Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day [X] of the Healthcare Smokescreen

Yesterday Sarah Palin mounted a surprisingly coherent defense of her "death panels" comment, taking a step back and arguing that doctors with an incentive to counsel patients about "advance directives" (read: decisions made during periods of incapacity such as stroke or prolonged unconsciousness) will have more of an incentive to pressure senior citizens into accepting "pull the plug" plans that they may not be prepared for:

Now put this in context. These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in health care spending.” Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care?
Now, calling Palin's defense "coherent" is merely an acknowledgment that all of the words in her article, when strung together, make a form of sense. This is truly phenomenal for Palin, and I wish her only the best in her newfound pursuit of lucidity. Unfortunately the ideas are a little murkier. Here's Palin's original statement:

". . . who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Oh. Palin's original comments have nothing to do with her more recent regrouping. Now we see the problem; for even if allowing elderly people the option of discussing with their doctor what to do if they become vegetative can be somehow compared with images of death squads and grandmamas and papas on the chopping block, Palin's poor little baby is quite safe from Obama's Stethoscope Stormtroopers unless the bill takes a dramatic turn.

Unfortunately it's clear that this is just another volley of Palin hypocrisy and an exploitation not only of her child but impressionable faux-conservatives everywhere on this particular issue - Palin supported "advance directives" as early as last year.

Is this a surprise? No. Should we feign Olbermann-style outrage or think Palin a grandma-killer? No. But this isn't a debate, nor is it a group of principled Americans standing up against a behemoth-in-the making. The "ideas" and principles these people purport to stand by are the result of lies, corporate posturing and the exploitation of the well-intentioned and hungrily patriotic by the cold gears of cynical posturing of the political machine.

It's politics - mere words and soundbytes divorced of context or principle, celebrity clashes of ego where sensational statements are reported as if they form a valid rebuttal to unpleasant facts. If you really believed what you purport to belief, outraged Right-wingers, you'd have better reasons. And if we're going to debate this, let's do it honestly.

UPDATE: Context comes back to kick us all in the back, including, not unexpectedly Glenn Beck. Funny how "the nightmare that is our healthcare system" turns into a chocolate gurney and licorice defibrillator utopia in just a year's time. . .

Of course, cable commentators and politicians are from a world where context and consistency are mere afterthoughts, where moment-by-moment indignance (whatever the target!) carry the day. So, in a way, it's perfectly understandable for these weasels to slag off our healthcare system when playing off of working class distrust for authority, then turn around and praise it literally months later when the Tide of Outrage moves in that direction. Provided you're a goldfish whose memory reboots every three seconds, that is.

UPDATE UPDATE: And this type of doubletalk leads to some awkward moments.

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