Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dumbing Down The Healthcare Debate

My across-the-aisle colleagues at Hoosier Access have an interesting piece on the new political ad being run by Patients United Now to topple Obama's healthcare plan.

As an aside, I love the name "Patients United Now" because the name truly is a big PUN. This isn't a spontaneous group of patients who banded together. It's a front for Americans for Prosperity, which champions "the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint." How'd that regulatory restraint work for you in the housing sector, guys?

Anyway, the TV ad highlights that the healthcare bill is 1,017 pages, and it suggests that you ask your Democratic members of congress if they have read the bill. Some schmoe at Red State went further and advised you to take a video camera to a town hall meeting so you can pull a Mike Wallace. (Yeah, I know...the ad doesn't specify D or R, but the ad only ran on television in D house districts).

We in the Democrat camp thought we had the Republican Party on the run. It was even allegedly searching in pizza parlors for a coherent identity. But have no fear, elephant lovers! One thing R’s do better than D’s is craft sound bites and visuals that instill fear (though Democrats do have some quality moments on social security). This is a classic example.

You see, Republicans strategists know that (s)he who tells the shorter tale wins. On healthcare, Democrats will talk about how the insured pay more because uninsured use emergency room medicine instead of a cheaper primary care physicians, or how big pharma overcharges to cover the cost of run-amok ad campaigns for erection pills, or how private insurance costs twice what it should because we have to cover both record profits and administration costs that dwarf Medicaid and Medicare. Yes, you heard me right. As a percent of total costs, our government runs a massively more efficient healthcare program than the private insurance system.

But that’s all blah, blah, blah when compared to….THIS….

THUNK! (heavy-metal style echo effect after bill is dropped on table)

That's deathly effective. How can you NOT think massive government takeover when there's that much paper on the table?!? And how can a Democratic legislator who hasn't even READ the bill serve you or know about the super-secret provisions to turn us all into slave laborers? (Oh, I know! Slave labor is not in there, but almost nobody in America who doesn't work in politics has read the bill, so whatever evils Limbaugh says it contains, that’s what a lot of Republicans will believe).

Sorry, but this stunt is just dumb-down hucksterism. Engage me on the specifics about cost or on what you lose choice-wise under the “government plan,” Republicans, but don't leave it at, "Gaaaaallleeee, Goober! That shoooore is big!"

This is the worst kind of cynical, hypocritical "gotcha" politics, and I cringe when my own party does it.

The President has to sign a bill to make it a law. Does anybody REALLY think George W. Bush has read every law passed during his eight years? I'd bet all the money I have that he didn't even read the TITLES of all of them, let alone the abstracts prepared by his staff.

You see, what Big PUN and the insurance industry want is "the visual" of a legislator who "supports something (s)he hasn't even read!!!" This will help them kill the bill on things that have nothing to do with the merits (or demerits). This ad isn't trying to engage you in a philosophical debate on whether those who legislate and sign our laws should have to personally read every one of them because, if this were the standard, we wouldn't have enough Congressmen for a quorum.

I hope you all keep this in mind if you're contemplating dumbing yourself down (and catching it on video, no less).

Also, to the D members of Congress who read me, I know you won't do this, but wouldn't it be a heckuva daydream TO have this conversation:

R: "Have you read ALL 1,017 pages of the bill?"

C: "Have you? No?!?! What a shock! Then how about you shut the (expletive) up until you know what you’re talking about and quit taking talking points from a Republican leadership that’s in the pocket of big pharma and the insurance industry?!?"



Anonymous said...

So you're arguing that members of congress should be absolved from reading the bill because doing so plays into the hands of political manipulators?

I don't like politically-motivated "gotcha" stunts any more than you do. But on something this far-reaching and complex, I expect my representatives to read and understand every damn word of the thing (even Burton and Carson). I also expect them to educate themselves on possible alternatives and long-term consequences. If they fail to do so, they deserve all the ridicule they get.

IndyDem said...

This was great.. Its going on my face book page..

Chris Worden said...

Anonymous 10:07:

If you are saying this is the standard you are advocating for every proposed bill from here on - that every word must be read by the legislator or President - so be it. You will be disappointed to learn that NOBODY does this now.

But don't let PUN cheapen your deeper philosophical discussion by having it conveniently when they want to embarrass people to kill legislation that will take billions out of their members' hands.

I agree that legislators should know what a bill does, and they should know alternatives, but if they want to entrust a staff member to give them the straight dope and be responsible if they are wrong, how does that make them any worse than a CEO who doesn't read every page of every contract a company signs in a year. You don't think the company's lawyers can tell them what the contract does?

Maybe you think my analogy is off. If so, I still think we both can agree that if this is a legitimate principle for how we will be governed as a people, it's not issue-specific. You tell me....will PUN continue its crusade for good government after the healthcare debate?

Anonymous said...

Hoosier Access also has a piece written by Jackie Walorski (aka Lesbo biker hair) where she talks about the evils of Government healthcare.

What she forgets to mention is that she has no problem accepting money from Anthem and drugmakers. It's nice to see what it takes for her to stand up for something.

Anonymous said...

I don't expect every legislator to read every "naming of a post office" bill that shows up on the floor. I do expect every legislator to read and understand the ones that will have a profound and lasting affect on every American (i.e. health care, cap and trade). If it takes a staffer to explain it to the member, so be it. If he/she has to get it anotated in oversized type with all of the verbs highlighted and color diagrams after every paragraph, fine. If they need it set to music, swell.

I am familiar with legislators and their many operational problems and failings, but there is no worthy excuse for not reading and understanding legislation of this magnitude.


If failure to do so leads to the kind of embarassing "gotcha" moments politicians so fear and reporters so love, so be it.

Will PUN stick around to comment on other subjects of import when the health care debate ends? Probably not. Single-issue pressure groups - of whatever political bent - rarely do. And so what if they don't? There isn't a hole in the First Amendment umbrella over single-issue advocates - however grating their tactics may be.