BEATS ME…. Kevin Drum recommends we take a moment to get “back to basics.”

Let’s recap: the United States spends about twice as much on healthcare as any other developed nation in the world and in return receives just about the worst care. Can someone remind me again why there’s even a debate about whether we should put up with this?

Reading this, it reminded me just how challenging the right’s sales pitch was going into the debate over reform. In some ways, conservatives couldn’t possibly win the argument — the status quo is ridiculous. We spend too much and get too little. Tens of millions of Americans go without coverage, and thousands die as a result of not having insurance. The existing private system screws over consumers, is a drag on the economy, and undercuts wage growth. The two groups of Americans best served by the status quo are seniors (in a Canadian-style, socialized system) and veterans (in a British-style, government-run system). Everyone else is in, at best, a precarious position.

Left unchecked, the dysfunctional, inefficient, patchwork health care system threatens to bankrupt the country. Reform was a no-brainer.

In this sense, Republicans, their allies, and their media partners had a seemingly impossible task. There are plenty of old sayings about the most effective sales professionals — they can sell sand in the desert, they can sell ice to the Inuit, etc. The right’s challenge was the opposite — they had to tell a drowning country not to accept a life-preserver. That’s an extremely difficult task.

They’ve pulled it off, so far, by telling almost comically-ridiculous lies, and managing to get scared, gullible people to believe them. It’s no small feat. Indeed, it’s almost impressive. Conservatives have managed to create a debate out of nothing but partisanship, paranoia, and greed.

If there’s a Hall of Fame for political con jobs, this one’s a first-ballot inductee.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.