Obama outlines health-care plan, attacks McCain at Asheville rally

Before a crowd estimated at more than 25,000 by law enforcement at Asheville High School’s football stadium this afternoon, presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama outlined a health-care plan he says will cover all Americans and attacked the campaign of his rival, Sen. McCain, as “out of touch, out of ideas and running out of time.” (See photos of the rally here.)

Obama, in town to prepare for Tuesday’s debate against McCain in Nashville, spoke to an enthusiastic overflow crowd at the stadium. After attacking McCain on a number of issues, he spent much of the speech detailing his health-care plan and the country’s economic problems.

“Half of all personal bankruptcies are charged in part by medical bills,” Obama said. “That’s not who we are and it’s not who we have to be. Asheville, enough is enough. At this moment, when we stand in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, some might ask: How can we afford to focus on health care?”

His response was that “the question isn’t how we can afford to focus on health care, the question is: How can we afford not to? In order to fix our economic crisis, we need to fix our health-care system too. The time has come to cut health-care costs and provide care to every single American.”

Obama asserted that his plan will subsidize small businesses providing health care, focus on preventive care, reduce the cost of prescription drugs and prevent companies form denying people care due to a pre-existing conditions — all while reducing costs through more efficient management. Those too poor to afford health care or not receiving it through their employer could get access to the federal-government employees’ health-care plan. Much of the rest of the plan would be paid for by raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year back to Clinton-era levels.

“If you make less than $250,000 under an Obama administration, you will not see your taxes go up one dime,” he promised. “Now if you make more than a quarter million a year, they’re going back to the rates they were when Bill Clinton was president. If you make less than $150,000, you’ll be paying less, because I’m going to give a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans.”

Obama blasted McCain’s plan, which would give Americans a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) for health insurance, but tax health-care benefits to help pay for it.

“He [McCain] wrote we need to open up the health-care system like we’ve done over the last decade in banking — he wants to deregulate insurance like he’s deregulated banking — and we see how well that’s worked out,” Obama asserted.

“Sen. McCain gives you a credit with one hand and raises your taxes with the other,” and millions of Americans would lose health care under such a plan, he asserted. He charged that McCain’s plan “reflects the same bankrupt philosophy: Take care of the best off, the healthy and wealthy, and ‘good luck’ to everyone else.”

Obama struck back at accusations that his plan constitutes socialized medicine. “They are not telling the truth: If you like your plan, keep your plan,” he said.

“I don’t think government can solve all our problems, but I reject the idea that government has no role to play in protecting ordinary Americans,” he said. “I reject the thinking that says preserving our free market means letting corporations and special interests do as they please.”

Obama also criticized the McCain campaign as engaging in smear attacks instead of talking about the issues.

“I’m going to keep on talking about the issues that matter,” he said. “I’m going to keep on talking the economy, I’m going to talk about health care, I’m going to talk about energy. I’m going to keep on standing up for hard-working families that aren’t getting a fair shake. We’re not going to let John McCain distract us, hoodwink you or bamboozle you.”

He ended the speech with a promise to the crowd to fight for their interests.

“You have my word: I will never back down, I will never give up, I will never stop fighting until we fix the health-care system. We’re going to keep fighting until everyone in this country has health care. We’re going to keep fighting until everyone in this country that wants to work has a job.”

As Obama spoke, several people in one of the bleachers held a banner that criticized his support for so-called “clean coal.” The banner read “Appalachia says: Don’t betray us, clean coal kills.” Critics have said that “clean coal” is an oxymoron, and still does significant environmental damage for more expense.

Democrats from around the region — and from other states — came to Asheville for the rally.

Jon Feichter, who came from Haywood County, said that before the speech he was talking with other Democrats, who noted that they saw four times as many Obama stickers as McCain stickers in Waynesville, but the reverse in other areas of the county.

“We’re very active, and as a matter of fact, I get an e-mail a day [from the campaign],” he said. “It’s really active and they’re out there, canvassing and organizing.”

“It’s a lot more organized than the last election — or the last two elections,” Laurie Frodshan added.

“It’s been well-organized and everyone seems excited,” said Asheville resident Amber Graul, adding with a laugh that she was voting for Obama because “he’s not evil.”

Standing nearby, Josh Batenhorse said that he and Graul had originally supported the presidential campaign of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, but “as he got less support, we shifted our support to Obama.”

Shirley Wells said that “a lot of my friends are Republicans — I’m a small business owner — and they keep saying that Republicans are for small business, but what they fail to realize is that our customer base, if they’re not doing well, I don’t have any customers. My business has deteriorated from where it was a year ago. I need to get somebody in there who’s going to give everyone a chance.”

Ruby Daniels travelled with her husband, Patrick, from Greenville, S.C., to see Obama speak.

“I like the idea of him bringing people together, the division between the races,” she said. “It’s time for that to happen in America.”

The Daniels’ said that they felt there was a good chance of both North Carolina and South Carolina voting for Obama. Recent polls have shown the race in a virtual dead heat in North Carolina, though McCain leads by a wide margin in South Carolina polls.

“There’s a lot more support out there than people realize,” Patrick Daniels said. “A lot of people want things to change.”

— David Forbes, staff writer


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17 thoughts on “Obama outlines health-care plan, attacks McCain at Asheville rally

  1. Jeff

    Great article & great photos ya’ll. I was blown away and inspired. It took us 30+ minutes to find the end of the line, which we finally got in exactly at noon. We were just getting into the stands as the program began.

    There was an enormous subculture of “roadie” vendors. We talked with a few of them about where all they’d been, hawking their Obama buttons, rally towels, t-shirts & hats.

    Among them were people with white “Clean Coal” hats and t-shirts handing them out by the hundreds for FREE. I was frankly appalled because there is no such thing as clean coal. I recently returned from West Virginia where the destruction by mountaintop removal is everywhere. The FREE stuff being handed out by the coal companies hoodwinked thousands of Obama fans who took it without understanding how wrong it is.

  2. David

    Yeah. His “Clean Coal” makes me think twice about casting a vote for Obama. Starting to sound like another Free Trade NeoLib.

  3. older than dirt

    Attendance appears to be slightly over estimated, maybe by about 15,000 or so, but a great turn out nonetheless

  4. Sundance

    David I think he would be less inclined to support clean coal in its current format then John McCain is…Obama has stated that it needs to be researched, developed and improved. McCain for the most part thinks it’s ready to go..which is not the case and I am almost willing to bet Obama would have something to say about the destruction of the WVA mountains where McCain would think its ok in the name of progress.

  5. Marcia

    Lotysa promises. No talk of HOW do to it. I’ll tell you this. If he is “going to give each American healthcare (including millions of illegal aliens)he is going to have to raise taxes way up on the working middle class citizens. This after lying to say we will get a tax break. I have friends in Canada. They pay through the nose in taxes, then have to stand in line for substandard healthcare. They would rather have the system WE HAVE now, as imperfect as it is.

  6. Sundance

    Marcia your comments about the Canadian health care system is absurd because Obama’s plan does not socialize the medical part. Additionally, there are US citizens who fake being Canadian citizens so they can get the health services they need…do you want that to increase which it would under McCain who plans to cut Medicare by 20% and tax the health benefits you receive through your employer. You can’t buy a decent health care plan for a family for the $5000 McCain wants to give you. The average cost for a family without employer assistance is about 10 grand a year…twice what McCain offers. It is you that is a fake, phony and more out of touch then your candidate.

  7. Gary

    Even if you are not voting for Obama, his visit was more than monumental for Asheville North Carolina. Asheville is now considered a “stop” on the train of politics. Awesome. Really! Thanks Barack.

  8. david

    I cant believe Obama didnt stop at the Beacon is Spartantown. Maybe Palin will. More her territory, anyway.


    Do you know Nam Vet?

    He, too shares your political viewpoints, and has friends in Canada with the same story. You should try and seek him out share stories.

    Why dont they move to the states?

  9. Susan

    I have lived in Canada for seven years. Their system of health care is not perfect, but it is A HECK OF LOT BETTER THAN WHAT WE HAVE DOWN HERE.

    They do pay higher taxes. No one worries about how to pay health care bills if they get sick or have an accident. Everyone is free to choose their own doctors. No one loses their home from health care expenses.

  10. Al Cottingham

    The taxes in Canada are very high. And the healthcare substandard. And you have to wait in line. My brother lives in Minnesota. He said Canadians come down all the time for healthcare there. I have a good friend who lives in Red Deer, Alberta. He pays 60% of his gross for taxes. And doesn’t have the choice of picking his own doctor. I’ll take Blue Cross and USA healthcare any old day.

  11. Sundance

    Al some Canadians come here and some Americans fake being Canadian Citizens so they can get care and if you look above you will see a first hand experience from Susan who lived in Canada for seven years and she said you do pick your Doctor. Also the point you and Marcia continually miss or glance over because it hurts your argument is Obama is not socializing medicine at all. He is just getting everyone insured. Cost for all Americans are higher on medicine because every person that has insurance actually subsidizes those that don’t have it by paying higher costs to offset losses that health care providers suffer from those who don’t have coverage. A hospital room at Mission recently costs me and Blue Cross $750 a night and that does not include any of the fees for aspirin, etc.
    Get real Al and start looking at the facts.

  12. Ezekiel

    It’s interesting that the $700 billion bailout, which both Obama AND McCain voted for, spread over 300 million people comes to about $2300 for every man, woman, and child in the country, or close to $10,000 per family — enough to provide universal medical converage. Oh well.

  13. Cullen_in_the_ROK

    I’m a US citzen and I live in South Korea, a semi 3rd world nation, and the Health Care is 700 billion times better than in the USA. I work with Canadians here who rave about their health care. I think it’s rubbish when our health care system is even second rate compared to South Korea’s. Good on Obama for visiting the hometown. I’m glad to see he’s slightly ahead in the polls in NC.

  14. Al Cottingham

    For anyone who does the research, Canadian, British, and Swedish socialized healthcare systems are FAR from the ideal many liberal here like to maintain. We have the best healthcare system in the world. For a reason.

  15. Sundance

    The US Chamber of Commerce states that McCains plan would cause up to another 20 million to become uninsured.

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