I missed Meet the Press last week, but on this week's show they were kind enough to replay a clip from an appearance by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) in which he made very clear something which the media seems to be unable to grasp and which the panel on Meet the Press tried very hard to brush under the rug after he said it.
When asked about protesters carrying guns and signs with incendiary slogans at town hall meetings, Senator Coburn showed that at least one lawmaker understands exactly what's really going on when he responded:
"Well, I’m troubled anytime when we stop having confidence in, in our government. But we’ve earned it. You know, this debate isn’t about health care. Health care’s the symptom. The debate is an uncontrolled federal government that’s going to run — 50 percent of everything we’re spending this year we’re borrowing from the next generation. You…"
Not liking the answer because it doesn't fit how he's trying to frame the issue, David Gregory interrupts to ask him about the "tone" of the protests, to which Coburn responds:
"But the tone is based on fear of loss of control of their own government. What is the genesis behind people going to such extreme statements? What is it? We have lost their confidence, to a certain degree, and it’s much worse than when Tom (Daschle) was the, the leader of the Senate. We have raised the question of whether or not we’re legitimately thinking about the American people and their long-term best interests. And that’s the question. The mail volume of all the senators didn’t go up based on the health care debate, the mail volume went up when we started spending away our future indiscriminately. And that’s not Republican or Democrat, that has been a problem for years. But it’s exacerbated now that we’re in the kind of financial situation and economic situation."
Bingo. Look around at the signs being held up at these protests. Many of them have little or nothing to do with health care. Health care is just a wedge issue for a much larger concern that is waking up more and more of the American people. People are angry, and it's not just about anything as limited as health care. Sure, there's concern over various aspects of the health care debate, but that issue alone would not stir up so many people to such high levels of outrage if it were not part of a much larger concern.
Coburn may be a crazy fundamentalist and associated with the cult-like group "The Family" but if nothing else, he is exactly right with this mea culpa moment and accepting responsibility on behalf of the government for the level of public outrage. The government and both political parties have lost our confidence by spending our money with no restraint, no rationale and no results. Because health care reform will be expensive, it ties into this larger issue perfectly, and thus becomes the focus of anger and protest, but it's just the shiny tip on a giant iceberg of fiscal irresponsibility composed of TARP and stimulus and an unregulated money supply and a deficit which dwarfs anything which has gone before.
The American people do have a certain amount of common sense, and as Senator Coburn points out, they get angry when they think that their government is not listening to them. They want fiscal restraint and real reform and reductions at all levels of government, and trying to fearmonger them into a very ill-timed debate on health care just pisses them off. Certainly union bullying and hostile rhetoric from the administration don't help, but the root of the problem remains the fact that the people have woken up and they don't like what their elected representatives are doing with their money.
I think Coburn has this issue analyzed exactly right, and if he keeps making this point and advocating for the people he may be one of those spared in the electoral bloodbath which seems inevitable next November.
For the full video of Coburn's appearance see MSNBC.