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Please drop the red herrings from televised debates

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Via Roy Edroso, I see that at least one wingnut has risen to the bait of defending the Tea Partiers who bellowed their approval at the idea of letting an uninsured man died. John Hawkins of Right Wing News rose to the bait, by pointing out that Blitzer was asking about someone with a good job who can afford insurance but simply doesn't pay it.  Of course, John ignores that "The Left" was doing more than simply disagreeing with people who say that someone in that situation should be left to die—though I am surprised at how few people have pointed out that they often are left to die—but that we were appalled at the bloodthirsty love of needless death on display at the debate.  It wasn't just that someone made a somber argument for the necessity of letting some people fall through the cracks (which again, is the status quo—emergency rooms are required to care for you regardless of ability to pay, but in the situation Blitzer describes, the man would actually be taken off life support), it was the foot-stomping glee that the Tea Partiers had at the idea of death. You get the impression that if Ron Paul suggested that they send a squad of people to his house to rape his wife and beat his kids, you know, to "send a message" about not buying your own insurance, the audience would have gone nuts with approval. That, I think, more than the argument, is the concern here. 

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But I'm honestly surprised more wingnuts haven't risen to the bait like Hawkins, because the way Blitzer asked about this question was a complete and utter red herring. Red herrings are a favorite argument technique of conservatives—which is why I suppose Blitzer is fond of them, rat bastard that he is—but they have no place in a presidential debate.  A common red herring, for instance, is for anti-choicers to invoke the specter of someone who is 9 months pregnant, wakes up and says, "You know, childbirth doesn't seem like a good idea after all," and waltzes into a Planned Parenthood to have an abortion.  This never happens. But the reason wingnuts bring it up is because they can't win the argument on real world grounds, so they make up fairy tales to debate instead.  That's why having a so-called journalist do this during a debate instead of asking a real question is utter bullshit. You're just eating up time that could be spent on discussing real-world concerns.  

Let's revisit Blitzer's question:

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Your average American can see immediately at least one major problem with this question. There is no such thing as  "good job" that doesn't have insurance benefits.  He might as well have said, "So you have this 30-year-old who can shoot lasers out of his eyeballs, and he figures that he doesn't need a police force. Should he be able to opt out of the percentage of his taxes that go to pay them?"  Blitzer should be ashamed of himself for concocting a myth and throwing it out there like it matters.  And sure enough, Hawkins—dishonest fuck that he is—laps that shit right up, claiming that millions of Americans who are going without insurance could totally have it if they wanted. Sure, if they quit paying their rent, but let's be real here.  The notion that there are 30-year-olds who are like, "La di dah, I could totally pay for insurance with my vast fortune, but I choose not to because ha ha, the federal government's got my back!" is asinine.  It just doesn't happen, as most working uninsured work part time (aka, in not-good jobs).  And if you can find that one example somewhere in the mists of time—you heard from a friend of a friend about this person—so what?  We really shouldn't be making broad policy decisions that affect the entire nation because of one guy someone heard about somewhere. 

Now, there is the exception, I suppose, of entrepeneurs.  There are a lot of freelancers and entrepeneurs who take their chances with going uninsured, because money is tight and also because insurance is more expensive than Blitzer is letting on.  But that's just one more reason that universal health care is such a good idea! Right now, many creative and interesting people are stuck in jobs (jobs that someone else would probably like to have, especially in this economy!) that don't use their taients, and one of the major reasons is health care. I know a lot of people who are 30-year-old entrepeneurs of various sorts, and their attitude towards health care is not the cavalier one Blitzer describes. It's actually better-described as "desperate". Good health care that actually provides is simply too expensive for most people, and so the holy grail of this world is getting a contract with someone who values your contribution enough to offer health care on top of what they're paying you.  Universal health care reform will pay out many long-term economic dividends in this way, by encouraging more people to go with the small business ideas of their dreams, many of which will be successful and create more jobs….with health care. 

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In fact, I would argue that this is a major reason so many corporate interests oppose health care reform. For all the blather out there about "free markets", much of modern day conservatism is about squelching actual free markets, where people with fresh ideas can actually compete with big businesses. The last thing big business interests want is to encourage entrepeneurs. Big business doesn't want to innovate or work hard; they just want to sit around collecting obscene profits off over-priced goods, safe in the knowledge that many of the people who could compete with them if set free are instead tied to desk jobs, in no small part because they want health insurance. Republicans are the protectors of entrenched corporate interests, and that's why, regardless of their poses, they oppose anything that would encourage genuine entrepeneurship. 

 

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