Sunday, August 9, 2009

HEALTH CARE REFORM--The Republican Playbook

First of all, let's consider the facts.....The United States spends over $1.9 trillion annually on healthcare expenses, more than any other industrialized country. This figure includes costs to our government, the private sector, and individuals. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School have estimated the United States spends 44 percent more per capita than Switzerland, the country with the second highest expenditures, and 134 percent more than the median for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (whose member states include all of the European nations, Mexico, Japan and S. Korea). And U.S. economic woes have only increased the burden of health care costs on individuals and businesses. The United States spent 16 percent of its GDP in 2007 on health care, also higher than any other developed nation. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that number will rise to 25 percent by 2025 without changes to federal law. In November 2008 Kaiser Foundation reported health premiums for workers have risen 114 percent in the last decade. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has noted that, at 12 percent, health care is the most expensive benefit paid by U.S. employers.

The Republican spin machine has been working fast and furious during the recent presidential campaign and since to avoid and obscure the real truth about the very serious issue of heath care in our country. Sadly, the truth is that tens of millions of our fellow citizens are uninsured, not because they have opted out, but rather because they can not afford it. And the United States--the sole remaining superpower also has the dubious distinction of being the only developed country remaining in the world community where health care is a privilege and not a right of citizenship. And the ever-rising costs of health care is a concern to small business owners. Small Business Majority, according to its website, sets out its goal as, “solving the single-biggest problem facing America’s 27 million small businesses: affordable and accessible health care.” Its chief executive, John Arensmeyer, says, “We’re trying to make sure that policymakers understand how critical getting health care reform is for small business and how our health care crisis is killing small business.” Even for those of us that have health care insurance, the reality is that we are only a heartbeat away from bankruptcy if we experience a serious accident or major medical illness or lose our jobs.

And the tactics of the Republican and right wing conservative nay-sayers can be summed up neatly--delay, distract, distort, demagogue and disrupt.

Delay.... Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has said he could "almost guarantee you this thing won't pass before August, and if we can hold it back until we go home for a month's break in August...Senators and Congressmen will come back in September afraid to vote against the American people." He further adds, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."
Distract....The Wall Street Journal summed up nicely the impact of President Obama weighing in on the Henry Gates arrest controversy, "Clear to all sides are the political ramifications of the flap. Both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have used it to try to drive a wedge between the president and conservative Democrats in Congress, and to cast him as hostile to law-enforcement officers -- a politically damaging label Democrats have long been tarred with. And Mr. Obama said the controversy is swamping his efforts to drum up support for his health-care overhaul."
Distort...."The House bill may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia," said House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio on July 23 in reference to a bill provision that would require Medicare to pay for advance directive consultations with health care professionals but would not require anyone to use the benefit.
Demagogue....Rep. Virginia Foxx, (R-N.C.), gave an excellent demonstration of this tactic on the House floor when she announced her pro-life objections to the the health care reform bill which she stated would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government". Former AK governor and Republican VP candidate, Sarah Palin, sagely asked on her blog, "And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. 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."
Disrupt....The disruption of town hall meetings has been encouraged and applauded by Sean Inanity, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck and their ilk and the tactics are simple-- front-load the event with conservative activists and Fox News drones with instructions on how to discourage a real discussion of issues.

The health care crisis is real and the time has come to address it in an intelligent and rational fashion. It's time to call the Republican and conservative right wing nay-sayers on their negative tactics and get on with the serious business of meeting this challenge with a civil and responsible national dialogue. Our future and the futures of generations to come are at stake!
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