“First came the ‘birthers,’” Slate’s Christopher Beam noted Tuesday. “Now, as President Obama makes a final push for health care reform, we have the deathers.”
Republicans are trying to rally opposition to President Obama’s health care plan by suggesting it will literally kill people. One GOP legislator said the reform plan is a way to advance assisted suicide. Can scare tactics like this prevent Congress from voting on the health care bill? MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT to discuss these recent developments Tuesday night.
Earlier Tuesday, President Obama fielded a question at a town hall hosted by the American Association of Retired Persons.
“I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that’s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die,” a woman named Mary hailing from North Carolina asked the president. “This bothers me greatly, and I’d like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill.”
Maddow remarked, “The president of the United States today answering whether or not he wants health care reform because it’s secretly a plan to kill old people. This is one of those moments where you go, ‘Huh, any questions?”’ Most of all, it‘s just a big misunderstanding, right? It‘s like a ‘Three‘s Company’ plot line.”
“It‘s a whole new crazy conspiracy theory, unfolding where the craziest of them seem to be unfolding these days—among Republican members of Congress speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Maddow said.
Maddow played some clips of lawmakers and pundits advancing the “deather” argument.
REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-NC): Republicans have a better solution that won‘t put the government in charge of people‘s health care, that will make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans, and that insures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.
REP. PAUL BROUN (R-G): A lot of people are going to die. This program of government option that‘s being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price, is going to kill people.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: People at a certain age with certain diseases will be deemed not worth the investment, and they will just—as Obama said—they‘ll give them some pain pills and let them loop out until they die and they don‘t even know what‘s happened.
Maddow said, “You think Obama was secretly born in Kenya is a widespread conspiracy theory? Well, health care reform as a secret plan to kill old people is everywhere on the right. It‘s only starting to surface in mainstream politics because of the town hall, because some members of Congress are willing to say it on the House floor, but this is a wildly held, wildly propounded theory about health care reform.”
Sanders said that pro-healthcare reform lawmakers share some of the blame for the fearmongering spreading so fast:
Frankly, I think, from our side of the aisle, we have not been as clear as we should be in what, in fact, we are fighting for. And one of the problems in that regard is—in my view, at least—if we are serious about trying to develop a universal, comprehensive, cost-effective health care system, the only way you can ring the hundreds of billions of dollars of waste in the system today is through a single-payer system. But that is off of the table because of the power of the insurance companies and the drug companies.
So, if you don‘t do that, then it becomes pretty complicated and it opens up opportunities for the extreme right-wing to come up with their crazy ideas.
More from Beam’s Slate article:
Deathers point to several parts of the House bill as evidence that health care reform means letting old people die. Most prominent is the end-of-life consultation provision mentioned above. An article on World Net Daily argues that the proposal “specifically calls for the consultation to recommend ‘palliative care and hospice’ for seniors in their mandatory counseling sessions.” In fact, the bill says the meeting must include “an explanation by the practitioner of the end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice”—not a recommendation of it. (Emphasis added.) Still, Obama pointed out that it’s not too late to remove the language: “If this is something that really bothers people, I suspect that members of Congress might take a second look at it.”
But scaring Grandma is irresistible. Even Obama is hardly immune to fear mongering. When a questioner voiced concerns about rationing under a new system, Obama posed a counterfactual: What happens if we don’t pass health care reform? “[The] thing that I would be most worried about right now is health care inflation keeps on going up and the trust fund in 10 years is suddenly in the red. And now Congress has to make some decisions: Are they going to put more money into Medicare, especially given the deficits and the debt that we already have? Or are they, at that point, going to start making decisions about cutting benefits, but not based on any science or what’s making people healthier—they’re just going to start making it based on politics?”
Mixing politics and health care? It sounds scary. But Obama’s answer—in fact, his entire town-hall meeting—shows that we’ve already crossed that line. The question is whether the fear is justified.
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast July 28, 2009.