Jack Kingston, R-GA-01, brought his travelling Town Hall to Valdosta State University today. People kept hauling more chairs into the Magnolia Room to provide for the crowd, which remained standing room only. I'd guess between 300 and 400 people: huge for a political event here.
Kingston said was he was surprised: VSU had to open a third (larger) room; he'd never had that happen before; he usually gets between 20 and 40 people; and he would need to come back soon.
We were vastly outnumbered, but by showing up and speaking, we made Kingston address some issues he didn't really like. And we got on the local media; see below.
Updates: Over the jump.
Most of the attendees were elderly. I recognized some of them personally as well-known local Republicans. However, there Democrats scattered around the room, and they spoke up and asked good questions. Many Republicans spoke up too, no surprise, but many of them also asked good questions. People are genuinely concerned about health care.
Update: more pictures and videos here: http://www.flickr.com/...
Valdosta Daily Times article here: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/...
Update 2: Write up your local town hall and send it to huffpo.
Update 3: Jack's Coming Back: attend a September town hall and ask your own question!
Update 4: Jim Parker's question, in four YouTube parts (see below).
Kingston surprisingly admitted there was a problem, but tried to minimize it to being only around 10 million people uninsured. He cited 47 million as the usual count for uninsured.
He said 6.4 million are Medicaid undercount.
4.3 M are on Medicaid or some other government program but they don't know it, he claimed.
9.3 M non-citizens. Not all illegals, but all not insured, he said.
He turned and asked someone from South Georgia Medical Center what he did if an illegal alien came to his ER. The answer was of course that SGMC ER treats them, as they are required to by law. Illegal alien bogeyman! Hey, he is Jack "Flag Pin" Kingston.
Kingston claimed another big category was those who are "19-34 years and they think they're invincible." They're in and out of jobs and they're "happy to go bare bones".
People who can afford to but don't want to pay.
Everybody else he claimed was happy with what they've got, so we should focus on just what was broken: the 10 million or so who really can't get health care. Fortunately, a few people in the room took issue with that.
Kingston is a sharper, smoother, operator than people give him credit for. He played up his doofus persona by claiming the slides probably wouldn't work. But he didn't just follow the latest Republican talking points. He even recommended living wills, bypassing a chance to play the "they're gonna ask you how you want to die!" bogeyman. Instead he used it to play up the government intervention bogeyman: there was nobody in the room but me and my parent, and he doesn't want the government in there, too. Nevermind that the insurance companies are in the room effectively all the time.
Consistency isn't his strong point. Early on Kingston went on at great length about fraud in the medical system, yet later he bragged about how great it is. He claimed that since doctors take the Hippocratic oath they won't do unnecessary operations. Yet Kingston himself earlier said he has had repeated back surgeries and treatments ranging from epidurals to massage. Nonetheless he thinks the health care system as is is mostly good and people like it and we shouldn't change it.
He asked for a show of hands on how many people who had Medicare also had supplemental insurance. About half the people in the room raised their hands. Yet later he asked who liked it that currently if you get Medicare you can't also get private medical insurance. Nobody
raised their hands. Apparently everybody in the room recognized the contradiction except Kingston.
Kingston: "If you ever really bought something that you wanted, maybe a new suit, car, a house, a jet ski, a boat, or whatever, but you just in the final analysis couldn't afford it..."
Voice from the back: "A war in Iraq?"
Kingston: "A war in Iraq? A very legitimate point; I don't know who said that. What we have got to do in Washington is to start acting like we're spending our own money."
"Well I'll say this, as Republicans, we blew it, we spent lots of money."
I asked that about Iraq. Interesting how nobody in the room defended that war. My, how times have changed in only a few years. Let's change them further!
Somebody else brought up Republican spending, and he had to once again admit Republicans spent a lot of money.
Update: The VDT mentions that point: Several audience members brought up overspending during the Bush administration.
"That’s a good point," Kingston said. "The thing we have got to learn to do in Washington is start acting like we’re spending our own money, right now with our national debt. And I’ll say this, as a Republican, we blew it, we spent lots of money."
Somebody from Texas pointed out that W. ruined Texas as governor by privatizing everything before moving to DC and doing it to everybody else as well.
Kingston tried to defuse that by saying he'd rather live in Texas than in California or Massachusetts right now, to tepid applause.
Then he tried to tie in Dennis Marks,
Chair of the Lowndes County Democratic Party Chair for GA-01 of the Georgia Democratic Party, by saying he was a friend even though Marks always has Kingston's opponent's yard signs on his yard and bumper stickers on his car.
My friend Amy Terrell muttered in my ear that the Markses never put up yard signs or bumper stickers. (I verified this later.) So Kingston was stretching a bit.
Kingston called on Amy first, and she asked how she, a waitress, could afford health care. He colored her in his answer as one of the few legitimately uninsured whom we should help. Later he referred to "my friend the waitress." Slick.
An (elderly white male) audience member came up to Amy and asked why she didn't qualify for Medicaid. She said she was responsible and didn't want to get pregnant. He nodded and wandered off.
We did get 6 signatures on OFA's health care declaration from audience members. Not bad for what was mostly a house full of Republicans.
Update: And the VDT printed the entire text of the OFA health care declaration.
You can sign the OFA declaration.
And you can help Jack Kingston out by filling out his health care survey.
George Rhynes asked what Kingston was going to do about health care for all the people locked up in prison who shouldn't be there, and he had written to Kingston and gotten no answer. Kingston said he would get with George later.
Jim "you voted for every one of Bush's budgets" Parker got in some good points, which I had him summarize for me later:
ON January 15 2008 I had to go to the ER, SGMC, because of bleeding. 2 days later, after a colonoscopy. Dr.: "I'm sorry, it's cancer."
Jan 25 surgery, took out 15" of intestine, including a tumor size of a tangerine. I didn't have health insurance. I'm thankful I'm standing before you today, and it's testimony and praise to the SGMC staff.
But I have a friend who was in the same boat as me, a computer guy, business drying up. By the time he got the care he needed it was too late; we buried him last January.
Insurance isn't rocket sicent: premiums in, pay out other side 100 years, all figured out; computers can do it.
Wall Street is forcing insurers not to pay out more than 77.4% medical loss, or stock price will suffer. So insurers are running at 20-30-40% profit.
Who are these investors? Not you and I. People like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and companies like that.
"Congressman, you're either with the insurance companies, or you're with us."
Kingston: You're very fortunate; you got your health care.
Parker: Yes, but now I'm bankrupt.
Video of Jim Parker, starting about 1:50 Jim Parker's question, in four YouTube parts:
<H4>Part 1: Jim Parker's Health Care Story</H4>
<H4>Part 2: What is standing between us and our health care...</H4>
<H4>Part 3: Your health care is their medical loss</H4>
<H4>Part 4: Kingston: you did get care; Parker: but I'm bankrupt</H4>
<H4>Back to Jack</H4>
Oh yes. Kingston's biggest campaign donor? AFLAC.