Barack Obama Domestic issues Health care Politics The Opinionsphere

Lies About Health Care Reform

[digg-reddit-me]The August War for Health Care Reform has begun. The forces for health care reform and those against it (working with those who are against it right now) have both begun to wage the battle for public opinion and to influence Congress. Many on the pro-reform side are not sure if they are happy with the plans being considered – and are frustrated with what they see as the lack of forthrightness in selling the plan. There are currently multiple versions of the legislation in Congress – and the president has yet to state what he will require to be in the bill. This all seems part of a strategy, but it makes organizing more difficult. In the end, there is little choice but to trust that if given the proper space and pressure politically, Obama and the Democratic Congress will do the right thing.

But while this may be frustrating what has become very clear is that the opponents of reform are willing to lie outrageously in order to turn the tide in this fight. And those people who favor reform must beat back these complaints vigorously. Here’s a roundup of recent lies told by the opponents of reform:

1. Last week in an opening volley, I received a charming email from stating that “ObamaCare=Gov’t Funded Abortion and Euthanasia.” This is clearly not true.

2. Then, this morning, I opened up the Drudge Report and found as his main link a heavily edited video claiming that it showed Obama “IN HIS OWN WORDS” saying his health care plan will eliminate private insurance. Even in its heavily edited version, it didn’t show this. Instead it showed Obama endorsing the generally accepted idea that we should gradually end our employer-based health insurance. Obama’s views on single-payer health insurance have been gone over repeatedly. His campaign website gave three examples of him using the same formulation – which incidentally he also used in at least one debate that I recall:

If you’re starting from scratch, then a single-payer system’-a government-managed system like Canada’s, which disconnects health insurance from employment-‘would probably make sense. But we’ve got all these legacy systems in place, and managing the transition, as well as adjusting the culture to a different system, would be difficult to pull off. So we may need a system that’s not so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.

So, what we have is a obviously edited video of Obama at various times in the past ten years saying that he supports a single-payer system (cutting out the second half of the statement) and his admission that he believes we should move away from employer-based health insurance. The video though is being promoted as proving that Obama is admitting that his plan would secretly impose government insurance on everyone. The video very clearly shows no such thing.

Yet, even so, the Libertarian sub-reddit was fooled and promoted the video.

The White House has helpfully provided the videos with some context in what I think is an excellent effort to combat this smear.

3. The hysteria over Obama’s health care reform even bled over into my walk home through Midtown Manhattan. On the way, I passed a booth run by the LaRouche PAC with a picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache (similar to this one) and an older black woman explaining to passers-by that Obama was seeking to kill older Americans just like Hitler did. Everyone knows the LaRouchites are a bit crazy. But how different is this from what Rush Limbaugh says? Or Fox News? I took a flyer from the women – though not before telling the person she was preaching to that Obama really wasn’t actually trying to kill her. The flyer explained (the PDF linked is slightly different version from what I received):

U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a nationally-televised press conference at 8 p.m. on July 22nd, in which on five separate occasions he called for health reform legislation featuring the establishment of “an independent board of doctors and health care experts” to make the life-and-death decisions of what care to provide, and what not, based on cost-effectiveness criteria – exactly the infamous “T-4” policy imposed by Adolf Hitler in 1939, for which the Nazi regime was tried and condemned at Nuremberg.

Lyndon LaRouche commented, within minutes of Obama’s remarks:

“President Obama is now impeachable, because he has, in effect, proposed legislation which is an exact copy of the legislation for which the Hitler regime was condemned in the post-war trials. This is an impeachable offense: to propose such a thing in this time, is an impeachable offense. The time has come that the President of the United States deserves impeachment. With this statement from him, the President now deserves impeachment.”

On how many levels is this ridiculous? The independent board of doctors and health care experts would replace MedPAC – a board that currently provides guidance to Congress in setting Medicare rates. Instead of advising, Obama’s new board – the IMAC – would make recommendations as to levels of pay that would be sent to the president and, if then endorsed by him, would be subject to the approval of Congress. They would also do studies of the comparative effectiveness of different types of treatments. Does this sound like a euthanasia program to you?

4. There is also an email is circulating that makes all sorts of outrageous claims about the bills under consideration on health care reform – including many of the above claims – and pretends to cite the pages and lines of the bill that mandate what it describes. Like many of these viral email lists of lies, it relies on the laziness and gullibility of the American people – trusting that people will pass it on rather than check the truthfulness of the claims themselves. The email was pretty thoroughly debunked by Linda Bergthold, a health care policy consultant and researcher who has been working in the field for 25 years, and Politifact, an arm of the St. Petersburg Times that analyzes the truth of political statements.

A lot of this stuff is hard to believe – but as Bill Maher pointed out last week – if you let even stupidest arguments stand unchallenged, they will take root and destroy even one’s best efforts. Which is why I’m going to try to make a point of calling bullshit on these outrageous lies as they come by…and you should too…

[Image by criswell; used without permission, but hopefully he’ll respond and give it to me soon.]