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‘Socialism’ and Sham in the Senate

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Posted on Oct 1, 2009

By Joe Conason

Listening closely to the politicians with the most clout in the debate over health care, it is startling to discover how little they actually seem to know about the subject.

Ignorance rules, even among the bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Six,” who supposedly have immersed themselves in the details of this life-and-death issue for many months. If they understood even the most basic facts about how the United States and other advanced countries provide and finance medical care, they simply could not utter the stupid comments that regularly emanate from their lips.

Every catalog of mindless remarks about health care must include at least one rant by Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who has wasted the country’s time by pretending to seek a bipartisan solution when he simply wants to stall or kill President Barack Obama’s proposed reforms.

Not so long ago, Grassley alleged he had been told that “government-run” systems in other countries would have denied treatment to Sen. Edward Kennedy for his ultimately fatal brain tumor because he was 77 years old. That statement drew outraged attention from British doctors, who believed that the Iowa senator was talking about their practices. “Jaw-droppingly untruthful,” protested the chairman of the British Medical Association, who said he found such attacks astonishing.

Sen. Mike Enzi, the Wyoming Republican who has connived in the Gang of Six farce, has made similar ominous comments about the medical rationing and reductions in care that would ensue from a “government-run option.” He often says something like this while making speeches in which he also claims to be defending Medicare for seniors—which indicates that he doesn’t understand that Medicare is, in fact, a “government-run” program.


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It is hard to believe that any United States senator could truly be so obtuse about our own government-run system, having voted on Medicare finances and regulations annually for years. Yet these same geniuses don’t seem to realize that they have also authorized and financed one of the most thoroughly socialized medical systems in the world—the highly successful, respected and innovative Veterans Health Administration.

Yes, the VA system is even more “socialist” than Medicare, because the VA runs the hospitals and hires the doctors directly (like the British system), while Medicare simply pays fees to hospitals and doctors (as does the Canadian or French system). Which brings us to the topic of health care regimes in other countries, and yet another amazing display of ignorance by a member of the Gang of Six.

Just the other day, Sen. Kent Conrad tried to explain his fervent opposition to a “public option” by mentioning the way they do things abroad. The Democrat from North Dakota wanted to tell his “progressive friends” that we can achieve universal coverage, reduce costs—like all of the industrial nations that pay far less than we do—and get better results. Referring to systems in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Japan, he said, “All of them contain costs, have universal coverage, have very high-quality care and yet are not government-run systems.”

It is true that the countries named by Conrad achieve all those benchmarks, but it is false that none of them have government-run health care.

France, which probably has the best system in the world, is essentially a single-payer plan that operates under the French social security system. Germany prohibits insurance companies from making any profit on basic coverage.

Japan provides insurance at a very low cost to families and individuals, with private coverage used for only a narrow range of services. Switzerland runs insurance plans that are so highly regulated, with prices of services and drugs set by the government, that they would be denounced as communist if anyone tried to impose them here.

Conrad, like his colleagues from Iowa and Wyoming, travels abroad on tax dollars, receives excellent briefings and reports from the Congressional Research Service and employs lots of staff members to help him.

Can they really be that dumb? Or do they just assume that we are?

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

© 2009

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By felicity, October 2, 2009 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

Years ago in America, it was agreed upon that the lowest form of life was the used car salesman - in fact Nixon’s picture was often accompanied by the question, “Would you buy a used car from this guy?”

Well, now that the lowest form of life in America is the politician it should be written under a picture of any one of them “Would you buy a health-care system from this guy?”

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By herewegoagain, October 2, 2009 at 10:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I watching the Senate Finance Committee debate, and I was dismayed by the ease with which some of them made statements easily disproven, or at least unfounded. For example, Senator John Ensign claimed that one out of three Canadian doctors refer their patients to the US. I searched for his source and could only find a single white paper from the “free” market group, the Cato Institute. The author made this exact claim, then gave his source, which was a single study written SIXTEEN YEARS AGO in a health journal. So I looked it up. It stated that at some point, out of the doctors they surveyed, 32% of Canadian doctors had referred a patient out of the country or abroad. It didn’t note at all if this was the US, just out of the country or abroad.

I think many of our Senators just read these position papers that are cranked out by the various “think tanks” and don’t do any follow up at all. That’s either intellectual laziness or a willful desire not to find out if what they’re reading is the truth.

Either is disgraceful, especially for sitting US Senators.

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William W. Wexler's avatar

By William W. Wexler, October 2, 2009 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

Please help us rid ourselves of Grassley.  I was going to write something here about what a putz he is, but I think you know that already.

There is a Dem challenger, Bob Krause.  If you are in the mood, please visit his website, drop a few bucks on him, and tweet it up.

Thanks in advance, I sure would like to wake up some day and find out that Grassley no longer claims to represent us.


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By tropicgirl, October 2, 2009 at 9:39 am Link to this comment

If the politicians know little about health care reform, then Obama knows the

He listens to crazy Dr. Emmanuel who thinks health care should be rationed to
save money. Read it yourself.

He says, “the system is broken” Broken. But…. “we don’t want to do anything too
radical to upset what is working”

This is pretty verbatim from his speech.

He is a lost man from an alien planet. He needs to be returned.

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By bogi666, October 2, 2009 at 7:26 am Link to this comment

ThomasG,The current beneficiaries, Congress and Business, of socialized private capitalism, THE CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS, know a good thing and want to restrict socialism for themselves.These same beneficiaries are quite happy with their lot and with the Federal deficit financed by Treasury bonds with the proceeds DOLED OUT TO THE CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS and the interest and principle paid by individual taxpayers. It was Reagoon who ushered in the huge Federal deficits explicitly for this purpose while simultaneously cutting and/or eliminating corporate taxes.

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By tomas, October 2, 2009 at 6:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with the last sentence as saying it all. It can actually be re-written as “They
are smart. They know we are really that dumb.” Unfortunately, the educated and
vocal few do not outweigh the uneducated and complacent many. Great article,

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LostHills's avatar

By LostHills, October 2, 2009 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

No they’re not really that dumb. They’re just trying to cash in on the legal bribes they’re allowed to collect while the money spigot’s running.

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By montanawildhack, October 2, 2009 at 6:45 am Link to this comment

Ain’t nothin gonna change and for a simple reason…. The Congress of the US are members of the Party and as such could give a damn about the Proles. (that’s you and me folks)  They’ve got their gravy health care plans and their gravy pension plans and to hell with the Proles….  Give the Proles their Victory Gin, their Victory Cigarettes and their internet porn and we will provide the Perpetual Wars to keep their simple minds off of what really matters…. Orwell maps it all out in “1984” and we have no excuses for not seeing this country for what it is:  A Gigantic Lie!!!  And my fellow peons it’s just gonna take another attack by the freedom fighters/terrorists to completely and totally seal the deal…. We will all be sitting in front of our 60” telescreens watching the latest carnage brought to our shore and will realize as a Gin soaked tear glides down our cheek that we too Love Big Brother…. Back to my internet porn… So long losers!

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ThomasG's avatar

By ThomasG, October 2, 2009 at 6:09 am Link to this comment

The United States is resigned as a nation to having socialized responsibility for privatized capitalism, therefore the U.S. government should move to having Socialized-Capitalism, rather than Privatized-Capitalism, so that the masses of the population of the United States receive benefit from Socialized-Capitalism, rather than only a select minority of privatized interests being subsidized by socialized responsibility for the privatized benefit of Privatized-Capitalism.

Socialized Capitalism can provide both jobs for the masses of the population of the United States and socialized benefit to the masses of the United States beyond jobs and a paycheck; the obscene profits of capitalism when returned to the interests of the masses of the population, rather than a few greedy, self-serving private interests will reduce taxes for the masses of the population and provide a monetary resource for funding the government and maintaining the infrastructure of the United States.

The time is past for the “smash and grab greed” of Privatized-Capitalism in the United States.

The time has come for socially responsible “Socialized-Capitalism” in the United States that will provide benefit for the many, rather than benefit for the few at the expense of the many.

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By godistwaddle, October 2, 2009 at 3:32 am Link to this comment

That U. S. politicians are ignorant is a tautology.  They run on the fact that they are NOT better educated or more expert than their constituents.  They teach their constituents that ignorance is preferable to education with their “pointy-headed intellectuals,” and “eggheads,” and “so-called experts.

Merkins fall for it, and, taking direction from their “betters,” decide that education is bad for one.  The Chinese and Indians feel differently about education, and our arable land and ignorant peasants mean we can provide food and stoop labor for our Asian masters.

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By ardee, October 2, 2009 at 2:52 am Link to this comment

It is good to read a Joe Conason article here. He usually writes with great clarity.

This time I believe he fails to complete his thought, however. While it is certainly true that the opposition to health care reform has uttered many untruths and even absurdities, a rather common phenomenon in the halls of Congress anyway, the reasons behind such silliness must , once again, be noted.

All the BS, all the denials of the desperate need for reform of a system that kills about 40,000 a year to increase profitability, that refuses to cover far too many of us, that is helping to wreck our economy, that plunges a million or so into bankruptcy every year is sparked by the desire to continue to receive campaign funds from the industries that would see a lessening of profitability from said reform.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, October 2, 2009 at 1:44 am Link to this comment

I think the last sentence says it all.  All of them (Dems and Repubs) play with words and on our fears to manipulate the debate.  They know that most Americans are uninformed and naive which enables them to lie and obfuscate without risk.  The reality is they are firmly in the employ of big business and make decisions based on what their employers want.  They count on the 15 second attention span of the typical American to get re-elected over and over.  What a wonderful system we have made for ourselves!

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