Rep. Dan Benishek’s (R-MI) embrace of the Republican Party’s platform ran into stiff opposition at a town hall meeting in Saulte Sainte Marie, Michigan when at least a dozen constituents, many of them senior citizens, pushed back against Benishek’s claims on Medicare, Social Security, oil subsides and health care reform.
Benishek couldn’t even get through his opening remarks before attendees began criticizing his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget that would increase the cost of health care for seniors by providing “premium support” vouchers to eligible senior citizens.
“If you have a better idea as how to keep Medicare sustainable over the long term, I’d be happy to hear it,” offered Benishek.
He may have regretted those words after the event, because for half an hour, Benishek fielded several suggestions on how to increase funding for Medicare, ranging from ending oil subsidies to increasing taxes on the wealthiest two percent, suggestions that Benishek summarily dismissed.
Benishek also displayed a shocking lack of self-awareness about his level of knowledge of some key facts. “There are no government subsidies for oil,” he told one woman who suggested ending the very real subsidies given to oil corporations to help defray the cost of Medicare. Watch a portion of the town hall:
At one point, the discussion turned to health care reform. Benishek, who served as a medical doctor before he was elected to Congress in 2010, was thrust onto the national stage after his predecessor Bart Stupak cast the deciding vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. He told the audience that the United States has the best health care system in the world, before he was literally laughed at by several attendees.
“We have the highest life spans in the world,” argued Benishek. Several women in the audience quickly pointed out that in fact, many countries with universal health care place higher than the United States in terms of life expectancy, including Canada, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 50th, just behind South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I don’t believe that’s true,” said Benishek. “How can you not know that, you’re a medical doctor?” one woman replied.
The confrontational town hall meeting almost didn’t even happen, after a member of the public, armed with a camera, refused to stop recording. A representative from the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, threatened to shut down the entire proceedings.