Politics and Lying

I disapprove of the current flavor of language (maybe we should call it a semantical ecology) that calls lying misrepresentation. Most “misrepresentation” is a form of cynical slanting, where a speaker or writer claims one thing knowing well enough that he or she is slanting. Dean Baker catches this:

Senator McCain claimed that Obama’s proposal would force people into a health care plan run by government bureaucrats. This is not true. Senator Obama’s plan would give people the option of buying into a publicly run Medicare-type plan, but this would only be an option. Under Senator Obama’s plan, no one would be forced to join the public plan, they would be free to stay with their current plan if they chose.

McCain knows that what he’s saying is a lie. The better thing to do would be to outline the real sense of Obama’s plan and then to present rational disagreement or objections to it, point by point. Speakers don’t have to live and breath by formats.

Of course, lying is a political habit now. Even Obama does it.

10 thoughts on “Politics and Lying

  1. Josh

    I believe Senator McCain is making a fair and educated conclusion based on Obama’s record and statements.

    Obama is a Democrat with a liberal voting record who champions the universal health care systems of Canada, Europe, and China. The insurance may be optional (to start), but the program will still have to be paid for.

    Why does Obama believe it is his right to determine that American taxpayers must pay more taxes–on top of thir own health care premiums–for someone to have this supposed right? (There are certainly those with serious need, and I am not referring them here.)

  2. Steve Post author


    All administrators make decisions about cost effect. Consider local town finances. My taxes go up every year simply because of the cost of administration and living, this on top of my own outlays. Remember your micro econ. If the cost of milk goes up, it goes up for me and the public school.

    On the facts, McCain is not making a fair assessment. He’s slanting for political profit. That’s Dean Baker’s point. Note that “democrat and liberal” don’t automatically make positions wrong. Indeed, Obama may have the better ideas.

    You write: “The insurance may be optional (to start), but the program will still have to be paid for.” We all pay for it now anyway. You pay for Congress, me, and most seniors.

  3. Mary Ellen

    And every other already uninsured person who walks through the door of an emergency room which is overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed because of cost-cutting in administration. ER users go there for routine medical treatment because they will be seen, unlike in private practice where insurance is mandatory (and preferred over cash) to receive treatment.

    So since I’m already footing the bill, let’s get someone in office who will spread it out more evenly and efficiently, and maybe those in serious need who are somewhere between destitute and flush will actually be able to get preventive care, have minor ailments treated before they become chronic, and bring the “we’ll pay for it” out from behind the conservative camouflage they’re hiding it under.

    I’d rather pay for your dad’s colonoscopy than kill a hundred more Iraqis, but that’s another issue.

  4. Josh

    RE: Dean Baker. Maine has one of the worse debts in the union in part because of its “Dirigo” health program. Dean’s statement that Obama’s plan would be an option is true, but only to the extent that insurance companies will be able to compete with the premiums of government-provided insurance.

    These companies cannot compete in Maine under the state’s rules and regulations, and they won’t be able to compete on the national stage either. Obama will expand government with his “National Health Insurance Exchange”, which will turn the government into a business. And government doesn’t get into business to compete.

    Also, for businesses, there will be no option. They will have to choose between private companies (whose premiums will go up due to the “Exchange”) or the national plan.

    So in the long-run, Senator McCain is correct.

    “Consider local town finances. My taxes go up every year simply because of the cost of administration and living, this on top of my own outlays.” And this does not upset you? Why can’t your town reign themelves in and give you a tax cut?

    “We all pay for it now anyway. You pay for Congress, me, and most seniors.” Exactly, and I don’t want this country to pay more on top of what it is already paying in addition to private health care. PLUS Mainers are also paying for THIS state’s health care program! Now Obama wants me to pay for his national plan too?

    Mary Ellen,

    Why is government the most efficient way to “spread the money around”? Why is someone in Washington voting “Yay” or “Nay” for local cases a good thing? Just because we pay for it already does not make it a good program we should be paying for. (We lose $60 billion in fraud a year for a Medicare program that costs $440 billion, and is going up.)

    What about setting up local charities and drives to help those in our communities who need it? Give the American people the freedom to be to be generous, with Medicaid or Medicare simply providing matching money. Given all the millions raised for charities and drives in this country each year, I am confident we as people would come through for our local neighbors in this way too.

  5. Steve Post author


    This is all boilerplate. McCain’s healthcare plan would do Maine no good either against your analysis provided the notion of “competition” and gov involvement in micromanagement. And the big gov issue just can’t be avoided: if you don’t trust the efficiencies of governments, then refuse the amount you pay by percentage that goes to schools, medicare, and military. (That’s a pure libertarian position.) I think you grasp the paradox of that.

    “Reduction of costs” is core notion in all hc reforms. Costs to whom? Much of what McCain highlights is just more of the same and depends on the luck of the draw. Why would an insurance company lower its deductibles and what are the specific innovations?

    Good luck with the luck. Using machines costs money. There is no way that a family making 30 gs a year will be able to afford care out of pocket without broader assistance. The American people can be generous now, can’t they?

    More context:


  6. Mary Ellen

    Josh, I enjoy your comments and views on Steve’s site, and I sincerely hope nothing ever happens to you, because if you wait for me to pony up some charitable donations for you to have life-saving surgery, well, you’re probably going to be fitted for wings and a halo first! My family is one of those “working uninsured” that don’t make enough money to buy private, and thankfully make under the state limits to enroll in Husky. (Read that again: I am happy to be poor, because that’s the only way we can have insurance for our kids.)

    I have a tendency to run my mouth about politics without checking the facts, so I went to both parties’ homepages to see exactly what they’re planning for health care:
    Obama–buy-in plan similar to federal plan. Can’t pay? The government will subsidize. The fed plan will work along with state plans, not supercede them or cancel them out. Mandatory health care for all children to age 25 (Husky boots my son out next year), mandatory enrollment for traditionally uninsured, AIDS prevention/treatment, and more. McCain’s solutions for us? Import drugs to lower prescription costs, cancel Medicaid payments on “preventable mistakes”, put walk-in clinics in retail outlets, flip state Medicaid payments to “alternative insurance companies”, help only for traditionally uninsurable “to find access” to health care–and more. Doesn’t sound like change, just belt-tightening. I already shop at WalMart for just about everything. Under McCain I can have my bronchitis diagnosed there, too.

  7. Josh

    Steve and Mary Ellen,

    I am not a libertarian–government is neccessary, I just prefer it in a limited role and more localised. Capitalism and reduced oversight is a major answer to many problems (especially education). And what of this paradaox:

    I know a very young couple (in Connectcut) who were unemployed yet had a child because they knew the state would pick up the tab on the medical expenses–and then they would get welfare benefits for the child; gaining employment was not an option, but having another child was. This is hardly an isolated issue. Reliance on the state is an addiction and it holds both the taxpayer and the long-term welfare recipient down from realising their potential.

    RE: McCain’s health care program: As one example, McCain says that, “Families should be able to purchase health insurance nationwide, across state lines.” Under this policy (when we were uninsured), Kas and I could have pursued insurance sold in Connecticut where the rates are far and away better than in Maine! The result of this policy would be people not needing to rely on the state program. Thus the Maine legislature would either be forced to reduce funding to “Dirigo” or risk adding more debt to a bad state economy.

    “Why would an insurance company lower its deductibles and what are the specific innovations?” It comes down to who Americans trust less: insurance companies or the government. America has rejected the idea of national health care time and again in the last fifteen years, so that should give a clue.

    “The American people can be generous now, can’t they?” I am not really sure how you mean that :-)

  8. Mary Ellen

    I heartily agree with you that some people use the state as a crutch, and that escalating their plight for more benefits is not only enticing, but a way many see as giving themselves a raise without having to work for it. But that is very small percentage of those receiving assistance. What about those losing their homes through the financing fiasco? While I don’t sympathize with a lot of them (read what you sign, live within your means, etc..) there are still a lot of working Americans who suddenly have had their bills jacked up past the point of feasibility. Include having to pay for their own insurance on top of gas and utility costs, and what is going to be neglected? Fuel is a necessity, well baby care and preventive medicine are not. A federal plan will take this bad-or-worse choice away, guarantee everyone access, and ensure there is not a health crisis in our country in addition to those we are facing in energy and education.

    I despise big government, am full of conspiracy theories, but gee whiz, isn’t it about time we took this behemoth of a business and started making it produce for our benefit, and not its own? (And I worked in insurance, and so trust them less than the government, for the same reasons.)

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