Good­bye spin, hello lies

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Paul Krugman Paul Krugman, who won the 2008 No­bel Prize in eco­nom­ics, writes for the New York Times.

Do you re­mem­ber po­lit­i­cal spin? Politi­cians used to de­ceive vot­ers by de­scrib­ing their poli­cies in mis­lead­ing ways. For ex­am­ple, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion was prone to things like claim­ing that tax breaks for the wealthy were re­ally all about help­ing se­niors—be­cause ex­tremely rich Amer­i­cans tend to be quite old.

But Repub­li­cans no longer bother with de­cep­tive pre­sen­ta­tions of facts. In­stead, they just flat-out lie.

What do they lie about? Lots of things, from crowd sizes to im­mi­grant crime, from steel plants to the Supreme Court. But right now the most in­tense, co­or­di­nated ef­fort at de­cep­tion in­volves health care—an is­sue where Repub­li­cans are ly­ing non­stop about both their own po­si­tion and that of Democrats.

The true Repub­li­can po­si­tion on health care has been clear and con­sis­tent for decades: The party hates, just hates, the idea of govern­ment ac­tion to make es­sen­tial health care avail­able to all cit­i­zens, re­gard­less of in­come or med­i­cal his­tory.

This ha­tred very much in­cludes ha­tred of Medi­care. Way back in 1961, Ron­ald Rea­gan warned that en­act­ing Medi­care would de­stroy Amer­i­can free­dom. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that hap­pened. Newt Gin­grich shut down the govern­ment in an at­tempt to force Bill Clin­ton to slash Medi­care fund­ing. Paul Ryan pro­posed end­ing Medi­care as we know it and re­plac­ing it with in­ad­e­quate vouch­ers to be ap­plied to the pur­chase of pri­vate in­sur­ance.

The ha­tred ob­vi­ously ex­tends to the Af­ford­able Care Act. Repub­li­cans don’t just hate the sub­si­dies that help peo­ple buy in­sur­ance; they also hate the reg­u­la­tions that pre­vent in­sur­ers from dis­crim­i­nat­ing against peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. In­deed, 20 Repub­li­can state at­tor­neys gen­eral filed a law­suit try­ing to elim­i­nate pro­tec­tion for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clined to op­pose the suit, in ef­fect en­dors­ing it.

So if you’re a voter who cares about health care, it shouldn’t be hard to fig­ure out where the par­ties stand. If you be­lieve that Medi­care is a bad thing and the govern­ment shouldn’t pro­tect peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, vote Repub­li­can. If you want to de­fend Medi­care and en­sure cov­er­age even for those who have health prob­lems, vote Demo­crat.

But Repub­li­cans have a prob­lem here: The poli­cies they hate, and Democrats love, are ex­tremely pop­u­lar. Medi­care has over­whelm­ing sup­port. So does pro­tec­tion for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, which is even sup­ported by a large ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­cans.

You might imag­ine that Repub­li­cans would re­spond to the man­i­fest un­pop­u­lar­ity of their health care po­si­tion by, you know, ac­tu­ally chang­ing their po­si­tion. But that would be hope­lessly old-fash­ioned. What they’ve cho­sen to do in­stead is lie, in­sist­ing that black is white and up is down.

Thus Josh Haw­ley, as Mis­souri’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, is part of that law­suit against Oba­macare’s reg­u­la­tion of in­sur­ers; but in his cam­paign for the Sen­ate, he’s pos­ing as a de­fender of Amer­i­cans with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. Dean Heller, run­ning for re-elec­tion to the Sen­ate in Ne­vada, voted for a bill that would have de­stroyed Oba­macare, in­clud­ing all pro­tec­tion for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions; but he’s mis­rep­re­sent­ing him­self just as Haw­ley is.

They aren’t just ly­ing about their own po­si­tions. They’re also ly­ing about their op­po­nents’. In­cred­i­bly, Repub­li­cans have spent the years since pas­sage of the ACA ac­cus­ing Democrats of want­ing to de­stroy Medi­care.

All of which brings me to a re­mark­able op-ed ar­ti­cle on health care in USA To­day, which was pub­lished un­der Don­ald Trump’s name this week. (If he ac­tu­ally wrote it I’ll eat my hair­piece—although, to be fair, it was ram­bling and in­co­her­ent, sug­gest­ing he may have played some role in its com­po­si­tion.)

Part of the ar­ti­cle claimed that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is de­fend­ing health in­sur­ance for Amer­i­cans with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions, when the re­al­ity is that it has tried to de­stroy that cov­er­age. But mostly it was an at­tack on pro­pos­als for Medi­care for all, a slo­gan that refers to a va­ri­ety of pro­pos­als from uni­ver­sal sin­gle-payer to some form of pub­lic op­tion.

And what did “Trump” say Democrats would do? Why, that they would “evis­cer­ate” the cur­rent Medi­care pro­gram. Oh, and that they would turn Amer­ica into Venezuela. Be­cause that’s what has hap­pened to coun­tries that re­ally do have sin­gle-payer, like Canada and Den­mark.

Why do Repub­li­cans think they can get away with such bla­tant lies? Partly it’s be­cause they ex­pect their Fox-watch­ing fol­low­ers to be­lieve any­thing they’re told.

But it’s also be­cause they can still count on en­ablers in the main­stream news me­dia. Af­ter all, why did USA To­day ap­prove this piece? Let­ting Trump ex­press his opin­ion is one thing; giv­ing him a plat­form for bla­tant lies is an­other. And as fact-checker Glenn Kessler of The Wash­ing­ton

Post put it, “Al­most ev­ery sen­tence con­tained a mis­lead­ing state­ment or a false­hood.” Even the pres­i­dent of the United States isn’t en­ti­tled to his own facts.

So will the GOP’s Big Lie on health care work? We’ll find out in a few weeks.

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