Transcript #155

Part Three: Still 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 Economist,, CNN, The Nation magazine, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Globe and Mail (a Canadian newspaper), the CIA Factbook, USA Today and Reuters.


I usually try to vary the issues from podcast to podcast, but certain times you can't do that.  The health care debate is dominating radio, cable TV and the water cooler wars like nothing else. 


So here you'll get some new facts, hear some points made in prior shows amplified on, and see how to go on the offensive in your discussions.


Today's show stands on its own.  For the most comprehensive take on the entire health care debate, I strongly urge you to listen to podcasts 152 and 154 as well as today's.


Check out all three and you'll be armed and dangerous, figuratively speaking, to go verbally kick some right-wing butt.


To start things off, what would any episode of Blast The Right be like without one of Sean Hannity's patented misrepresentations of the truth?  Take a listen:


audio: Sean Hannity

[T]onight's universal nightmare segment is brought to you by the U.K.'s national health service.  A British man named Mark Watson visited this hospital to have his appendix removed.  Now, to his surprise, he returned to this very same hospital a month later with a ruptured appendix.  That's right, the first time around, the hospital actually didn't remove Watson's appendix, and when he went back the second time, he got an infection, which sent him back a third time, and the result?   He lost his job!

Now Watson told the Daily Mail: "I had a temporary job at a sports shop, but when I took in two medical certificates saying I had my appendix out twice, they didn't believe me.  I can barely walk, I'm in constant pain."

Don't worry, though!  A spokesman for the hospital had the following to say: "We would like to apologize if Mr. Watson felt dissatisfied with the care he received at Great Western  Hospital."

Well, that's comforting, isn't it?  Just think—in just a few short weeks, all Americans can be forced into a system just like that one. 

Hannity misleads his audience three ways here.  Did you catch them?


To start off with, he implies that the British system is rife with such medical errors, while ours isn't.


Yet many countries with universal coverage do far better than us in avoiding medical and surgical errors.


In fact, the best estimate is that 100,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors.


Next, Hannity says Americans will be "forced" into a different system.  Someone please buy Hannity a dictionary.  The word option, as in public option, means you choose whether to proceed along that path.  No one forces you to do anything.


Finally, Hannity says that what health care reform will give you is a "system just like that one."  Wrong.  The British system is true socialized medicine, nationalized medicine, where the government employs the doctors and owns the hospitals.  No one is proposing that for the United States.


The public option would be a choice to enter a "single payer" system.  That means you choose the private doctors and private hospitals you want, and the government pays the bills.  Medicare is a single payer system.  And we all know the horrors of Medicare.  Just ask any senior citizen.


(In case you don't know, Medicare is extremely popular among the 65-plus crowd).


Now here's a related point.  By showcasing the alleged faults of other systems, right-wingers are making the case that we have the best health care system.  Sometimes they make that case explicitly, proclaiming that we have the best health care system in the world.


Yet the facts are -- surprise, surprise -- otherwise.


Overall, experts analyzed various studies that compared national health care systems in developed nations.  The conclusion was, it's a


mixed bag, with the United States doing better in some areas, like cancer care, and worse in others, like preventing deaths from treatable and preventable conditions.

The bottom line was unmistakable. The analysts found no support for the claim routinely made by politicians that American health care is the best in the world and no hard evidence of any particular area in which American health care is truly exceptional.

What about the two bugaboos of the right, Canada and Great Britain?


In many areas, Canadians receive better care with better results and longer survival periods: renal dialysis, kidney transplants, childhood leukemia, colorectal cancer.


Bottom line: according to the CIA Factbook, hardly a liberal source, Canadians overall enjoy over three years longer life expectancy than Americans, and the Canadian infant mortality rate is far below ours.


And this is with Canada spending about half what we do per capita on health care.


Even in the horrible U.K., with true socialized medicine -- which to stress again, no one is proposing here -- even in the horrible U.K, British citizens on average live longer than Americans, and fewer U.K. infants per capita die before the age of one than do American infants.


And yes, the U.K. spends less than half what we do per person on health care.


Even that staunch supporter of free trade and free markets, the publication The Economist, felt compelled to admit that in many respects, the British system is superior to ours.


Hannity also claims the citizens of other nations are unhappy with their health care systems.  Yet in a recent poll, 87% of Canadians said their health care system is better than ours.  And whatever changes do need to be made, Canadians favor a public solution.


Over in Great Britain, the NHS, the National Heath Service is so popular, that the head of the British Conservative party felt compelled to proclaim that "Conservatives are the party of the NHS."


This was to counter the claims of a rogue member of that party on American television that the NHS was a 60-year-old mistake.  You can probably guess where on American television he made that claim.


Yup, on Hannity.


To sum this all up, the picture the right paints doesn't compute.  If these universal coverage systems were as presented by the right-wing, then it would be impossible for their citizens to live longer and for them to be having less infants dying than we do.  Their citizens should be dying in the streets.


Yet they actually do better than us by many measures.


As the situation now stands, it's the United States which has the lowest life expectancy, and the highest infant mortality rate, of any developed nation.


And these other countries often spend as little as half as much per person as we do.


Imagine if we had only half the money we did to spend on health care.  How bad would our system be?


And imagine if they had double the funds available.  They'd be making house calls with gold-plated MRI machines.


So any time a right-winger starts complaining about any other country's universal health care system -- "They don't cover this" and "They don't do that" -- about breast cancer treatments, for example -- you can point out that even if true, that's because they only spend half what we do per person. 


If they had double the money, our level of spending, they certainly would cover this and do that.  And a heck of a lot more, beyond what we do, given how much more effective they are in getting a bang from their health care buck.



OK, before a musical interlude is upon us, a few real quick rebuttals to some miscellaneous right-wing talking points:


Right-wingers claim the experience of Massachusetts is evidence of a universal coverage failure.  Not so.  A respected non-partisan research group concluded that the Massachusetts program has been a success, with the usual adjustments having to be made as with any new plan.


Related to that: Hannity often rants about how "Medicare is bankrupt, how can we trust the government with our health care?"  Reality check: In the last ten years, health insurance companies more than doubled  their premiums.  So the insurance companies massively increased their revenue stream.  Have Medicare taxes doubled?  No.  Have appropriations for Medicare doubled?  No.  As a listener wrote: "Medicare can only go bankrupt when Congress underfunds it." 


Another false claim: Democratic health care reforms will hurt small businesses.   Fact is, the vast majority of small businesses are exempt from the reform.  And the ones that are covered?  Both the Congressional Budget Office and a respected MIT researcher concluded they would not be hurt, and would likely benefit.


Lastly, Frank Luntz has been claiming doctor payments would be reduced, so you won't be able to get procedures done.  Luntz, as is so often the case, is wrong.  Payments actually are increased by the proposed legislation, which is why the AMA endorsed that aspect of the bill.


In a moment, perhaps the most absurd right-wing claim of all.  Stick around.





I have to tell you, I literally break out laughing at the absurdity of hearing right-wingers fashioning themselves as the defenders of Medicare against the evil Democrats, whose health care reform will destroy that program.


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.  The right called it socialism back then also.


The right used the same tactics in its opposition to Medicare.


In fact, this is, logically speaking, much ado about nothing. The right would have you believe that the new health care bill, once enacted, would be some kind of irresistible force, an un-changeable monster that would destroy Medicare.


I think a simple way to allay any senior fears is, to point out, that Democrats are the creators and multi-decade defenders of Medicare.  If the Democratic health care reform did somehow wind up hurting Medicare, Democrats would simply fix the law.


It's only Republicans who want to destroy Medicare.  More on that later.


Now, how about I talk to you a bit on the death panel front?  Which is what right-wingers term creation of advance directives and end-of-life counseling.


It turns out that a leading conservative Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson, actually himself put a provision in a bill that would set up a government program to pay for just such end-of-life counseling.


And until recently, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin supported people creating advance directives, which set guidelines for a person's  medical care if they're incapacitated or comatose.


How quickly the right changes its tune if it thinks it can score them political points.


What a shame, since studies show that end-of-life counseling actually produces longer life and more comfort.


Related to the right-wing death panel claim, is their assertion that the Democrats support a death book, which urges ill veterans to commit suicide.  Of course, the Veteran's Administration booklet in question does no such thing.


And contrary to what I heard Sean Hannity claim, George W. Bush didn't withdraw the booklet only to have Obama reactivate it.  The booklet was available throughout Bush's entire term.  But somehow the right didn't complain about it then.


You may have heard the right attacking Rahm Emanuel's brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel.  He's a special health care advisor to President Obama.  The right has taken a few words he's written -- where he's actually describing the views of others -- and made it seem that Dr. Emanuel favors denying care to the disabled.


Actually, his lifelong views are the opposite.  He's long been an opponent of euthanasia and assisted suicide.


How about we now get into a few examples of what I must label, honestly, right-wing imbecility?


One of my favorites is what the conservative Investor's Business Daily publication wrote:


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.

Hmm, only problem is, Stephen Hawking is a British citizen and has lived his entire life there!  And praises the care he's gotten.


Another jaw dropper is right-wing media stars proudly playing this 1961 clip from Ronald Reagan:


audio: Ronald Reagan

Write those letters now, call your friends and tell them to write.  If you don't, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow.  And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.  Until, one day, as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism. 

And if you don't do this and I don't do this, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America—when men  were free.

The cons are maybe kind of tone deaf since Reagan was here harshly advocating against a legislative forerunner of Medicare. 


Wait a minute, I thought the right is claiming to now be the protector of Medicare.


I'm confused. Mr. or Ms. Right-Winger, can you please help set me straight?


Moving right along here, we all know that watching Fox News makes you less likely to know the true facts. For example, 75% of Fox viewers, vs. only 30% of MSNBC/CNN viewers, are under the misapprehension that under Obama's health care reform, the government will be able to pull the plug on grandma.


But right-wing imbecility extends far beyond Fox viewers, apparently.  A new poll found that 39% of Americans believe the government should "stay out of Medicare."  Another 15% aren't sure.


So that means, over half the country doesn't know Medicare is a government program!


What an indictment this is of our schools and of our corporate mass media.  But it also makes you wonder, is our population just dumber than the population of any other nation on the face of the earth?


Do these people think Medicare is a private company?  Many of the 54% have to be elderly on Medicare.  Do they have memories of writing out and sending a premium check every year to some Medicare Corporation, Inc.?



Ok, here are two points raised by listeners.


David from Maine wrote in that he was told by some right-wing whippersnapper -- oh, the passions of youth -- that there aren't really 50 million uninsured, why over half are illegal immigrants.


I'd reply, fine, if the problem's so small, then it should be easy to fix, shouldn't it?


Beyond that, the actual numbers are these:


The best estimate is 47 million uninsured.


Some are only for part of a year, but tens of millions are uninsured for entire years, and almost 20 million have been uninsured for four straight years.


Of the 13 million young adults without insurance, most are not, as the right claims, those who can afford it but choose not to buy coverage.  The majority are lower income.


Same overall -- two-thirds of the uninsured earn less than the national median income.


Oh yeah, about the "illegals"?  About 6 million, one in eight of the uninsured, are undocumented immigrants.  Not half.  And they're not eligible for health insurance subsidies under the proposed legislation.


Another email: Jim from Bakersfield, California wrote in about right-wing criticism of the Democrats for not supporting a bill requiring members of Congress to sign up for the public option.


Jim correctly wrote that "it would be contrary to fundamental fairness to compel members who vote for a bill to participate in a plan which is optional for the rest of the country."


But he felt that still


the best publicity you could have for the bill would be to have the whole of the Democratic party sign up for the option and show the rest of America that there's nothing to fear.

I agree with both of Jim's points.


By the way, contrary to what the right is claiming, most polls still show more of the public supports a public plan option than doesn't, although the amount of support has declined over the months as right-wing propaganda takes its toll.


Up next: we'll conclude with some ways to take the offensive when speaking with your friendly local right-winger, and then take a look at the biggest picture.  Stay tuned.






I don't know about you, but I get awful tired of responding to one, after another, after another right-wing distortion, half-truth or outright lie.  So right off the bat, or if not then, whenever you get a chance, go on the offensive.  Let the right-winger be the one trying to disprove what you're saying.  And you know what, they won't be able to.


Here's some ammo to go on the offensive with.  Have at least two or three at your fingertips.


To start off with, here's a gentle one.  Ask your rightward leaning conversation partner, "Do you know the difference between socialized medicine and single payer?"


I guarantee you, most right-wingers don't.  Well, you explain it to them, and give Medicare as an example of single payer.


This may well establish a frame around your conversation that you know what you're talking about, that you understand some basic facts about the health care debate, and they don't.


Here's another: few right-wingers will be aware of the fact, that over 6 in 10 personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills.  And the vast majority of these people had health insurance, obviously inadequate insurance.


In other words, hundreds of thousands of Americans are forced into bankruptcy every year by the costs of their health care.


What is the right-wing solution to that?  Press for an answer.


You can then up the ante.  Ask them if they know that the United States is last among all developed nations in life expectancy.  Ask them if they know that we have the worst record as well in infant mortality.


They probably don't know either fact.  Then pose the question: how could we have the best health care system in the world, if our adults die younger and our babies die more often?


Mention that every developed nation that beats us, has universal health care.  And every one of those countries spends far less, often half as much, on health care per person as we do.


Again challenge them to tell you, how they propose to fix our obviously broken system.


You can, if you want, next translate all this into human lives.  Tell the right-winger


--that if our shamefully high infant mortality rate were as low as, say Japan's or Sweden's, 12,000 American children would live, not die, every year.


--that the national Institute of Medicine says 18,000 Americans die every year because of lack of health insurance.


--and that 100,000 Americans would live, not die every year, if our health care system did as good on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions, as the health care systems in countries like Japan, France and Australia. 


Does he or she care?  What does he or she propose to do about this?


Now the next step is, when the stammering right-winger starts spewing out platitudes like free market, tax credits, etc., tell them that vague platitudes don't cut it when people's lives are at stake. 


For example, how specifically will their measures cover the uninsured? The so-called free market is what got us into this mess.  Tax credits are irrelevant to low income workers who pay little or no federal income tax, and when health coverage can cost $12,000 plus for a family of four.


At this point, you may well feel inclined to deftly insert the ideological knife.


Tell them what Reagan said about Medicare back in 1961, that it was going to destroy all our freedoms.   Ask, was Reagan wrong about that, Medicare leading to a loss of all our freedoms?  If so, well then, isn't it possible, even likely, that current day right-wingers are just as wrong now, that a single payer public option will work out just fine?  That maybe even Medicare for all would be just peachy keen dandy?


On the other hand, if they insist Reagan was correct in opposing Medicare, then ask why their side is now posing as the defenders of Medicare against the Democrats.  The Republicans can't have it both ways.



Ok, this last point is the biggie.  Listen to Democratic representative Anthony Weiner of New York on Joe Scarborough's show:


audio: Rep. Anthony Weiner

Look, the problem that we have here, is that we're trying to jury-rig this system so that the insurance companies still continue to make healthy profits. Why?  What is an insurance company—they don't do a single checkup, they don't do a single exam, they don't perform an operation.

Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate.  Insurance companies take about $230 billion out of the system every year in profits and overhead. 

The real question is why we have a private plan.

The private insurance industry is really just a giant, Rube Goldberg-like payment mechanism, skimming as much as 31% off the top for administrative costs.


The government is very capable of creating and utilizing actuarial tables to figure out how much revenue has to be collected to pay for the number of claims expected to be paid out.


We don't need multi-billion dollar profits diverted from being used to provide actual health care, nor do we need huge bureaucracies devoted to denying claims and canceling policies, or huge advertising budgets, or payments of dividends to stockholders, or multi-million -- sometimes tens or even hundreds of million dollar -- compensation packages for CEO's.


Ok, this is an argument for national single payer, Medicare for all, for the entire system.  But how much more so does it apply to the necessity of at least offering a public option if we can't get full single payer now.


If it's your wont, you can always try a bit of humor.  Send the right-winger to the "One Million Strong Against Our Socialist Fire Department" website.


Reading from that site, a bit rearranged for clarity:


For too long now, fire departments across the United States have been SOCIALIST organizations, resulting in TAXES on the American people.

FACT: Most Americans never use the socialized services of the fire department.

We have the best fire departments in the world…but that doesn't mean that anyone (even non-US citizens) should be able to dial up and have fires put out…

It is time to open the fire department up to private industry. There are private companies (Halliburton, etc.) who could step in  tomorrow and take over every fire department in America and charge the consumer directly.


The serious point is, we have "socialist" fire, police, roads, public schools, water.  If citizenship entitles you to police, fire, roads, education and water, how is medical care to save your very life, less important or less appropriate?


Health care should be seen not as a privilege, but as a right, like it is in every other developed nation on the face of the earth.  Why are we so morally backward?


The ultimate problem is the multi-billion dollar profit health insurance industry that's grown up, and along the way so far successfully propagandized for its own continued existence.


I don't want my government designing and making iPods.  Apple does that far better.  But to repeat, health insurance companies do nothing more than perform a bookkeeping function.  The government will do it at least as well, and far, far cheaper.


You may be happy to hear, that there's starting to be some strong progressive blowback against the anti-public option forces.


Labor unions have warned Democrats they won't be supported by labor come next election, if they don't vote now for a strong public option.


Sixty progressive House Democrats signed a letter pledging that any health care reform bill without a strong public option won't get their support.


Rep. Weiner recently stated up to 100 Democrats would actually oppose any plan without a strong public option.


So let's finally, you and I, together with other progressives around the country, let's all together finally drag the right-wing into the 21st century.


You can go to for toll-free numbers, or, you can reach the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and the White House comment line at 202-456-1111.


It's getting close to now or never.



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