Health Care Vote Post-Game Show: The
Right-Wing Is Down, But Not Out (And Lying Even More Than Usual, If That's
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For all sources, see the data
Your sources today include: the New
York Times, the Associated Press, mediamatters.org, the Nation magazine, the
Washington Post, and the website of the Congressional Budget Office.
Consider this the post-game show to
the just-finished round of the health care debate.
A bill was passed, but the long-term struggle will continue.
Many more rounds to go.
I'll start off by sharing with you
three terrific letters to the New York Times.
They'll provide a springboard to discuss the broader context, including
where we go from here.
Be sure to stick around until the
end, because I have some killer poll information for you later on that you
probably haven't heard about, but will wish you did!
Here's the first letter:
Those who voted against
this historic legislation should be forewarned. They may have scored easy, even
cynical, political points by opposing passage of a comprehensive and expensive
health care bill. But 10 years from now, health care will be considered another
bipartisan sacred cow, universally popular.
Forty years from now, the
opponents of this bill will be remembered in the same vein as the opponents of
the Social Security Act and the Civil Rights Act. I would not want to be in
their historical shoes.
Not just remembered in the same vein
-- understood to be the very same people doing today just what they did back
then. It was right-wingers who
opposed the Social Security Act and the Voting Rights Act.
And also most germanely here, they fought against Medicare as well.
Listen to what the right-wing icon Ronald Reagan had to say
in 1961 about a legislative forerunner to Medicare:
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.
Sound familiar to the current
right-wing scare talk? You can
remind your conservative friends about the ridiculous warnings they issued about
Medicare. Didn't turn out quite like
they predicted, did it?
In a related vein, you may have heard
that one of the ways the right is continuing their fight, is to challenge the
health care legislation as unconstitutional.
state Attorneys General, all but one Republicans, filed
seven minutes after Obama signed the legislation.
Right-wingers in the 1930's and
1960's also filed suits against Social Security and the Civil Rights Act when
they were passed.
Speaking of the suit against Obama's
health care reform, Jack Balkin, constitutional law professor at Yale, said:
The attack on this bill is
not merely an attack on the substance of this particular measure. It’s also a
challenge to understandings that come with the New Deal.
Yes, this is all part of the right's
efforts to destroy the New Deal. Doubt
that? Listen to Rush Limbaugh:
audio: Rush Limbaugh
Roosevelt is dead.
His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something
about that as well.
One claim in the current court action
is that the insurance mandate is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress's
power under the Constitution's Interstate Commerce Clause.
Yet a right-wing leader like Newt Gingrich included
such a mandate in his own insurance proposals.
But if Democrats do so, go to court!
Most legal scholars, including some
conservative ones, believe the present-day right-wing lawsuit will fail, just
like the right's prior legal challenges to Medicare and the Civil Rights act
Ok, on to the second letter:
I cry tears of joy for
those who will be treated and cured as a result of this legislation. But I
quiver and quake for those who are left in limbo between now and the proposed
enactment date of 2014 for the major expansion of coverage. What of them?
…We cannot ignore
them… [W]e must realize that but for a turn of fate they could be us.
This not taking effect until 2014 is
definitely something we progressives should work hard to get moved up.
I mean, what exactly is the reason for this long delay?
I hear about, oh, it takes time to set up the bureaucracy, formulate
rules, etc etc etc. Bull.
The most recent estimate was that 45,000
Americans die every year from lack of health insurance.
They don't have access to preventive health care, diagnoses are made too
late to be effective, follow up treatment is skipped because unaffordable.
Four more years would be another 180,000 dead Americans.
Sixty 9/11's. Plus how many
more hundreds of thousands, millions of people suffering unnecessary misery and
This delayed date isn't the only
thing that demands our immediate attention.
There will still be 23
million people uninsured in 2019.
Even if we can't get single payer,
Medicare-for-all-type health care now, at least make this private
insurance-based reform, cover everyone. 23
million people without insurance will result in 23,000 unnecessary deaths each
year. That's unacceptable.
And if a right-winger tells you,
"Oh, most of these are illegal immigrants," then reply: "OK, but
9 million aren't. That would still
be about 9,000 premature deaths of American citizens each year.
Is that OK with you?"
Unfortunately, to many right-wingers,
that would be perfectly OK. And would fit in perfectly with a whole
philosophical doctrine they've created to justify their callousness and greed,
and the suffering it causes. Which
we'll get to in a moment. Stay
How about one more letter?
Congratulations on a
historic moment in your society. This reform was long overdue: as a Canadian I
was dumbfounded by a country as wealthy and prosperous and innovative as the
United States that discarded so many. For us, universal health care is as
inalienable a right as your right to bear arms.
This is not about
big-government intrusion as the Republicans would have it; it is about the
well-being of human beings…
"It's about the well-being of
human beings." Well, isn't that
a novel concept? Totally alien to
right-wingers. Right-wing plans that
purport to help people, don't.
When George W. Bush presented his
health care legislation with much fanfare, a bit of analysis was done.
The White House was forced
that only about 1 in 10 people who were uninsured would be helped.
Not a real great effort, George.
How about current GOP
"proposals" for health care reform?
Well, in case you didn't hear, according to the Congressional Budget
Office -- whose analyses the right-wing has been touting when critical of the
Democratic proposals -- according to the Congressional Budget Office, the GOP
plan would leave
the same percentage of Americans uninsured in 10 years, as now.
And the right-wing continuously yells
about tort reform, let's cut back on fraudulent malpractice lawsuits.
Yet again, the CBO found
right-wing tort reform is enacted, only $9 billion a year would be saved, less
than ½ of one percent of our national health care expenditures.
Worth saving, but hardly any major
part of the solution to a health care crisis hurting tens of millions of
I'm going to play you a one minute
phone call from the Thom Hartmann radio show.
To me, this was the best phone call ever!
audio: Thom Hartmann,
caller Caleb in Portland
This whole debate about the health care thing...1959, research by Russell
Church, looking at empathy in rats. Are
you familiar with this thing?
It turns out you train a rat to press a little lever to get food, OK?
So the little rat's pressing a lever but it notices in the cage next to
it, every time it presses the lever, it shocks another rat.
I am familiar with that research.
So then the rats don't do that—because they have empathy.
That's right. The rats would
actually starve themselves rather than shock another rat.
If rats can learn this, can't Republicans learn this?
[laughter] I'm not sure!
[laughing] I'm just not sure, Caleb…
I love it! "If rats can learn
this, can't Republicans learn this?" Would
you dare toss this line at your friendly local right-winger, next time he or she
exhibits some unwarranted recalcitrance?
I checked: there was
indeed such an experiment:
No one can say whether
giraffes and lions experience moral qualms in the same way people do because no
one has been inside a giraffe's head, but it is known that animals can sacrifice
their own interests: One experiment found that if each time a rat is given food,
its neighbor receives an electric shock, the first rat will eventually forgo
Right-wingers actually have less
morality than rats. Why do I say
Just think about it: we're not asking
right-wingers to starve to avoid hurting others.
We're only asking that they not be so greedy, that they be happy with
mere millions, that they not need tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of
wealth, to be satisfied.
You see, when a small number of
people -- those who are in control, set the rules, award economic benefits --
when these people direct a greater and greater share of the national income to
themselves, when they amass gargantuan, ever greater levels of wealth --- well,
there's just not enough left for the rest of the population to get by.
For example, since 1980, the highest
earning 1% of the population has nearly
its share of the national income pie, and vastly increased its wealth.
It's so extreme at the very top, that, get this (and I double checked to
make sure this is accurate): a few
years ago, and it's probably still pretty much the case, the richest 400
families in this country had
as much wealth as the entire bottom half of the nation, 57 million families,
400 as much as 57 million.
Rats will starve themselves to avoid
hurting a fellow rat, but right-wingers won't get by on a little less so that
other people can get by at all.
I really must ask you: are
right-wingers evolutionarily-challenged, a bit behind the curve on the road of
Consider this: in an experiment,
people were asked to think about two alternative scenarios: giving a sum of
money to charity, or, keeping that money for themselves.
Their brains were scanned. The
[W]hen the volunteers
placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a
primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex.
Altruism, the experiment suggested, was...basic
to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable…
…[M]any aspects of
morality appear to be hard-wired in the brain, most likely the result of
evolutionary processes that began in other species.
Are right-wingers lower on the
evolutionary scale, they don't have that hard-wiring that makes generosity
pleasurable? Perhaps this is why
they're perfectly happy to repeatedly cause increased human misery, suffering,
pain and death with their "destroy the social safety net,"
Even beyond that
-- and if you remember this, you are a long-time listener to Blast The
Right -- in one of my first podcasts, I argued that right-wingers display a
signature characteristic of sociopaths: a lack of empathy towards others.
A lack of empathy allows sociopaths to, without a qualm, kill and maim
and cause untold suffering to others.
Could anything describe the
right-wing more perfectly? I mean,
when George W. Bush says he's going to solve the health care crisis, then puts
forth a plan that doesn't help 90% of those that need help, what else could be
at work, other than that, he just doesn't care about his brother and sister
When current-day right-wingers
propose a heath care reform plan that leaves the same percentage of Americans
uninsured in 10 years as are now, what else could be at work?
Letting 45,000 Americans die needlessly every year from lack of
preventive care, late diagnoses, and inadequate treatment -- that's OK,
perfectly fine, don't worry about it.
No one nailed
the right-wing better than the noted late economist John Kenneth Galbraith when
The modern conservative is
engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the
search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
Developing elaborate theories to
justify your own selfishness and lack of empathy towards others, that in itself
is sociopathic, isn't it? A
And there is one!
It's called Social Darwinism.
You could look it up, as the expression goes.
Social Darwinism teaches
that the poor are poor because they're unintelligent, lazy and immoral.
The rich are rich because, of course, they possess the opposite virtues.
The rich are smart, work hard and act with great morality.
The policy implications are, that if
we allow the rich to become more rich, their virtue will increase.
Helping the poor is morally wrong because that would induce them to
worsen their bad habits.
Here are two contemporary
right-wingers, expressing the Social Darwinism credo, in all its sociopathic
Radio talk show host Bill Cunningham:
audio: Bill Cunningham
The reason people are poor
in America is not because they lack money, it's because poor people in America
lack values, character, and the ability to work hard.
The inimitable Bill O'Reilly, shortly
after Hurricane Katrina left residents of New Orleans stranded on their
rooftops, crying out for help:
audio: Bill O'Reilly
Every American kid should
be required to watch videotape of the poor in New Orleans and see how they
suffered because they couldn't get out of town.
And then every teacher should tell the students, "If you refuse to
learn, if you refuse to work hard, if you become addicted, if you live a gangsta
life, you will be poor and powerless just like man of those in New
Enough dealing with right-wing
sociopathy. My skin is beginning to
crawl. Hope you're OK.
In a moment, some analysis with a strong political bent.
In this last segment, let's focus
mostly on some politics-oriented analysis.
One way to look at the health care
reform bill is how the headline of an article
on commondreams.org put it:
Dems Reap All the
Red-Baiting Pain with None of the Socialist Gain
In other words, Democrats didn't pass
a single payer system, or even a plan with a public option.
They gave the private insurance companies 30 million new customers.
Yet Republicans still succeeded in establishing in a not insignificant
part of the public's mind, that Democrats were socialists who had shoved a
government takeover of health care down the country's throat.
So since Democrats will be branded
socialists no matter what they do, they should go for broke in the future, and
pass a Medicare-for-all type program. Whatever
short term opprobrium they suffer, will be more than compensated for by the fact
that as with Medicare itself, the public will come to love the Medicare-for-all
scheme and credit Democrats for generations, for it.
It's also possible to look at the
health care legislation's bright side.
I, for one, can't but remember how
recently it was, that the concept that all Americans should have health care as
a right, was not very widely accepted. Now
it is, and is the philosophical underpinning of the bill -- even if the way the
bill attempts to achieve that goal, falls woefully short.
Also, the health care bill can be
seen as a Robin Hood-type measure.
Here's David Leonhardt writing
in the New York Times:
…The bill that President
Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on
economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.
The argument here is that the bill is
funded in large part by taxing the rich, and its benefits go primarily to the
The bill raises payroll taxes on
households making over $250,000 a year. In
2013, households making more than $1 million a year will pay, on average, an
extra $46,000 in taxes.
And at the other end of the economic
spectrum, households whose annual income is less than four times the poverty
level will receive subsidies to buy health insurance, or will be eligible to
Not all a progressive would hope for,
but pointed in the right direction at least.
We've got to give it a strong shove
down that road, don't we?
Can we do so?
Recent indications of American public opinion, would say, yes.
Here's the amazing poll
results I promised at the top of the show.
You probably believe, as I did, that
the majority of Americans opposed the Democratic health insurance reform plan.
That part is correct.
But what some recently more detailed
polling showed, is that all those opposing the plan aren't right-wingers who
think the plan goes too far, that it's big government, that it's socialism.
One poll gave the usual broad-scale
result: 47 percent opposed, 41 percent support. But
[T]he pollsters went a
step further, asking those opposed…if they were against the proposals because
they "don't go far enough to reform healthcare" or because they go too
Over 1/3 of those opposing the plan,
did so because it didn't go far enough.
So that means a 57% majority of the
public supported the Democratic plan or felt it didn't go far enough.
And -- the critical point -- only 31% opposed the plan because it went
too far. The right-wing's government
takeover/socialism propaganda was swallowed by less than one third of the
A CNN poll which also asked the
critical follow up question, produced a similar result, albeit a bit more
favorable to the right-wing position. 38-40%
of the public adopted the goes too far position.
In neither case, anywhere near a
So we progressives can argue to
Democrats now, that modifying the health care program to make it more
progressive, may well be good politics. In
fact, opinion polls continue
to show, specifically, that the American people want to have a public option
And to put this in an historical
context, after Congress passed Social Security in 1935, the GOP presidential
candidate in 1936, Alf Landon, based a good part of his campaign on repealing
Social Security. Like Republicans
are calling for now with the health care reform bill.
How to proceed?
One measure that progressives could
rally round, to take advantage of the public's apparent willingness to go
further in health care, is a proposal by Florida Democratic Representative Alan
Grayson. His measure
would let Americans who don't have health insurance, buy into Medicare.
As Congressman Grayson succinctly put
This simple four-page bill
lets any American buy into Medicare at cost. You want it, you pay for it, you're
in. It adds nothing to the deficit; you pay what it costs.
The bill currently has 80
This would be a public option with
legs. If the American people saw
what good care those who bought into Medicare were receiving, a hue and cry
could well arise that Medicare should be modified to just automatically cover
everyone, true national single payer.
There are other roads progressive
activism can take on this front. The
Grayson measure is one good route.
Ok to close, let's listen a bit to
that much maligned by right-wingers, uber-progressive in economic matters,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What he
says harkens back a bit to our discussion about right-wing sociopathy.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Governments can err,
Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice
weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in
Better the occasional
faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent
omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
FDR didn't mince any words, did he?
I think that in plotting his health
care strategy, Obama erred on the side of doing too little, not because of an
icy heart, but because of a flawed political calculation, that it was all he
could get now.
You and I, we progressives will have
to push him and Congress harder and harder to make
sure that the country as soon as possible gets the rest, the whole rest, and
nothing but the rest of the health care it so richly deserves, so help us all.