Health care used as political syringe
|By Kyle Melinn|
Seconds after the U.S. House passed its health care reform package, my e-mail box became a repository for conflicting messages on how good/bad U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, is for opposing the bill and how good/bad U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, is for supporting it.
I read all of the messages. None of them ever says what the bill does, but I suppose that’s not really the point.
The proposal to extend health care to 30 million more Americans is becoming less about health and more about framing a political debate with hot-button, misleading rhetoric.
Mid-Michigan features a pair of members in battleground districts, so we’re caught in this centrifuge of spin.
Listen to the Democrats and Rogers is a tool for the deep-pocketed insurance lobby while Schauer is a hero for standing up for "sweeping reform" that offers every American access to quality, affordable health insurance.
Listen to the Republicans and Schauer like insurance small is "trade bureaucrat."
It’s nearly impossible for even the casual observer to cut through the political fog machine, which is the point.
Republicans commandeered this health care thing as a political syringe from the get-go, getting the Tea Party types all ginned about tall tales of death panels and "big government-run health care" the second President Barack Obama opened his mouth about reforming our expensive health care system this past spring.
While a well-meaning but naïve Obama tried to reach out to insurance companies to strike compromise on a plan, the GOP stirred up old memories of "HillaryCare."
The angry reaction came in the form of these "Town Hall" meetings, where members of Congress were disrespectfully harassed, driving Schauer to holding his "town hall" on a conference call.
Votes in Congress on reforming health care kept getting kicked farther and farther into the year as polling numbers soured. Rogers and other like-minded Republicans grabbed the eye of television camera operators by holding up copies of the 1,000-page bills and then letting them drop to the ground. THUMP!
The Democrats have finally counterpunched to this public blasting. They’ve taken the advice of consultants who suggested long ago they use the "going-aftergreedy-big-insurance" defense to keep negative publicity from scaring away moderate Democratic lawmakers in competitive districts.
Exhibit A is Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, who shared the following quote after Saturday’s vote:
"Despite the call for change voiced by Mike Rogers’ constituents last November, he chose to stand with the insurance industry lobbyists and the Republican Party of No to vote against the historic health insurance reform legislation."
The Democratic National Committee is also playing offense, targeting Rogers and 31 other House Republicans in congressional districts won by Obama last year with a multi-media campaign. Meanwhile, Schauer is getting positive television ads during local newsbreaks, as he prepares for a guaranteed difficult re-election campaign.
Nobody knows that more than the folks from the Michigan Republican Party. New executive director Josh Venable went after Schauer and fellow Oakland County freshman Rep. Gary Peters with the following pearls of punditry:
Nonetheless, like any good politician, Rogers doesn’t take anything for granted and errs on the side of paranoia on such things.
The greatest piece of reform since the civil rights bill or boondoggle of historic proportions?
Unfortunately, that question is taking a backseat to this one: "Who is going to win off the health care issue?"
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.)