Friday, August 28, 2009

Fear Mongering Has Doomed Health Care Since 1915

Steve Inskeep of NPR had an interesting piece this morning on how fear tactics have been used since forever to kill health care reform. In 1915, opponents of reform tied it to the most prevalent threat of the time--a German takeover plot of the U.S. It's obvious that kind of irrationality prevails today as well.
Oberlander says opponents used scare tactics the very first time the idea of national health insurance was broached — around 1915 — by tying would-be reformers to the nation's then-greatest international threat.

"They said that national health insurance was a plot by the German emperor to take over the United States," he says.

The next effort to remake the health system came during the late 1940s. This time the opposition, led by the American Medical Association, exploited the newest fears. "They said if we adopted national health insurance, the Red army would be marching through the streets of the U.S.; they said this was the first step toward communism," Oberlander says.

By the time the Clinton administration took on the health effort, the power of the American Medical Association was fading. But now a new opponent took its place — the health insurance industry. It ran ads using an ordinary looking couple, named Harry and Louise, to raise doubts among middle-class Americans about how the Clinton plan might hurt rather than help them.

Says Oberlander, "The opponents have changed over time; the tactic of relying on fear and scaring Americans has not."
Republicans might be smart to use fear tactics but immoral and lazy also comes mind. Jonathan Oberlander says fear dominates our brain. It's a biological thing:
It turns out that fear is a very primitive response, and "once fear is aroused in your brain, it tends to take over and dominate," LeDoux says. A brain paralyzed by fear is unable to think other things through.

It actually makes sense on a survival level, he says. "If there's a chance that you'll be harmed, then you better attend to it. In other words, you better be afraid of it and be careful about what's going on."
The story didn't mention targeting seniors, but without a doubt, opponents of health care target seniors, in part, because as a person ages, they begin to feel more vulnerable. It's why so many seniors like to live in gated communities. Seniors are often targets of crime. So if you can get to one of the biggest voting blocs-- seniors -- you could probably dash just about anything.
The lesson? If we want to progress as a nation, we need to get real and move through the fear.
In another story this morning on NPR, Dick Armey says that his group, FreedomWorks, encourages good behavior at town halls. He says the health care debate is a contest between congress and "real voters" and that Obama has real voters too: "They've got real voters too."

But Armey insists that the opposition is more intense and that Obama supporters are "half-embarrassed" by health reform and less intense, that the opponents dominate. It's clear that conservatives believe they are the salt of the Earth, the only people who matter.

It's also interesting that on legitimate news programs, Armey and his ilk act somewhat respectable. But get them on Fox or some other loudmouth show, and they go bonkers. I do agree with Armey in that some congress people have talked down to people, which has enraged some people. I'm not talking about the gun toters or the losers who shout at town halls. I'm talking about the ones who show up and truly want answers, only to find a pandering congress person.