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GOP Snake Oil, Health Care and the Supremes


(The Root) — The Supremes have delivered their verdict on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's chief legislative achievement: the Affordable Care Act. And in a fortunate though unpredicted twist of fate, Obama won.

Now it's time to separate fact from fiction and unpack all the lies that Republicans told in their attempt to destroy the most fundamental American ideal: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


Over the past three years, fierce political debates have been largely fueled by a Republican propaganda machine promoting an anti-health-care-reform narrative and using the perceived pejorative "Obamacare" to brand an otherwise-popular program as suspect.

GOP operatives and conservative pundits have skillfully played on the ignorance of America's electorate, calling the ACA the "crown jewel of socialism" and "government takeover" of health insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth.


The attack campaign employed by the GOP establishment is reminiscent of the totalitarian government described in George Orwell's seminal work 1984, in which the ruling party — intent on maintaining control — feeds its populace fabricated news stories and misinformation, engendering a de facto mind control that keeps citizens blissfully unaware of their diminished state.

What has now become known as Orwellian tactics, in homage to the author, refers to the systematic indoctrination of nonsensical statements such as those from the novel, including "war is peace," "slavery is freedom" and "ignorance is strength." The dogma reflects an inherent contradiction, but lies are accepted as truth simply because government authorities perpetuate it. Originally published in 1949, Orwell's masterpiece envisioned a distant, unknown future.

Welcome to the future.

Socialism by Any Other Name Is "Romneycare"

Republican elected officials and their newly crowned leader Mitt Romney have campaigned on a message that demonizes the current legislation, ignores their past support for its foundational principles and purports an intent to replace it without ever offering any specificity. Indeed, the GOP fails to explain how it intends to provide universal health care by destroying universal health care coverage.


Even now, just moments after the Supreme Court announced its landmark decision to uphold the law, Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced that the Republican-led House of Representatives will begin passing legislation to dismantle the law. Of course these acts are ceremonial, since any such changes would be dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate. Yet Republicans persist in their attempted obstruction. Why? This is Orwellian strategy at its best and its worst: deceiving people into opposing what is in their own best interest.

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 Romney, in particular, challenges the president's leadership and never answers for the fact that he supported and signed into law a near replica of ACA when he was governor of Massachusetts. Indeed, his program provided the blueprint for Obama's national vision; yet Republicans and their base voters seem so blinded by Obama's brown skin that they can barely taste the snake oil of Romney's lies.


In his staged televised reaction to the Supreme Court announcement, with the Capitol framed in the background, it was clear that Romney had come to Washington with hopes of giving a victory speech. Instead he displayed an impotent hubris: "As you might imagine, I disagree with the Supreme Court's decision," he quipped.

Barack Obama came into office intent on fulfilling a promise to expand health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans and countless underinsured. The reform legislation was duly passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress with very little Republican support — this, despite the program's origins as a GOP proposal by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.


In an attempt to avoid anticipated opposition to a European-style single-payer system, Obama compromised to incorporate a capitalist model that exercised the now infamous individual mandate a way to keep profit-driven insurance companies at the center of the health care market and reaping financial rewards from both life and death.

That provision alone ensured that this legislation would never conflict with the dynamics of capitalism. Unlike truly socialist programs in European democracies like those in England and France, or New World universal systems in Canada and Australia, the Obama plan is not government-controlled but, rather, government-facilitated.


The key difference between that and true socialism — to the chagrin of the ignorant Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh — is that in socialism, the state controls, funds and provides services with little or no choice for the consumer. The American plan, which allows users to choose their own doctors and offers privatized options or the ability to opt out altogether (for a penalty), is anything but socialism. Under the GOP's misguided logic, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and farm subsidies would be communist intrusions imported from Kenya, Indonesia or Massachusetts.

Sifting Truth From Lies: Who Benefits? Who Lives? Who Thrives?

Sadly, what has been lost in the endless debate over the legislation's legitimacy is the fact that millions of American citizens are already experiencing broader coverage at lower costs. All this before the full law, and its mandate, become effective in 2014.


Approximately 54 million Americans have received free preventive services on their private plans. According to reports released from the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, millions of women will begin receiving free coverage for a package of comprehensive women's preventive services, including breast-cancer screenings.

In 2011, 32.5 million senior citizens received at least one or two preventive services, and more than half that number have benefited from no-cost preventive services in the first few months of 2012 alone. One-third of the American population — 105 million people — no longer have lifetime limits on their coverage.


Up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurers. And 6.6 million young adults under the age of 26 — most of whom are unemployed since the Bush-Cheney recession — have been allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance plans.

Medicare services for senior citizens have also expanded, with 5.3 million seniors saving $3.7 billion on prescription drugs. According to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 220,000 people saved $184.5 million — an average savings of $837 per senior citizen, a significant amount for elderly people living on limited incomes and increasingly reliant on family members. Prior to reform implementation, seniors faced paying for benefits like cancer screenings and cholesterol checks out of their own pockets.


Working adults also came into the fold. Around 360,000 employers have used the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, which assists businesses in providing more than 2 million workers and their families with private coverage.

Public Perceptions, Media Narratives and Real-Life Alternatives

A recent study by the Project of Excellence in Journalism has found that terms used by Republican opponents to describe universal health care were more prevalent in the mainstream press, and thereby dominated public perceptions — whether merit-based or not. As E.J. Dionne points out in the Washington Post, phrases like "government-run" were far more likely to be used than terms such as "pre-existing conditions."


The inconvenient truth if Obama loses is this: An ill-informed and increasingly uninsured public will need to contend with the repercussions of a Romney presidency and conservative legislature. What happens if health care reform is dismantled?

The widespread lack of health care insurance in U.S. society already costs millions to both the government and privately insured citizens alike, via higher premiums. Of course, the cost to uninsured Americans is either quality of life or life itself.


It seems what Republicans aren't saying is that they're happy for people to die. But Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed budget says it for them. The plan defunds most of the Obama reform's subsidies and throws America's poor off of Medicaid services, with no viable alternative.

This, of course, disproportionately affects African Americans, Hispanics and poor whites. And Ryan's budget does all this while giving deeper tax cuts to billionaires. In what Twilight Zone is a policy like that given any political legitimacy?


Of course, Romney lauded Ryan's plan. While decrying health care reform and government-financed services to the poor, Mitt and Ann are busy finding ways to invest their $250 million fortune — or hide it offshore in the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.

The day of reckoning has come: Affordable health care is no longer a question but, indeed, the answer. President Obama made a humble acknowledgment of this fact in his official statement. "I didn't do this because it's good politics," he said. "I did it because it's good for the country."


In light of the Supreme Court decision, Americans have an even clearer choice come this November. Barack Obama cares. Romney and his GOP colleagues most assuredly do not.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing regularly on MSNBC, Al Jazeera and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.


Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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