Do you ever get the feeling that we have gone right off the deep end? Our conversations in this country, if we are to believe the nonsense on ANY cable channel, have devolved into shouting matches where the winner is who can call their opponent the crummiest name. Political opponents are radical practitioners of “Whateverism” and their supporters are “Whoeverists”; it makes no difference what “side” you are on. The notion that bloggers and a 24 hour news cycle would reveal the name callers for their cynicism and lack of substance has been revealed as fallacy, largely because those two forces have become accomplished practitioners of the labeling that drives the machine.
The (finally) concluding health care debate provides a textbook worth of examples of this phenomenon, beginning with the idea of the strawman. The concept of the strawman in a debate is to create a false enemy that can be systematically pulled apart, without the mess of having to argue your real enemy. “They don’t love their children the way we do…” is a classic strawman. It has proven to be a common tactic in war, where getting humans motivated to kill before they are shot it is tricky business. In politics, it is a tactic used often when one party or group believes that it can’t win arguing the facts.
Back in 2004, when Congress revisited Medicare and tried to deal with prescription drugs, they dealt with a related health care matter. The Schiavo debate was fresh in the public’s mind and there was wide agreement that a problem existed with a fairly straightforward fix; educate the nation so that people could make legally binding decisions in order to keep government out of their death. Among the responses to the issue was a clause in the Medicare bill that provided coverage to seniors for counselling on items like living wills, do not resuscitate orders, medical powers of attorney, and final wills. This clause facilitated conversations that would help seniors and their families decide and communicate to doctors their desires; whether they be DNR’s for terminally ill patients or an order to keep the tubes in and machines on indefinitely. You may not realize, but if these desires are not clearly illustrated and presented to medical and legal authorities, the state can and does step in to make the decision.
This important and well-stated legislation passed without comment in 2004; in 2009 it was included in the description of services for the public option in HR 3200. In that description (for insurance through the government that would not be mandatory), the steps were called “end of life planning”. Insurance company shills quickly dubbed it “granny killing”, and Sarah Palin jumped into the fray calling it “killing granny to save money”. The more people have actually read the bills moving through Congress, the more they have realized what a bunch of garbage this all was. That said, the time it took away from the issue, and the way that it shifted the focus of lawmakers was a terrible waste.