How Goo-Goos Listen to the Grassroots

Back in December, after the Obama-Biden Transition Team encouraged individuals across the country to gather with friends and neighbors to talk about health care reform, I reported on My Health Care Reform House Party.

Turns out these Obamanians are far more serious goo-goos than I gave them credit for. Goo-goos, for you non-Chicagoans, are those earnest “good government” types with a deep and abiding belief in rationality in government. When the Obama team said it wanted the input of the masses into its health care reform plan, my brain translated that as, “What better time than the Christmas season to encourage earnest talk about the plight of the poor and uninsured.” But here we are approaching mid-February, with a President Obama playing for keeps with Congress, and the White House says it is doing both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the feedback it received from ordinary citizens.

Jeanne Lambrew, the deputy health care reform czar without anyone to be a deputy to, told an AcademyHealth meeting last week in Washington that 9,000 health reform discussion guides had been downloaded and 4,500 had been turned in. Each and every one was read by a member of a team of twenty to thirty volunteers, yielding “great ideas,” according to Lambrew. 

More surprisingly, two experienced health services researchers are now
preparing “a real analysis to present to the president.” “This, of
course, implies actual Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints, the basic
building blocks of 21st century public policy.

Will this report to the president have an impact on the legislation already being drafted by Sens. Kennedy and Baucus, or will it be mined to provide soundbites designed to prove that The People Are With Us? I wouldn’t want to take any bets on the former possibility. On the other hand, if long-time goo-goo Patrick Quinn can become governor of Illinois (OK, he wasn’t actually elected governor, but still), then anything’s theoretically possible.

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3 replies »

  1. Deron, I firmly believe in precisely the same sentiment.
    Which is why neither you nor I are ever likely to hold elective office.

  2. Most of the discussion I’ve heard is about what people want. There needs to be more discussion about what they are prepared to give up in the name of the greater good. Reform will sputter until that happens.