An Exercise in Rhetoric

Thursday’s health care summit was what it was: an exercise in rhetoric. Republicans reprised their familiar routine of propaganda and political theater. Democrats dug in, sticking mostly to the same talking points they’ve been repeating for over a year now. And the President persistently attempted to bridge the gaps and break the deadlock between them, to no avail.

The G.O.P.’s resident prop-comic, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), sat perched behind a mountain of paperwork comprising the Senate health care bill; a hackneyed jibe that prompted President Obama to call Cantor out, “When we do props like this…these are the kinds of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a real conversation.”

Unfortunately, it was obvious from Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) opening remarks onward that Republicans never intended to have a real conversation about health care. Rather than focusing on areas of potential agreement, like medical malpractice reform, the senator chose instead to misrepresent the facts about health insurance premiums.

Alexander audaciously declared that, “for millions of Americans, premiums will go up.” However, his standpoint fails to account for the ample federal subsidies that will bring down overall costs for most Americans buying health insurance on the open market.

As New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman observed, “The ‘price of a given amount of insurance coverage’ would fall, not rise — and the actual cost to many Americans would fall sharply thanks to federal aid.”

Senator Alexander wasn’t the only Republican stretching the truth, either. In the midst of the proceedings, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement insisting that, “Democrats’ job-killing health care proposals do not implement a single major GOP reform that would lower costs for families and small businesses.”

Boehner produced absolutely no evidence supporting his claim that the Democratic plan is “job-killing” and his assertion that Republican ideas have been excluded from reform proposals is utterly false. Monday, the White House released an eleven-page plan incorporating ideas from Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) as well as the Republican Study Committee.

It’s also worth noting that the Republican health care plan touted by Boehner covers only three million Americans over ten years at a cost of sixty-one billion dollars. That is a far cry from the comprehensive reform our nation desperately needs.

While his colleagues strutted and preened for the cameras, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) revealed the G.O.P.’s true colors. Yesterday, Bunning single-handedly obstructed an otherwise unanimous Senate vote on extending jobless benefits to thousands of unemployed workers nationwide.

When Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) implored Bunning to approve the measure, the Republican simply replied, “Tough shit.” If that behavior wasn’t shameless enough, Bunning then lamented that his own intransigence caused him to miss the Kentucky-South Carolina college basketball game.

Bunning’s callous indifference to the plight of everyday Americans struggling to make ends meet exposes the Republican Party’s prime directive: unwavering commitment to defending an unsustainable status quo that rewards and protects the rich at the expense of those less fortunate.

Behind a facade of phony fiscal fortitude, the G.O.P. blindly obstructs legislation essential to our economic recovery, hoping that this cynical strategy will return them to power.

Moreover, by repeatedly refusing to engage in a serious exchange of ideas, Congressional Republicans fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth behind health care reform: that it is an economic and social necessity.