What happens when a prominent conservative economist takes to the airwaves to debate healthcare reform on national television?
Well, let's just say that George Orwell would have a chuckle.
You will recall that Orwell authored that polemical novel 1984 about how governments deceive their citizens. Most of us had the book assigned to us in high school because of the seemingly obvious anti-commie streak the book had, despite Orwell's open embrace of socialism and scathing criticism of western European democracies, all of which was politely swept under the rug. Billy took a pass on reading it at that time though he caught up in college during an Orwell Phase where he consumed not only '84 but also Homage To Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London and various essays including probably his greatest work, Politics and The English Language. Among the central preoccupations of 1984, as well as the entirety of Politics, are the rhetorical methods by which governments achieve duplicitous aims. Sometimes it involves subtle tricks such as euphemism, as the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" in place of torture makes abundantly clear (and is an example where our own allegedly "independent" media have completely and uncritically bought the government's line, for more see here). But sometimes it's fairly bald and just involves a flat-out lie, though done with the perfect straight face.
Today, on CNN during a debate about healthcare reform, our subject, economist Arthur Laffer employed just this sort of rhetorical touch. As part of the Repbulican party mantra, or what I like to think of as the Reagan Credo ("Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem"), Laffer explained why the current "Public Option" proposal will lead to a complete disaster:
If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they're run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government. [my emphasis]
Now, that right there is a gem, for Medicare and Medicaid is "health care done by the government"! And, moreover, they are popular programs--so popular, and apparently misunderstood, in fact, that at a recent town hall held by Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC), a constituent demanded that the "government [keep its] hands off my Medicare." Former Senator John Breaux (D-LA) had a similar experience in 2005.
Such nitwits are merely given the right to vote; they are not, however, allowed onto national television and given substantial airtime to proclaim their nitwicity--and have their nitwittish assertions go unchallenged by anchors in the name of "fairness." But the same is not the case for Arthur Laffer, respected economist.
This, folks, is why health care reform is going down for the second time in less than two decades, and why we will continue to have the most expensive and least effective health care system in the developed world.
True that Laffer is not speaking for the government, while Orwell was describing a system in which the government is the group doing the lying. But since the debate centers around what government policy is going to be, it's a distinction without a difference, and I'm sure that Orwell would see Laffer as an ideological descendent of Le Big Brother.
The link is here (hat-tip to War Room and Media Matters):
Oh, and one other thing: I don't know about you but I like the Post Office!