Below is a complete version of CBS News' Nancy Cordes' interview with Gerry Connolly on health care reform. In it, Connolly repeats his opposition to taxing those individuals earning over $280,000 and couples earning $350,000.
Connolly, president of the freshman class, and a handful of his freshmen colleagues, met with both President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss their concerns.
As has been widely reported, Connolly has stated that 14 percent of his constituents make over those earning levels and "they all vote," in his words.
Connolly expressed his belief that more savings could be wrung out of health care reform, and the insurance industry could do more to contribute to funding and health savings. He pointed out that other countries pay far less for their health care, yet get more services and have better health outcomes. He may be right about that. Part of health care reform should include an exploration of how we can save money and boost good outcomes to match our European and Canadian neighbors, while retaining a uniquely American approach to health care funding and service.
On the other hand, hoping we can do it all without any tax increase may be a siren song, tempting but ultimately what lures us to founder on the rocks of frustration and failure. Often, especially in our profoundly anti-tax society, services have already been cut to the bone. The fat is gone and we are cutting into muscle and sinew to avoid raising taxes. Perhaps the discussion really needs to be about which taxes to raise and who will pay them. After all, back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan's anti-tax philosophy resonated with the public, income tax rates were far higher than now. Back in the eighties, the tax rate of the richest segment of society was 70 percent. Today, because of the Bush tax cuts and the cuts to the capital gains tax, the wealthiest one percent only pay about 17.2 percent of their income tax.
So, unlike Rep. Connolly, I'm not sure they shouldn't pay for some of the health care expenses. After all, these are the people who have benefitted the most from America's successes. I'll have more to say about this after you watch the video.
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Although, I disagree with Connolly that we can avoid raising taxes by finding savings, I do agree that every effort should be made to ensure that reform is cost effective and revenue neutral. Then, I would sell any tax increase to the wealthy on the benefits of the health care plan to them and their fellow Americans.
It is an article of faith among the most progressive elements in politics that all the rich are greedy. I don't think that's true. Some are greedy, others are not. But for years, they have been told that tax cuts and supply side economics is good, not just for them but for the country. Indeed, they have been held up as heroes for getting richer. Supply siders have been giving variations of Gordon Gekko's greed is good speech, though not cast so blatantly, for at least 25 years.
But there's mounting evidence that greed is actually bad for a lot of people, including their fellow citizens, employees, and neighbors. Many wealthy people give a lot of money to charity and head philanthropic organizations. But they also are pragmatic business people.
So, what if we show them, complete with charts, graphs, and colorful Power Point demonstrations, just how much supply side economics has hurt the vast middle class, whose wages have stagnated? What if we show the wealthy what a drain our current health system has been on their very own businesses? What if we demonstrate that health care reform, done right, and funded fairly, benefits all of society and, therefore, benefits them too.
Any appeal should be to both their self-interest and their value system. Political scientists have shown us that people do not just vote their self-interest. They also vote their morals and their values. And a lot of rich people go to churches, synagogues, and mosques. They have families and they have as much empathy for a neighbor in distress as anybody else.
Rather than demonizing them and making them the bad guys of the narrative, I think the way to get their support is to include them in the story of everybody working together for the common good because it benefits all Americans, it's fair, and it's patriotic to pay for things that strengthen our country.
Because Gerry Connolly is both progressive and pragmatic, he's one of the people we need to persuade. Connolly, although often thought of as a centrist because of his pragmatic streak, is hardly one of the Blue Dogs. In fact, according to Open Congress, he has voted with Democrats 99 percent of the time and abstained zero times from votes. So, he seems to be taking principled stands, not ducking issues, and is in the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
Frankly, there are bloggers out there demonizing and ridiculing Gerry because they want to keep alive old grudges and fights. That's counter-productive. My friend Bryan Scrafford has the better approach (also here), one that is respectful but doesn't gloss over honest differences of opinion.
Connolly is one of the people we can work with and try to persuade. Like Bryan, I would urge those of my readers who agree that we need health care reform now, and that the wealthiest one percent need to be persuaded to pay their fair share for the common good, to call or email Gerry to show support for health care reform and an adequate funding stream to pay for it.
We need fiscal responsibility as much as reform and that means everybody paying their fair share, including those who have been most blessed in our society. But to get it, we have to also step up and show Congress that this is what the majority of voters want. My favorite political philospher, Aaron Sorkin, once said, "Decisions are made by those who show up."
So, show up and call Connolly's office at (202) 225-1492 or email him. Be polite. Be persuasive. And let him know that this is what you support and you will support him for stepping up.