Monday, August 13, 2012


"You are saying that an attempt to rein in the growth of an entitlement program that, just last week, we found out it's going to be running out of money five years earlier than we thought is akin to pushing Grandma over a cliff."
-Neil Cavuto

One of the most reliable tools the Democratic Party has is to claim that Republicans want to starve old people, kill poor people, and throw women into kitchen pregnant with a shackle against the stove. And sometimes they are exactly that coarse about it.

President Obama's election team, for instance, is saying that Ryan's plan would harm seniors and hurt medicare. That it will cost seniors more and is extreme (their favorite word). Democrats have repeatedly used this tactic to attack Ryan's budget plan rather than offer their own. For 3 years, there's been no budget in the US despite the US Constitution requiring one, as a reminder. They've just passed "continuing resolutions" which basically means "keep spending like last year and oh, here are some increases."

When Republicans point out details about Ryan's plan (no effect for people over 55, seniors in other words, etc) the Democrats talk over the top of it. Short emotionally-charged talking points trump careful policy explanations every time. People don't have the patience, interest, or often the understanding to listen to the nuts and bolts. They don't really care for politics enough to begin with.

Which brings us to the latest Republican attack. When the 'Affordable' Care Act passed, part of the method to pay for its gargantuan costs was to trim $700,000,000,000 from Medicare. That's seven hundred billion dollars. And that's what the Republicans are hammering right now: Obama cut 700 billion from medicare. The Democrats slashed medicare by seven hundred billion.

Now, Democrats point out that this is because the Takeover Act is designed to take up the slack, so Medicare won't be as needed. And that's true, the intent is for that to work. Nobody, and I mean nobody is exactly sure how it would work out in practice because the multi-thousand-page monstrosity is so dense and unknown that its basically guesswork at this point.

So we have this situation where the Democrats are being hit with their own technique. They accuse Ryan's plan of pushing old people off a cliff, the Republicans reply "actually it won't affect seniors, but YOU cut almost a trillion dollars off medicare."

The truth is, the Democrats are pushing the grandkids off a cliff with insane overspending, and the Republicans are now criticizing cuts to the federal government. They're doing the opposite of what they ordinarily should and claim they want to do.

But this is the way the Democrats want the game played, apparently. For decades that's exactly how they've approached every policy issue or disagreement: scream about the Republicans doing something outrageously false but emotionally compelling and plausible sounding. Ronald Reagan wants your grandma to eat dog food! Newt Gingrich wants your children to starve in school! George Bush hates black people!

Now its back at them. Something with a slight kernel of truth mixed with a misleading statement that is compelling and plausible. Something designed to frighten people away from your opponent rather than win them over to you.

And I hate it. Yes, technically its true about the $700 billion (its closer to $500 billion, but with the budget deal anther $200 billion was cut last time the budget cap was fought over). Yes its technically true the the Ryan plan will cut money from Medicare and reduce benefits. The details make these claims seem less outrageous, but does anyone hear the details? Its like saying your husband cheated on you because he kissed a cute girl. Sure the girl was his sister, and it was a peck on the cheek, but those are just details.

This is Alinsky territory, where you don't try to persuade, don't try to win over people, don't try to do what is right, but use your enemy's words as weapons to bludgeon him, use sophistry to sway people, use tricks to confuse and frighten. The truth is a casualty in this war far more than any conventional one, because the goal is not to tell the truth or behave properly but to win at all costs.

But this is exactly what the Alinsky system does: it makes vendettas out of political differences, it makes a policy debate into a blood war, and it antagonizes and frustrates your foes so much they are turned into enraged enemies. It divides, on purpose, it creates a bitter conflict in a society that cannot heal until the tactics are abandoned - but Alinsky has no point at which you stop using them. Because when you win, you're not a radical any longer. He doesn't care about the end goal, just the fight.

Which is why, reluctant as I am, I'm calling the Government Health Insurance Takeover Act the "Affordable Care Act" which is its proper name. Yes, its true that this bill is intended to make private insurance so expensive, difficult, and tangled with red tape that it implodes and government has to rush in and save us all. But the truth of that would be disputed by most on the left and all of its supporters (even if they knew better). So I'll drop the name, as accurate as it is.


Eric said...

Hell, just call it Obamacare... that's what the Obama campaign has been calling it.

Christopher R Taylor said...

Yeah but that focuses it too much on Obama and not on Reid and Pelosi and the rest of the Dems who rammed it through.

Nikki said...

ObamaCare is alternative for Medicare?