Lies and Hypocrisy in Health Care

There is a difference between a lie and a mistake and also between hypocrisy and just playing the cards you are dealt. These conceptual differences arise regularly in political debate, and now in in the health care debate. Let’s start with hypocrisy.

The claim is now made that that it is hypocritical to accept Medicare while opposing government health insurance as part of the Obama health plan. The alleged principle called upon is that one cannot ethically oppose something while participating in it. Daniel Gross wrote in Health Care Hypocrisy for Newsweek that “many the pundits attacking government health insurance rely on government health insurance for their own families.” This is every bit as shocking as the revelation that many who advocate government health insurance now actually depend upon private health insurance to protect their families. That would be private health insurance from an employer like, say, Newsweek.

I isn’t it shocking at all. Suggesting it is hypocritical is dumb. It is entirely reasonable to stay in System A while advocating System B, until such time as System B actually comes to pass. The people who could not figure this out when earmarks where the accepted method for government to dispense money, cannot figure it out now. As with earmarks, people have every right to refuse them as a way to protest, but there is no obligation to do so. Thus if Mr. Gross wishes to renounce any private health care he is receiving as a means of protesting the lack of a government program, it think he is entitled to do so but not morally obligated.

On to lies. Robert Parry wrote in an article Palin’s ‘Death Panel’ and GOP Lying “False Republican claims about President Barack Obama’s health-care initiative, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s demagogic charge about a “death panel,” are part of a pattern of systematic lying that has marked the GOP’s political tactics at least since Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s.” Of course, Mr. Parry is not burdened by the old-fashioned notion that a lie is proven by evidence that the speaker knew something was false at the time it was said. Nowhere in the piece does Mr. Parry offer any evidence that any Republic knew something to be false that he proclaimed to be true.

The House bill does provide for payment for periodic end of life counseling, but Palin was mistaken in describing that as a “death panel.” Mr Parry, cannot conceive that Palin misunderstands what the “end of life counseling” that is in the bill actually refers to. Note that a Republican amendment clarifying that this could not include recommending euthanasia was flatly rejected by Democrats. Also, there was the case in Oregon where their liberal-inspired UHC denied a $4000 drug and offered euthanasia instead. How could Palin possibly have gotten the wrong idea? It’s inconceivable, according to Mr. Parry, so she must have been lying.

Let’s try out the thesis that a major political figure could not possibly be mistaken about the contents of the health care bill. President Obama said that the House health care reform bill does not deprive anyone of choice in health insurers, yet page 16 the bill says that if you loose your job, you can only get government insurance. So is Obama lying? We apply the argument, “It’s just not possible that the president of the United States would not know the relevant part of the bill he is supporting.” per Mr. Parry, and must conclude from that logic the President was lying.

I don’t buy that. I think it is quite likely that Obama is simply mistaken about what is and is not in the legislation. Palin is also entitled to be mistaken. In fact, the bill is a manifestation of “Big Bang, no details.” For most things, it is not possible to know what it says, and that is by design. The principle is that some time in the future, assuming it is passed, the bureaucracy will reveal what it says and implies.

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