Carrying American flags, picket signs and at times bugling patriotic songs, members of the anti-tax group called the "Tea Party Patriots" picketed outside U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's Palo Alto office on Friday as part of a nationwide campaign against health care reform.
Tea Party members are protesting at every congressional representative's office, demanding that elected officials read the entire House Democrats' health plan rather than a summary, they said.
The small group of men and women gathered outside Eshoo's Emerson Street office described themselves as being of various party affiliations. They hadn't met previously but found each other on Facebook, they said.
The protesters handed out an organizational chart generated by Congressman Kevin Brady, the U.S. Joint Economic Committee's ranking House Republican. The chart showed a complex schematic which the protesters say is emblematic of a cumbersome plan doomed to failure.
"Look at the DMV," said Dirck Jackman, a Democrat, who approves of tax incentives to small businesses and free-market health care.
Jackman's 78-year-old mother had two knees and one hip replaced and was treated for glaucoma under the present health care system.
"And she hit the ground running. Her whole quality of life has improved with this health care," he said.
Chris Haugen said a recent "20/20" television segment on health care in Canada found that pets received major surgeries such as hip replacements within 24 hours through a for-profit system, but humans in the government-run system waited many months.
"That's the difference between a free enterprise system and a lottery system," he said.
A representative from Eshoo's Washington, D.C. office said the congresswoman had no comment. Eshoo's 14th District includes Palo Alto, Mountain View and several other Peninsula cities.
A 2008 report by The Health Trust, a charitable foundation in Silicon Valley, found that Santa Clara County has an estimated 140,000 adults and children without health insurance coverage, and an additional 151,000 residents who are underinsured. Emergency room visits to hospitals in Santa Clara County increased 23.3 percent between 2003 and 2007.
"They must have employer-based insurance or must be healthy," Edie Keating, a representative for Peninsula Interfaith Action, which supports health care reform, said of the protesters.
"But it's not a secure proposition in this economy. ... That can go away in a second and they should realize that, if not for themselves then out of compassion for other people. The worst health care of all is no health care at all," she said.
In California it has been well documented that a combination payroll and investments-earnings tax could pay for single-payer insurance, according to Keating.
"Every other developing country has health coverage for its citizens and it's not bankrupting them," she said.