fresh voices from the front lines of change







O Sarah Palin, the gift that keeps on giving, no matter how earnestly we say, "no, really, we insist, we've had enough."

We said this after Dr. Palin's informative essay, penned in the Washington Post about the big hoax of global warming and why we should do nothing about it. I say informative, not in the sense that we learned anything about global warming (we didn't, as Media Matters noted after the fact, Palin's article was festooned with lies), but rather it was informative in showing Palin's absolute void in knowledge of any topic of substance (sorry, capping wolves from a helicopter is not a topic of substance).

Well on Friday we discovered that Palin has Orly Taitz-like versatility: In addition to being a liar an expert on global warming, she is also a liar an expert on health care! Let's take a Land of the Lost-style trip into what Sarah Palin thinks about health care in America. Are you ready? Let's go!:

[To ease reading the of this, for lay people not used to reading such intellectual heft, I've color coded it. Lies will be in red, hypocrisy will be in green, and crazy will be in...purple. Follow the footnotes for explanations--they are clickable! ]

As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress1, our collective jaw is dropping, and we're saying not just no, but hell no!2

The Democrats promise that a government health care system1 will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost3it will simply refuse to pay the cost4. And who will suffer the most when they ration care?5 The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care.6 Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.7

Rep. Michele Bachmann8 highlighted the Orwellian thinking of the president's health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of the White House chief of staff, in a floor speech to the House of Representatives. I commend her for being a voice for the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.

We must step up and engage in this most crucial debate. Nationalizing our health care system1 is a point of no return for government interference in the lives of its citizens9. If we go down this path, there will be no turning back. Ronald Reagan once wrote, "Government programs, once launched, never disappear10. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth11." Let's stop and think and make our voices heard before it's too late.

1 - Lie - This lie is essentially the bedrock of almost all right-wing lies about health care reform, and like bedrock, it has been around for eons (or at least ever since the first person took a look at our health care system and thought, maybe we can do better.). The fact is that what President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are promoting is nothing like a nationalized health care system (such as the Canadian system, which is most referenced by the right-wing). In fact, according to the right-wing definition of "socialism", we already have a socialist system in Medicare, the US Military, the Veterans Administration and what we give to members of Congress. What the various bills actually call for is a public insurance option, and nothing more. This would give you an option of choosing to get your health insurance from a public plan similar to Medicare. If you like your current private plan and don't want to switch to the public plan, you wouldn't have to change anything (and you'd still benefit from reform).

So right from the beginning, they are lying to you. If you remember nothing from any of this, at least remember this: If you hear someone talking about "socialism" or "nationalized health care" or "Canadian-style health care" or "government takeover of health care", they are not talking about the Obama health care plan. They are purposely trying to deceive you. They are lying to you. They think you are stupid. [ up ]

2 - Lie - No Sarah, Americans aren't saying "hell no" to health care reform. In fact, if you care about facts, polling shows that Americans overwhelmingly support health care reform, including a public insurance option. Don't try to speak for us. If nothing else, the election showed that Americans overwhelmingly preferred Obama and his policies to you and your policies. [ up ]

3 - Lie - Yes, what you erroneously describe as "a government health care system" (also known as a public health insurance option to people who care about details) actually will reduce costs. See, what we have now in the status quo is private for-profit insurance companies, operating in near-monopolistic conditions, which has lead to explosive inflation in health care costs. The creation of a robust public health insurance option is key to returning competition to health care markets and reducing costs (and improving outcomes). [ up ]

4 - Lie + Hypocrisy = Poop - Note how Sarah Palin, and conservative health care deniers in general, seamlessly combines lies and hypocrisy, without batting an eyelash (although there may have been a wink). This is essentially an introduction to the "they will ration care and soon there will be long breadlines of sick people outside hospitals and people will be dying in the street--especially your grandma" line of attack. Which I'll actually address next: [ up ]

5 - Lie + Hypocrisy = Poop - So let's talk rationed care. First, this argument again rests on the false assumption that if health care reform passes, you will suddenly find yourself with public, instead of private, health insurance. This of course is a lie, since the plan is absolutely clear that if you are happy with your current health insurance, you can keep it. There will be absolutely no forcing of anyone off of their private insurance and into a public plan. [ up ]

Even though that one inconvenient fact alone destroys the rationing smear, let's keep going. Their entire "rationing" argument rests on horror stories manufactured about nationalized health care in other countries. First, say it with me:

If you hear someone talking about "socialism" or "nationalized health care" or "Canadian-style health care" or "government takeover of health care", they are not talking about the Obama health care plan. They are purposely trying to deceive you. They are lying to you. They think you are stupid.

Second, even though we don't have to, get the facts about Canadian health care. My colleague Sara Robinson has some great mythbusting pieces on that very topic here, here and here.

And last, but definitely not least, let's talk about hypocrisy, which turns the red a lovely shade of brown. While Sarah Palin is filling you full of lies about how health care reform will bring rationed care to America, real America has been experiencing market-based rationing for as long as health insurance has existed. On this point I will quote Sara Robinson from one of her blog posts I just referenced, since I believe she stated it well (emphases mine):

Don't look now: but America does ration care. And it does it in the most capricious, draconian, and often dishonest way possible.

Mostly, the U.S. system rations care by simply eliminating large numbers of people from the system due to an inability to pay. Last year, one-quarter of all Americans didn't go to a doctor when they needed one because they couldn't afford it. Nearly that many skipped getting a test, treatment, prescription, or follow-up appointment recommended by a doctor. In Canada, those same numbers are in the 4-5% range; in the UK, 2-3%. Also: nearly 20% of all Americans had a hard time paying a medical bill last year [Other data suggest this number is closer to 2/3 of adults, or 116 million people]; and these stresses now trigger over half of all personal bankruptcies in the country.

Furthermore, nominally having health insurance is no guarantee against financial ruin, as SiCKO amply illustrated. Being cut off or denied by your insurance company is rationing, too. And there are vast numbers of fairly well-off Americans -- many of them middle-aged, and too young for Medicare -- who have pre-existing conditions that render them uninsurable at any price. They're one heart attack, one diabetic event, or one bad turn away from financial disaster. Please don't insult these people by telling them that the American system doesn't ration care.

Also, if Sarah Palin really wants to play the international comparison game, I'm more than happy to. Currently we rank 27th globally in life expectancy, after "socialist" boogeymen like Canada (#3), France (#4) and Sweden (#5), and such worthy competitors as Malta, Jordan, Bosnia and Cyprus. Yes, best health care system in the world indeed.

Oh wait, but Sarah Palin wanted to talk about cost. Let's talk about cost. In the United States we pay far more, per capita, than any other OECD country (yes, that includes all of those horrible socialist countries with better life expectancies that I just mentioned--oh, and for the record, their health care systems are far more progressive than the moderate plan the Democrats are trying to get passed). And the worst part yet, this huge cost is the current system without factoring in the 50 million Americans who have been rationed out of health care. If you like graphs, see if you can figure out what sticks out in this one:


[ up ]

6 - Crazy + Lie - This is the where we go from simple lies to insanity. This is where they really jump the shark. I didn't mix the colors here for clarity sake, but I don't really need to, as crazy already carries the implication of a total break with reality--it is just a matter of motivation: is she a liar or is she really stupid/crazy enough to believe such garbage?

So here is the claim that everyone has been talking about, that even people like conservative columnist David Brooks has to call crazy: "Again, that’s crazy. If–the, the, the crazies are attacking the plan because it’ll cut off granny, and that–that’s simply not true. That simply is not going to happen." How does one begin to rebut the idea that Obama plans to create some macabre "death panel", which he and his loyal henchmen will preside over in passing death sentences on people with disabilities and the elderly based, ostensibly, on some Soviet-style scoring of worker productivity (or maybe she envisions Nazis separating the weak from the healthy at forced labor camps, which would be more in line with other right-wing rhetoric against Obama and health care reform)?

Do you just make fun of it for the ridiculousness it is? (See: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert)

Do you tear the lie apart like you are a real journalist? (See: Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann)

Or do you just report it without feeling any need to contest the misinformation, like the majority of the media?

I, for one, am going to take the lazy way out, and just report the findings of PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter, which rated Palin's statements "Pants on Fire" (as in LIAR LIAR). Some highlights:

We agree with Palin that such a system would be evil. But it's definitely not what President Barack Obama or any other Democrat has proposed.

We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person's "level of productivity in society" to determine whether they are "worthy" of health care. [...]

Palin's statement seems extreme, but other Republicans, like Newt Gingrich, are backing her up. "You're asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards," Gingrich said in an interview on This Week with George Stephanopolous on Aug. 9, 2009.

We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no "death board" that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. Conservatives might make a case that Palin is justified in fearing that the current reform could one day morph into such a board.

But that's not what Palin said. She said that the Democratic plan will ration care and "my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie ... than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!

Once again, you need to keep in mind one thing: This is how stupid conservatives think you are. Not only do they think you are incredibly naive and ignorant, they apparently think you are a certifiable lunatic now too. I think if I were one of her supporters, at least one with a grain of sense, I would find this all unbelievably insulting.

Oh, and do you want to know the source of all of these rampant forced euthanasia smears coming from conservatives? It is from a measure added to the bill, co-sponsored and introduced by REPUBLICANS, that would help defray the cost of people meeting with their doctor (note the absence of the cartoonish behorned bureaucrat in the equation) to discuss end-of-life care and creating a living will. That's it. Expanding benefits to cover planning ahead for inevitable end-of-life care = evil death panels condemning the elderly and people with disabilities to death for not being productive enough to society. And for the record, this part of the bill is actually a good idea! But given that a Republican introduced this amendment, and that others co-sponsored it, where do they get off using that common-sense, bipartisan provision to smear Obama and the Democrats as murderers? I'm giving Sarah Palin a hypocrisy point on this one as well. Yes, this claim scored the coveted BS trifecta.

And if I had a color to represent yet another example of her shamefully exploiting her special needs child for political gain, I'd add that color as well. [ up ]

7 - Hypocrisy - I absolutely agree with Sarah Palin that human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion, unlike the anti-reform protesters who chant "what's wrong with profit?" at town hall discussions of health care, which is why I give this a big hypocrisy score for Palin. Do you know who else, in addition to me, believes health care is a fundamental human right? President Barack Obama. During the 2008 election, when asked at a debate, "Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?" Obama answered:

Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills -- for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that.

And John McCain, Sarah Palin's running mate? No, health care in America is not a right, it is a responsibility (as in, it is your own problem, and if you can't pay up, you and your dependents are out of luck). And to John McCain's credit, this same philosophy was reflected in his own health care proposal, so no hypocrisy points for McCain.

Let me just say this: Our current health care system is a disaster, and people are dying because of it. Human rights and human dignity have no representation in our current system, as they have all been subsumed by the all-consuming profit motive.

On the other hand, human rights and human dignity are at the forefront of the reforms being proposed in Congress right now. But on the conservative side of this "debate", we are getting no such deference to human rights or human dignity, we are getting outrageous lies, slander and hyperbole. We are getting insane accusations of the march of socialism, killing grandparents and people with disabilities, and government-run death panels. One side of this is taking our health care crisis gravely seriously, and trying to craft policy solutions like adults, the other side is treating this like a gigantic joke, and I can't think of anything more of an affront to the role of human dignity in this debate than what the right-wing has done to it. [ up ]

8 - Crazy - Do you really have to check why I labeled Michele Bachmann crazy? [ up ]

9 - Hypocrisy - First, the government isn't going to interfere in the lives of Americans. Second, conservatives are more than happy to give carte blanche to the private insurance industry to play the role of judge, jury and executioner for tens of millions of Americans. Third, are we really getting lectured on "government interference in the lives of its citizens" from the same people who never cease in their quest to legislate something as personal as marriage, and who likewise never cease in their quest to eliminate a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body? Is this not the exact kind of horror stories of government intrusion in health care that these people are concocting? And they are actually promoting this one?? And they say this all with a straight face, seemingly oblivious to their blatant hypocrisy. [ up ]

10 - Lie - This is just stupid, not to mention weird, coming from the granddaddy of cutting government programs. This is a bit like a big game hunter swearing that deer are immortal, despite all the heads on his wall. Bush was good at it too--every single budget he presented to Congress was littered with the corpses of government programs, like his 2007 budget which sought to "eliminate federal programs that support inner-city Indian health clinics, defibrillators in rural areas, an educational campaign about Alzheimer's disease, centers for traumatic brain injuries, and a nationwide registry for Lou Gehrig's disease. It would cut close to $1 billion in health care grants to states and would kill the entire budget of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center." Mmmm, viva human rights and human dignity! [ up ]

11 - Lie - No, ignorance is actually the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth. Cockroaches have nothing on ignorance. [ up ]


Because no blog post is complete without an update, here you go. I just want to suggest the possibility that Rush Limbaugh is an avid reader of my blogs. My proof? I have none, but while recently defending Sarah Palin's insane "death panel" claim, Rush Limbaugh word-vomited the following (bold emphasis mine, underline emphasis his):

"But I would suggest that anybody who doubts her intellectual heft or her ability to learn and study," said Limbaugh, "go to her Facebook page, look at the notes that she's taken -- it's right there ...

Key words here, "intellectual heft". How often have you heard those words used in a discussion of Sarah Palin, other than the top of this page? In the audio of his comment, it seems clear he is directly responding to someone else's usage of the phrase. Coincidence? Maybe. But it is possible that I pissed off Limbaugh with my mocking, which is kind of amusing. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to have to soap down this blog, rinse, and repeat.

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