Thursday, September 10, 2009

The party that cried wolf

Disclaimer: I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat. I'm registered as a Libertarian but the following could easily be applied to any party in power including my own.

There's been quite a bit of fallout with regards to the hoohah over the President's speech to school children this week. Much of it will be overshadowed by the President's speech to Congress last night but I think the school address issue is symptomatic of a bigger issue - the Republican party has become the boy who cried wolf.

From cries of socialism to "death panels", the Republican's have given voice to the conspiracy theorists of the uber-right. The people who see threat at every turn. The kind of people that end up on the "news of the weird" segments. Some of this characterization is unfair. I'm just as distrustful of the government as the next person. I think it's our job as citizens to question the motives and actions of our government. I think it's our right to dissent but these types of statements do no favor to opposition to the current environment.

This is the one that bugs me the most. Ever since Barack Obama became president, there have been cries of the United States becoming a socialist government. First off, there is simply no way short of a rewrite of the Constitution that we could ever become a truly Socialist form of government. Can Congress pass laws that are socialist in nature? Sure but we also have a separation of powers. Any one of those laws could and can be challenged in the court system to be overturned. "Socialism" has become a boogyman word. Just like the boy who cried wolf, eventually the word looses its power and no one listens. I firmly believe that there are members of our Congress and even our own President would love to move control of much of our economy into the hands of the government but that doesn't mean that we're becoming a socialist country or that the Constitution is immediately invalid. What SHOULD be focused on is the overreaching interpretation of the Commerce Clause that Congress likes to abuse and, as stated during the Sotomayor hearings, depends on to accomplish its goals - both sides.

Healthcare debate

Up until the school speech fiasco, this was the biggest "cry wolf" to date. It started before there were any bills even up for vote but most of the kerflufle was related to HR3200. I'm not going to recount everything on FactCheck. The work has already been done. The point to make is that instead of focusing on what the bill actually says, the wolf-criers are extrapolating specific provisions with conditional language into, in some cases, wild flights of fancy and worst case scenarios. See the following examples:

Government deciding treatments
The actual language of the bill simply sets up a private-public advisory committe that makes recommendations on minimum benefits. Somehow this got extrapolated into the comittee actively deciding what treatment each person would get. Nothing in the bill actually gives this panel that power. All they would do would make recommendations as what minimum coverage should be allowed. First off, this is no different than current insurance companies. Secondly, while one could argue that any recommendation that this panel makes would most likely end up as the baseline coverage, that's still not the same thing as the government deciding your treatments in any given situation.

Health care rationing
Nothing in the bill actually says anything about rationing. Again, the wolf-criers are taking things to extremes. They're mixing up what is happening in other countries with language in the bill stating out of pocket expenses will be capped for individuals and families. While it's fair to consider how healthcare is performing in other countries and what changes have been made in those plans, they're not indicitive of anything specific in HR3200 or the concept of government-run healthcare in general.

Those are just a few examples. The current cry-wolf rhetoric on healthcare is a mixture of misinterpretations, worst-case scenarios and comparisons to other countries. By giving voice to these types of statements, the actual issue is being buried under easily debunked conspiracy theories. Instead, the discussion should be on the cost of implementing the bill (both short and long term) and if it's even a valid role of the federal government.

School speech
So we come to the school speech. Anyone with half a brain knew that this would end poorly. Neal Boortz summed it up pretty well but I wanted to mention it. It became the penultimate example of crying wolf. From the minute it was announced, conspiracy theorists were on top of it. There were actually TWO parts to the speech but they ended up getting lumped together into one big "OMFG". The first part was a set of recommended lesson plans sent out by the Education Department to schools in preparation. Most of it was innocuous in nature. There were a few parts that caught my attention but the biggest one was the line (paraphrasing) "Discuss with students why it's important that we listen to elected leaders like the President, congress, mayors.....". Depending on the interpretation of "important that we listen", one could assume that the lesson plans are stating that we should just do what they say. It's the difference between me telling my son "you need to listen to me right now (i.e. do what I say)" vs. "listen closely to what the President is saying (i.e. pay attention because it's important to understand what politicians are scheming). I can agree with the second one but not the first.

Then there's the speech itself. Did anyone HONESTLY think that he would use the speech as an "indoctrination" speech? Seriously? Our President is arrogant but not stupid. Even IF he had originally planned to do that, instead of giving him enough rope to hang himself the wolf-criers gave him plenty of time to rewrite it and make them look stupid. Which he did.

And while we're on the subject of "indoctrination". If you send your children to a public (I know Boortz likes "government") school, you are conceeding that they will be taught by the government. How hard is that to understand? If you don't like it, homeschool or send them to a private school. Yes, it's totally unfair that you still have to pay taxes to support those schools when you don't have children there but that's a whole other issue.

Use of the word radical
While I'm on the issue of words, I'm also pretty fed up with constant usage of the word "radical" to describe the policies of the current administration. It's bass-ackwards.

2. Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.
3. Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.
If you look at the policies of this administration in light of the rest of the world, technically our EXISTING system is radical. The administration's policies are more the norm for the rest of the world.

That's really all I have to say on the issue. True political discourse has been given over to the extremes on both sides. It's sad for those of us who want to address the real issues.

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