Transcript #154

Part Two: More Of Answering The Right's Deadly Lies In The Health Care Debate


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



Your sources today include: the New York Times, the Associated Press,, the Washington Times,,,,,, and


This show is somewhat of a continuation of podcast 152.   There, you heard the facts about such false right wing claims as:


--the U.S. has the best health care system in the world
--universal coverage nations have long waiting lists compared to the U.S.
--Obama's plan is socialized medicine


Now we'll add to that by debunking several additional right-wing talking points.  You'll also hear an astounding display of mathematical illiteracy by one your favorite cable talk show hosts.


Even though today's show stands on its own, I suggest you listen to podcast 152 as well, if you haven't already done so.  The more verbal ammo you have, the better.


First up here, the role of government.


Progressives want a public option in any health care reform, to give every American the right to buy into a Medicare-type plan.  Progressives also want private insurance -- to the extent we can't have national single payer instead of all this -- heavily regulated.


Right-wingers oppose a government role in health care, like they oppose a government role in most everything else.


insert audio: Reagan

I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

What might be useful, when you're confronting the "keep the government out of health care" argument, is to point out, that the government is already in health care, big time.


One out of three Americans is covered by Medicare and Medicaid.  Millions of others are provided health care by government insurance programs for children, veterans and federal employees.


The federal government accounts for over one-third of all health care spending in the United States.


So the question isn't government or no government, it's how much more government, if any, is appropriate.


In case you're told, the public is angry and opposes a public option, just reply, wrong.  Several recent polls showed majorities ranging from 52% to 66% support a public option.  In only one poll was support below 50%, and then it was still a plurality.  True, the support levels have been dropping under relentless right-wing attack.  But the American people are still behind a public option.


If you ask, why is there such support for a public option, that leads us into the second point today.


You'll undoubtedly be hit with the right-wing claim about how unhappy the public is with health care the government is involved in, and maybe be told a supporting anecdote or two.


The right is wrong again.


The Commonwealth Fund did a poll comparing the experiences -- not the ideological talking points, but the actual experiences -- of elderly Medicare beneficiaries vs non-elderly adults covered by employer-based private insurance.


And guess what?


Medicare wins out.


The key findings are, and I quote from the report's summary:


Medicare beneficiaries are more satisfied with their insurance coverage.

Medicare beneficiaries report easier access to physicians.

Medicare beneficiaries are less likely to report not getting needed services.

Medicare beneficiaries are sicker and poorer but report fewer medical bill problems.

So, if people are happy with Medicare, a government program, that would hurt Republican efforts to denigrate Obama's health care reform, correct?  You might think so, but then, the right is, if nothing else, an often wily strategist.  And what they're doing, is using the popularity of Medicare against the Democrats.


The right's political ju-jitsu sounds like this:


audio: Frank Luntz

Sean, do you realize that they’re going to divert funding that was intended for Medicare to help pay for this health care takeover? 

I think if seniors saw this—and I’ve done a lot of work for seniors; I respect their contribution to American society.  But I think it’s wrong for money that was allocated to them to be diverted to this health care takeover. 

That was Republican wordmeister guru Frank Luntz.


His tone is kind of measured.


But what chutzpah.  His side opposed Medicare when it was enacted in 1965, and now is purporting to be its defender against the same Democratic progressive wing which pushed for and enacted it!


Getting more hyperbolic is the never-ceases-to-amaze-you, Dick Morris. He wrote "This healthcare reform proposal really is the repeal of Medicare."  Morris goes on about how we don't have enough doctors to cover everyone, so the elderly will be denied care, blah blah blah.  I addressed the bogus doctor shortage issue in podcast 152.


Beyond even Morris in outrageousness -- that is a word -- is the de facto head of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

People out of a certain age, with certain diseases, will be deemed not worth the investment and they will just -- as Obama said, they'd give them some pain pills and let them loop out till they die, and they don't even know it's happened. It will be rationed…

Again, what a joke.


The right has been opposing efforts to provide health care for all Americans ever since FDR first considered it and Truman formally proposed national health insurance in 1945.  As part of that, the right of course opposed Medicare as well.


Now they expect Americans to believe that they, the right, are the true defenders of Medicare, against the evil Democrats, who are the ones who want to destroy that program.


How bass-ackwards is that!


Medicare is an offspring of the New Deal.


Far from Limbaugh and the right wanting to protect senior citizens with Medicare, listen to what Limbaugh and the right really would like to do to such New Deal-type programs:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

Roosevelt is dead.  His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something about that as well.

If I may, let me draw an analogy.  The right complaining that the Democrats are going to destroy a health care program for the elderly, reminds me of when right-wingers complain that Hugo Chavez isn't doing enough to help the poor in Venezuela, or that he's hurting the poor there.  Right-wingers didn't say a word when Venezuela's poor were dying like flies from hunger and disease while a rich elite stole that nation's oil wealth.  But once Chavez starting redirecting most of the oil wealth to helping the poor and working class, then the right there claimed to be the defenders of the poor.


Just like the right here now claims to be looking out for the interests of the elderly on Medicare.  The right didn't care when, pre-Medicare, so many of our senior citizens lacked any health care at all.  No, but now, the right says it's sticking up for our senior citizens.  How stupid does someone have to be to swallow that?


Ok, up next, some more right-wing follies, of the deadly kind, from Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin.  Stay tuned.






Continuing on with the litany of right-wing lies, not only do they claim, as you just heard, that the Democrats will destroy Medicare and deny seniors needed health services, but that Democratic plans will actually encourage euthanasia, and force people to draw up plans for how they want to die.


Here are a few choice recent right-wing assertions, in order of increasing absurdity.


House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio:  The House bill "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia."


Former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey:


One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years ... about alternatives for end-of-life care.

A right-wing viral email:


On Page 425 of Obama’s health care bill, the Federal Government will require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end their own life earlier. Yes…They are going to push SUICIDE to cut medicare spending!!!

Finally, Laura Ingraham, like all right-wingers looking out for the elderly, offers those advanced in age some advice:


audio: Laura Ingraham

Is Mother Robinson still kickin' because after that hospice, those hospice comments, and now we've learned more about how they're going to push you all into hospices, I'm  telling you, if you're over the age of 65 and you have so much as a backache, I would keep it to yourself. All right? Keep the backache to yourself. If you've slept wrong on your neck, and, "Oh! I have a crick in my neck!" OK? Forget about it. Because you are about three steps away from the hospice chute. They're going to push you down that chute. If they can save a buck and then channel the money toward -- what? -- bailing out Planned Parenthood, they'll do that.

If you hear any of this ugly nonsense, here are the facts:


Under current law already, Medicare covers hospice care, and legislation passed in 1990 requires that "patients be asked if they have a living will."


And the proposed new legislation doesn't force anything in this realm on anyone.


A patient would be able to choose, have the option to consult with doctors to determine which life-sustaining treatments they would want, and to learn about so-called "end-of-life services," such as hospice care.


As the Associated Press put it, this is what would be paid for:


Advance directives lay out a patient's wishes for life-extending measures under various scenarios involving terminal illness, severe brain damage and [similar] situations. Patients and their families would consult with health professionals, not government agents, if they used the proposed benefit.

Even the AARP has called the right-wing allegations "flat-out lies."


How reprehensible and heartless is this right-wing line of attack.  Have you ever had a loved one facing an end-of-life situation?  This is the type of consultation you want to be able to have, to receive from professionals a clear understanding of what options are available.  


And you know what?  Reprehensible doesn't even begin to describe how Sarah Palin has twisted things even further.


Listen to what she wrote, and this is not a parody, and I'm not making this up:


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.”

Fox News, of course, is spreading the "death panel" falsehood.


Palin isn't a fringe right-wing blogger.  John McCain saw fit to put her within a heartbeat of the presidency. 


And thankfully, maybe the American public is really wising up to the fact that Palin is, essentially, either delusional, or a pathological liar who will say anything.


A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 67% of Americans don't want Sarah Palin ever to be President, compared to only 21% who do.


It's that 21% we still have to worry about.


More on them later.



Ok, with that under our belts, how about we zip through two talking point quickies before another musical interlude?


The right claims that the public option will have unfair advantages and wipe out private insurance, leading to a federal government takeover of the entire health care sector.


The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concluded recently that such was not the case at all.


The right will cite you some other studies that disagree.


All these various studies have different assumptions about how much lower the government public option premiums will be, and how many people will sign up for it.


I don't think anyone really knows for sure.


We progressives frankly hope that the public option does take over, so that the private insurance industry does wither away.  It wastes as much as 31 cents of every dollar on administrative costs, not to mention diverting additional monies from providing health care, to instead pay dividends to stockholders and huge salaries to executives.


But if speaking with a right-winger, you should point out the right has cited the CBO as the gold-standard on other health care issues, so they can hardly denigrate its conclusion here.


Last quick point for this segment, goes back to right-wing misrepresentation of public opinion.  For a major domo treatment of this on issues across the board, you should check out my three-part series, Reason to Cheer, podcasts  105, 106 and 108, for proof that the public is progressive, and increasingly so, on most social justice issues.


In the matter at hand, the right will claim, oh, the public never will support health care reform if it means raising taxes on the wealthy.


Wrong again, right-wingers.


Recent polls found substantial majorities of between 58 to 68% of Americans supporting increasing taxes on the wealthy in order to finance health care reform.


You can point out how wrong anyone asserting anything to the contrary, is.


In a moment, some more debunking of the right, including a clip of someone who must have skipped a grade school arithmetic class.


Stick around.






Here's one to make you shake your head in disbelief:


audio: Bill O'Reilly

Here are the letters.  Peter Gilles, Victoria, Canada:  "Has anyone noted that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?"

Well, that's to be expected, Peter, because we have ten times as many people as you do.  That translates to ten times as many accidents, crimes, down the line.

Love this online comment:


Holy crap. I understood the concept of proportion better than that when I was ten years old.

O'Reilly earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


I imagine he wasn't allowed to take a stats course there.  Didn't have the prerequisite of 4th grade math.


Enough of failed-in-fractions O'Reilly.


It's always good to be able to show right-wingers how often they project, cause they very problems they accuse others of being responsible for.


Ralph Nader recently did just that. He first points out that the American Medical Association opposed President Harry Truman's universal health insurance bill by claiming that a government run plan


would lead to rationing of health care, higher prices, diminished choices and more bureaucracy. The AMA beat both Truman and the unions that were backing the legislation, using the phrase "socialized medicine" to scare the people.

Then Nader goes on to deftly insert the knife:


Fifty-nine years later, "corporatized medicine" has produced all these consequences, along with stripping away the medical profession's independence. Today, the irony is that the corporate supremacists are accusing reformers in Washington of what they themselves have produced throughout the country. Rationing, higher prices, less choice, and mounds of paperwork and corporate red tape. Plus, fifty million people without any health insurance at all.

You can throw that one at your right-wing water cooler war opponent.


Next: All right-wingers are not Republicans.  We have some right-wing, or at least right-wing leaning Democrats in Congress as well.  This talking point is addressed at combating their influence.


Six Senate Finance Committee members, 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, together with seven House Democrats, part of the Blue Dogs, are wielding far disproportionate influence in the health care debate.  They threaten to torpedo such progressive essentials as a robust public option.


Commentator David Sirota did some math.  These obstructionist elected officials are mostly from small states and sparsely populated  areas.  Together, they represent only 4% of the population.  Yet they pose a risk to meaningful reform to the other 96% of us.


Another great point Sirota makes:


Census figures show that the poverty rates are far higher and per capita incomes far lower in the 13 legislators’ specific districts than in the nation as a whole. Put another way, these politicians represent exactly the kinds of districts whose constituents would most benefit from universal health care. So why are they leading the fight to stop—rather than pass—reform?

Sirota's question is rhetorical.  He knows the answer.  Because they're right-wingers, and don't represent the average person, but the super-wealthy and their corporate patrons.


Moving beyond the unfortunately outsize influence of these particular lawmakers, what about Obama himself?  Could he be thrown into that conservative Democrat barrel on this issue?


Check this out.  During the presidential campaign, Obama made a big deal about how Republicans forbid Medicare from negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies, and that Obama would undo that.  And that drugs should be importable from Canada, where they cost far less.


Then last week, an LA Times story reported Obama had made a deal with big pharma, and would not change the no-price-negotiations Medicare rule.  He'd be happy with the $80 billion in savings over ten years promised by the drug companies.  Never mind that such a promise is meaningless, and only a fraction of what could be saved through Medicare drug negotiations.


At first White House officials confirmed the deal.  Democrats in Congress promised to fight to overturn the agreement.  Feeling the heat, the Obama administration then backed away from the deal.


Keep your eye on this one.


Frank Rich's most recent New York Times column is entitled "Is Obama Punking Us?"


Obama better pay attention to his progressive base.



On that cheery note, let's conclude with some speculation.


What's going to happen?


Well, there's always the chance that the Blue Dogs will start marching to a higher calling, as this letter writer to the New York Times requests:


I would like to ask these freshman Democrats whether they would rather serve two years and get historic, once-in-a-lifetime health care reform that will benefit tens of millions of Americans passed or if they would like to serve 30 years and still be dealing with this issue in their 15th term when the country will be bankrupt paying for health care for fewer and fewer people.

I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Yet, even hard-core health insurance execs have had moments of epiphany.  You may have heard of Wendell Potter, whistle-blower extraordinaire.  He was head flack for a major private insurer, when he came across a medical aid charity group conducting one of its health clinics not in some Third World country, but in the town of Wise, Va.   Thousands of Americans were lined up for free checkups, surgeries and dental care.  In animal stalls.  The site shook him and he quit his job and started blabbing.


That clinic actually is actually visiting locations all over the country. Maybe send a Blue Dog delegation to see it.


Some analysts point to divisions within the insurance industry.  Maybe they do exist to some extent, but overall, as always, it's going to be the united, moneyed interests vs. everyone else.  Along those lines, the media watchdog group FAIR just laid out the interlocking boards of directors of media, insurance and pharmaceutical companies.


To make things even more difficult, there is amazing ignorance abounding.


You may have heard about the man at a town hall meeting who proclaimed "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."


At another town hall meeting of a Texas Democrat, almost all anti-Obama attendees agreed with a fellow activist that they "oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care."  Then Representative Gene Green asked how many were on Medicare.  Almost half raised their hands.


It's because the right knows that the truth will kill them and deplete their ranks, that they're forced to make up lies like the ones you heard about repealing Medicare and encouraging euthanasia and creating death panels for Down Syndrome infants.


It's why this type of memo is being circulated by organizers of town hall protests, and from news reports, obviously being implemented.  This battlefield instruction reads in part:


– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.

Not have an intelligent debate.  Doesn't that say it all?


I must say, an upbeat assessment does come from Jamison Foser, whose columns I regularly read at


Speaking about angry town hall attendees: Ignore them… A dozen people shouting at a town hall meeting -- even a dozen people shouting at each of a hundred town hall meetings -- just doesn't tell us anything meaningful about public opinion. It tells us that there are at least few thousand angry people, and that they're organized. We already know that.

Look: Sarah Palin drew big crowds last year -- and a lot of those people were angry. They yelled, they held up nasty signs, and they convinced a lot of the media there was some huge groundswell of opposition to Barack Obama. Then he went out and won North Carolina and Indiana.

Ok, fair enough.


But still.


I think Christie Harvey, Director of Strategic Communications at, nailed it on the Thom Hartmann show.


She also brought up those hateful crowds at Palin campaign speeches, and went on to say that the right is, and I quote approximately here, "once again surfing on an underswell of hatred, tapping into something very deep, something very ugly, something that isn't going away."


You and I, we progressives, aren't going away either.  I'm in the fight for the long haul.  I  hope you are, as well.



Podcast Home Page