Portland welcomed President Barack Obama today, with Liberty Bells ringing from protestors across the street, and chants and cheers of all kinds ringing up and down Park Avenue outside the Portland Expo.
The clip, of course, that's making national headlines is not the substantive parts of his speech on health-care reform, or its potential effect on small businesses and young people. It focused on the media, and Obama's mocking of them. It's here, since you'll end up seeing it - my prediction: on the nightly news tonight. On every channel.
Gotta hand it to Obama, though - he can make a joke work, and stick.
And he made some good points on the major policy bits either.
Here's the text of his remarks, as prepared - which, you may note, don't include the bit that's going to make the news shows:
As Prepared for
It is so good to be back in the great state of Maine.
When I came here
during the campaign, I made a promise. It wasn’t just a promise about any one
issue. It was a promise that our government would once again be responsive to
the needs and aspirations of the middle-class. It was a promise that Washington
would concern itself not just with the next election, but with the next
generation of Americans.
promise is even more critical at a time when so many families and small business
owners are still struggling here in Maine and across America. Every time I
visit with workers in factories, and families in diners; every night when I sit
down and read letters from everyday Americans; I see and hear the same
questions. What folks are asking is “How am I going to find a job when I’ve
only known one skill my entire life? How will I retire when I keep spending my
savings just to get by? How am I going to make it when I’m stretched to the
limit on my mortgage and my bills?”
I want you to know
that we are working every day to spur job creation and turn this economy
around. And that’s why we worked so hard over the last year to lift one of the
biggest burdens facing middle-class families and small business owners: the
crushing cost of health care in America.
Last week, after a
year of debate and a century of trying, health insurance reform became the law
of the land. And it happened because of you.
It happened because
people had the courage to stand up at town hall meetings and talk about how
insurance companies were denying their families coverage because of a
It happened because
folks wrote letters about how premium hikes of 40% and 50% and 100% were forcing
them to give up their insurance.
It happened because
countless small business owners and families and doctors shared stories about a
health care system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for
the American people.
And when the
special interests sent an army of lobbyists to Congress and blanketed the
airwaves with millions in negative ads, you mobilized and organized and refused
to give up. When the pundits were obsessing over who was up and who was down,
you never lost sight of what was right and what was wrong. You knew this wasn’t
about the fortunes of any one party -- this was about the future of our
country. And today, because of what you did, that future looks stronger and
more hopeful than it has in some time.
Now, over the last
year, there’s been a lot of misinformation spread about health care reform.
There has been plenty of fear-mongering and overheated rhetoric. And if you
turn on the news, you’ll see that those same folks are still shouting about how
the world will end because we passed this bill. This is not an exaggeration.
Leaders of the Republican Party have actually been calling the passage of this
bill “Armageddon.” They say it’s the end of freedom as we know it.
So after I signed
the bill, I looked up to see if there were any asteroids headed our way. I
checked to see if any cracks had opened up in the ground. But you know what?
It turned out to be a pretty nice day. Birds were chirping. Folks were
strolling down the street. Nobody lost their doctor, or was forced into some
Then you have to
love some of the pundits in Washington. Every day since I signed reform into
law, there’s another poll or headline that says “Nation still divided on health
reform. No great surge in public support.” Well, yeah. It’s only been a
week! Before we find out if people like health care reform maybe we should wait
until it actually happens. Just a thought.
This reform will
not solve every problem with our health care system. It will not bring down the
cost of health care overnight. We’ll have to make some adjustments along the
way. But it represents enormous progress. It enshrines the principle that
every American should have the security of decent health care; that nobody
should go bankrupt because they get sick or have a child with a preexisting
condition. And now that this bill is finally law, all the folks who’ve been
playing politics with health care will have to finally confront the reality of
what this reform is and what it isn’t.
They will have to
finally acknowledge that this isn’t a government takeover of our health care
system. They will see that if Americans like their doctor, they will keep their
doctor. If people like their plan, they will keep their plan. No one will be
able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen in
What this reform
represents is basically a middle-of-the-road solution to our health care
problems. It’s not the single-payer, government-run system that some on the
left have supported in the past. And it’s not what many on the right wanted,
which was even fewer rules and regulations for insurance companies. Instead,
this reform incorporates ideas from Democrats and Republicans – including some
from your Senator and my friend, Olympia Snowe, who spent many hours meeting
with me about this bill.
What this reform
does is build on the system of private health insurance that we already have. If
you already have insurance, this reform will make it more secure and more
affordable. If you can’t afford insurance or have been denied coverage, you’ll
finally be able to get it. And over time, costs will come down for families,
businesses, and the federal government, reducing our deficit by more than $1
trillion over the next two decades. That’s what reform will do.
Now, it will take
about four years to implement this entire plan – because we need to do it
responsibly and we need to get it right. But there are also a set of reforms
that will take effect this year.
Starting this year,
millions of small business owners will be eligible for tax credits that will
help them cover the cost of insurance for their employees. And let me talk
about what this means for a small business owner like Bill Milliken. Bill owns
Market House Coffee and the Maine Beer and Beverage Corporation, both here in
Portland. He wants to give his part time employees health insurance and more
hours, but he can’t afford to do both. This tax credit will make it easier for
an employer like Bill who wants to do the right thing by his workers.
Starting now, small
business owners like Bill will have the security of knowing that they can
qualify for a tax credit that covers up to 35% of what they pay for their
employees’ health insurance. Starting now, small business owners that provide
health care to their workers can sit down at the end of the week, look at their
expenses, and begin calculating how much money they’re going to save. For small
business owners who don’t currently provide health insurance, they’ll be able to
factor in this new benefit in deciding whether to do so. And with that
savings, employers may be able to cover an additional worker or hire that extra
employee they’ve needed. This health care tax credit is pro-jobs, it’s
pro-business, and it starts this year. This month, we’re going to be sending
out details on how to apply for this credit to millions of small businesses
across the county, but if you want to learn more today, we put up all the facts
Starting this year,
tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with a preexisting condition and
parents whose children have a pre-existing condition will finally be able to
purchase the coverage they need. Last week, I met David Gallagher, whose
daughter Lauren had written me a letter last year. When Lauren’s mom lost her
job, their entire family lost their health insurance. When they tried to get
new insurance, David was denied coverage because he once had a complication-free
hernia surgery. Lauren’s been worried sick about what would happen if her
father became ill or injured. But now, because of this reform, David Gallagher
can finally have access to health insurance again. That starts this year.
insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they
get sick; or place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of
care they can receive. There was a story in a local paper this week about
Theresa D’Andrea. Theresa’s husband passed away recently from cancer, and
before he died, he hit the lifetime cap on his insurance. As a result, Theresa
not only has to cope with the loss of her husband, but with $60,000 in medical
bills – and this is after she already spent all of their retirement savings on
medical care. Because of this reform, a situation like Theresa’s will never
happen again in the United States of America – starting this year.
Starting this year,
all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care.
Starting this year,
if you’re a young person who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have a job that
offers insurance, you’ll be able to stay on your parents’ insurance policy until
you’re 26 years old.
And this year,
seniors who fall in the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole will receive
$250 to help pay for prescriptions, which will be the first step toward closing
that gap completely. And I want seniors to know: despite what some have said,
these reforms will not cut your guaranteed benefits. What they will do is
eliminate co-payments and deductibles for preventive care, like check-ups and
So all that happens
this year. Then, by 2014, each state will set up a health insurance exchange, a
competitive marketplace where uninsured people and small businesses will finally
be able to purchase affordable, quality insurance. In other words, they’ll be
part of a pool, and get the same good deal that Members of Congress get for
themselves. That will happen in the next few years. And when this exchange is
up and running, millions of people will get tax breaks to help them afford
coverage – credits that add up to the largest middle class tax cut for health
care in history.
This is the reform
that some folks in Washington are still hollering about. And now that it’s
passed, they’re already promising to repeal it. They’re actually going to run
on a platform of repeal in November.
Well I say go for
it. If these Congressmen in Washington want to come here to Maine and tell
small business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits and
essentially raise their taxes, be my guest. If they want to look Lauren
Gallagher in the eye and tell her they plan to take away her father’s ability to
get health insurance, that’s their right. If they want to tell people like
Theresa D’Andrea that they could once again face a lifetime of debt if they lose
a family member, they can run on that platform. If they want to have that
fight, I welcome that fight. Because I don’t believe the American people are
going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat. We’ve been there
already and we’re not going back. This country is ready to move forward.
Portland, the road
to this victory has been long and it has been difficult. And reaching this
milestone does not represent the end of all our problems. We still have jobs to
create and deficits to reduce and children to educate. We still face enormous
challenges in this country.
But what this fight
has taught us – about ourselves and about this country – is so much bigger than
any one issue. It has reminded us that change is never easy, but it is always
possible. It reminds us that in the United States of America, we still have the
power to shape our own destiny. It has reminded us that we, as a people, do not
shrink from a challenge. We overcome it. We do not shirk our responsibility.
We embrace it. We do not fear the future. We shape the future. That is what
we do. That is who we are. That’s what makes us the United States of America.
Thank you Portland, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of