Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First as Farce, Then as Tragedy

Was it really Sarah Palin who started this conspiracy fear-meme with her claim that living wills amounted to "death panels" whereby government authorities would decide who is worthy enough to live? If so, she was continuing the time-honored strategy of Republican pre-emption which is to accuse your opponent of doing precisely what you are plotting, but to make the accusation first so that when it becomes apparent what you are actually doing, any attempt to point it out will look like a recycled charge, drained of the all-important novelty that comes to stand in for truth in the fast-paced, air-headed world of cable news. The result is that all critiques appear twice: first as farce and then as tragedy (to reverse the famous formulation).

We did not have to wait long for the tragedy -- it turns out the real death panel is the Arizona legislature, which has decided to cut Medicaid funding for life-saving organ transplant procedures. Apparently, keeping the tax rate lower for businesses and top income earners is more important than saving the lives of low-income Arizonans. To paraphrase Sarah Palin: The America I know and love is not one in which the poor will be allowed to perish because they don't have the funds to purchase private health insurance. Do Republicans really want to live in a society in which the poor are allowed to die in order to secure the profits of the private health insurance industry? Is this what they mean when they say they don't want us to be like France -- a nation in which health care is available to people of all income levels? It is a strange definition of freedom -- one that looks a lot different from the top of the income scale than from the bottom.

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