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How to pick the worst possible health care examples

Most of us know the propaganda technique called “The Big Lie” (which, as Hitler put it, is a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”.)

But I think that the health care debate has gotten to The Even Bigger Lie, which is a lie so stunningly huge that it sucks all the intelligence out of anyone who sees or hears it, a lie that cannot be disputed because it is self contradictory. A lie that you are afraid to dispute, because arguing against it repeats the lie and makes more people believe it, even though it is flagrantly unbelievable.

Case One: Investor’s Business Daily runs an editorial comparing Obama’s health care proposals to the British health care system (which itself is silly, since Obama is not proposing that we nationalize our health care system like the British did). They are trying to claim that getting the government involved in health care will put the government in the position of deciding who “deserves” health care (again silly, since the US government is already heavily involved in our health care, especially if we are in the armed forces, on Medicare, or Medicaid).

But their even bigger lie is when they say:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Of course, Hawking was born in the UK, and has lived most of his life in the UK, under exactly that health care system where he “wouldn’t have a chance”.

Case Two: Sarah Palin writes:

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. Such a system is downright evil.

As one blogger puts it:

There is so much crazy here that it’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, if Palin weren’t already on a government health care program, she would find it impossible to get health insurance for Trig, since Down Syndrome is a pre-existing condition. Read the National Down Syndrome Congress’ position on heath care reform.

Second, why the hell is Palin dragging her family into the discussion yet again, just after attacking the media for dragging her family into the discussion?

Third, none of the bills working their way through Congress, nor anything Obama has proposed, has anything like “death panels” in it. Conservatives are claiming that in order to cut costs, the government will have to “ration” health care to decide who deserves it. But the big lie they are ignoring is that for-profit health insurance companies have a much bigger incentive to cut costs, which they already definitely do with a vengeance.

Palin warns that the people who “will suffer the most” when the government “rations care” are the “the sick, the elderly, and the disabled.” The exact opposite is true. It is the private insurance industry, not the government, that excludes the sick, the elderly, and the disabled. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and it makes no economic sense for them to cover people who are likely to incur enormous health care costs over their lifetimes. Good luck trying to purchase private health insurance if you’re old, sick, or disabled.

And of course, if you are elderly, you are already on Medicare for this very reason!

And finally, how hypocritical is it of Palin to scare people with threats of a death panel, when during her (shortened) tenure as governor, Alaska’s Medicare and Medicaid elder care program was so incompetent that 250 elderly people died waiting for services. No other state had similar problems, and it got so bad that the federal government had to step in and force Alaska to make necessary improvements.

The PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter gave Palin’s statement a rating of Liar liar, pants on fire. But of course, none of this stopped Newt Gingrich from agreeing with Palin.

I have to agree with Ron Reagan (Ronald’s son) on his great response to this one:

UPDATE: Stephen Hawking responds to the claim that if he were English (which he is) he wouldn’t stand a chance because with his handicaps he would be considered worthless. According to Hawking: “I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.”

UPDATE 2: Now Senator Chuck Grassley has come out agreeing with Palin on the whole “death panel” lie. Since Grassley is intimately involved in working on health care reform bills, he should know better.

UPDATE 3: Donklephant discovered that in April 2008, Governor Sarah Palin endorsed the same end-of-life counseling that she now calls “death panels”. I guess this is not too surprising, given her flip-flopping on the Bridge to Nowhere and other issues.



  1. starluna wrote:

    Actually, I think the IBD is right about the government being in a position to determine who deserves health care. The entire point of health care reform is premised on the idea that everyone deserves access to health care.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 6:55 am | Permalink
  2. Another hypocrisy is that we *already do* ration health care, but the rationing is merely based on one’s immediate ability to pay (or one’s family’s ability to pay, if one even has a family member with insurance).

    One of the elephants in the room is that we *do* and *will* ration health care. We do already, we will after reform: there’s simply no cost effective way to give absolutely everyone absolutely the best of everything. (If anyone thinks there is, I have a pet Unicorn out back that I’m selling.)

    Denying that we do ration health care is one of the other big lies. We need to face that rationing occurs, and we need to take control of that process. Such rationing should occur with (at least) some degree of reasonable thought and following guidelines that (at least) somewhat promote our culture’s goals and our best qualities: and this ration process shouldn’t enable interlopers to collect graft for themselves off of the system.

    I would much rather a bureaucratic “death panel” that uses reason and follows guidelines that reflect who we are, rather than the happenstance of wealth and the graft of the insurance companies.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    I think the other point that nobody mentions is that no matter what kind of health care reform we get, the rich will ALWAYS be able to get whatever health care they desire. No “death panel” (not that there will ever be one like what Palin describes) will EVER declare that Trig cannot have any treatment. The absolutely worst thing they could do is say that the government will not PAY for a treatment. Anyone who has the money can always choose to pay for treatment themselves — either by paying for it directly, or by having some fancy insurance coverage that pays for it.

    Which is exactly what they do now. In other words, in any health care reform scenario, you will always be at least as well off as you are now (you can get any treatment you want if you can pay for it).

    Why do (rich) conservatives hate America so much?

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  4. K!M wrote:

    where can I apply for a position on said “death panel”?

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  5. Sammy wrote:

    1. Giving two and a half minutes (including intro and outro) on this subject is worthless.
    2. At least CNN gives two sides to the issue, so I’ll give them that.
    3. Palin may indeed be a clown, but I thought liberals were trying to stay above the name-calling. Hannity thanks you for the soundbite.
    4. The disingenuous, extreme examples given by both sides of this debate are clouding the issues and making this topic a joke. While I’m more inclined to believe the left’s argument than I am the right’s, I think there’s enough misinformation to go around. And I’ll give anyone $100 to their $1 that whatever bill floats through Congress will have enough non-healthcare related attachments to the bill to bloat it beyond recognition. Because that’s what they do.

    If you sense my distrust of our legislators, liberal AND conservative, you’re right.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  6. Daniel Habtemariam wrote:

    Well done, Iron Knee. What aggravates me most about all this is how dumbfounded (and almost paralyzed) I feel at the stupidity of these claims.

    Lies about Canadian dissatisfaction with their healthcare system (or Britain, or any other country, for that matter).
    Lies that this’ll inevitably mean a government takeover of healthcare (what does that even mean? i don’t everyone thinks the same thing when they read this).
    Lies, lies, lies,…

    At least the libertarians have the intellectual integrity to just come out and say it:
    “how about taking responsibility for yourself and paying for it on your own instead of making other people? health care in the US is not perfect (very, very good but not perfect) and stealing from one group to give to another group is not going to help anyone.”
    I don’t agree with them, but they get my respect for leaving out all the BS and just saying, “you’re on your own.”

    The one that I will give them is that having a public option will likely _in the long run_ lead to a single-payer system. The same way that public schools and public universities over time came to overtake private Christian schools and universities in enrollment. Unless they weaken the public option with strict regulations on who’s allowed in, people will act in perfectly rational free market fashion and get the better bang for their buck.

    @Sammy. I can understand where your coming from, but you’re not being very constructive, and your points haven’t been articulated very well.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  7. starluna wrote:

    The Boston Globe did a somewhat good job debunking some of the myths today.

    Daniel – I would challenge the claim that public schools overtook private schools – at least not everywhere. Here in MA, it is in the state’s constitution that it will provide education to everyone. And yet, there are more private colleges and universities here than almost anywhere else in the country. I’m not sure on the number of private/religious K-12 schools, but based on how many of my colleagues and neighbors have put their kids into one, I believe it’s quite a healthy market. I believe the relative difference in enrollment in private schools is a result of their own admissions policies, not because of less demand.

    With that said, I agree that the public option may eventually lead to a (mostly) single payer system. I will admit I am fine with that. It make better fiscal sense and in my experience, I’ve had much better experience with publicly provided public goods. My state college gave me a much better education than either of the so-called prestigious private universities where I obtained my graduate degrees. One of these private schools did not participate in the Direct Loans program. All loans had to go through one of the private lenders. My experience with these private lenders has been nothing short of horrid. I was one of the first to take advantage of the consolidating all of them into the federal program when they made that available. It wasn’t about the costs as much as it was about the experience.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 6:16 am | Permalink
  8. Sammy wrote:


    I’m not sure how I wasn’t articulate. I’m sure I didn’t stutter or use poor grammar.

    This is a political hypocrisy blog written by an independent moderate with whom I share a lot of political philosophies. I found Ron Reagan’s name-calling to be hypocritical. I also found the 2:30 CNN news piece to be worthless and pointless.

    And it is my belief (yes, admittedly very cynical) that our entrenched politicians who live within the parameters of a corrupt, special-interest driven system, do not have within their power to create any legislation that is not laden with wasteful spending that serves only one interest: their own re-election.

    That said, yes, I do believe our healthcare system is totally messed up and needs an overhaul. And yes, it has been discussed to death for who-knows-how-many years. But it does nobody any good to hastily create a 2,000+ page document and then demand that it be voted on within three weeks.

    Those are beliefs, not facts. This is a blog site, not a news site.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sammy, while I agree with many of your points, they would be stronger if you backed them up with concrete examples (even personal ones), or link to articles backing them up. Otherwise, your points come off as more name calling, which is what you were objecting to Ron Reagan doing.

    In case I’m not clear, I’m not trying to shut you down, I want to encourage you. I think it is important to have many different viewpoints in here, and your viewpoint is definitely a valid one. I’d just like you to make your points more effectively, so you don’t sound like other people who are just repeating talking points.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  10. Sammy wrote:

    Fair enough. 🙂

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  11. Sammy wrote:

    Wait, I can’t make up my own talking points?

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  12. Sammy wrote:

    I’ve stated that I’m skeptical of both sides of the health care argument and at least two of you have disliked my rhetoric not backed by concrete examples. Well, here’s a link to a CNN report that calls out lies/distortions from the left and right. I do like the Moderate Voice blog site, except that it’s often very dry and devoid (or is it void) of any humor and there is a lot there to absorb:

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Business Daily said that people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t stand a chance under a nationalized health care system. Heck, this is a guy who fifty years ago was diagnosed with […]

  2. […] course, Chuck Asay jumps on the “death panel” bandwagon, even though it has been completely debunked. I was even tempted to change the label “Nanny Gov’t” to “Insurance […]

  3. […] Investor’s Business Daily ran an anti-reform editorial claiming that “scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the […]