Dave Yost: Lies, half-truths, and mere exaggerations
Is there anything more maddening these days than to watch our U.S. Congress at work? In recent years, the process for which our elected officials decide on things and conduct the business for which we elected them has sometimes bordered on pure insanity. For those who may have watched this whole matter of passing the Health Care Reform bill on C-SPAN, the event was clear evidence that some of our leaders have simply lost it. One by one, various house representatives stood up and stated all kinds of half-truths; some more in tune with a lie than a stretch of the imagination. Most of them were saying the exact same thing. While this was mostly coming from the Republican side, stretching things is not an exclusive GOP habit.
As noted in the SDN and in other reports, many Democratic congressmen and congresswomen who had the guts to vote for this particular bill last month have been subject to serious threats. Already, we have house reps having to hire extra security. Racial slurs were reported on the steps of the capital and state lawsuits have been issued. How did we ever get to this point? What happened to good old bipartisan discussion that leads to a bill people can understand and support?
I suspect the reason for some of this hysteria goes back to the lies and half truths that were coming out about this bill. How many times did we hear that the real cost of the bill was $2.3 trillion? Or that billions in Medicare cuts will seriously impact all of our seniors? The bill is understandably complex. It covers a lot of areas, hits the higher income brackets a bit, and will likely impact your health care insurance bill, one way or the other. However, it cannot possibly cost more than it would take to simply give all of the true uninsured the funds they need to pay for their insurance; totally free of charge. This is far less than the $2.3 trillion, which is a huge stretch from a guy who used to be the assistant director of the OMB in the Bush administration.
In looking back at history, one finds that both the Civil Rights legislation and Medicare were actually passed during the Johnson administration with a fairly bipartisan vote. The Civil Rights Act was a bit tense since it had generations of bias going against it. Health Care Reform has stirred up a lot of people in the same way as this law which was supposed to block discrimination against minorities once and for all.
Today’s GOP is far more vocal and unanimous that it was in the ’60s. The trend may have started during the Carter presidency; when a number of conservative Republicans started to fear a continuation of this liberal trend in the years following the Nixon Watergate scandal. Ronald Reagan came to the rescue and was the perfect guy to start solidifying the base. He and his successor, George H.W. Bush, presided over a gradual march towards a more conservative, pro-business and totally unregulated society.
The sparks really started to fly early in the Clinton administration when Bill had Hillary tackle the health care giants. She lost the war of course, but the free market folks were a bit nervous. If this president would face the drug and insurance companies, he most certainly would face the other big business giants of the day. The growing GOP majority in last two years of the Clinton administration set the stage for the battles to come. Since then, it is extremely hard to identify a single Republican who would show an independent streak. One by one, any GOP candidate for high office started to fall in line.
One of these more independent Republicans actually emerged in Illinois. Senator Peter Fitzgerald was elected in 1998 when he defeated the incumbent, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. Braun was the only black woman ever to be elected to the Senate. Sen. Fitzgerald was a bit of a surprise for a Republican; coming from a banking background but was considered a political moderate. In 2005, he surprisingly walked away after serving only one term. Reports were flying that he was forced out since he did not blindly follow the leaders. The Republicans thought they could easily replace him, but Barack Obama stepped into the limelight.
In today’s climate, one has to wonder how many more Peters are out there or how many more moderate Republican candidates would sign up if not for the pressure from above. It is not clear who is behind this right wing power grab, but there is no denying it is happening. The danger is that the money is flowing their way. Money, it seems, is mostly what you need to win an election these days. It also helps if you feed the Tea Party folks on the side.
Dave Yost is a retired engineer, now living in Silverthorne.
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