Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ugly Spectacle Endangers Reform

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Nobel Prize winning journalist and economist Paul Krugman warned that upon assuming office, President Obama would face “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.” In his column in the New York Times, Krugman now asks, "So, how’s it going?"

Sad to say, Krugman has hit the nail on the head, and the scurrilous attacks on the president over health care have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.

Take for example the claim that health care reform will create “death panels” (according to Sarah Palin) that will send the elderly off to an early grave. It’s a complete fabrication. Grossly and maliciously untrue. The provision actually provides that Medicare will pay for end-of-life counseling requested by the patient was initially introduced by Senator Isakson, a Republican from Georgia. No one screamed at him about this, and he continues to say that it’s “nuts” to claim that it has anything to do with euthanasia. Before this current campaign, some of the current peddlers of the euthanasia smear, (for example, Mr. Gingrich and Mrs. Palin) were both on the record as being supporters of “advance directives” for medical care in the event that you are incapacitated or comatose. Not only that, but legislation to establish the Part D Medicare drug program during the Bush Presidency also established counseling for advance directives. No false outrage was seen at that time.

The smear continues to spread, and I am saddened to see that so-called moderate Republicans, such as Senator Grassley, (R) Iowa, have endorsed the lie. As Krugman notes, "his role in the health care debate has been flat-out despicable". Senator Grassley claims that Senator Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor would not have been treated properly in other countries because they prefer to “spend money on people who can contribute more to the economy.” This week, Grassley told an audience that “you have every right to fear,” that we “should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Right now the politics of opposition are an ugly spectacle. When the distorted paranoia of some worried citizens is cynically manipulated by Republicans and special interest groups to fuel the mistrust with out right lies, is a very worrisome trend.

Those of us who support reform also need to tap into our sense of passion and outrage. Passion to achieve a family doctor for every family, lower cost, freedom to choose and coverage for all Americans, and outrage at the lies and fear-mongering that are being used to block that goal.

Now is not the time to shrink from the debate.


Erin said...

Too true! What we have been witnessing is a sad substitute for a thoughtful debate about a complicated subject that intimately affects every citizen and ties up some $2 trillion a year!

I heard a very good Krugman interview on the health care debate on NPR recently; check it out!

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