by Dean Baker
As a basic rule, politicians will say anything they can get away with. If an effective politician thinks that he can call his opponent a drug-dealing, serial-murdering gangster, and have the charge taken seriously by the media, then he will do it, even if there is no reality whatsoever to the allegation. The reason that most politicians don't describe their opponents this way is because the media will denounce them as liars, who are unfit for responsible public office.
This basic truth must be kept in mind in understanding the health care debate. The debate has trailed off into loon tune land, and it's the media's fault.
The lunacy was most clearly in evidence in former Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that President Obama's plan would force her to stand in front of a "death panel" to argue for the life of her baby with Down Syndrome. This "death panel" is a complete invention by Governor Palin. There is no twist or turn or contorted permutation of President Obama's plan that would prevent Ms. Palin from providing as much health care as she wants to her baby.
It would have made as much sense to claim that the transportation bill will deny medical care to her baby. After all, if the roads in front of her home are not properly maintained, and her baby has a medical emergency, then the transportation bill would have effectively sentenced her baby to death because she won't be able to get medical attention in a timely manner.
The reason that Governor Palin thought she could make up stories about President Obama's death panels is that the media have treated all sorts of other absurd inventions about his health care plan with respect. At the most basic level, opponents have repeatedly said that President Obama's plan will lead to rationing of health care.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing in President Obama's plan that resembles rationing.