The Debate That Is Not A Debate

Bricks and Mortar Let’s see. It’s early. I’m only halfway through my coffee. I can’t quite herd my stray thoughts into a straight line.

Perfect time for a spirited debate about health care!

Except, the debate has been rigged. Public opinion against the public option is a paper tiger, yet it’s a paper tiger that we’ve been led to believe has real teeth and an angry roar. We believe this because we’re at least a little bit stupid, and because the media has approximately zero interest in doing its job.

The debate isn’t a debate.

It could be. You wanted to, you could make some points against the public option, against aspects of the health care reform. I might not agree with you, but it’s not a side devoid of very real talking points.

Not that you’re going to hear those talking points, mind.

Nah, what you’re going to hear is some mumbly hollered bullshit about Obama being Hitler. What you’re going to see are people with guns standing outside health care debates. What you’re going to sense is that people are really angry about this, that there grows a mob mentality, a rising surge of revolution against our government’s meddling.

It’s half-true. Here’s the trick:

The protesters? The gun nuts?  The sign holders?

It’s a ruse. We’re being fooled.

These people have been riled up by special interest groups. Some of these people have been hired by special interest groups. They have received their talking points. They have their goddamn posters and signs made for them.

The smoke-and-mirrors tricks us into believing that these are average red-blooded Americans brimming with indignant fury, exhibiting their right to free speech. And we think, “Shit, if these people are so worked up, maybe I need to be worked up, too. Maybe the mob is right. Maybe I should join the mob.”

But the mob is a lie. It’s the Pied Piper leading us dummies astray with propaganda rather than a pennywhistle. The sad part is, the mob will soon become true, because enough of this country’s soft-headed tard-carts are hopping aboard the Shithead Express with tickets in hand.

So, in a scattershot, “paint-with-shotgun” way, let me tackle some of the problems as I see ‘em.

First, guys with guns? Back the fuck off. Listen, I’m relatively pro-gun. You’ll be hard pressed to convince me to go otherwise. I have stipulations, but that’s a chat for another day. The thing here is, don’t ruin it for the rest of us. If you prove that you can’t be trusted with your toys, those toys will be taken away, and out of “fairness,” they’re going to be taken away from me, too. So, quit that shit. Point the guns at an angry bear. Don’t bring them to political rallies or town-hall meetings, because that’s the next door neighbor to terroristic threats. Don’t agree? Just today, what’s the headline? Threats of violence from the Taliban keep the voting turnout low in Afghanistan.

Second, Hitler? Hitler. Hitler?! Really? Comparing Obama to Hitler is easily, handily, totally the most ludicrous goddamn notion this side of a faked moon landing. Actually, it’s worse. You’d be smarter thinking that you can eat dog shit for dinner and poop out pennies. I don’t even want to refute it, because then I feel like I’m somehow giving the argument credence. Just know this: if you’re out there, and you’re comparing Obama to Hitler, you’re a giant stupid person incapable of outsmarting a trilobite. What’s awesome is, you probably don’t know what a “trilobite” even is. “I’m no dang book learner! Using your fancy Nazi-talk! You’re a dang wizard! A homo Jew wizard!” Way to go, dipshit.

Third, listen, I like that America always has a little revolution in its belly. That’s nice. It’s also not really true. We’re not revolutionaries. We’re lazy thinkers. Don’t believe me? We were told over the last eight years that everything was above board. Torture, war, terrorist threats, wire-tapping — thumbs-up! A wave of the hand, pshaw! It’s all good, America. And we nod, humbly and numbly and dumbly. Government has never been bigger. We’re now being told that there’s gonna be old people and retarded children put to death, that government is going to murder your doctor in the night, that a Secret Council of Nazi Otters are going to preside over your health care (“Kill him for his oysters and clams! The human has our food! All hail Herr Doktor Obama!”), and we let our jaws drop and we’re totally floored that this is the truth. It’s not the truth. Just like the “Obama’s raising our taxes!” (he didn’t, and hasn’t; Reagan taxed us harder, and he’s rightfully a Republican saint) gained traction. Because we as a nation refuse to examine things that are told to us. We’re ignorant and happy to be that way. We’re not revolutionaries. We’re the sheep, not the shepherds.

Fourth, it’s all lies, lies, lies. No death panels. No limiting health care. No raising your taxes. No restrictions of vital tests. Be a think-for-yourselfer. Do a teeny tiny itty bitty bit of research. Take like, five minutes. Just five. Go. I’ll wait. You’ll see.

Fifth, “blah blah blah, I don’t want the government getting its hands in my pie.” Cool. If you’re okay with it, then, I’m going to just start erasing some things off the blackboard, hold on a minute: social security, Medicare, the military, schools, roads, clean water standards, clean air standards — shit, the list keeps going. As it turns out, the government does a lot for us. Oops. Guess it’s time to have Sunoco sponsor our roads! Coca-Cola can handle our water supply — they do a pretty good job of keeping China’s water clean. Wait, wuzza? They don’t?

Sixth, you’re not standing up for the American people — and most certainly not for yourself — in opposing health care reform and the public option. You’re standing up for the insurance companies. Christ, you’re not even standing up for capitalism. The system we have in place is not capitalism. Competition is null and void. The health care industry is not driven by the meritocracy. It’s a massive machine hidden by obfuscating clouds, and it works to limit competition, because competition would mean that it needs to get its shit together and actually control costs. A public option (key word, dillholes: option) creates automatic competition. It forces the entire health care industry to stand up straight, dust off its pants, try to look presentable and smile.

One final point:

My father didn’t have health insurance at the time he was diagnosed with cancer, and he didn’t have health insurance not because he was poor — he wasn’t — but because he had a preexisting condition (high blood pressure). His rates either would’ve been so high that he would become poor, or they would deny him coverage outright because of a condition experienced by a majority of Americans.

This is the truth. The real, honest truth.

If my father had insurance, he would still be alive.

Chew on that for a second.

We like to imagine that what we’re doing here is standing up for the working class, that we’re only keeping health care out of the lazy welfare moms and homeless lunatics and whatever, but that’s not at all what’s happening. (Though, I’ll ask you: why is it, exactly, that you don’t want homeless people to have access to health care? Are you just a dick? “Nah, let Pee Beard over there itch his sores in seclusion. I love to hate people!”) We’re keeping health care out of the hands of everybody. Guy gets laid off? Lady retires? Woman gets divorced or her husband dies? Sorry. No health care for you! Ha-ha, suckers! Let’s high-five those altruistic insurance companies. They’re nice as cookies.

The irony is, one day, one of these health-careless people is going to contract some kind of Uber-Flu, some Donkey Pox that could’ve been handled had he the money to pay for a shot or if we had a health care system that put him into quarantine until he did or did not get better. But that won’t happen. The person won’t have the money, and so he’ll wander into the streets and subways and schools, and he’ll hack and cough his Donkey Pox spittle all over the place, and next thing we know, it’s Stephen King’s The Stand and I have to wade through a dark Lincoln Tunnel filled with bloated Donkey Pox corpses.

So, to conclude.

Do you think that Hitler is Obama, or Obama is Hitler, or somehow Nazis are involved? You’re a stupid fuckin’ dick.

Do you believe that death panels are going to rule the future government health care option (and that death panels don’t already exist in the forms of insurance companies that deny you coverage)? You’re a stupid fuckin’ dick.

Do you want to vote for the insurance companies over the American people? You’re a stupid fuckin’ dick.

I’ll stop short of calling you a dick if you disagree with the public option, because you might actually have a good reason as a genuine think-for-yourselfer. I maybe won’t agree, but at least we can sit down and have an actual debate. With, y’know, facts and stuff. It’ll be bananas!


  • It’s early, my kids home-worker has just got here. We got some McDonalds today, and while I am sluggishly trying to operate my bacon McGriddle, Wendy is chatting with Jason and making him eat his “panpakes”. Thomas is digging in without bothering to use a fork, and she is laughingly helping him too. Sometime in the near future Thomas will be receiving the same autism test that Jason had a year ago. Another going through my head as I attempt to get hash-browns into my mouth is the likely hood that Maggie is almost certainly pregnant again.

    Jason’s home car worker. Specialist to look in for Thomas. The likely hood of pregnancy. If I was still in the States, just the first one would ensure that we were absolutely destitute. He -needs- that to overcome a condition he is completely innocent of. Thomas may have it too. All of these things are taken care of because we live in Canada.

    Those assholes on Fox that tell you the lines in Canada are twelve hours long are lying. I also guarantee that none of them have waited in the ER of just about any hospital in the States before. Some of their exaggerated lengths would be -nice-. People go to the hospital here when they are sick or hurt. They live healthier because of it. They go to their doctors office, and yes, they chose their doctors.

    There are some downsides. It takes forever to find a specialist. That’s because the province I live, though. And then there’s… uhm… wait, I am sure there is something else.

    Gimme a minute, it will come to me.

    • Right-o!

      The good news is, *because* of some recent health care reform, kids now have better health care than they used to (at least, to my understanding).

      But yeah, this idea that we’re demonizing Canada for its health care is ludicrous. You can damn sure bet you’ll wait in an ER here in the good ol’ USA. My father had his foot crushed by a forklift maybe ten years back — the metatarsals (tiny toe and foot bones) were sticking out like broken wicker.

      He sat in the waiting room of a nice, suburban hospital for six hours.

      They put a towel under his foot to soak up the blood, and they’d replace it when it became sodden.

      Holy crap! How is that good health care? And he had excellent insurance at the time, this is before he retired!

      An ancillary to the “Canada as Socialist Hell” argument, we buy our pet meds from one of those online pet med companies because they’re like, half the price. And we’ve had vet after vet refuse to sign off on the prescription because, said in a whisper, “Those medicines come from Canada.”

      Well, holy shit. We don’t want that. You Canadians have no science! I hear you guys still get antibiotics by scraping them off of bread. Your pet meds are clearly made of iron filings and floor sweepings.


      I mean, translation: the vet clinic wants its money, and it doesn’t want Canada to have its money.


      (The vets, not Canadians.)

      — c.

  • You’re great.

    Did you see the footage of Barney Frank of Mass. at the town hall meeting? You should like this:

  • And incidentally, the British nation’s response to the stupid right-wingers dissing our own health system was pretty much the same as Barney frank’s.

  • Sorry it is taking so long to respond to you. Cnadian DSL, as I am sure you know, runs off smoke signals.

    Now, since coming here I have had to get used to their rustic turn-of-the-century impliments, which seem so barbaric to me. These “DVD” things they have look like some form of early VHS tape, and this “iPod” thing… poor people don’t even have full sized stereo systems.

    We should feel very sorry for our neighbors to the north. To keep them unaware of their obvious primitivity (is that a word?), the government forces them into a lubricious cheap drug program, so now they get “high” off “health” and don’t think to question their evil socialist ways.

    Get Bush on the phone, invade and save the Canadians before it is too late.

    • Thanks for the link, Bill. We live in a bizarre world that stuff like that can go on, and people accept it, and smile, and make it a part of their lives even though it benefits only a very small class of people.

  • I’m going to sound like one of those angry mobsters who are furious about government run health care, but I’m not. I’m a skeptic. Two summers ago John Stossel did a report on 20/20 about health care in Canada and it was astounding. It wasn’t that Canadian medicine was behind American medicine, but that because it was government run it was disorganized and inefficient. I worked for the US government and I can believe it.
    I don’t want to see America health care turn into that, and I dislike big brother. I want a plan that allows people to dictate their own medical plans for their individual lifestyles. Preferably, I would like to see the states do this individually and compete against each other to be the best health care provider.
    It’s not whether this is evil, or stupid but if we’re doing this right without infringing on individual rights and freedoms. If this is going to turn into big brother, than the plan needs to be scrapped.

    Here’s a video. Yes, it’s Fox News but just take a look. We need to do better than this.

    • Brettman:

      I don’t frown on skepticism. Despite the tenor of my post, I recognize that the government isn’t a shining beacon of efficiency, and even good programs devolve over time through various administrations.

      But that’s also not a reason not to try.

      The public option — again, option, option, option — so far gives me no indication that it’s going to be Big Brother. Big Brother is warrantless wiretapping, not free health care.

      The Fox Video is a perfect example of what I’m talking about — a factless guessing game.

      Let’s break it down.

      First, between two and ten hours. Guy with broken clavicle gets in after five. Again, my father had a crushed foot and he waited six hours. In an American hospital. With a great health insurance plan. So, right there, it took my father longer to get into emergency care — and he was *paying* for it. It wasn’t free to wait.

      Second, that Canadian still had an option — wait for free care, or go pay for an expedited process. That’s also better than we have it now. Right now, we already pay for the process, and we still don’t get expedited care. Moreover, we have to fight with our insurance companies — what will they pay? Will they pay for this procedure or that one? The insurance companies are the ones who kick you out the door, not the doctors. They cut off funding. Boom. Click. Goodnight, Gracie.

      Third, that Fox News Video does little with actual… facts or numbers. It’s all, “I hear this,” or, “I imagine so.” I don’t want the Huff-Po either; I want the BBC for our news. That’s what I want. I want a guy to come on, and in a non-emotional voice tell me, “They discovered today that whale sperm cures eczema,” and I can do with that information as I see fit. I don’t want to hear about a whale sperm agenda, or the anti-whale sperm agenda. I want them, like robots, to give me *data* that I can use to make my own informed judgments.

      That, of course, is a corollary argument, but it relates — facts, people, we need facts. Skepticism is good. But skepticism needs to be bolstered and made real by facts. Skepticism by speculation isn’t helpful unless you go further.

      So. Skepticism. Yes! Have it. There’s a real argument in there as to what “government health care reform” means, how much it costs, and what it does. But comparisons to Canada are meaningless, as are comparisons to Britain.

      USA: way ahead in personal health care spending, and way behind in the actual health care. That alone is a fiscally *conservative* argument to invoke health care reform.

      — c.

  • Neil Gaiman said this the other day, and it stands for me as well. I come from a country where health-care is basically free, so I’ve always seen it as a basic human right.

    I still do.

    Sure, people must be encouraged not to ruin their own health (and it’s never too late to try and fix things, as my own on-going experience with WeightWatchers proves). Prevention is key, but I also believe that’s a basic human right too. Health Care includes prevention education and if the government wants to help out, great. We need all the help we can get.

    Too many people have this sense of… I don’t know, it’s dickery of some kind. They believe that if you’re poor or lazy that you don’t deserve help. It’s not about being deserving. It’s about need.

    There. I get to live in this beautiful land, pay taxes and not get to vote, but I think my opinion is fairly educated.

    • Stephen:

      Right. I don’t know why it’s seen as a positive aspect of capitalism that the health of the people is relegated only to non-competitive big business — we have a right to roads, but not a clean bill of health? How does that make sense? The government effectively defends our lands against attack from outside; so, why can’t it defend us from an inside attack, which is essentially what is happening with death, disaster, disease.

      — c.

  • Brettman, I can guarantee you that it is better run than American medicine here. My mother is a nurse, as is my aunt. My stepfather is a doctor, and most of my mother’s boyfriends have been. Now, she has worked in private hospitals and part of PHS, specifically with IHS (Public and Indian Health Systems, respectively) as well as with the military hospital in Pensacola, Florida. Through that, I have seen how hospitals in the States work. Now, I live in the freaking frontier as far as Canadian provinces go. Newfoundland is not the heart of hoser-land. Even here, health care is so much more efficient it is astonishing. The same is true in the higher population provinces.

    Each province has it’s own health care related institution. This means that each provincial group can see to the specific needs of it’s province without being run by a federal agency, they just report to the Parliament. It really works, and it works well. The provincial governments are also always looking for ways to make the system better. Your MCP account has all your medical history, for example, so transferring medical records is instant.

    These are -good- things. Are there some hiccups? Of course, but they are far outweighed by how good the system is.

  • You are so right about the obfuscation of debate in our country… and about our news media being way more like the BBC. I’m thankful that I didn’t go into journalism after college because I think the machine would have spit me out rather than allow me to stick with those pesky ethics I formed in Wendy Waite’s Media Ethics class. ; )

    I was planning to write about this very topic this morning, but I’m going to link to yours instead. You were way more raw than I would have been and I think the situation calls for it.

  • I don’t know that it can be said any better than this. Absolutely spot-on.

    Every time I think Americans can’t be any more gullible, I see Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann call out the sources of these protests. I don’t understand how people can’t see the inherently positive nature of healthcare reform.

    A while ago, Mena pointed me to a study that shows that often conservatives will believe something *more* if they’re first lied to, then recanted to. For instance, if say an Alaskan governor says Obama is sponsoring death panels, then she says there’s no such thing.

  • I love the sneaky bit of speculative fiction in there. I may steal that seed of an idea.

    And yes, I’m skeptical about a public option, but that’s because I don’t think its enough and I know there are too many selfish politicians who are going to find a way to get their cut.

  • To the Brettman:

    John Stossel is in the pocket of the insurance companies. Oberman showed Stossels lecture tour how he’s organizing “fake” town hall meetings w/o any elected officials, just gatherings of angry mobs to be on the “news”; oh yeah- all funded by United Health Care. He is not to be trusted

  • An American public option would have the advantage of being formed in America, on its foundation of medical advancements. It’s time to share some of those advancements with the citizenry, regardless of their wealth, for the sake of lifting the floor of public health and wellness.

    The Post Office is not big brother, and that’s what a public option is roughly (roughly) analogous to. We have a public right to mail, but not a public right to health care? It’s a little strange.

  • It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people (honestly where can they go with a pre-condition). And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait, Medicare and Medicaid and our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown and Katrina but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.

    How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a “lynch mob” advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA “screamers” are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. It’s easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and that’s all I been seeing, they hate and can’t debate. Too bad.

  • I’ve never experienced a long wait in an emergency room ever, and if Canadian health care is better shame on those telling me lies on how it isn’t. What I want most is the freedom to choose my doctor, choose my kind of health care(Chiropractic homeopathic, acupuncture…etc.), and not have to worry about big brother. Also, insurance companies love, almost adore saying ‘no’ to claims. Insurance companies can be taken to court if they say no. What happens if the government says no? I’m paying taxes so that someone who is sick can get treatment. If the gov’t denies a claim, I’m likely to become very angry about it. Meaning, that if people have a right to health care then I’ll be sore when they don’t get it.

    And I go to those Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings. They’re not filled with hate mongering, gun toting cowboys. They’re people that are scared and need assurance their representatives are making smart decisions. In my area, Rep.Obey won’t even address his constituents.

    I agree with a need for health care and that it is a right. But I don’t have faith yet that it will be done well. And I am left not being able to believe anyone.

  • Brettman, I certainly agree with you that the debate is being bungled by the representatives, too. I’d love to see some strength, some proper oration, and some clarity from the side that’s arguing for reform.

    If lies are being asserted with such verve (not all dissent is lies, obviously, but the lies are certainly assertive), why can’t the truth be asserted with the same strength? It vexes me.

    • David: Excellent. Thank you. Also, the world is insane, so thanks for confirming that, too.

      Brettman: I don’t think those freedoms are out of reach. The problem with suing insurance companies is, first, by the time you’re potentially able to sue, you or the loved one might be… well, dead. Second, it’s possible they won’t take you on in the first place. But you’re right, you can legally pressure insurance companies. It’s not easy, but it can work. I don’t know that you can’t pressure the government, too, legally and in the court of public opinion, but I see your point.

      Can I ask, in a side question, why did you go to the tea parties? The Town Hall meetings, I get. This is a situation driven by complexities, and if a Town Hall has answers, great. I don’t get the same feeling from the Tea Party crowd, but maybe I’m wrong.

      — c.

  • Will: It’s the party mentality, if Democrats say this then the Republicans say that. It’s nothing new. When Bush was in office Republicans would criticize the insurance companies and categorize them as ‘special interest groups that needed to wrangled and controlled. The Dems would then protect them and call the Reps bullies. Now it’s the other way around. The same arguments Reps. had then are being said by Dems. now. So, WTF! This,in a way, is worse than just lying.

    It’s politics!

  • Chuck: Easy. I go to show that I am going to sit back and just take it. I want to know that my concerns are noted by those that represent me.

    Taxes, imho, are an investment. When I pay them, I want whoever is managing that money to make smart decisions. If they don’t, they should where I stand.

    If the tea parties were violent, I wouldn’t go and consider the participants insincere.

  • Chuck/Tammy — There’s media out there that hasn’t forgotten what Wendy taught. Blame TV. Please. I had to ditch cable because televised news makes me angry, so very angry.

  • Great post! I never write on blogs like this but I felt compelled to here.
    People talk a lot about the cost of health care. One of the things that makes it expensive is the lack of preventative medicine for a big portion of our country. For example: a woman who can’t afford health insurance doesn’t go to the doctor every year to get a mammogram. If she develops cancer, she goes to the emergency room, and the hospital must treat her; even if she doesn’t have enough money to pay for the (very expensive) treatment. That cost she cannot pay is effectively absorbed by the people that DO pay for insurance… and the treatment is expensive, because the tumor was caught so late. If she had public health care (or at least affordable health care) and she does go in every year… if they find something early, it is less expensive to treat.

    Overall, the cost to the public is less. This is just one analogy, but I know I read that the overall cost to the health care system is lessened when people go to the doctor’s office more frequently, and earlier on in the stages of a life threatening illness. People without health insurance are less likely to do that. And that adds to the overall health care costs that we all have to bear.

    Of course, hopefully most would argue the greater benefit is that the woman, who would have likely succumbed to the cancer, now survives it. Maybe now she can incur further health care costs.

    But you’d have to be a dick if you thought that was a bad thing, right?!?

  • “Obama being Hitler”
    what? That sounds like some nonsense the public schools brainwash people to believe! I’d been taught that Hitler was Obama.

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