The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Healthcare Hysteria Part Deux

Posted by Bill Nance on August 8, 2009

My friend Jay G and I have got into a rather heated discussion on the comments section of his blog over healthcare, and in particular, about his assertion that the left in general and the Democrats in particular are inciting violence at town hall meetings being held by congresspersons this month on healthcare reform. His case rests upon this article, in which Whitehouse staffers Jim Messina and David Axelrod told Democrat Senators and their staff members: “If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.”

Of course this single quote leaves out the context of the quote:

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina told senators to focus on the insured and how they would benefit from “consumer protections” in the overhaul, such as ending the practice of denying insurance based on preexisting conditions and ensuring the continuity of coverage between jobs.

They showed video clips of the confrontational town halls that have dominated the media coverage, and told senators to do more prep work than usual for their public meetings by making sure their own supporters turn out, senators and aides said.

And they screened TV ads and reviewed the various campaigns by critics of the Democratic plan.

“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” Messina said, according to an official who attended the meeting.

First, I just think Jay is flat wrong in his interpretation of the article in question. It seems crystal clear to me, that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who was speaking to Democrat Senators about strategy, was referring to political tactics, not violence. That is, unless you think he was suggesting that U.S. senators punch out protestors at their town hall meetings, an assertion that’s frankly silly in my opinion.

I said later that in my opinion, the protestors are, by and large, being manipulated and organized by very well paid lobbyists and front groups for the GOP and people with vested financial interests in the outcome of the debate over healthcare reform. Jay asked for verification of this and I’m happy to provide a couple of examples:

First, lets start with an organization called FreedomWorks.  This organization’s Board of Directors is a veritable who’s who of GOP insiders including Dick Armey, Jack Kemp and C. Boyden Gray, Legal Counsel to GHW Bush from 1981 to 1993.

In addition to being a fairly thinly veiled front organization for the GOP, Armey went from congress and his position as HUD director directly to one of the most high-powered law firms in the world called DLA Piper, which has a “strategic alliance” with the lobbying firm, The Cohen Group.The Cohen Group is a giant lobbying firm.

FreedomWorks boasts that: “This past week, FreedomWorks helped to organize “Taxpayer Tea Party” protests around the country, in the wake of Rick Santelli’s (CNBC) call for a “Chicago Tea Party” to protest the ridiculous economic policies of President Barack Obama. These protests were a huge success around the country! Thousands of Americans showed up and made their voices heard.”

To call FreedomWorks a legitimate bottom up grassroots organization is simply a joke. It’s a paid subsidiary of the GOP.

Another organization is called Conservatives for Patients Rights. This organization, which calls for people to go to town hall meetings and has a convenient list of all the scheduled town hall meetings, acts as though it’s another grassroots organization. It is anything but.

What the website doesn’t tell you is that the head of this organization is none other than Rick Scott, owner and co-founder of Solantic, a Florida based large chain of walk-in urgent care facilities. Scott also has the dubious distinction of:

Scott founded the Columbia Hospital Corporation in 1987 and later merged Columbia/HCA along with the brother of Senator Bill FristThomas J. Frist in 1989, but was ousted by the company’s board of directors in 1997 in the midst of the nation’s biggest health care fraud scandal in which the company ultimately plead guilty to the nation’s then largest Medicaid and Medicare fraud and paid a record fine of $1.7 Billion dollars.

Nope, no vested interest in the topic here at all. And of course it’s purely coincidental that Scott is joined by disgraced former Bush administration Administrator of Medicare, Thomas Scully, who left office under a cloud after he was found by a Bush Administration internal investigation of threatening to fire a Medicare auditor who was about to go to congress with the actual cost of the Bushie’s medicare prescription drug plan. A plan that was so botched on the part of the GOP and their willing Democrat co-conspirators that it amounts to a welfare program for pharmaceutical companies.  Scully is now on the board of directors of Solantic.  If that’s who you want to ally yourself with, fine. But know who you’re sleeping with.

I don’t doubt that many Americans are unhappy with the Obama administration. After all, forty some-odd percent of the people voted for McCain. I also don’t doubt that in a time of serious economic uncertainty, that people are afraid.  Fear is easy to manipulate. And right-wing big business has been doing an excellent job of this stuff for decades. It happened in 1993, helped in large measure by a hapless effort on the part of the Clintons at heealthcare reform.

I also don’t doubt that the Democrats plans are flawed. They aren’t even discussing serious malpractice reform, which is an absolute requirement for reducing the ruinous inflation of healthcare costs in this country.

But there is no way in Hell that a loud, disruptive appreaance at town hall meetings, shouting down your representatives and screaming insanity is a good way to approach it. That’s exactly what the lobbyists and the healthcare industry wants you to do. They want to scare the living bejeesus out the American public so they can continue to make a killing without any sort of regulation.  They don’t have anyone’s interests at heart except their own.

I’ve said repeatedly that I would dearly love to see the GOP take part in a serious debate on this issue. But they haven’t and they aren’t now. Only yesterday I was able to see the first signs of anything serious in the way of policy proposals from the right, which was an article in the Washington Post by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, where he advocated for the elimination of civil malpractice.  Good for him, let’s see more serious proposals.

But the teabagger movement and the folks showing up at town halls hysterical over commie programs and forced euthanasia are nothing more than useful idiots for moneyed interests who are very adept at manipulting people’s fears.  You’re being lied to folks, by the same people who’ve been selling you snake oil for 20 years.  The Democrats truly suck as a party. But what’s coming out of the GOP and their corporate sponsors is pure baloney. And worst of all, it’s baloney paid for with corrupt money.


One Response to “Healthcare Hysteria Part Deux”

  1. euandus said

    I have been surprised by the lack of civil political discourse in some of the threaded discussions in the blogs. I suspect it might reflect the sort of people we are (i.e., in American society). Here is the post if you are interested:

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