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Politics & Power

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Demagoguery and the Healthcare Debate

Demagogue: A person who seeks to win debates by appeals to mass prejudice, often using lies and distortion.

Demagoguery: The practice of using divisive and slanted rhetoric to win arguments.

In modern politics "wedge" issues seem to be the primary focus of most politicians. If an issue is not a "wedge" issue the politicians find ways to include some other divisive issue in the debate to win the argument. As with all of these modern day political slugfests the debate over healthcare reform is no different.

At the beginning of the debate it was agreed by most, if not all, that some sort of healthcare reform was needed. Over 15% of the U.S. GDP is spent on an annual basis on healthcare. We have the highest per capita spending on healthcare in the industrialized world. At the same time we have literally millions of American citizens without health insurance. When we spend the most and still canít seem to cover every citizen it is easy for everyone to agree that something is wrong with the system. The problems begin when politicians are asked to agree on what is wrong and how to fix it. Add to the mix lobbyists and large amounts of money at stake and the demagogues take over the debate. What began as a discussion about how to make healthcare better in America degenerated into a discussion about who makes money off of the deal and who doesnít.

So how do we wade through the rivers of misleading information and get to the real facts of the matter? For a critical thinker the defense against demagogues and demagoguery is to ask the simple question; "Can that be proven independently?" The statements made by demagogues to bolster their position are often only half-truths or worse yet complete falsifications. More often than not they play on your fears but offer very little fact to support them. To fight back the people affected by the outcome of the debate must demand facts and independent verification of statements. When the politician falls back on "so and so saidÖ" remind them that what that person said is not a fact and that again they have not proven anything by stating that someone else agreed with their opinion. If they quote statistics, ask who supplied the numbers and what their stake in the outcome of the debate is.

In the end your greatest weapon to fight against demagoguery is facts. Demagogues tend to have very few real facts in their possession and rely instead on opinions and popular myths. What "might" happen if one thing and another thing happen a certain way is not a fact. If it canít be independently proven, it just isnít a fact and if it isnít a fact, itís not a good basis to make a decision as important as what form healthcare will take for the foreseeable future. Weíve all heard the rhetoric before. In 1993 the same scare tactics were used on both sides of the healthcare reform debate. The end result was nothing got done and the people suffered for it. Healthcare costs continued to go up and a small number of people got insanely rich supported by the status quo. Meanwhile tens of thousands of people were denied care and sometimes even died due to fine print loopholes in their insurance coverage and others were bankrupted by crushing medical bills. For them the status quo was not so good.

The healthcare debate is not about right and wrong as much as it is about dollars and cents. Some stand to lose billions of dollars if the system is actually reformed and made to work to the benefit of the majority of Americans. If tort reform is part of the package, trial lawyers will lose millions in legal fees. If insurance reform is part of the package insurance providers will see their profit margins cut. If prescription drug reform is part of the package pharmaceutical companies will lose money. The current system is heavily weighted to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Real reform would balance the scales a bit. When you look at the proposals coming out of Congress look at who made them and who gave to their campaigns. Chances are you will see some correlation between the two. People getting a lot of money from trial lawyers are not going to be sponsoring comprehensive tort reform. People getting money from drug companies are not going to be sponsoring prescription drug regulations limiting patents or mandated generic drug options on all prescription drugs for all patients.

We as voters need to pay closer attention to the agendas of not just the people we donít like but the ones we do in Washington. Whether or not healthcare is offered to illegal immigrants is not nearly as cost-centric an issue as whether or not generic alternatives are mandated for all prescription drugs and available to all patients regardless of income level. When someone throws the immigration issue into the healthcare debate you should ask yourself why. When someone throws abortion into the debate about universal healthcare, you should ask why. Abortions may be offensive to many but they are inexpensive procedures that make little difference to the cost of medicine in America. What is more important, that we not pass a bill that might pay for an abortion or that we find a way to get health coverage for every American? Would you rather keep millions of people without healthcare just to prevent one abortion being paid for with tax dollars? Is the issue so important that it should be allowed to derail the entire process and make everyone lose?

In America the political process was founded on compromise. Our Constitution, the most sacred document in the minds of most Americans, was a compromise. Those who favored a strong central government and those who favored more power at the local and state level sat in a hot, uncomfortable room for many days in 1787 and fought bitterly over what rights should be afforded to whom and after much debate and many deals a compromise was reached. That compromise was the U.S. Constitution. Our leaders need to stop and remember that our nation was not founded on polarization but rather compromise.

Divisiveness and "wedge" issues are not going to solve the problems in Americaís healthcare system. Hard work and, yes, compromise are needed to find a solution that is right for America. Neither side should get everything they want. Thatís not how representative democracies are supposed to work. Both sides get some but neither side gets all. This is not "Thunderdome" where two men enter and one man leaves the winner. This is America where leaders come together and work out solutions to the problems facing the people they represent. Itís time for politicians to put aside the polarizing rhetoric and work to fix the broken healthcare system in America. We have waited long enough to get the healthcare system our people deserve. It is now only a question of whether our leaders care more about the people they serve or scoring political points.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer| Give your feedback on this article. | Click icon to Digg this article

Get Involved

Do you sit and yell at the TV when politicians come on? Do you shake your head sadly whenever you see a homeless veteran? Is that all you tend to do?

It's time to put up or shut up America. We all love to talk about how we could do things better or how we would do it if we were in charge. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. If you can think of it, you can write it down. If you can write it down, you can type it. If you can type it, you can e-mail it and if you can e-mail it, you can send it here.

We at Reform America are committed to giving voice to anyone who wants to put their ideas out there to make our nation a better place. As the readership grows, we are able to take those views to a wider and wider audience. Grassroots campaigns begin with voices speaking out. You have opinions. Voice them. We aren't about conservative or liberal. We aren't about pro-this or anti-that. We're about Americans and the First Amendment. Reform America is about politics by, for and of the people. You are the people. You only need to speak up. America is listening. Send your article to:

Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to

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