Monday, August 17, 2009

Tonight on WWF Smackdown...Health Care Reform!

Wednesday August 19 ought to be an interesting afternoon. From 11:30 to 12:45 we'll be at the Neighborhood Church to learn more about the President's Health Care Reform Bill during a discussion with Congressman Wally Herger. A health care discussion at a church? How did THAT happen?

The whole thing started out normal enough. Congressman Herger's office contacted us about gathering a group of business leaders to discuss the pending legislation. Easy enough. We put the word out to local businesses through a press release because I really didn't want to limit attendance to just Chamber members. Maybe hindsight really is 20/20.

Within days our conference room was at capacity with a big waiting list and more calls coming in every hour. Most of those who'd RSVP'd weren't Chamber members. Most weren't even business owners. They were just interested citizens. Okay, time to change gears.

Chamber staff went to work and arranged to have the event moved to the CARD Center, with a capacity of 250. Whew. Crisis averted...or was it??

Again, within days the room was booked at capacity with another large waiting list. The most interesting part was that many folks who called were annoyed because we didn't have room for them. Chamber staff members took more abuse that week than y'all can imagine. It was truly disheartening to me, however they all kept their cool and helped folks as best they could.

We thought things would settle down, but then out of nowhere, another e-mail announcement about the event from a group other than the Chamber started the ball rolling again. This time, people were really angry, like spitting venom angry, because we couldn't seat them.

So, on go the thinking caps again, and we call the largest room we can find, Neighborhood Church, who welcomed us with open arms for the event. With 1600 seats available, we should be able to accommodate just about everyone that wants to come out.

However my anxiety level remains high. If you've been watching the news over the last few weeks, you've seen how some of these Town Hall events go. Lots of shouting, lots of threats, not much accomplished. Man, I really don't want that to happen in Chico. We don't like to behave that way 'round these parts.

Clearly this is an emotional issue on both sides, but for Heaven's sake, screaming at each other is not a solution. I've written in this blog before about the level of anger out there. When you add this issue to the poor economy, many small business owners feel like they are losing control of their businesses and by extension, their lives. Network news provides daily reminders that the anger and frustration are real.

I have a couple of suggestions with regard to the health care brawl.

First, the Obama Administration should slow down. What's the rush, anyway? If this system has been screwed up for decades now, a few more months can't hurt. I understand that this is the way it is in politics...push as much through as fast as you can while you're approval ratings are high. (Where's the 'Change' in that?) It seems that the only people that understand this bill are the few that wrote it. Take some time to think it through, educate folks, give them time to digest it, listen to their suggestions and make this the best plan it can possibly be, not just the quickest. American's don't like to be force-fed anything, especially something this big and important. And please stop adding stuff to it that doesn't need to be there.

The second is that the 'other side' opposing this legislation should stop with the fear mongering. On the one hand you say it's too big and you haven't read it all yet. In the next sentence you're shouting about some God-awful provision you think will doom us all. So, did you read it or not. If you did, please just calmly explain what it says and offer alternatives to the parts you don't like. If you didn't read it yet, try skipping the next network news interview and read the darned thing. In other words, stop being obstructionists. We get enough of that from extremists, we don't need it from our representatives.

So can we just stop all this madness? Politicians, from the top levels of the administration on down, were elected to do the work of the people. From a 'people' perspective, you're failing miserably on health care. Why not put just a small portion of that brainpower and wordsmithing skill into helping companies put people back to work. Most American businesses don't need bailouts, handouts or politicians telling us how to run our companies. The best way to help American business is to get out of our way and stay out of our pockets.

There...I feel so much better now. And I didn't even raise my voice!