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Tilting at Windmills

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July 29, 2009

WHAT HAS GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE EVER DONE FOR US?.... Paul Krugman noted yesterday that "Americans hate single-payer insurance" because "they don't know they have it." President Obama raised a related point yesterday during an AARP forum on health care.

"I have to say, the reason [a public option] has been controversial is a lot of people have heard this phrase 'socialized medicine' and they say, 'We don't want government-run health care; we don't want a Canadian-style plan,'" Obama said. "Nobody is talking about that. We're saying, let's give you a choice. You can choose the private marketplace, or this other approach.

"And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, 'I don't want government-run health care, I don't want socialized medicine, and don't touch my Medicare.' And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that's what Medicare is, is it's a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with. But I think that we've been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can't sort out the myth from the reality."

This, apparently, is fairly common. Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) recently hosted a town-hall meeting, at which a man insisted, in all seriousness, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare." The constituent, apparently, didn't appreciate the irony.

As obvious as it should be, a surprising number of people don't realize that public health care programs already exist in the United States, and operate quite well. Krugman reminded readers yesterday, "[W]e already have a system in which the government pays substantially more medical bills (47% of the total) than the private insurance industry (35%)."

It reminds me a bit of a scene in "Life of Brian." The People's Front of Judea are having a meeting and considering what the Romans had ever done for them. Reg asks, "Apart apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

Likewise, we've reached the point at which opponents of health care reform ask, "Apart from quality, affordable medical care for seniors, U.S. servicemen and women, injured veterans, poor families, and low-income children, what has government-run health care ever done for us?"

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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My stern mother was always asking me
"If the popular kids jump off a bridge will you ?"
I jumped off bridges to this century and we didn't have any kommie health sex terrorist stuff
I need to know , Mr President , will bridges and jumping be involved ?
Fox news wants to know

Posted by: FRP on July 29, 2009 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

I think that we've been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can't sort out the myth from the reality.

Well, duh. It's propaganda 101. Lies aren't as effective if they only tell them once. But the phrases "government bureaucrat" and "socialized medicine" have been thrown around so often by so many professional propagandists and their unwitting dupes that for many, the myth has become the reality.

Posted by: Gregory on July 29, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

"...for seniors, U.S. servicemen and women, injured veterans, poor families, and low-income children, what has government-run health care ever done for us?"

You forgot "members of Congress."

Posted by: Mahnkenstein on July 29, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

A right-wing friend of mine was railing against the prospect of socialized medicine, expounding on how horrible the outcomes would be if we had to rely on government-run programs.

I reminded my friend, who's 82 years old, that ALL of his healthcare comes via the government--VA and MediCare. "That's different!" he replied. I could not get him to see that he already enjoys the very evil against which he's fighting.

Posted by: Domage on July 29, 2009 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

It's rather disengenuous for anyone to claim that the public option that is being "suggested" by the Dems isn't a huge step towards socialized medicine.

Posted by: HarryS on July 29, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

OT, but did any of you catch Michelle Malkin on The Today Show this morning? WTF?!?!? Why does NBC feel the need to give her a chance to open her piehole in front of millions of people?

The only condolence is that she's quite obviously insane.

Posted by: Jake on July 29, 2009 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

"disengenuous" should be disingenuous.

Posted by: HarryS on July 29, 2009 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

FRP: If a popular kid jumps off a bridge, stick around. You just got more popular by one.

Posted by: chrenson on July 29, 2009 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

It is very disingenuous for any person to suggest that given a free choice between an increasingly ponzi style upward failure and an alternative that offers clear transparency is mere social engineering . No ?
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar ?

Posted by: FRP on July 29, 2009 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Michelle Malkin isn't one of my favorite people, but I think calling her "insane" is quite the stretch.

Posted by: HarryS on July 29, 2009 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

My mother also infrequently scowled with great effect .
Thanks for the laugh

Posted by: FRP on July 29, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

The Japanese internment defended by MM
Insane ?
We report , you decide

Posted by: FRP on July 29, 2009 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

I've long imagined an ad campaign where you have a bunch of anti-reform clips from GOPers-- screaming about socialism and government takeover of healthcare-- and then a black screen with white letters asking "Who has government healthcare?" These people-- show the same congresscritters, pictures of people in military uniforms, as well as older people to represent medicare. Now why is government-sponsored health care or insurance so scary again? Hell, even Bill Kristol unwittingly admitted on the Daily Show the other night that the government CAN run first-class health care, it's called military health care.

The other most obvious project is to ask these congresscritters how they like their healthcare-- get them on record, on tape, saying it's fine, it's great, etc. Ask them what their premiums are, what their co-pays are, then remind them that they have GOVERNMENT INSURANCE!

Posted by: zoe kentucky on July 29, 2009 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

I wish Hairy Ass would jump off a bridge. This place really didn't need yet another annoying troll.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 29, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

The American people, never very bright to begin with, we're so brainwashed during the Reagan years, they can't conceive of government being the solution to anything, even as they cash their social security checks and carry Medicare cards in their wallets.

Posted by: inkadu on July 29, 2009 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

I blame this on ineffective messaging.

Obama et al. knew that Republicans and others who are against the public option would capitalize on Americans' general ignorance of terminology and reality. Americans have heard these 'bad words' for years--as others have written above--yet when Obama set out to do this, there apparently wasn't a recognition of how the message can kill the deal.

Let's hope it's not too late to educate people.

Posted by: terraformer on July 29, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

MM is not one of Oberlin's prouder moments.

However, a good friend of mine was complaining about fighting the Netflix popups at MoJo. I have been remiss with reading any of KD's work. Ventured over there, this morning and I see he still fails to understand the difference Howard Dean has articulated between reforming the insurance industry and reforming health care. As Dr Dean said, Vermont reformed their insurance plans, but, didn't add anyone to the rolls. He and Ezra Klein still quibble as bean counters.

As I "suffer" under that evil socialism of excellent VA care with a Medicare backup. Talked with a 'Nam vet, yesterday, at the Vancouver, WA VA, while waiting for an INR. He was praising the system, as well as I. Several others agreed.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 29, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

-If you don't like being around sick people, don't go to medical school.

If you don't like violence and killing, don't join the military.

If you don't like big goverment, why do you Republicans keep running for congress?

Hmmmm? ? ? ?

Posted by: DAY on July 29, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats, includings presidents Obama and Clinton, share a lot of the blame for this situation. They always move defensively to try to downplay or explain away the role of government regulation and expenditures in a sould health care system -- or anything else -- and they allow Medicare and Medicaid to be demonized again and again without explaining what works and is excellent about them.

Come on, Dems, if you want any more money at all from the likes of me, get off your cautious perches and start fighting and explaining in clear, vivid English. Say that Medicare is a single payer plan for the elderly and works pretty well. We may not want to generalize it right now, but we need more like it, not less!

Also, stop trying to pretend that we can expand opportunity and security in America without spending more federal money and reforming our taxes accordingly. If, in the end, the Dems pass and Obama signs a bunch of new regulations and fees for ordinary Americans, without sigificantly expanding subsidized access for the middle class as well as the poor, you can kiss the Democratic Party's future goodbye.

Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

Posted by: Theda Skocpol on July 29, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

The most typical response, though, when Medicare and Social Security cuts get mentioned is "I deserve those benefits! I paid for them!"

The really pernicious myth about government benefits is the belief, especially among the Glenn Beck crowd, that there are millions of people in this country, primarily low-income people and undocumented immigrants, who don't pay taxes and receive the same benefits as those who do. Once you get past the John Galt fans, the real problem many Americans have isn't that the government provides Medicare and Social Security, it's their belief that the country is swamped with freeloaders. Libertarianism makes sense to people who are starting to think that the only way to get rid of the freeloaders is to get rid of the programs.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on July 29, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

"why do you Republicans (including Max Baucus) keep running for Congress?"

'cause they might have to actually work for a living.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 29, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

One argument against government-run health care is that it would eliminate the incentive for innovation in developing treatments. Nothing empirical to offer, but I would guess that Medicare has provided an incentive for treatments to keep older people alive longer -- medications, surgical procedures, therapeutic procedures. And the VA does do groundbreaking research in dealing with traumatic injuries.

Posted by: jpeckjr on July 29, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

I must not be SCREAMING loud enough! When a segment of our society works so hard on DUMBING DOWN the public what you get is the STUPIDITY (yes, I mean STUPIDITY) that runs rampant through our media, Congress, and population by the moment, hour, day...etc...This is now what we are as a country and a people...and it's no wonder the rest of the world finds us a sad, though powerful, puritanical, war crazed, money driven society!

Posted by: Dancer on July 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Are you sure it wasn't the Judean People's Front?

Posted by: KenS on July 29, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I was treated to local news showing demonstrators outside the Denver capital protesting Obama's health care program this morning. They carried signs spouting all the liar cliches fed to them by those who have a financial incentive to kill this long-overdue progressive initiative.

zoe kentucky at 8:26 - I LOVE your TeeVee ad idea. If the Donkeys don't strike back HARD and OFTEN, the stupid memes will stick. There is a need to coalesce around a short soundbite, like GIVE ME THE SAME PUBLIC OPTION TO GET THE SAME GREAT HEALTH CARE THAT MY CONGRESSMAN HAS - NOW!

Posted by: Chopin on July 29, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

"...we've been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can't sort out the myth from the reality." Rough translation. "You all are so f**king stupid, it makes me want to scream." Well, we are a sort of democracy (actually, a consensual oligarchy/ratified plutocracy), so we get the government we deserve. Depressing.

Posted by: Greg Worley on July 29, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of one of the local (rural Tennessee) "tea parties" earlier this year.

One of the local news shows did some interviews, asking the tea-partiers what they were protesting against. One of them complained that her farm subsidies had been cut.

Posted by: Brock on July 29, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

The really pernicious myth about government benefits is the belief, especially among the Glenn Beck crowd, that there are millions of people in this country, primarily low-income people and undocumented immigrants, who don't pay taxes and receive the same benefits as those who do.

It's the old Ronald Reagan "welfare queens" complaint. You notice that they never seem to worry that people in Appalachia are unfairly taking their tax dollars.

It's sad that people are willing to forego benefits for themselves as long as they're reassured that none of those lazy black or brown people will get them, either.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on July 29, 2009 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Can anyone explain to me why there's a box on my W-2 form that says "Income Tax Paid" if I'm not actually paying income tax? I keep hearing this canard that 40 percent of workers don't pay any income tax, but it's right there on my W-2. Is the government taking the money and pretending it's for income tax? Are they burning it in a big furnace? If I'm not paying income tax, why does it say "Income Tax" with a four-figure number next to it that I definitely don't get back as a refund?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on July 29, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

One has to wonder how many of the common people who are members of the vaunted right wing die hards are beyond redemption? Every success Obama may have will only make them more dangerous.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 29, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

pffft, Judean Peoples Front. Splitters!

Posted by: randomhuman on July 29, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

WHY IS THE SINGLE PAYER NOT ON THE TABLE FROM THE DEMOCRATS? IT WOULD ELIMINATE ALL THIS LOBBYIST TRICKS AND WOULD PROVIDE GREAT MEDICAL CARE. THE POLITICIANS HAVE YET AGAIN SENT AMERICANS DOWN THE RIVER FOR THERE OWN POWER AND GREED.

AMERICANS VOTED FOR CHANGE! WHY ARE WE NOT GETTING WHAT WAS PROMISED?

Posted by: MLjohnston on July 29, 2009 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

What ever happened to the Popular Front?

Posted by: 2Manchu on July 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't like big goverment, why do you Republicans keep running for congress? - DAY @ 9:13

Because the brakes on progress won't operate themselves?

Posted by: Kevin on July 29, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

We've gone from truth, justice, and the American way to, Lies, stupidity, and the American way.

Posted by: Winkandanod on July 29, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

jpeckjr at 9:26
One argument against government-run health care is that it would eliminate the incentive for innovation in developing treatments. Nothing empirical to offer, but I would guess that Medicare has provided an incentive for treatments to keep older people alive longer -- medications, surgical procedures, therapeutic procedures. And the VA does do groundbreaking research in dealing with traumatic injuries.

jpeckjr, first you denounce government-run health care as an innovation-killer, without being able to offer any evidence, as you admit yourself.

And then you provide two 'empiricals' of government-run health care, Medicare and the VA system, which, according to your own verdict, have done pretty well in terms innovations.

You don't see any contradiction in what you wrote?

Posted by: SRW1 on July 29, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

"What ever happened to the Popular Front?"

He's over there. SPLITTER!

Posted by: Marko on July 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Americans in general have no idea what it is like to get health care in a "socialized" system like Canada or England.

They assume that the government will tell them which doctor to go to, and that's what they mean when they say utterly stupid things like "don't socialize my Medicare."

They think if there is a "public option," that it won't pay for them to see their "old" doctor, like Medicare now does.

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 29, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I've been thinking that Americans' fears about medical care are so mixed up with racism and xenophobia that it would take multiple surveys just to ask the right questions.

But the one question that might come closest to cutting through the mental clutter is:

Do you believe universal health care is just?

Because no one ever uses the word "justice" in a survey. It is assumed that we are all too prejudiced to agree on what it means, so it's useless to measure it. Which allowed right-wing America to mutate the definition of justice into something so ugly that it needs to be exposed and debated. Justice was the issue in 1860 and 1933, because everyone was arguing about it and the Left's position prevailed.

The belief that Medicare and Social Security are not government programs, or that they have been "earned" individually, is the clue. I suspect that most conservatives would say that universal health care as practiced in Canada, Europe, Japan and Taiwan is unjust, not in spite of its overwhelming support in those countries, but BECAUSE of the overwhelming support. To conservatives, democracy is majority tyranny, and foreign lands are degraded because their inferior, lazy, socialistic masses steal from and oppress their long-suffering, productive, entrepreneurial minority who secretly yearn for American liberty. (These people must exist because otherwise these countries couldn't be rich, see?)

What does it all mean? Conservatives would rather live in a "just" society, where the inferiors live badly as they deserve, than a healthy society. Equality is inherently unjust. Justice is punishment against the majority who failed to perfectly conform to God's (tribal) demands, not a reward for being human.

This explains so many far right positions that I think the bastards actually believe it, but we need to back them up against the wall and get them to say what they think we deserve.

Posted by: super390 on July 29, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I am a person with only a high school education yet after listening to some people out there I feel as if I have a masters degree in common sense. People on medicare telling our government to keep their dirty hands of their insurance because they don't want government healthcare and thinking the government is going to kill them. How did this country full of such dumb people become so great? Maybe the answer is we're not so great just powerful. It's only a matter of time before other countries will be looking at us and laughing. Our slide downwards started with Newt and has continued with Rush, Palin, Hannity, Coulter, Malkin and Fox noise. They are simple minds for simple people. God help America...

Posted by: RJ on July 30, 2009 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

SRW1 on July 29, 2009 at 1:45 PM

jpeckjr at 9:26
One argument against government-run health care is that it would eliminate the incentive for innovation in developing treatments. Nothing empirical to offer, but I would guess that Medicare has provided an incentive for treatments to keep older people alive longer -- medications, surgical procedures, therapeutic procedures. And the VA does do groundbreaking research in dealing with traumatic injuries.

jpeckjr, first you denounce government-run health care as an innovation-killer, without being able to offer any evidence, as you admit yourself.

And then you provide two 'empiricals' of government-run health care, Medicare and the VA system, which, according to your own verdict, have done pretty well in terms innovations.

You don't see any contradiction in what you wrote?

SRW1, a simple re-read was all I needed to get the gist of jpeckjr's post - I think the first part, arguing about the "lack of innovation" dealt with what opponents are saying about govt funded health care.

The second part, is where jpeckjr provides the debunking of that GOP claim - easy and simple, with the evidence of the two govt-funded health care programs - Medicare and VA.

At least, that's the sense I got on a second reading. And a few more, just to be sure I wasn't being unfair here.

jpeckjr, I suggest you learn to hit "Preview" before you hit "Post" :-) Or at least make sure there is a clear separation of "the argument" and your counterargument.

Posted by: Radi on July 30, 2009 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

The person in the town hall event was misinformed. However, most people here seem misinformed as well. First off, Medicare is NOT the ideal. If it works so well, how come so many docs are dropping participation? http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5326078&page=1

It has to do with the poor reimbursement. And the fact that Medicare pays the percentage of bills it does now drives up the cost of private health insurance. Insurers get charged more by providers to make up the difference.

Also, Medicare has a tremendous amount of fraud. Of course, if they clamped down on that their admin costs would go up. People assume admin costs of 2% is a good thing. It isn't necessarily. Admin costs can include chronic disease management, catastrophic case management, 24 hour call centers, etc. Medicare doesnt do most of this.

And the benefits are not that generous despite what people think. Medicare has a good amount of out of pocket costs. That is why medigap coverage exists. Many services are not included. Sure insurance companies deny claims and payment. Does anyone think Medicare or a public option wouldn't? CMS refused to pay for a less painful less invasive colonoscopy. They may have had good reasons for doing so. However, no one is calling them evil or greedy or it. If it was Aetna or United they probably would be.

As far as innovation goes, you do need money to pay for new drugs and new technologies. And as I said before medicare payments are lower than most private insurance. Im not saying insurance companies are angels but I am saying medicare and public programs are not these glorious things people are making them out to be.

Posted by: James on July 31, 2009 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

I also forgot to mention that the financial future of the medicare program is pretty bad. How can we have medicare for all when medicare for some is bankrupting us, going bankrupt itself, and has huge unfunded liability.

Posted by: James on July 31, 2009 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

You people have got to be kidding me. The examples of Government run health care as being great? Anything Government run for that matter? Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and V.A. health care are all over budget and adding to the defecit every year. Medicare for seniors is such a joke that they pay thousands of dollars out of pocket to cover the cost of their prescriptions or have to buy a subsidizing policy to help pick up the cost of their health care. Even after this they still pay out of pocket for some things. Please stop with your lies, government isn't going to make anything any better and is only going to make it worse. The only thing they are looking forward to is playing with a bigger budget of money that they think they have but really don't.

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