.
BILL MOYERS: Max Blumenthal author of REPUBLICAN GOMORRAH waded into the protesters to sample opinions:
MAX: What is the Obama Revolution? What's going to happen?
MAN: Similar to Germany, as Hitler did, he took over the auto industry. Did he not? He took over the banking, did he not? And Hitler had his own personal, secret service police. Acorn is an extension of that.
MAX: So, you're saying if the government eliminates Soocial Security and Medicare then you'll get out of the program?
WOMAN: No I said if they get out of my life.
MAX: Out of you Social Security and ?
WOMAN: No, out of everything.
Many were here at the urging of their favorite pundit, Glenn Beck.
GLENN BECK: This is a collection of Americans who want parties to stop with the corruption, stop with the spending, and start listening to the people. let's go to Fox's Griff Jenkins...there in Washington DC.
NEWS: Glenn it's unbelievable...Look at this crowd...Glenn, it's one mile from the Capitol to....Do you want Washington to listen....
BILL MOYERS: They were obviously having a good time. And they kept it up even when the other side showed up to protest them -- in the guise of that satirical group from the left who call themselves, "Billionaires for Wealthcare".
Their motto: "If we're not broke, don't fix it." And they had come to thank the marchers "for protecting health-care industry profits."
None of these marchers were billionaires, real or imagined. And they seemed genuinely upset over the unchecked growth of government. But there was more to this march than meets the eye, as there always is in politics. And that's a story the press missed.
ANNOUNCER: Now, put your hands together and welcome the Chairman of FreedomWorks and former House Majority Leader, Dick Armey.
BILL MOYERS: Dick Armey is chairman of the advocacy group FreedomWorks, the main organizer of this protest. They played a big role in launching those so-called "taxpayer tea parties" last April and the town hall disruptions in August.
ARMEY: We protect and cherish freedom because it is precious in its own right and because it works. So let's give them the message: Freedom Works! Freedom Works! Thank you for letting me be here.
BILL MOYERS: Just who is Dick Armey? For one thing, he's among the most ardent opponents of President Obama's health care reform.
ARMEY ON MEET THE PRESS 8-16: It's certainly the largest hostile government takeover in the history of the country, one-sixth of the entire economy. And it's the most intimate. I mean, you have people on the streets today, real people that are saying, "Am I going to in fact end up with a decision regarding how my liver infection is going to be treated in the hands of somebody in a bureaucracy with a degree in sociology?
BILL MOYERS: That kind of exaggeration is an old tactic for Mr. Armey, who recently told the ECONOMIST magazine:
ARMEY: "Politics is about 97 percent fiction and 3 percent imagination."
BILL MOYERS: He should know. Sixteen years ago Dick Armey was a Republican congressman from Texas who teamed up with a Republican congressman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, to kill President Bill Clinton's health care reform. They called it "Hillary Care" back then and Armey's main adversary was ...Guess who? Here they are sparring in a hearing on Capitol Hill:
ARMEY: "While I don't share the chairman's joy at our holding hearings
on a government-run health care system, I do share his intention to make
the debate as exciting as possible."
CLINTON: "I'm sure you will do that Mr. Armey, you and Dr. Kevorkian."
ARMEY: "I have been told about your charm and wit and let me say...the reports of your
charm are overstated, and the reports on your wit are understated."
BILL MOYERS: After defeating health care reform, Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich crafted the "Contract with Aamerica", paving the way to the republican takeover of Congress in 1994.
ARMEY. Today we Republicans are signing a contract with America. We pledge ourselves in writing to a new agenda of reform, respect and renewal."
BILL MOYERS: Gingrich became Speaker of the House and Armey the House Majority Leader.
But they did nothing about health care except let its costs soar while their corporate backers reaped huge profits. Since then costs have more than doubled and are escalating now at twice the rate of inflation. There were around 39 million americans without health care coverage then. There are more than 46 million now.
And Dick Armey? He retired from his government job to lead an advocacy group called FreedomWorks, which aims to torpedo healthcare reform once again. Curiously, they refuse to disclose their corporate donors. They say they want to protect against "aggressive attacks on companies who people have claimed are donors but aren't even donors." Got that?
But here's the catch. Something these marchers who came to Washington at Armey's urging could hardly be expected to know. For most of his adult life, their leader has benefited from just the kind of government, tax-supported healthcare he's fighting to keep them from having, too.
When Dick Armey taught economics at the University of North Texas for 13 years his health insurance was administered by the state and supplemented by the taxpayers.
When he was elected to Congress, he was covered by the federal employees' health benefit plan.
And when he retired from Congress eighteen years later, he was insured by that plan until he turned 66 and Medicare, another government program, kicked in. All the time he's been making some half a million dollars a year working for FreedomWorks and raking in lobbyist fees amounting to what he recently called "a darned handsome pile of dough."
You can't blame him for keeping his government health plan. It's great. It gave him a lot of options, dozens of private insurers to choose from, and with eight million members in it, the federal government's got the muscle to negotiate some of the best premiums and drug prices in the country. That's not all. Taxpayers subsidize these federal health insurance plans by as much as 75% of the premium cost. Beneficiaries -- including members and retired members of congress like armey -- pay their share of the premiums with pre-tax dollars.
Now get this: Dick Armey thought so much of that federal health plan - the cadillac of coverage --that he tried to keep it as his primary carrier, instead of that other federal program, medicare.
Mr. Armey wanted an option. A government option. How about that?
But he couldn't get out of medicare without losing his Social Security (they're hitched together -- you give up one, you give up both), so he's suing to divorce the two ... And now he says he's happy to buy his health insurance on his own - and why not? He's got that pile of dough.
And there's the rub.
Dick Armey is the epitome of those people with power and privilege who are insured against the vicissitudes of life, and want no government assistance for any suffering ... Except their own.
And all those members of congress sitting there during the president's speech last week? Joe Wilson, included. They; too have Cadillac federal coverage subsidized by tax dollars.
That's no lie.