For all the wrong reasons

FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS…. The House health care reform bill is a solid piece of legislation. It has flaws, and provisions I’d change if it were up to me, but this is, on the whole, a very good bill that would bring vast improvements to a fundamentally flawed system. If this bill were to become law, it’d be reform Americans could be proud of and benefit from.

But listening to the debate on the House floor, it’s striking how misguided opponents’ arguments really are. Instead of pointing to the bill’s actual flaws, and highlighting the legislation’s real shortcomings, the vast majority of the complaints deal with imaginary failings that seem to have been crafted by pollsters and campaign strategists, not policy experts or wonks (or really anyone who understands the policy at the most basic level).

The political world has been at this for most of 2009, and people who should have some clue as to what they’re talking about continue to make patently ridiculous claims. The two most common phrases from the lips of conservative lawmakers today are “government takeover” and “socialism.”

Neither makes a lick of sense. Anyone who repeats them is, without exception, either a charlatan or a fool.

The claim that the House bill would amount to “government-run health care” suffered a blow last week, when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the so-called “public plan” in the revised bill wouldn’t offer much in the way of competition to private insurers. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from repeating the claim.

For several months, we’ve been debunking assertions that Democratic health care bills call for a Canadian or British-type system in which everyone is insured, or insured and cared for, through the government. None of the bills being debated in Congress call for such a single-payer system. Conservative groups have also claimed that a federal health insurance plan would be the death knell for private insurance, offering a much cheaper alternative and eventually leading to “a government-run system.” As we’ve written, how competitive the “public plan” would be depends greatly on how it’s structured. And the latest iteration in the revised House bill isn’t expected to have much of an impact on private insurers, according to the nonpartisan CBO and an independent analysis of this scenario.

But Republicans are still recycling “government-run” claims and old analyses that don’t pertain to the bill. House Minority Leader John Boehner was saying back in June that the House bill “is a complete government takeover of our health care system,” and again last week, Boehner told Fox News that the revised House bill is “nothing short of a complete government takeover of our health care system.” Boehner partly blamed the federal insurance plan for the takeover, saying, “you’ re going to drive every private health insurance company out of business.”

We’re hearing the same arguments, ad nauseum, today.

It’s sad, for lack of a better word, that in the midst of the biggest, most significant, most consequential domestic policy debate in recent memory, an entire political party has committed itself to repeating talking points with no basis in reality. Claims have been routinely presented, debunked, and shamelessly repeated anyway. Arguments ranging from “fascism” to “death panels” to “socialized medicine” have become eerily common, despite having no connection to reality.

We’re watching one of the rare instances in which a bill’s actual flaws are ignored, while confused politicians debate the merit of ideas that aren’t being proposed. What a waste.

I’ve long believed there’s a greatness to American politics — it’s why I do what I do. It’s genuinely embarrassing to the system and our traditions to see it go missing from a major political party during a debate of such importance.