Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote an op-ed piece for USA Today that makes a lot of excellent points about the current healthcare debate. Unfortunately, they lead with the kind of loaded statement that plays into the right’s “stifling dissent” meme. The title of the piece is ‘Un-American’ attacks can’t derail health care debate.
Forget, for a moment, whether Pelosi and Hoyer actually make an effective case for the Un-Americaninity of the town hall protesters. For the top two members of the House of Representatives to use the phrase “Un-American” bespeaks a tone-deafness beyond belief, evoking echoes of McCarthyism. It also represents a hypocritical brandishing of the patriotism cudgel that the Democrats have just spent 8 years decrying.
The shame of it all is that the loaded phrase only appears once in the body of the article, and doesn’t really add much to the proceedings:
These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.
The fact is, there are many things you can call the protesters, but “Un-American” isn’t one of them, especially not from a liberal standpoint. Are they rude? Misinformed? In some cases, delusional? All of these are expressions of freedom that are as American as an apple pie baked by a bald eagle at a baseball game.
While they are correct in denouncing things like effigies of specific members of congress, they are clearly referring to the disruptive protesters as a whole, and the language of McCarthy is inappropriate and unhelpful.
The American response to these protesters is not to call them “Un-American,” but to shine the light of truth on them. When they chant, invite them up on stage and see what facts they’ve brought with them. The balance of Pelosi’s and Hoyer’s piece contain some facts that are pretty tough to argue with:
The first fact is that health insurance reform will mean more patient choice. It will allow every American who likes his or her current plan to keep it. And it will free doctors and patients to make the health decisions that make the most sense, not the most profits for insurance companies.
Reform will mean stability and peace of mind for the middle class. Never again will medical bills drive Americans into bankruptcy; never again will Americans be in danger of losing coverage if they lose their jobs or if they become sick; never again will insurance companies be allowed to deny patients coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Lower costs, better care
Reform will mean affordable coverage for all Americans. Our plan’s cost-lowering measures include a public health insurance option to bring competitive pressure to bear on rapidly consolidating private insurers, research on health outcomes to better inform the decisions of patients and doctors, and electronic medical records to help doctors save money by working together. For seniors, the plan closes the notorious Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” that denies drug coverage to those with between $2,700 and $6,100 per year in prescriptions.
Reform will also mean higher-quality care by promoting preventive care so health problems can be addressed before they become crises. This, too, will save money. We’ll be a much healthier country if all patients can receive regular checkups and tests, such as mammograms and diabetes exams, without paying a dime out-of-pocket.