Fear And Loathing On The Health Care Campaign Trail

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 31, 2009

When it comes to the issue of health care reform, most of the accusations concerning “fear-mongering” are leveled at people on the Right. To be sure, I want nothing to do with the rhetoric about “death panels,” but it is worth noting that in the course of the debate over health care, there has been plenty of fear-mongering from the port side of the political divide as well. Port side fear-mongerers include–as George Will points out–a certain resident of 1600 Penn. Ave.:

In August our ubiquitous president became the nation’s elevator music, always out and about, heard but not really listened to, like audible wallpaper. And now, as Congress returns to resume wrestling with health care reform, we shall see if he continues his August project of proving that the idea of an Ivy League Huey Long is not oxymoronic.

Barack Obama in August became a Huey for today, a rabble rouser with a better tailor, an unrumpled and modulated tribune of downtrodden Americans, telling them that opponents of his reform plan—which actually does not yet exist—are fearmongers employing scare tactics. He also told Americans to be afraid, very afraid of health-insurance providers because they are dishonest (and will remain so until there is a “public option” to make them “honest”). And to be afraid, very afraid of pediatricians who unnecessarily extract children’s tonsils for monetary rather than medical reasons. And to be afraid, very afraid of doctors generally because so many of them are so rapacious that they prefer lopping off limbs of diabetes patients rather than engaging in lifestyle counseling that for “a pittance” could prevent diabetes.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, the Maine Republican whom Democrats hope will lend a patina of bipartisanship to their health legislation whenever it gets written, says that one thing we learned from the cacophonous town halls of August is “that there are many people who are satisfied with their health insurance.” Actually, long before this debate began we knew that a large majority of Americans have insurance, and a large majority of that majority are content with their care. That is why the president has become shrill: There is no underlying discontent commensurate with the scale of the changes he is trying to propel.

Every single time the Obama Administration accuses those who disagree with it on the issue of health care reform of fear-mongering, it ought to be reminded of its own efforts at demagoguery. No, two wrongs don’t make a right, and I have never maintained otherwise. But two wrongs are still two wrongs, and they ought to be identified as such.

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