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Newsweek: Reform Protesters are Stupid Cowards

John on August 17, 2009 at 1:26 am

Sharon Begley believes there is no legitimate complaint with ObamaCare. None. If it weren’t for the fear and stupidity of Americans, we’d be welcoming it with open arms. It really is that simple for her:

Yes, you can learn that a reference in Mad Men to Fielding beer is an anachronism; the brand didn’t exist in 1962. But there is no interest group bent on convincing you that Fielding beer did exist then. In contrast, there is no shortage of groups, politicians, and just plain folks intent on proving that health-care reform will lead to, say, the rationing of medical treatments, and they all seem to have a Web site, blog, and/or Facebook page. Given that people who are sure that the U.S. government faked the moon landings (and that Obama was born in Kenya) can find support for their view online, how surprising is it that you can Google your way to “evidence” of all the evils of Obama-care?

Other health-care lies…

Got that? There is no evidence that nationalized health care leads to rationing only “evidence” (with scare quotes) picked up from blogs and Facebook pages run by nuts who believe we faked the moon landing.

And so, with this one broad swipe, Begley ignores all the articles by businessmen, doctors, politicians and economists — including some from countries that already have nationalized health care — warning that rationing is an inevitable result of the path we’re considering.

She frontloads the article, aptly titled “Attack!” with lots of talk about “death panels” and the irrational fear that generates them. Now it’s certainly true that there are no “death panels” in any bill under consideration and it may even be true that some protesters are reacting with fear that stems from a general unease with where the country is at this point in time. All of that was pointed out (in better prose) by Peggy Noonan last week. All Begley brings to the table is a patina of evolutionary science and a truckload of smugness.

But in doing so, Begley misses the deeper point. The so-called “death panels” have become a metaphor for both sides in this debate. For the left, they’re verbal shorthand for everything that’s wrong with the discussion on reform. For the right they’re a warning about what may be down the road if we take this fork.

You can say that’s irrational fear if you want to, but the history of large bureaucracies contains many examples of good intentions leading to horrible unintended consequences. For a lot of conservatives, it’s not that death panels are a part of any plan. They’re not. The problem is with the idea of turning health care over to planners at all, or more specifically centralized planners. That’s what this really comes down to…do you trust the government or not. Begley does. ObamaCare critics do not.

And, frankly, distrust in the government is only amplified by a President who travels the nation telling us we can add 45 million people to a medicare-type system without raising taxes, increasing the deficit or rationing care. Sorry, but it ain’t gonna happen and we all know it. Dishonestly like that from the top doesn’t engender confidence in top-down planners. On the contrary, it makes people suspicious. They know they’re being sold a bill of goods.

Mrs. Begley quickly adds a number of caveats to her blanket statement:

The best myths have a kernel of truth, and of all the health-care screeds, the most plausible is that reform will bring tens of millions of the currently uninsured into the system, making it even harder for you to get a doctor’s appointment…

Which brings us to outright rationing…This has much less plausibility than the longer-waits specter.

Wait a minute. She’s making longer waits and rationing into two distinct categories? Why should they be separate?

If under the current system I can get a hip replaced in 3-6 months, but under the new system it takes 12-18 months or longer, isn’t that exactly the type of negative patient impact most people have in mind when they say “rationing”? I think it is. I think it’s exactly the sort of thing they mean. But Mrs. Begley has something else in mind. Yes, you guessed it, when she says “rationing” she’s back to talking about death panels or something indistinguishable from them:

But it has emerged from confusion over a separate White House initiative: spending $1 billion to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for various diseases. Somehow that has morphed into cost (rather than medical) effectiveness. That is, bureaucrats will decide if it is worth treating you based on some calculation about the value of your life or health.

And Begley just leaves it at that. She never explains how this new comparative effectiveness program is going to actually work. She simply assumes that a billion dollar statistical study will make everything better for everyone. Such faith in progress would almost be charming if it weren’t so dangerously naive. Try googling “five year plan” and see how that turned out. Death wasn’t a part of their plan either, but it sure as hell worked out that way.

Perhaps comparative effectiveness will be a boon. Who knows? But it’s certainly also possible that the plan won’t go to plan. That, as Megan McArdle pointed out, the incentives will be all wrong. Begley doesn’t consider any of this, she simply trusts that it’ll all be okay.

Finally, to get an idea of the kind of piece this is, it’s worth pointing out that Mrs. Begley ends up lying herself. Here’s what she says:

Other health-care lies push the always-reliable hot buttons of sex, homophobia, nativism, and I’ve-got-mine-so-screw-you. Among them: under health-care reform, you’ll have to pay for people’s sex-change operations. (No such mandate exists in any of the Senate bills, or in the House bill.) It will cover illegal aliens, or, as a now viral post on a right-wing Web site put it, will cover “some baby making worthless immigrant [so she] can have her 5 brats.” (No illegals will be covered. But don’t worry: under today’s system, some of your insurance premiums do pay for their medical treatment, to the tune of $1 billion a year, because illegals are guaranteed emergency care in every state.)

If you do a Google search of that quote (minus the parens) you find exactly two hits. The first is Begley’s article itself. The second is a forum site I’ve never heard of called There you’ll find this page where a commenter calling himself Wildkitten wrote the following in response to an article about an amendment designed to prevent illegal aliens from using the new system:

Oh well when Grandma is denied her hip replacement while some baby making worthless immigrant can have her 5 anchor brats maybe someone will get a clue and load the gun.

I think we can all agree this is a repugnant sentiment in several ways. But, as I pointed out, this is an unknown commenter on a little known forum that hosts people from both the left and the right. It’s not a “right-wing website” (not all of it anyway) and this post most certainly hasn’t “gone viral” as Begley stated. According to Google, the only person who has repeated it on the entire internet is her. So either she doesn’t understand what “viral” means or she’s trying to slip in another cheap shot at protesters without any real support.

On her larger point, illegal aliens may not be covered, so why do Democrats continually (including Begley in this piece) refer to “45 million uninsured Americans” when 10 million of those people aren’t Americans. Shouldn’t the mantra be “35 million uninsured” instead? Democrats are happy to stretch the truth day after day but the moment we take them up on it, we’re hysterics.

So much for reason and honesty in this debate.

Begley does at least admit that the complaints about tax dollars going for abortions are genuine:

Health-care reform, House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote in an op-ed, “will require Americans to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars.” (The current prohibition against the use of federal money for elective abortion—not in cases of rape or incest, or where the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health—remains in place, and the House bill explicitly prohibits using federal money for abortion coverage. But the administration could decide to have a public plan cover abortion, and if the government subsidizes premiums for low-income people enrolled in private plans then, theoretically and indirectly, tax dollars could flow to abortion if the plan covers it.)

It’s a bit more clear cut than that actually. Under the house plan, every state is mandated to have at least one plan that pays for abortions. That much is policy, not irrational fear.

Begley’s piece is a shallow, dishonest attack on protesters which misuses science to lend credibility to a weak thesis. I suppose it’s a lot easier to lie and mock your opponents than it is to face their arguments. In the end, this article exemplifies many of the same, very human failings it was written to protest.

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Category: MSM & Bias, Politics |

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