An Open Letter to President Obama

August 20, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

As a strong (financial and volunteer) supporter of yours throughout the primary and general election periods in 2008, I feel compelled to convey my profound disappointment in your job performance to date. Like many progressives, who constitute your primary source of support, I supported you for one simple reason: I honestly believed (and continue to believe despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary) that you had the best chance to be the next FDR. Your performance to date, however, indicates to me that you are really blowing your opportunity. I don’t know whether it’s just your nature to attempt to achieve bipartisanship at all costs, if you are more concerned with your preservation of a majority regardless of its effectiveness, or if your primary concern is your re-election in four years. Whatever your motivation, if you don’t change course soon, you risk the failure of your presidency.

The most urgent area in which you are quite frankly failing is in health care reform. Senator Obama once quite clearly stated that he was in favor of a single-payer system. Candidate Obama once quite clearly stated that he favored a health care system in which universal coverage is the end result. President Obama, in an effort to compromise with those who will never support his agenda and satisfy those that will never vote for him, has consistently shifted positions, presumably in a genuine effort to build a consensus behind his agenda. Unfortunately, it seems that this strategy is, at this point in time, a colossal failure. I share your indignation at the innumerable lies being promoted by the right, including but not limited to your intention of establishing a socialized medicine system and establishing government death panels. Unfortunately, I believe that you must take at least some of the responsibility by virtue of the fact that your apparent waffling has made you an easy target.

As a physician, I see each and every day unfortunate Americans who are at best bankrupted and at worst suffer permanent injury or death because of the lack of health care coverage. In what we like to refer to as “The greatest country in the world” it is unconscionable that Millions of Americans lack what should a basic human right, and may continue to lack this right for the foreseeable future. In spite of this crisis of epic proportion, you have allowed the argument to be concentrated on peripheral issues, largely ignoring the core problem: 50 million Americans without access to a healthcare system that is as good as any on earth. Over the past week, I was appalled to hear you refer to the public option as “A sliver of health care reform.” You and I know that without a robust public option, there is no meaningful health care reform. Over the course of the past few years, you have evolved from the greatest agent of change in America to just another politician.

Unfortunately, the shortcomings of your administration are not limited to health care. Millions voted for you over Hillary Clinton because of your opposition to foolish wars while she refused to admit that she made a mistake in supporting a war based on the lies of George Bush. Seven months into your first term, there is no end in site to the occupation of Iraq and you have doubled down on our other unwinnable war in Afghanistan.
The one bright spot was your bail out of GM and Chrysler, saving millions of jobs and, despite considerable resistance from the right, changing leadership at GM. The bank bailout is more of a mixed bag. There is room for disagreement regarding the bailout of those institutions that were “Too large to fail.” However, when the taxpayers bail out the very companies that caused the financial melt down of our system, it seems that a temporary government takeover would have prevented the outrageous bonuses paid to these failed managers while ensuring a reasonable return on investment if and when these entities returned to profitability.

Regardless of your performance in your first term, I am sure you realize that there is a very real chance that you will be a one term president. I don’t believe that your re-election will be determined as much by your performance as the state of the economy in three short years. The presence of more than one moron showing up at a presidential event toting a loaded assault weapon points to the direction of social mood in this country; a mood that will undoubtedly deteriorate further before improving. At the same time, the economy is likely headed for rougher times, and may not improve in time to save your presidency. Faced with this scenario, I sincerely hope that you capitalize on the opportunity that you have been given, and govern as if there is no tomorrow.

I believe I speak for the great majority of the 69 million people that put you in office when I implore you to remember those of us who gave you this opportunity. I understand that you are the president of all people, but you were elected by an impressive margin as an agent of change. While many of us are justifiably disappointed by your performance to date, I believe that many of us still support you and believe that you will ultimately be that agent of change that we elected. History reveals that FDR himself was initially dragged kicking and screaming into the new deal; in spite of resistance to deficit spending and support for social programs that largely eliminated poverty in this country for decades, he eventually changed our society for the better permanently. I hope that you will follow his lead, and be the president we elected.


Letter to jason Altmire on Single Payer Health Plan

February 9, 2009

As we discussed at our December meeting, I (finally) wrote to Jason Altmire urging support for HR 676.  The letter ensues:

February 9, 2009


Rep. Jason Altmire

332 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Mr. Altmire:


I am writing on behalf of the Western Pennsylvania Progressives, a new political action group composed of progressives in Butler, Mercer, Lawrence, Beaver, and Allegheny Counties, regarding HR 676, the Physicians National Health Plan.  A number of our members have discussed this issue with you in the past, and, while to date you have not committed to support this legislation, we believe that the recent collapse of the economy has made single-payer, cradle to grave, first dollar coverage more essential than ever.  The rising ranks of unemployed, underemployed, uninsured, and underinsured is nothing short of a national emergency.  If this occurred in a concentrated area, as happens in a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the federal government would have declared it an emergency, and decisive action would have been undertaken at a national level (provided Bush wasn’t still President).  The lack of spectacular headlines does nothing to diminish the effect on the victims of this travesty.


Recently, President Obama, in response to the Republican attempts to gut his stimulus plan and replace it with more tax cuts, derided their plan as a return to the failed policies of the past.  Unfortunately, every other plan to reform health care recently proposed, including the President’s own plan, relies on our current system of health care finance, effectively returning to the failed policies of the past.


Inadequate health care is essentially a disease of the working class, the class that makes up the clear majority of your constituents.  All of us have been affected by this national epidemic, either personally or through a family member or close friend.  While there has been only minimal interest in HR 676 in Congress, public support has grown rapidly.  A clear majority believe that a single-payer (government managed) health plan would best serve our citizens.  The American College of Physicians, the second largest physician group in the country has supported the plan.  For the first time, a survey published by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 62% of physicians support a national single-payer health plan.  In our own Congressional district, after the Beaver County Commissioners discovered the county would realize $6.83 million annually, they passed a resolution endorsing HR 676.  Other municipalities nation-wide are doing the same.


I will not belabor the myriad of benefits of the plan, as I believe you are well versed in the details of the plan.  The Western Pennsylvania Progressives, on behalf of the working people of the 4th Congressional District, urge you to take the lead and endorse HR 676.