They’re not above lying

THEY’RE NOT ABOVE LYING…. When it comes to the fight over health care, the political world could have had a great debate. Serious people had an opportunity to explore in detail how to improve a dysfunctional system, what should be expected of the government and the electorate, what reform could mean to the economy and the nation’s global competitiveness, etc.

That never happened, of course. Opponents instead brought frequent, shameless, and practically pathological lies to the table. It’s hard to even keep track of all the deliberately dishonest nonsense, from “death panels” to “government takeover,” from funding abortion to insuring immigrants who came to the country illegally.

The Affordable Care Act passed, of course, but the discourse hasn’t improved much, and the lies continue. Jonathan Cohn flags a doozy today, related to a regulatory ruling on a cancer drug.

The drug is Avastin, manufactured by Genentech. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was withdrawing approval of the drug for treatment of late stage breast cancer. The move was not unexpected or without grounding. In September, an FDA advisory committee that includes not just physicians but also patient advocates had recommended the change by a 12-to-1 vote.

But conservative critics have been pouncing anyway. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., calls the decision “the beginning of a slippery slope leading to more and more rationing under the government takeover of health care.” Breitbart’s “Big Government” deems it “the result of ObamaCare” and its determination “to ration care to the sick and elderly.”

The charges are demonstrably false. After granting provisional approval a few years ago, the FDA sought support from additional clinical studies before the drug could be deemed safe. Avastin not only fell short, but the evidence suggested toxic side effects clearly outweighed potential benefits.

So, the FDA did what the FDA is expected to do — it relied on science. Officials announced the drug may still be effective in treating some cancers, but the evidence on breast-cancer patients was clear.

Republicans, meanwhile, are doing what Republicans are expected to do — they’re making a political argument, connecting this to the Democratic reform package in a way that doesn’t make any sense. They’re so anxious to shout, “Rationing!” that the attack goes out before they even know what they’re talking about.

In the meantime, if the right wants to talk about actual rationing, we can certainly explore the real-world consequences of the so-called “death panels” in Arizona and Indiana, though I suspect conservatives would prefer to avoid the subject — the policies were shaped by Republican gubernatorial administrations.