Let’s get Meta.
There’s a meme running around teh interwebz trying to explain the implosion of healthcare reform, the upshot of which is Democrats are pussies and can’t fight trench warfare against the ominous Rove-inspired disinformation machine. Apparently they are so weak-willed that a ex-Governor who lost a VP bid can just mutter about “Death Panels” on Facebook and they melt into goo like the Wicked Witch of the West.
Here’s the one thing. We have the most nasty dirty-fighting opportunistic power grab going on in Washington right now. The Democrats are fully in control, and the Republican party is completely irrelevant after spending eight years slamming itself in the face with the ball-peen hammer called George W. Bush. You want to know what happened to health care reform? The Democrats killed it, all by themselves. They passed out the torches and pitchforks and didn’t even realize what they were doing.
Here is a ten step guide on how to completely squander the high-water mark of your party’s dominance.
Mistake one: Blow all your political capital on passing two huge controversial bills before even attempting your capstone plan.
Mistake two: Throw everything in at the same time. Why narrowly focus on a single item and come up with a proposal to fix it when you can throw everything at the wall at once in a huge malignant tumor of legislation that insures that there’s at least one show-stopping revelation for just about everyone.
Mistake three: Fail to make a case that something needs to be fixed. When a major selling point is Obama saying, “If you like what you have, nothing will change,” and 70% of the population like what they have, they start wondering why you’re doing anything. When you’re pimping legislation based on all the things it ain’t going to do (like unplug grandma) you are failing to make an argument for it.
Mistake four: Make the patently stupid assertion that “new massive entitlement” = “saving money.” Compound that by complaining about the CBO like a whiny little brat when the budget impact figures are released.
Mistake five: Make bad jokes about not reading these massive bills, so you look like an arrogant tool.
Mistake six: Call your opposition un-American Nazis.
Mistake seven: Say the public option is not an essential component of the package, except when it is, and say the media is doing everyone a disservice by reporting what you actually said.
Mistake eight: Ask citizens to report on people making “fishy” claims about health care reform. When someone points out how Orwellian that is, just say “oops, our bad.”
Mistake nine: Repeatedly claim it’s all the evil Republicans’ fault that you can’t move a bill though your until-recently filibuster-proof Senate. Yeah, it’s the Republicans. They’re not being bipartisan, the bastards.
Mistake ten: If someone releases a video of you enthusiastically supporting single payer, don’t rely on the old standby of claiming your position has evolved. Don’t say that, while single payer is your preference, you’re open to other approaches. Don’t even claim out-of-context quoting. No, instead have a shill release another web-video flatly stating the original video of you is “disinformation” and combat it with other videos of you saying something completely different.
Bonus Mistake eleven: Proclaim that the time for debate is over just as your proposal really starts tanking.
Of all the crap the U.S. Government spends money on, the National Endowment of the Arts is probably one of the least offensive. When someone comes around and calls for eliminating funding for it, they come across often as either petty or too easily offended. Two main complaints rear their head when the subject of the NEA comes up 1) it’s a waste of taxpayer money and 2) OMG look at what they’re funding!!!!
Well #2 has never really moved me. Frankly if you have that kind of arts funding, I’m for having expression as free as possible. (Besides if your art actually had popular support you wouldn’t need government money, right?) And #1? There are a hella lot more wasteful segments of the government to spend energy attacking.
Problem is there’s a number three.
3) Anything funded by the State is eventually manipulated by the State to support the State’s own ends.
But Mr. Swann, it’s just paranoid to think that anyone would try and use the National Endowment for the Arts to try and manipulate their beneficiaries to become mouthpieces for some partisan political agenda.
Shall I quote from a blog post by Patrick Courrielche?
On Thursday August 6th, I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a conference call scheduled for Monday August 10th hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve. The call would include “a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!” [...]
Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” [...]
Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.
Isn’t it nice to know that political ideology is now explicitly part of the mix? Frankly, if you’re in the arts, of whatever political persuasion, this should really freak you out. Defining politically acceptable modes of artistic expression has never been a sign of a healthy regime.
With all the venting I’m doing on my blog lately, you might be wondering how I account for my political views in my fiction. Some who only know me from my blog might wonder if I come across as Ayn Rand in drag. And there’s certainly room in the SF/Fantasy real for the well-written polemic, some of our best fiction was written with a political POV in mind. (Though some insist that it isn’t SF because it’s SERIOUS.)
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to write polemic well. For every 1984 there’re a dozen dystopias that fall flat on their face. Fortunately, that’s not my problem since I don’t do polemics.
People write for a lot of reasons, some to make a political point, some to create art, I write to entertain. (I only dis the first two when their proponents dis me.) So, even though it’s impossible to write fiction that isn’t informed by your own point of view, I make a real effort to try and give everyone in my stories a solid reason for their own outlook and have them behave believably in that context. Even when they’re diametrically opposed to my own thinking. I also work extra hard not to give the characters I’m sympathetic to a free ride just because they’re right
However, one side effect I do acknowledge is the fact that I am way more likely to be sympathetic to individual motivations than group motivations. Oft times I have a small handful of characters fighting against a vast conspiracy. (And admit it, doing the reverse would hardly be dramatic.)
By the way, speaking of Democrats revising their publicly declared policy positions:
We all know that all this “Death Panel” stuff is crazy talk, hell Obama himself has called such arguments “dishonest,” problem is, he’s also said this about his grandmother:
THE PRESIDENT: So that’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that’s also a huge driver of cost, right?
I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.
LEONHARDT: So how do you — how do we deal with it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that’s part of what I suspect you’ll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now.
Ok, so the “Death Panel” people may have jumped to the clearly unsupported conclusion that when the government gives you “guidance” it becomes mandatory. I mean, our income tax is a voluntary system (meaning you get the choice of weather or not to file and the IRS has the choice of weather or not to imprison you.) But this is clearly not what Obama is saying here, right? He’s saying that these “panels” would not define your care, just give you suggestions. Clearly he wouldn’t say that if he didn’t mean it.
On Saturday, he added a personal story of his own, citing the death of his grandmother to push back against unsubstantiated claims that he wants to establish government “death panels” that would deny care to elderly patients.
“I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love who’s aging deteriorate, and have to struggle with that,” Mr. Obama said. “So the notion that somehow I ran for public office, or members of Congress are in this so they can go around pulling the plug on grandma? I mean, when you start making arguments like that, that’s simply dishonest.”
Yeah, we certainly don’t want any dishonesty in political discourse.
It’s a legitimate topic of discussion, and there was a fair bit of thought in what he said in April. But if your first response to someone successfully demagoguing an issue like this is try to paint them as dishonest crazy people and deny you ever said anything that even smelled like what they’re talking about, it sort of makes a reasoned person doubt your sincerity when you first brought the subject up.
Strangely enough, I try not to demonize and/or ridicule people for their political beliefs. When I hand out asshats, I’m doing so for statements and actions that define a universal Platonic ideal of stupidity. So Pelosi is here not because of her political views, which I find the philosophical equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard, but for an incredible double-header of dumb that is not only idiotic on it’s face, but which I have trouble picturing as helping any political cause other than Republicans looking for sound bites for 2010 campaign ads.
First off, she manages to take credit for Godwinizing the Health Care debate, snatching it firmly from the fringe of the opposition who’d been raising Hitler analogies since before the election. Apparently, she missed the fact that wingnuts raising wingnut arguments <> news, speaker of house implying her opposition are Nazis = News. Enough news that her advocates have to defend her comments rather than her health care plan. Smooth.
Then, we find out that not only are the people protesting the Health Care legistaltion Nazis, but in USA Today, they are Un-American. This is not really subject to interpretation, as her op-ed is entitled, “‘Un-American’ attacks can’t derail health care debate.” And pretty much states flat out that the kind of protest that’s emerging in the face of this legislation is the kind of vile anti-Americanism that Liberals were always paranoid of being accused of during the reign of George W. Hitler. (See what I did there?)
These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.
Oh, I’m afraid of differing views. Uh, no. And the primary fact I’m afraid of is the 1.6 Trillion dollars of mob-inducing fear-mongering that came out of that Right-Wing think tank called the Congressional Budget Office, and the fact that every time the government gets involved in health care it results in steaming piles of fail. Calling me a fearful un-American Nazi doesn’t encourage me to change my mind. Or is that actually the point? Maybe the point is drowning out opposing views by fear mongering? (The un-American Insurance Nazis will get you!)
By the way, about “facts,” despite decrying the “factless” fearfulness of the evil nasty loathsome opposition, there are precious few “facts” in her op-ed. In fact, I only found two paragraphs worth:
Our plan’s cost-lowering measures include a public health insurance option to bring competitive pressure to bear on rapidly consolidating private insurers, research on health outcomes to better inform the decisions of patients and doctors, and electronic medical records to help doctors save money by working together. For seniors, the plan closes the notorious Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” that denies drug coverage to those with between $2,700 and $6,100 per year in prescriptions.
Reform will also mean higher-quality care by promoting preventive care so health problems can be addressed before they become crises. This, too, will save money. We’ll be a much healthier country if all patients can receive regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams, without paying a dime out-of-pocket.
The problem is, of course, none of these “cost cutting” measures save money. The “public option” itself is a massive new entitlement cost, and the “competitive” cost pressure it might have had is already served by Medicare and Medicaid. It saves the Government zero, saves the industry zero, and any downward pressure on the cost of insurance premiums will be offset by the taxes required to pay for it. Let me also say that the electronic record itself is a massive across the board cost to the entire industry, and is in fact already a federal requirement under HIPPA so has no bearing on the “cost” of this bill. And somehow she manages to claim that increasing prescription drug coverage will save money. Also, while preventative care is a good thing, it isn’t some sort of magic bullet to save money. In fact, in many cases it increases health-care expenditures; put bluntly, you live an extra 10 to 15 years because of good preventative care, that’s an extra 10 to 15 years you drain the resources of the system, and those are the years where you consume the most health care resources. That’s not an argument against improving preventative care, but it is an argument against claiming it saves you money.
But then I’m an un-American fact-fearing Nazi.