Sunday, October 18, 2009

Charles Pierce's 3 Great Premises Of Idiot America-- And The Health Care Debate


I was writing Friday night when an old friend IM-ed me. He had spoken with a doctor about the health care reform debate and he was all fired up. "The Democrats should end the ability of insurance companies to exclude people with pre-existing conditions and to kick sick people off coverage," he wrote. Where does one start to respond? I tried explaining that that-- and how to pay for it-- is the heart of the debate that has been raging. He blamed Obama for not communicating. I guess if Obama had gone for a koffee klatch in his living room he might have heard him. Other than that, it's much easier to hear the endlessly repeated-- and shouted-- lies underwritten by the Insurance Lobby on Hate Talk Radio ("We want Obama to fail"), Fox News ("We want Obama to fail") and by the bad-faith players who dominate the Republican congressional caucus ("We want Obama to fail"). Much easier. And as Charles Pierce makes clear eye-opening book Idiot America, there are 3 great premises for American idiotism, all of which are very much in play here:

(1) Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings or otherwise moves units.
(2) Any thing can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
(3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

Yesterday in his weekly address to the nation, President Obama took off the kid gloves for my friend and for the millions of other Americans who haven't been paying attention to anything or, if something, just the stuff that fits in with the 3 great premises. He confronted the Insurance Lobby head on, touching on some very important questions that transcend this particular debate. I've tried to highlight them by picking out the relevant paragraphs and by using the bold functionality of my computer in the search for transcendent evil:
Of course, like clockwork, we’ve seen folks on cable television who know better, waving these industry-funded studies in the air. We’ve seen industry insiders-- and their apologists-- citing these studies as proof of claims that just aren’t true. They’ll claim that premiums will go up under reform; but they know that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that reforms will lower premiums in a new insurance exchange while offering consumer protections that will limit out-of-pocket costs and prevent discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. They’ll claim that you’ll have to pay more out of pocket; but they know that this is based on a study that willfully ignores whole sections of the bill, including tax credits and cost savings that will greatly benefit middle class families. Even the authors of one of these studies have now admitted publicly that the insurance companies actually asked them to do an incomplete job.

It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s bogus. And it’s all too familiar. Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, "Take one of these, and call us in a decade." Well, not this time. The fact is, the insurance industry is making this last-ditch effort to stop reform even as costs continue to rise and our health care dollars continue to be poured into their profits, bonuses, and administrative costs that do nothing to make us healthy-- that often actually go toward figuring out how to avoid covering people. And they’re earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exception from our anti-trust laws, a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing.

Now, I welcome a good debate. I welcome the chance to defend our proposals and to test our ideas in the fires of this democracy. But what I will not abide are those who would bend the truth-- or break it -- to score political points and stop our progress as a country. And what we all must oppose are the same old cynical Washington games that have been played for decades even as our problems have grown and our challenges have mounted.

Last November, the American people went to the polls in historic numbers and demanded change. They wanted a change in our policies; but they also sought a change in our politics: a politics that too often has fallen prey to the lobbyists and the special interests; that has fostered division and sustained the status quo. Passing health insurance reform is a great test of this proposition. Yes, it will make a profound and positive difference in the lives of the American people. But it also now represents something more: whether or not we as a nation are capable of tackling our toughest challenges, if we can serve the national interest despite the unrelenting efforts of the special interests; if we can still do big things in America.

I believe we can. I believe we will. And I urge every member of Congress to stand against the power plays and political ploys-- and to stand up on behalf the American people who sent us to Washington to do their business.

For the sake of our nation, not just health care reform, let's hope he's correct.

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At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

It's what he should have said from the first, Howie. And it begs the question: why did Obama, a man certainly familiar with the thuggish tactics of Republicans in Congress, think they were going to suddenly cooperate when the became a minority and he got into office? Didn't he, a smart man, realize that the Democrats gained nothing by playing nice-nice when the Republicans were in power? And that the Republicans had a vested interest in opposing everything he did?

As it is, he's selling health insurance reform without the help of a spineless Senate Majority Leader and a host of Democrats are as deep in the health industry's pockets as any Republican. With those kind of odds against him, he really didn't need to have Rahm telling progressives to shut up. He doesn't seem to know who his friends are, and who are his enemies on this issue.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger lahru said...

Are we so cynical that we doubt his abilities (Obama)?

I remember back months ago he said something to the effect that there will be disagreement with my choices of staff.

But do not forget that they work for "me"!


I'm sticking with "Hope And Change"

At 2:38 PM, Blogger woid said...

Balakirev is exactly right — Obama should have opened with this kind of rhetoric, before the obstructionists muddied the waters as they always do.

Nice that he's saying it now, but it's with much less impact. How many people do you suppose pay attention to the weekly addresses? I'll bet that it's very few, outside of the obsessional bloggers and their readers (Us).

Almost every day, I'll see somebody on Firedoglake, or Crooks & Liars, or Kos, talking about how some progressive "destroyed" some wingnut on TV. The proof is always a short clip of the good guy making a point at the expense of the bad guy. Reality check: those clips almost always come from one of the cable news networks, usually MSNBC. No matter how important WE consider Rachel or Keith or Ed or whoever to be, the fact is that they're playing to a tiny minority of the public, and usually preaching to the choir.

Meanwhile, over on Fox (and repeated elsewhere), it's all demogoguery all the time. If we think that a few strong statements (even from Obama) can match the tidal wave of bullshit, we're deluding ourselves. It's too easy to bounce from hope to despair and back again based on some item in today's news. I hope that at the year's end, we'll be able to look back and see that we got most of what we wanted, and that the day-to-day bipolarity didn't mean much.

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

"Are we so cynical that we doubt his abilities (Obama)?"

No, we're so clear that we looked at his voting record before he got the Dems' presidential nomination, and reading carefully, realized he was just to the left of the Landrieu/Nelson/Walmart Blanche crowd. In other words, Obama was a conservative, a person who believed in the system-as-it-was, that it would work, that the people in charge of it would understand and play fair.

We're not second-guessing a god. We're repeating what we've said all along: that Obama would be sucker-punched repeatedly until he finally Got It. And it took the better part of a year, and a bailout to huge financial corporations that are now showing record profits, for him to realize just how badly he's been played.


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