Friday, April 02, 2010

The Limbaugh Manipulative Machine: #3

And now, the 111th post with the tag "Rush Limbaugh."

Let's consider whether the nation's most popular and most dishonest (except that there are Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, etc.) lied, deceived, or simply misled when on April Fool's Day he presented this:

OBAMA: When you actually look at the bill itself, it incorporates all sorts of Republican ideas. I mean a lot of commentators have said, "You know, this is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney, the Republican governor and now presidential candidate, passed in Massachusetts." A lot of the ideas in terms of the exchange, just being able to pool and improve the purchasing power of individuals in the insurance market, that originated from the Heritage Foundation.

RUSH: And they are fulminating at the Heritage Foundation because it's an out-and-out total fabrication, Obama claiming a central tenet came from them. Actually you just heard it, he tried to explain that the insurance exchange he envisions being built by government is an idea that came from Heritage in the first place, and nothing could be further from the truth. Heritage approves of a market-driven approach that allows families to choose their own health insurance, not government bureaucrats. But if Obama was a member of the Heritage Foundation he would have known that all along. I suspect he knows this is all BS, just like he knows that there's nothing in this that Republicans suggested, nothing at all. The Heritage Foundation never once has proposed government-run exchanges. The Heritage Foundation has proposed all of this kind of stuff occur in the private sector where individuals and families make their own choices. They are a big believer in the health savings accounts, which Obama loathes.


Rush, thus, is claiming this: It is "an out-and-out total fabrication" that "a central tenet" of the Senate health care legislation, the insurance exchange, originated from the Heritage Foundation, which "approves of a market-driven approach that allows families to choose their own health insurance, not government bureaucrats."

(We'll assume that Limbaugh merely was invoking a dangling participle when he said the Heritage Foundation wants families to choose their own health insurance rather than choosing government bureaucrats. O.K., I'm being petty.)

Rush Limbaugh is accurate (this happens, almost accidentally, from time to time) when he says "Heritage approves of a market-driven approach in which families, not government bureaucrats" select their own health insurance. Evidently, so does the the Senate/President, although Limbaugh (merely) deceptively implies otherwise.

And he's right that "a central tenet" of the law is "the insurance exchange." But he's wrong when he characterizes as "an out-and-out fabrication" the President's contention that it "originated from the Heritage Foundation." In an article in the October 1993 issue of Reason magazine, John Hood explains

In a nutshell, Heritage proposes that consumers be able to choose from among a host of health-care options ranging from traditional insurers to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Using refundable tax credits that decrease as income grows, Heritage would empower families to choose plans on the basis of coverage, service, and price. As part of the "healthcare social contract" thus formed, Butler says, heads of households would be required by law to buy basic health-care coverage "to protect society from citizens who would try to exploit the good nature of ordinary Americans" by free-riding on the system.

The tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance would be phased out, in favor of the family-based tax credit. Families could still choose to join group plans. But by helping people buy insurance directly, rather than relying on employers to provide it, Heritage would solve the "portability" problem, in which employees are trapped in undesirable jobs because they're afraid of losing health coverage.

Butler and health-care analyst Edmund Haislmaier introduced the key elements of the Heritage plan in a 1989 book, A National Health System for America. In 1992, Heritage began to tout the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) as a model for how a national consumer-choice system in health insurance might function. Robert Moffit, deputy director of domestic policy studies at Heritage and a former manager of FEHBP, became one of the foundation's key spokesmen on the issue.


Confused? Jon Walker at Firedoglake neatly summarizes:

An individual mandate forcing people to buy private insurance on an exchange with a sliding scale of tax credits and the program is paid for by phasing out the tax deduction for employer-provided insurance. Sound familiar?

The Heritage Foundation did not, as far as I can tell, advocate something it called a "health insurance exchange." Neither, though, did President Obama specify that it proposed an exchange; rather, he asserted "A lot of the ideas in terms of the exchange, just being able to pool and improve the purchasing power of individuals in the insurance market, that originated from the Heritage Foundation." "A host of health care options" sounds like a pool; and it's hard to imagine Heritage unaware that requiring heads of households to buy insurance, thus eliminating "free riders" (who, presumably, would be the relatively healthy), would "improve the purchasing power of individuals in the insurance market."

If Rush had claimed merely that the Heritage Foundation did not advocate insurance exchanges, his statement would have been misleading because he gives the impression that Heritage's old plan had nothing in common with the bill recently signed by Obama. However, when he contends that it is "an out-and-out fabrication" to argue that "a central tenet came from them," he is not misleading or deceiving but actually lying. That the idea of the exchange came from Heritage is (barely) debatable; to maintain that such an argument is a complete "fabrication" is thoroughly dishonest.

I am shocked! shocked! to find that Rush Limbaugh wants to argue that this "socialist" health care law differs radically from the plan proposed in 1993 by an organization Rush reveres. But times change, politics change, and when we have a Democratic President bound and determined to be bipartisan at all cost, it is hardly surprising that his signature legislative achievement would borrow significantly from a conservative think tank.

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