Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

TOP STORY >> Snyder sees progress, harsh debate ebbing

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

“I think (the health-care debate) continues to move in the right direction,” Second District Congressman Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, said Tuesday.

“The ball moves down the field. As debate proceeds, I think the bills are getting better and the public is getting more comfortable,” Snyder said. “The positive benefits of big changes are becoming more clear.”

Snyder, a Democrat, said the biggest challenge is to make the case to people who have health-care insurance and like it. He said they must understand that without reform, their insurance will get continually more expensive.

He said that many of the broadcast advertisements are designed to scare senior citizens.

“A robust public debate is going on and from the beginning of the August recess, it’s been clear that there are people out there who in the spirit of trying to defeat reform, are willing to distort reality — talking about death panels. The AARP is not stupid,” Snyder said.

The American Association of Retired People (AARP), the American Medical Association and other hospital and health groups have endorsed the reforms currently being debated.

And without reform, particularly under the weight of baby boomers, “Medicare as it stands now is not sustainable. We have to figure out how to make it safer, reduce medical errors and hospital mistakes.

“We’re not going to cut service to seniors or take away their choice of doctors,” Snyder said. “We’re going to improve services and save tax dollars to make it sustainable.”

He said the Congressional Budget Office estimates the changes would add five years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.

“The opponents look pretty sorry because their arguments are so weak in advertisements,” he said.

Snyder applauded President Barack Obama for being deliberative in plotting the path forward in Afghanistan.

“I’ve seen more uses (by Republicans) of the word dither, it must have polled well,” Snyder said.

Their arguments fell apart when retired General and Secretary of State Colin Powell praised Obama for taking his time.

“The president came in, and in March he sent in 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan,” Snyder said. “In May, he replaced the leadership and brought in one of the top generals, (Stanley) McChrystal, asked for an assessment and gave him 60 days.”

Snyder, who chairs the House military affairs subcommittee on oversight, said that committee held three hearings, heard from 12 witnesses, and “they were all over the court in terms of the direction we should take.”

“If this is what the president is hearing, no wonder it’s taking a while.

“He’s getting diverse view- points. I applaud his taking his time. It’s a pretty long-term commitment, going in a new direction.

“It’s clear that from the end of 2002 until 2008, we had severely under-resourced and undermanned the war in Afghanistan.

Now we’re having to make up for the poorly managed war.

“It’s too soon to think we can’t help them,” Snyder said of the Afghans.

Snyder said the future of the C-130 avionics-modernization upgrade program, which would put state-of-the-art electronic cockpit instrumentation in older-model planes, is still undetermined.

The Air Force wanted to cut the program, which has already cost $8 billion in development by Boeing, but the Defense Department wants it in the budget.

“Everyone recognizes the C-130 will be a crucial part of national security for decades to come,” said Snyder. “We’ll see come the first of the year.”