Health Care Disinformation and FOX News Logic

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A recent Op-Ed in The New York Times offers a thorough response to the lies coming from conservatives about health care reform, and in doing so it delineates how Republicans consistently incorporate what I like to call “FOX News Logic.”

To start with the flat-out fabrications. Conservatives love to claim that health care reform will: force patients to consult a beaurocratic panel before gaining access to doctors, provide insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants, and compile a Big Brother-type record on the health status of every American. This is all simply not true, and the part about subsidizing illegals is particularly rich, since the new laws will prohibit them from even using their own money to enter insurance exchanges.

In the case of expanding Medicaid, according to The Times the federal government will cover most of the added costs, so no, individual states will not be overwhelmed by new expenses in spite of what conservatives say. As for McDonald’s, the Obama administration granted them and 29 other companies one year waivers not as a concession that reform won’t work but rather as a measure to smoothen the transition by giving them extra time to adapt to the changes, which will take full effect in 2014, when companies that don’t insure their employees will have to pay heavy fines. Next, premiums have indeed continued to rise for some but that is because of the depressed economy, rising medical costs and the greed of insurance companies. It is misguided to point to this trend as evidence that reform will hurt Americans because the core of the cost control aspect of the law is an exchange system that won’t be set up until 2014. In fact, the new laws impose tougher regulations on the industry and have therefore incentivized federal officials to pursue legal measures to pressure insurance companies to reduce increases.

The falsification most cherished by the right holds that “Obamacare” is a “government takeover,” and this is where the debate becomes tragically comical. Of course this is nonsense because as The Times explains the reform relies primarily on private insurers and employers to cover most people. But what compounds the fundamental absurdity of this charge is the conservative campaign against a perceived $500 million “cut” to Medicare. Leaving aside the fact that this is yet another gross mischaracterization since, as the Times reports, it is really the private Medicare Advantage program that will no longer receive government subsidies while the amount of money allocated to Medicare itself will remain consistent with prior levels of funding, the hypocrisy is breathtaking. The right sees nothing wrong with attacking a “government takeover” and also condemning “Medicare cuts.” And what’s more is that these charges are totally untrue. It’s also worth noting that Republicans shut down government in 1995 over a battle with Clinton to reduce funding for this entitlement program.

This, is the essence of “FOX News Logic.” Such a mode of argumentation calls for the complete absence of rules and consistency. Adherents to this approach can say whatever they want so long as they think a given point will strengthen their side. That’s why Republicans consider it noble to distort health care reform as a ploy for the government to get between you and your doctor, even though they seek to abolish abortion. That’s also why they claim to care about the First Amendment except when it comes to separating Church and State and banning profanity on television. And that’s also why they blame Obama for the BP oil spill and then attack him for trying to regulate the industry to prevent future catastrophes.

Fox News Logic also explains the day-to-day behavior of those who are guided by it. Whether it be the lunatics who wield signs at rallies proclaiming that government should take its hands off of “my Medicare,” or Joe Miller, the conservative candidate from Alaska, speaking out against entitlement programs even though his family has received Medicaid and his wife has obtained unemployment benefits, or all the Republicans who a—feign concern about budget deficits while calling for extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone and b—voted against Obama’s stimulus and then attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for projects that were funded by the legislation.

I’ve seen how this plays out on a personal level. My parents, for example, love nothing more than to demonize Medicare and Medicaid. Yet they run a nursing home and receive almost all of their wealth from government checks. Their only real problem with this paradigm is that they have to give some of it back through taxes. They also enjoy discussing how “what the liberals won’t tell you” is that under the new laws you have to pay extra to keep your kid on your health care plan until he’s 26. But, of course, if matters were otherwise they would complain with equal vehemence about how “Obamacare” is a classic Robin Hood program designed to award free handouts to the undeserving.

What is perhaps most remarkable about the Times article though, is what it does not include. In spite of its thoroughness, it doesn’t even get to the “death panel” nonsense, or the outrageous allegations by Rush Limbaugh and co that health care reform is a racist plot to award reparations to blacks in compensation for slavery, or the patently false notion that it will increase deficits.

For all the bullying and disinformation-based hysteria, Obama’s plan will greatly benefit America. As the Times reports, it has already forbade insurance companies to continue the heinous practice of refusing to cover beneficiaries who become sick, it has ended lifetime limits on the amount of money insurance plans will provide for treatment, and it has enabled dependents to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26. And in 2014 everyone will have to join an exchange(on pain of a fine, not jail time) that will reduce premiums, create almost universal coverage (for 95% of Americans), subsidize plans for people who have trouble paying, and terminate all fears that if you lose your job your coverage will vanish with it. Last, it will reduce budget deficits by $143 billion according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Times is right when it points out that Democrats must do a better job at countering misinformation and communicating the virtues of their historic achievement. And the American people cannot allow FOX News Logic to determine their decision next week.

For more articles check out my blog:


Times OP-ED:

Health Care Reform will reduce budget deficits:

Republicans shut down government over Medicare:

Joe Miller received government benefits (I choose the FOX news website for the sake of citing a source that reports the story against self-interest. Remarkably, here is Miller’s explanation for his hypocrisy, even according to FOX no less: “He has said he doesn't receive benefits currently and that, for a time, he and wife Kathleen struggled, like many others, and needed the help.”):

Republicans attend ribbon cutting ceremonies for Stimulus projects they previously opposed: Jonathan Alter’s The Promise.

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A recent graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, I consider myself a student of Melville and Shakespeare. Particularly, my fascination with Moby Dick has sparked a broader interest in many fields such as politics, history, science, economics, etc, since that novel deals with disparate disciplines and issues in an encyclopedic, yet accessible manner.

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