It’s the right-wing ruse that’s been working for three decades. While the editorial page of The Oklahoman and other conservative media outlets hammer away at healthcare reform efforts with fear mongering, illogical slippery slope arguments and glaring omissions, one of the top health insurers is reporting huge profits.
This is from Bloomberg.com:
UnitedHealth Group Inc., the top U.S. insurer by sales, said second-quarter profit more than doubled on higher premiums and growing Medicare enrollment, beating analysts’ estimates.
Note the phrase "higher premiums."
Meanwhile, this is from a recent editorial (“Rising tide: Health care plan swimming in doubt,” July 21, 2009) in The Oklahoman:
… Others representing affluent districts are worried constituents could pay taxes at a higher rate than they do in Sweden. State governors are balking, sensing Washington might shift significant costs to them.
Meanwhile, small-business owners see a proposed insurance mandate as job-killing. A number of analysts warn the public health insurance option Democrats are proposing could squeeze out private insurance, forcing millions of Americans into a government-run plan.
Note the lack of direct evidence for the “Sweden” claim or the “forcing millions of Americans into a government-run plan.” How much do people in Sweden pay in taxes? The editorial doesn’t say. Where is the “millions” figure coming from? In the end, these are simply unsubstantiated arguments designed to scare people about something that will actually improve their lives.
Those companies who make massive profits off human suffering and their supporters in the conservative media have long held a symbiotic relationship. The conservative media normalizes our outrageous healthcare system through sheer propagandist audacity. The problem, see, is not the 46 million people without health insurance or the poor medical outcomes of those with health insurance or rising co-pays or pre-existing conditions. The problem is that health insurance companies might not be able to double their profits and rich people could see a slight increase in taxes if healthcare reform is passed.
The tragedy here is how the right-wing ruse continues to work in the country’s political debate, even in the Obama era. Big business and the corporate media—really, the same thing—have for so long framed major political arguments in terms of commoditization that many people have adopted political positions that directly hurt them personally. This is an old argument, to be sure, but it needs to be repeated as the debate over healthcare reform becomes about people as commodities rather than people as humans in need of basic medical care.
Here are some ways to combat the propaganda:
(1) Organizations and individuals need to continue their efforts to fight the big-business rhetorical framing despite disappointing setbacks. This is a long-term project that may take at least a decade or more before more people understand how big business and the corporate media work together against their basic interests. Don’t give up the fight.
(2) Progressives need to create more media outlets, blogs, community blogs, and media watchdog organizations. The new, preogressive electronic media has and should support healthcare reform, energy independence, basic sustainability, fairer taxation, and environmental progress. Here’s how it can work.
(3) Democrats should continue to reach out to America’s diverse communities and grow their numbers. The demographics favor the Democrats. It’s difficult to see how Hispanic, African-American and young voters will suddenly turn to the Republican Party, which continues to cling to anachronistic views about the nation’s diverse social and cultural framework.
If healthcare reform doesn’t pass this year, then there’s always next year or the year after that. President Barack Obama has warned that if reform doesn’t get passed, it may take a generation before it does. Maybe so. But it won’t even pass in a generation if we don’t keep fighting now.