Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller's Monday column defended Obama's embattled health-care law against Republican "slurs" and "lies," in "Five Obamacare Myths." And Keller calling the Democratic-slanted "truth squad" FactCheck.org "impartial" won't do much for his credibility among conservatives, even if he does call himself a "devout capitalist."
On the subject of the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare, to reclaim the name critics have made into a slur -- a number of fallacies seem to be congealing into accepted wisdom. Much of this is the result of unrelenting Republican propaganda and right-wing punditry, but it has gone largely unchallenged by gun-shy Democrats. The result is that voters are confronted with slogans and side issues -- “It’s a tax!” “No, it’s a penalty!” -- rather than a reality-based discussion. Let’s unpack a few of the most persistent myths.
OBAMACARE IS A JOB-KILLER. The House Republican majority was at it again last week, staging the 33rd theatrical vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act. And once again the cliché of the day was “job-killer.” After years of trying out various alarmist falsehoods the Republicans have found one that seems, judging from the polls, to have connected with the fears of voters.
The impartial truth squad FactCheck.org has debunked the job-killer claim so many times that in its latest update you can hear a groan of weary frustration: words like “whopper” and “bogus” and “hooey.” The job-killer claim is also discredited by the experience under the Massachusetts law on which Obamacare was modeled.
On the statement "OBAMACARE IS A FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF HEALTH INSURANCE," Keller thundered:
Let’s be blunt. The word for that is “lie.” The main thing the law does is deliver 30 million new customers to the private insurance industry. Indeed, a significant portion of the unhappiness with Obamacare comes from liberals who believe it is not nearly federal enough: that the menu of insurance choices should have included a robust public option, or that Medicare should have been expanded into a form of universal coverage.
Under the law, to be sure, insurance will be governed by new regulations, and supported by new subsidies. This is not the law Ayn Rand would have written. But the share of health care spending that comes from the federal government is expected to rise only modestly, to nearly 50 percent in 2021, and much of that is due not to Obamacare but to baby boomers joining Medicare.
This is a “federal takeover” only in the crazy world where Barack Obama is a “socialist.”
Actually, in a 2010 article for Commentary, Jonah Goldberg uncovered plenty of cases of Obama fans calling various Obama policies socialist. As Goldberg summarized:
Yes, Obama’s agenda is socialist in a broad sense. The Obama administration may not have planned on seizing the means of automobile production or asserting managerial control over Wall Street. But when faced with the choice, it did both. Obama did explicitly plan on imposing a massive restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the use of state fiat—and he is beginning to do precisely that.
Back to the (don't laugh!) "devout capitalist" Bill Keller:
I’m a pretty devout capitalist, and I see that in some cases individual responsibility helps contain wasteful spending on health care. If you have to share the cost of that extra M.R.I. or elective surgery, you’ll think hard about whether you really need it. But I’m deeply suspicious of the claim that a health care system dominated by powerful vested interests and mystifying in its complexity can be tamed by consumers who are strapped for time, often poor, sometimes uneducated, confused and afraid.
"Capitalist" Keller concluded by restating the argument in starkly pro-Obamacare terms.
Even before the law takes full effect, it has a natural constituency, starting with every cancer victim, every H.I.V. sufferer, everyone with a condition that now would keep them from getting affordable coverage. Any family that has passed through the purgatory of cancer -- as mine did this year, with decent insurance -- can imagine the hell of doing it without insurance.
Against this, Mitt Romney offers some vague free-market principles and one unambiguous promise: to dash the hopes of 30 million uninsured, and add a few million to their ranks by slashing Medicaid.
If the Obama campaign needs a snappy one-liner, it could borrow this one from David Cutler: “Never before in history has a candidate run for president with the idea that too many people have insurance coverage.”