"In the last nine years, premiums have risen three times faster than
wages. If we don nothing, they will rise even higher. In recent years,
over one third of small businesses have reduced benefits and many have
dropped coverage altogether since the early '90s," Obama told the
audience at his town hall meeting on health care in Annandale, Virginia
"If we do not act, more will lose coverage and more will lose their
jobs. Unless we act, within a decade, one out of every five dollars we
earn will be spent on health care," Obama said.
Obama's economic rhetoric is all about how things can't remain the
same. It's the same point the Harry and Louise ad made, but backward,
and in Obama's version, the "naysayers" who oppose health reform are
the ones who play fast and loose with the coverage Americans
currently enjoy. And as polling indicates
that Americans are concerned heavily with costs, the president has, in
turn, stuck to telling people about the costs of not passing his plan.
In Obama's rhetorical system, there is no status quo to preserve: the fundamental
truth about health care is that it's changing, rapidly and
frighteningly. Leaving the current system in place is what will cause people to lose what they already have.
It's not that 46 million
Americans are uninsured and that we can and must do better, as the
richest nation in the world, to ensure them--an argument we heard from
Democratic candidates like John Edwards and Hillary Clinton during the
2008 campaign--it's that we have to do something immediately, reactively,
because current coverage is being threatened.
"This isn't just about those Americans without health care. It's about
every American--because if we do not act to bring down costs,
everybody's health care will be in jeopardy," Obama said at Wednesday's
And so part of his rhetoric is about shaking people with fear into
supporting his reforms. If Harry and Louise made people afraid of
passing Clinton's reform plan, Obama is making people afraid of not
Confronting the Harry and Louise argument directly during the
question-and-answer segment of the town hall in Annandale, Obama
inverted it perfectly.
"Many of you may be satisfied with your health care now. What you've
got to do is project, if current trends continue, are you still going
to be happy with your health care five years from now? Will you have
health care five years from now?" Obama asked.
Perhaps learning from the Clinton-led effort, Obama has made sure the
"naysayers" aren't the only ones with scary arguments to win people to their side.