Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The canards of March

    Canard — n. (etymology: French for duck) a fake or unfounded report or story, especially: a fabricated report; a groundless rumor or belief.

    "They crammed health care reform down our throats."

     Yes. Barack Obama, Joe Biden and a decisive majority of Democrats ran for office on health care reform. They secured the White House and an overwhelming majority in Congress on the pledge to reform health care. They debated it for months. They made compromises and deals. Despite the minority's furious effort to obstruct, they got something done that they campaigned to do.

     One person's idea of cramming down throats is another's idea of representative democracy.

      "Health care isn't a right. It's a privilege."

      The protester, a misspelled placard in hand that features Obama in a Hitler 'stache, is headed to be with his Tea Party kin. Distracted by the horrific state of affairs across the land that once was his, he is run over by a street sweeper.

       Either: (a) He will pull his mangled body with every ounce of sinew left in his own bloody elbows to the nearest hospital for care; (b) A privately operated ambulance will mosey up and offer transportation to the hospital if he can present an insurance card that it honors; (c) An ambulance will show up in seconds, ask only about his vital signs, and not assume that any brain injuries are a pre-existing condition. (Answer: c)

      At the emergency room and in intensive care: the same. Insurance or no, society — you and I — through higher hospital costs and fees and other assumed costs, including taxes, will do whatever it can to save the protester's life. If he has insurance, the frantic emergency care to put the saving of his life above all other considerations will drive up the cost of your health care and mine.

      "It'll drive up the deficit."

      We know that our government tends to spend wildly without a means of paying for what it does, like invading and occupying two countries while cutting taxes, like snaking through a Medicare prescription drug benefit that was roughly half a trillion dollars more expensive than its authors knew but didn't admit at the time. One difference here: In this case the government is actually trying to pay for some of what it spends. For one thing, in 2011, the Medicare payroll tax will increase from 1.45 percent to 2.35 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married filing jointly above $250,000. 

     "It will cause our economy to collapse."

      Yes, it will, just as opponents of a tax hike on the wealthy warned it would during the Clinton administration. A "one-way ticket to a recession," said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas. As soon as his party claimed the White House after two terms of unrivaled prosperity under Clinton, and had two terms of its own, it it made Gramm a prophet.

     "Americans oppose this. Fox News says so."

     Tuesday's Gallup Poll found that 49 percent of respondents were glad Congress acted, while 40 percent said they didn't.

      "The Democrats will pay a political price for this."

      Well, it's true that people often play a political price for doing something in Washington. Rarely do they pay a price for doing nothing, save for cozying up to industry and the people who have all of their needs met. Little political gain is to be had for representing society's marginalized or shifting the status quo so much as an inch.

     Shifts of that sort happened after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Decades of recrimination followed. Then again, marginalized people weren't so marginal anymore. Indeed, they had, they have, actual power. It's just what the recriminators feared.

    In the case of health care, someday the offspring of working Americans left to hang in the winds by do-nothing, backsliding politicians will stand up for the kinds of policies that delivered their parents from one of life's biggest dilemmas: to eat or to get a checkup.

      No wonder some people fear it so.

     John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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