In an interview with TIME's Karen Tumulty published Wednesday, President Obama expressed a certain amount of bewilderment on the issue of health care reform. The case for reform is so damned obvious, so why is it such a tough sell?
And I will say that this has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life, trying to describe in clear, simple terms how important it is that we reform this system. The case is so clear to me. And when I sit with our policy advisors — we had somebody here sitting right there this morning who is a medical expert, worked at McKinsey for a while, he's now working on our health care team — and he just ran through: We pay 77 percent more on prescription drugs, we're paying $6,000 more per individual on health care than any other industrialized nation; here's all the failures in the delivery system that account for it. It's not just because we are somehow more obese or more unhealthy. It turns out actually we're a little bit healthier than most of these other countries because our smoking rates are lower and we're younger. So we should actually be paying less than they are.
And when you just start hearing the litany of facts, what you say to yourself is this shouldn't be such a hard case to make, because the American consumer is really not getting a good deal.
People are getting screwed -- in many cases, literally to death -- by the current system, people know they're getting screwed, yet this isn't the slam dunk it should be. As I pointed out yesterday, the people are with Obama on the broad strokes -- the elements of his plan are easily the most popular. Even considering early mistakes in managing the reform project, Obama should be leading the debate.
I've often said that democracy works because most people are smart. Given a choice between two options, people will almost always make the right choice. But this is only true if everyone's information is correct. If enough people misunderstand an issue, they'll make the wrong choice because they're operating on bad information. If the map you hand out is wrong, the only people who'll show up for your barbecue are the ones who already know where you live.
And no one is better at screwing up the maps than the Republican party. Invading Iraq, for example, was popular because they managed to convince everyone (with the help of an amazingly compliant media) that Saddam Hussein had a death ray and was itching to use it. We were misled into war.
Think back to the presidential campaign. For McCain/Palin, the issues weren't the economy or the war, the issues were whether Barack Obama was a terrorist, a black radical, or both. And they managed to convince a lot of dopes to vote based on these made-up issues -- not enough to win, but still an alarming percentage. This anti-information campaign is still being waged by the birthers. Once mistaken, there seems to be a significant number of Americans who will refuse to be corrected.
And so, when the chips are down, we can count on Republicans to lie -- baldly and shamelessly. It's just what they do. Throughout this debate, Republicans have lied about it, with the biggest lie so far being that Barack Obama wants to control health care costs by killing off the elderly.
At issue is a provision in one of the health care reform bills that provides coverage for meeting with a doctor to discuss end of life care. Once every five years, you'd basically be allowed to either write or update a living will with the help of your doctor, who would be paid with health insurance money for their time.
This provision prompted N. Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx to warn that the bill would allow the government to kill people. Foxx claimed that the Republican plan -- which at this point doesn't actually exist -- will "bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."
The GOP's fantasy plan won't execute senior citizens. Good to know. It's not much of a sales pitch -- "This car isn't designed to kill you" -- but of course that's not the point. Like the McCain/Palin campaign, they're finding that they have no case to make for themselves, so the make the case against Obama. Who cares if it's true?
Proving that there's no lie so shameful and awful that a Republican would be embarrassed to repeat it, Foxx's lie is being repeated over and over. "This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia," house minority leader John Boehner agreed. Of course, right wing media has grabbed this and run with it. If this lie doesn't work, then they'll start saying that Barack Obama will personally come to your house and shoot you.
What should be an easy case to make is being undermined by ridiculous lies. If Barack Obama -- and the rest of us, for that matter -- wants to find solice here, it's in the absurdity of the lie. The more desperate the situation, the more desperate and wild are the lies. Republicans know this battle is hurting them just as much as it's hurting Obama -- polls confirm that. Where Obama has some room to fall, the GOP does not. At this point, their only hope is to make Obama's failure more spectacular than their own and they're willing to lie to you to see that things pan out that way.
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