What Is True/Slant?
275+ knowledgeable contributors.
Reporting and insight on news of the moment.
Follow them and join the news conversation.
 

Sep. 30 2009 - 11:15 am | 25 views | 2 recommendations | 13 comments

The Healthcare Conspiracy: Olympia Snowe, Max Baucus, and Selling Out The Public Option

Senators Baucus, Snowe, Hatch, and Grassley at a Finance Committee on health care reform on September 22 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Senators Baucus, Snowe, Hatch, and Grassley at a Finance Committee on health care reform on September 22 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

At the “How To Take Back America” a panel on “How to understand Islam” offered this response to an audience member who asked if the panel would consider Presdient Obama a Christian or a Muslim: “Barack Obama should be called the first Muslim American President…. Islam permits you to lie to advance Islam, Saul Alinsky allows you to lie to advance your communist agenda, you can put them together.”

There is a radical fringe in the United States that will believe just about anything.  11% of Americans still think Barack Obama is a MuslimAnother 11% think Obama was not born in the United States, a number that rises to 42% if we only ask the question of Republicans.

The Republicans are not alone as the party of wingnuttery, however.  35% of Democrats think George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks (moreso than “Bin Laden determined to strike United States”)

To some degree these lunatic fringes can be excused.  A good conspiracy theory appeals, paradoxically, to our sense of rationality in the world; it lets us rationalize our denial of disagreeable facts.  For die-hard Republicans, the possibility that Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Kenya softens the blow of the 2008 elections.  By blaming an elaborate left-wing conspiracy, these fringe elements of the GOP can avoid facing the reality that they are now paying the price for policies drove this nation to the brink of economic oblivion.

This “bug” in human rationality is nothing terribly new.  The lunatic fringe is a fixture in human thought and it remains an almost axiomatic truth that there exists no idea so stupid that no one will believe it.  ESP (48% believe), aliens (34%), a faked moon landing (6%), orbital mind control lasers – almost everyone has a few cobwebs stuffed away in the corners of an otherwise rational mind.  Aside from the sort of conversation that makes you edge away from people at dinner parties, such eccentricities are fairly harmless which is why society is so tolerant of them in the first place.

But they are not always so harmless, particularly when they cross into the realm of the political.  A recent New York Times/CBS poll put the following question to Americans earlier this month:

Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private insurance plans?

65% of Americans responded in favor, 26% opposed, and 9% offered no position on the matter.  The Times considered that 65% figure to be the meat of the story and ran the poll under the headline “The Public May Have More Appetite for a ‘Public Option’ Than Congress.”  Media Matters, however, seized on the 26%: “More Americans believe in UFOs (34%) than oppose a public option (26%),” the media advocacy group trumpeted, “the debate is over.”

Except it’s not over.

It should be, but it’s not.  Though opposition to a public option has been relegated to the same wing-nut fringe of American society that thinks aliens abducted Elvis and justified with arguments that would make even the most die-hard conspiracy theorists scoff, yesterday the Senate Finance Committee defeated two proposals to add a public option to the bill presently under consideration there. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) both played pivotal roles in the vote; Snowe voted with her party after weeks of fence sitting on the issue while Committee Chairman Baucus sided with conservative Democrats and likewise voted against it.

It is difficult to see such a measure so roundly defeated in committee when it enjoys such widespread support amongst the general public.  Indeed both Snowe and Baucus hail from states where, according to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, the public option likely enjoys at least a plurality of support.  About 280,000 of Snowe’s constituents – more than a quarter of Maine’s under-65-population – were uninsured between 2007 and 2008.  Of those, approximately 77% were gainfully employed in the same period.  The numbers from Max Baucus’s Montana are worse: 279,000 (or 34.3% of the under-65 population) uninsured with nearly 80% employed.

To borrow a phrase from the conspiracy theorists, “these numbers don’t add up,” but another set might.

Just within the 2010 campaign finance cycle, Snowe has taken $327,170 from insurance companies their employees and another $368,000 from the health industry.  Her career total contributions from these two sectors comes to more than $1.1 Million.  Next to Montana’s Max Baucus, however, Snows is a lightweight.  For his 2008 reelection campaign, Baucus raised more than $2 Million from the health industry and more than $1 Million from insurance companies and employees.

These dots are not difficult to connect and while those who do so venture dangerously into the uncharted waters of conspiracy and conjecture, the implication of votes bought and paid for by campaign contributions is too difficult to ignore.  Absent the improbable smoking gun, such allegations will remain unproven and indeed unprovable.  The question of which caused the other – the contribution or the crucial vote – is wrapped up in a “chicken and egg” cycle which provides enough plausible deniability to shield both Senator and Sponsor from anything more than speculation.

Yet it is not in a court of law that Senators Baucus and Snowe will face their constituents.  Reelection for both is a long way off but their votes have already drawn more than $200,000 into the coffers of liberal advocacy groups and if 2009 does not bring a successful resolution to the healthcare issue both Snowe and Baucus will have a lot to answer for in 2012 and 2014.


Comments

Active Conversation
One T/S Member Comment Called Out, 13 Total Comments
Post your comment »
 
  1. collapse expand

    I wonder what the numbers are on conspiracy theory overlap? How many people believe in fake moon landings, 9/11 truth, Obama’s not being an American, and ESP? Sure would be interesting.

  2. collapse expand

    Seems to me there’s a pretty significant factor you’re leaving out… just because people are in favor of health care reform does not necessarily mean they favor the version of health care reform currently being floated by Congress.

    • collapse expand

      That’s fair but realize that the votes I’m talking about were against a public option amendment and the polls I’m citing represent public opinion in favor of a public option, not just healthcare reform.

      We can get into that “for and against” thing pretty deeply whenever we consider the full bill instead of just little aspects of it. The public option is more popular than the healthcare reform bill, for example. We can take that to mean that part of those who disagree don’t find it radical enough.

      The bill isn’t perfect and everyone is bound to have an issue with it in some sense which is why I tried to stay away from it as much as possible in this article. It’s difficult to draw any conclusions given how muddied those waters have become. When we focus down upon a specific issue, however – the public option for example – it becomes a lot easier to figure out what’s going on.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    When Obama talks about a public option, it sounds benign, but his intent, and the intent of those on the left is to have a government-run, single payer system.

    If you asked the public whether they approve of the government running health care, a different question, they would be mortally opposed.

    Where the Democrats’ plan falls apart is that public has figured out that the public option is a Trojan horse that will put us inexorably on the road to Nationalized health care and they don’t like it.

    I am sure you have seen video of Obama saying a couple of years ago that he wants a single-payer system and Rep. Jan Shakowsky and others frankly admitting that the goal is to kill off private insurance. The bill in the House does exactly that.

    And that is why the public option is dead.

    • collapse expand

      When Obama talks about a public option, it sounds benign, but his intent, and the intent of those on the left is to have a government-run, single payer system.

      His intent? Is there a secret code embedded in the bill that, once it’s signed, he can point to and say “See! I snuck through single payer! Now all the insurance companies are screwed!”?

      Who cares about his “intent?” What matters are the contents of the bill and amendments.

      Where the Democrats’ plan falls apart is that public has figured out that the public option is a Trojan horse that will put us inexorably on the road to Nationalized health care and they don’t like it.

      That’s the slippery slope fallacy. Passing a public option doesn’t “inexorably” lead to anything. It’s not as if healthcare reform also disbands Congress or something. Unless the public option actually *is* single payer that whole line of reasoning falls flat.

      The public option *isn’t* a single payer system and thus opposing it because you think someone who backs it would *like* a single payer system is absurd. One has nothing at all to do with the other unless they are verbosely linked in the legislation.

      You may as well state that you are opposed to the movie Casablanca because it happens to be one of Obama’s favorite films and his “intent” is to institute single payer healthcare.

      Honestly…..

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Chris, a couple of honest questions:

        (1).Were you in favor of a single payer system back when it was openly being talked about?

        (2). Do you deny that a single payer Universal Health care system was ever touted?

        (3). Can a Leopard change his spots?

        Look at the Huffington Post point out Hillary Clinton attempting to take advantage of Obama’s change of emphasis on Health care away from openly promoting Single Payer!

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/01/22/clinton-hits-obama-for-wa_n_82662.html

        Now, remember Obama critizing Hillary that her plan mandated that everyone would be forced into her system, but that his system would make participation optional?

        What gives then Mr. President? Wherefore the penalties for not having a health care plan, and the threat of jail time?

        Chris, we know you have a memory. If it has been clouded by political double speak, then consider this a refresher.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          (1).Were you in favor of a single payer system back when it was openly being talked about?

          (2). Do you deny that a single payer Universal Health care system was ever touted?

          (3). Can a Leopard change his spots?

          Yes, no, and obviously. You prove it yourself. Obama criticized Hillary for a mandate and now his plan includes one? Sounds like a spot-changing leopard to me.

          I don’t contest the past on this. Obviously Obama has indicated that he’d like to see a Single Payer system… but that doesn’t change what’s in this bill today.

          It is fundamentally irrational to base opposition to a piece of legislation upon, not what’s in the legislation, but what someone else wishes were in it. Obama’s personal desires – spoken, videotaped, or otherwise – don’t change the words on the bills presently before Congress.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I sincerely cannot figure out if you honestly believe your pre-programmed neo-con talking points or if you too are getting greased up by insurance companies to spout such drivel as

      …his intent, and the intent of those on the left is to have a government-run, single payer system.

      if that were true, then why were proponents of single-payer shut out of the congressional discussion before it ever began?

      pre-programmed neo-con talking point #2

      If you asked the public whether they approve of the government running health care, a different question, they would be mortally opposed.

      My grandma, along with her entire group of members of a local Indiana senior citizen’s center are quite happy with their government-run medicare. Are they not ‘the public’?

      What they would be mortally opposed to is being rationed care by private insurance companies whose leash is securely wrapped around your neck you corporate lap-dog!

      It astounds me that these are legitimate parameters of debate and that you are not locked in a padded room making boats out of pop sickle sticks.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    Gee I thought we were discussing health care because the private system isn’t working, like tax cuts didn’t lower the deficient nor deregulating the banks and wall street. Maybe if the private sector knew what it was doing we wouldn’t have to talk about government involvement.

  5. collapse expand

    I believe David Sirota put it best in a blog post he wrote: 2/3 of the American people want a public option and 2/3 of the Finance Committee voted the best version of it down. That’s the perfect commentary on our system of government right there.

Log in for notification options
Comments RSS

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment

Log in with your True/Slant account.

Previously logged in with Facebook?

Create an account to join True/Slant now.

Facebook users:
Create T/S account with Facebook
 

My T/S Activity Feed

 
     

    About Me

    I got started in journalism as a contributor to MSNBC.com's social news site Newsvine. While writing there I scooped the AP on the April 16 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, covered the Democratic National Convention in 2008, and was named one of the Wall Street Journal's "Wizards of Buzz."

    I live in South Western Virginia and, when I'm not tackling the political issues of the day, I develop websites to pay the bills.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 50
    Contributor Since: May 2009
    Location:Christiansburg, VA