But as the crowd grew more raucous (some began interrupting lawmakers and insulting legislative staff), Rep. Patricia O'Donnell, R-Vernon, staged her own interruption as she came to the front of the room and asked people to treat their lawmakers with respect.On the opinion page,the editors opined:
"If you want to be listened to, you have to be respectful," O'Donnell, a member of the House Health Care Committee, told the crowd before a chorus of people yelling "sit down" and "shut up" sent her out of the room, the door slamming behind her.
Maier told the crowd the criticism for legislative staff — who have researched aspects of the hospital plan for lawmakers — is off base. He added that while he doesn't "enjoy being yelled at, it is our job to listen and to ask the tough questions and to dig down."
"If we don't ask these kinds of questions we would be irresponsible," he said. "It's not our job to pass ideas and concepts."
Racine also told the crowd that their anger is misplaced and suggested that attention should also be focused on state and elected officials who do not support universal health care. He cited the new proposed budget from Gov. James Douglas, which he said underfunds Medicaid and will result in "$5 million in new co-pays and price increases" for Vermonters.
"I know the system is not sustainable. It's a national crisis," Racine said. "If some folks have ideas on how to make this work, I'm all ears."
In Vermont health care has taken on the feel of an ideological crusade among some supporters of universal care, partly because of the apparent simplicity of their proferred solution and because it is easy to vilify opponents as creatures of self-interest. So they are able to clothe themselves in the robes of virtue and lose sight of who is and isn't working to advance their cause.We should not make the mistake of the right-wing, who were so certain they were right they forgot the need to persuade the rest of us, who were pretty darn sure they were dead wrong.
Racine and Maier are working to advance their cause. But it is not simple. The bill that was up for discussion would place all hospital costs under the jurisdiction of the state in a step toward a single-payer system. The idea makes some sense, but there are many complications. If the tax hike supporting such a program were not offset by comparable cuts in health care premiums, what would happen? These are not questions to be dismissed lightly, and lawmakers are not less than dedicated to the cause for considering them.
The left is capable of blowing it this year. Self-righteous, ideological posturing is a turn-off to voters and does not encourage intelligent policymaking.
Only about a quarter to a third of the country is pretty darn sure we're wrong. But we can increase that number if we're not careful.
Hell, even if we are careful that number's going to increase, because we've already awakened the giant.