Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guerrilla Press Fact-Checker: Busting Myths about Health Care, Angus King and the "Job-Creators"

Perhaps the biggest problem with the mainstream media is the refusal of reporters to call-out guests or interviewees when they make claims that are patently and objectively false. For instance, the occupation of Iraq is not over—there are some 30,000 U.S. troops, private contractors and mercenary, soldiers-for-hire remaining there. Yet, the corporate media has successfully convinced Americans the war has ended. When reporters refuse to acknowledge—and correct—these falsehoods, they do the public a massive disservice. The following are three oft-repeated media “talking points,” that are completely false.

Falsehood #1:
“The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare/Romneycare is universal health care.”

A number of liberals erroneously believe “Obamacare” is universal health care.

Author Thomas Frank makes this claim at least three times in his otherwise serviceable new book, Pity the Billionaire. A letter to the editor in a recent issue of the Portland Press Herald makes a similar claim (“Voters should know the principles behind policies,” 7/27/2012). In a LTE critical of Mitt Romney and “Obamacare” opponents, Meredith N. Springer of Scarborough writes, “Why should the United States be the only western industrial country without universal health insurance…?” It’s a damn good question, Meredith. But you are sadly incorrect in your inference the ACA is universal health insurance.

Whatever you want to call the new health care law, it is not universal health care. It’s not even close, for that matter. If anything, the law is a bailout for the health insurance industry—and an unnecessary one at that.

The reason for this is simple: The ACA maintains the for-profit health insurance industry—which is the crucial flaw in our health care system. The new law, despite its name, does nothing to make private health insurance more affordable, or manage the costs of co-pays, deductibles or premiums. A “single-payer” or universal health care system would resemble that of Canada or Great Britain. In fact, the U.S. already has the beginnings of such a government-run program. It’s called Medicare. If we were to expand Medicare to every American, we would have universal health care.

Believe me, I wish the ACA offered universal coverage. However, those who claim it does are mistaken. To read more about my views on the new health care law click here and here.

Falsehood #2:
"The rich create jobs."

I blame Ayn Rand for the longevity of this nonsense.

The rich do not create a single job. For that matter, today’s business moguls do not create anything, period. Nearly all of their wealth comes from Wall Street investments, corporate profits, capital gains taxes, speculation and other forms of glorified gambling.

It is consumer demand that creates jobs. Nothing more.

When I want something (say, a cup of coffee) I go to one of the myriad locally-owned coffee shops here in Portland and I buy one. In fact, coffee is pretty popular in Portland. It is a product with a lot of demand. If Portlanders were to suddenly quit drinking coffee (an unlikely scenario for caffeine addicts such as myself, but stay with me) and switch to tea, then all the local coffee shops in town would suddenly go out of business, as there would no longer be any demand for their product. If we all were to suddenly stop spending money entirely, the economy would essentially crash.

If anything, the business people who have amassed their wealth buying up companies and merging them with other large companies—which inevitably result in massive layoffs and job outsourcing—have done more to destroy jobs in this country. Indeed, the rich would be more appropriately labeled “job destroyers.”

Anyway, that’s the fast-food version of that one. You can read my more in-depth argument against the “job creator” myth here.

Falsehood #3:
"Angus King is a progressive."

In 2010, independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler managed to fool a majority of Maine’s progressive voters that he was one of them. This despite the fact the former corporate lobbyist supports charter schools, de-regulation, welfare “reform,” and merit-based pay for teachers. But many Mainers looked beyond such trivial policy positions, and focused only on his self-identification as an “Independent.”

In this year’s U.S. Senate race, Angus King is poised to perform a similar sleight of hand. Like Cutler, the former governor is what I like to call “GOP lite.” As governor, King infamously rejected a raise in the state’s minimum wage because he feared it would scare businesses away or something absurd like that. And he recently reiterated his support for maintaining the Bush tax-cuts for the super-rich.

With all due respect to my fellow Mainers, it is almost laughable how easy it is to get elected to office in this state. A politician can hold the most neo-conservative, pro-business views, but as long as he runs as an “independent,” liberal voters will flock his way. Actually, perhaps it says more about liberal voters…

Regardless… you can read my full story on Angus King here.

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