Posted on Aug 06, 2009
John M Grau
I had an unexpected, but fairly lengthy conversation with Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) earlier this week. I was at the opening ceremony for our NJATC’s National Training Institute at the University of Michigan. Dingell, the longest-serving member in the history of the House of Representatives and a powerful House leader, was there to welcome our group to Michigan.
I was backstage at Hill Auditorium, the site of the opening ceremony, when Dingell hobbled in on crutches. I said to him that it looked like he needed to get national health care passed sooner rather than later. He replied that members of Congress have good health care and that he was trying to get the same deal for the rest of the country. I reminded him his health care came through private insurance and not a government-run plan. He bristled a bit and told me public insurance would only be an option, not a requirement under the proposed legislation. He then went on the attack against insurance companies, whom he claims are the true villains in our health care system.
I’m not a fan of the insurance companies, but I recognized that he was using the talking points that House members were given before they went on recess this week. Someone did some polling and found out that most Americans hate their insurance companies. So in selling a national plan, the Democrats are setting up insurance companies as all things evil.
I asked Dingell if they were going to include a tax on high-end health plans. I noted our industry’s concern that our long-established and collectively bargained plans may fall into the tax trap. He said he isn’t a big advocate for taxing benefits but he feels that rich people and company owners are taking advantage of the tax deductions and he isn’t against hitting them up for more money.
We went on to debate a few more points and didn’t agree on much. One thing we did concur on, however.
Congressman Dingell said he felt that Congress doesn’t work as hard as it used to. He said they used to put in a full five-day week in Washington. I noted that now they feel obligated to get back to their districts every weekend to meet with constituents. That can be a good thing, but in the old days when they spent the weekends in Washington, they tended to socialize with each other. And, by socializing together, they learned to like each other better and to work cooperatively on solving problems.
I told the congressman that I’m probably one of the few people who would like to see congressman take even more of the so-called boondoogle trips they make around the world. As long as they travel with a member of the opposite party, I think we taxpayers should foot the bill for even more travel. Nothing helps you get to know another person like traveling together with him and his family.
Dingell gave me a wink, said “amen,” and then hobbled out onto the stage in front of me.