Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Newsweek's 'Lies'

(Originally written by the excellent Ramesh Ponnuru over at NRO. I am posting this in full because it is good and unfortunatley National Review's doesn't generally have links to their posts.)
Sharon Begley, “with” three other Newsweek reporters, purports to expose “The Five Biggest Lies in the Health Care Debate.” The trouble with the story begins in the first sentence: “To the credit of opponents of health-care reform, the lies and exaggerations they're spreading are not made up out of whole cloth — which makes the misinformation that much more credible.” The phrase “opponents of health-care reform” is of course a propagandistic label: I oppose the legislation currently moving in Congress, but there are plenty of reforms I favor (and that proponents of that legislation oppose). The bigger problem is the story’s assumption that it is only these “opponents” who are spreading “misinformation.” As I detail in an article for the next issue of NR, that assumption is false.

One of the alleged “lies” that Begley et al target is that “Illegal Immigrants Will Get Free Health Insurance.” They rebut it thus: "Can we say that none of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants will ever wangle insurance subsidies through identity fraud, pretending to be a citizen? You can't prove a negative, but experts say that Medicare — the closest thing to the proposals in the House bill — has no such problem." This is a series of non sequiturs. The concern that people have raised is that the House bill includes no provision for verifying beneficiaries' identity (an amendment to add such a provision was voted down). So unless the Secretary of Health and Human Services does what the House so far has not, there will be no need for anyone to commit identity fraud to get the benefits. The comparison to Medicare is inappropriate because eligibility for Medicare is linked to the receipt of Social Security. That's the reason few illegal immigrants get Medicare benefits.

The article concludes:

To be sure, there are also honest and principled objections to health-care reform. Some oppose a requirement that everyone have health insurance as an erosion of individual liberty. That's a debatable position, but an honest one. And many are simply scared out of their wits about what health-care reform will mean for them. But when fear and loathing hijack the brain, anything becomes believable—even that health-care reform is unconstitutional. To disprove that, check the commerce clause: Article I, Section 8.

Leaving aside the harebrained constitutional argument — does anyone really believe that Begley and co. have "disproved" this argument? — isn't the psychological theory here wildly implausible?

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