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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Scaring Grandma

by digby

I'm a little bit surprised that everyone's so gobsmacked about the right wing's ability to spread the alarm about Obama's alleged intention to turn all the old people into Soylent Green. How it became such an article of faith on the right is no mystery: it's a fundamental part of the Right To Life agenda and it's been going on for a long time.

Here's the NRLC in 2007:

How Medicare Was Saved from Rationing — And Why It’s Now in Danger
By Burke J. Balch

Editor’s note: Since its inception, the National Right to Life Committee has been equally concerned with protecting older people and people with disabilities from euthanasia as with protecting the unborn from abortion. We have recognized that involuntary denial of lifesaving medical treatment is a form of involuntary euthanasia, and therefore have opposed government rationing of health care. In 1997 and 2003, NRLC successfully fought to amend Medicare by allowing older people the right to use their own money to obtain unrationed care; shockingly, under the new leadership of Congress that right is now at risk.
Here’s the background:

Most people are aware that Medicare—the government program that provides health insurance to older people in the United States—faces grave fiscal problems as the baby boom generation ages.

Medicare is financed by payroll taxes, which means that those now working are paying for the health care of those now retired. As the baby boom generation moves from middle into old age, the proportion of the retired population will increase, while the proportion of the working population will decrease. The consequence is that the amount of money available for each Medicare beneficiary, when adjusted for health care inflation, will shrink.

Three alternatives exist. In theory, taxes could be increased dramatically to make up the shortfall. Few knowledgeable observers consider this likely, regardless of which party is in power in Washington.

The second alternative—to put it bluntly but accurately—is rationing. Less money available per senior citizen would mean less treatment, including less of the treatments necessary to prevent death. For want of treatment, many people whose lives could have been saved by medical treatment will perish against their will.

The third alternative is that, as the government contribution decreases, the shortfall is made up by payments from older people themselves, so that their Medicare health insurance premium is financed partly by the government and partly from their own income and savings.

It goes on to promote that last as the best way to insure that the elderly will not be euthanized. Here's their earlier argument when Bush was pushing his prescription drug plan in 2003:

The news has been full of the Republican proposal to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. What Americans might not realize is that the bill as currently drafted could lead to involuntary euthanasia through the rationing of
health care.

Everyone knows pharmaceutical prices continue to skyrocket. Exciting new medicines can treat illnesses that used to have anautomatic death sentence, but these medicines come with such a high price tag that the government can' t possibly make them available to everyone in the Baby Boom generation without a mammoth tax raise. If drugs are rationed, what chance is there that they will be available to senior citizens?

National Right to Life has consistently sounded the alarm about the dangers of rationing and managed care. In 1997, heeding these concerns, Congress gave older Americans the opportunity to use their own money to join private "fee-for-service" insurance plans. Just as most people set aside money to supplement Social Security when they retire, such insurance plans assure that senior citizens can choose their own doctors and make their own decisions about whether a given treatment is "futile."

However, the prescription drug benefit in the current draft of Medicare legislation has no such "escape clause" permitting Americans to buy additional drug coverage at their own expense. Although private plans could offer such an unmanaged benefit, they would be at an unfair advantage trying to compete with the 70% subsidy involved in the government's managed care plan. Individuals purchasing such plans would still be charged for Medicare, effectively a double taxation...

"Older Americans must remain free to spend their own money to save their own lives," says Jenny Nolan of the medical ethics department of National Right to Life.

I'll bet many of you didn't know until now that unless we "allow" the elderly to buy their own health insurance, they will all be euthanized, did you? (And it's always interesting to see how the concerns of social conservatives always seem to converge with the money folks around the issue of taxes, isn't it?)

This stuff is as fundamental to the social conservative worldview as abortion is. And everyone should have known that after having watched that Schiavo circus just a few short years ago. Here's a fairly typical example of what was written at the time:

While many people might accept the idea of planning their own death, in the sense that a "living will" avoids prolonged suffering, the embrace of the Netherlands model by AARP seems to suggest it wants us to move toward embracing government intervention into our lives for the purpose of facilitating of causing our deaths.

The WHO is reformulating a "new ethics" which emphasizes the importance of "economic" resources and the likelihood of success in treating people. Analyst Marguerite Peeters says, "The system of priorities in the new WHO paradigm will necessarily lead to the marginalization of certain people. There will be no available resources for certain 'categories' of patients, those deemed less important to public health: the elderly, the handicapped, and perhaps even the members of minority groups."

It is noteworthy that, 50 years ago, the Nazis were prosecuted for war crimes for their government-sponsored euthanasia program. Now, the Nazi program is being accepted under the cover of "sustainable development." How can they "sustain" the earth when there are so many people on the planet? The obvious answer is to get rid of some of them, especially those who are sick and elderly or handicapped.

The WHO, under the leadership of AARP favorite Brundtland, the former leader of Norway, implicitly supports this practice.

It is significant that AARP also supported Hillary Clinton's socialized medicine scheme. Once the health care system has been completely nationalized, it can be easily linked to a global network under the supervision of the U.N.'s WHO, in which the "new ethics" can be used to guide the Social Security and health care systems, including Medicare. In this context, it must be recalled that the WHO played a role in developing Hillary's original plan.

On the Social Security front, the most likely political outcome is stalemate, with the liberals using the ongoing crisis as a pretext to seize even more government control over the health care system, ration treatments to the elderly, and then eventually implement a government-sponsored euthanasia program to target and eliminate some of the most "nonproductive" and "useless" people. This will "solve" the Social Security "problem" and the government will remain in charge of the system. Taxes will continue to rise and we will live in a full-fledged socialist state. That is, if we live.

That was 2005. Here's Rush today:

They accuse of us being Nazis, and Obama's got a health care logo that's right out of Adolf Hitler's playbook. Now, what are the similarities between the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany? Well, the Nazis were against big business -- they hated big business. And of course we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn. They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals, but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables, as we all know, and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare.

There's so much inaccurate historical information in that insane rant, it would take a separate post to rebut it. But you know that --- and somehow I doubt that his listeners are sticklers for historical accuracy. (If you'd like even more Nazi analogies, read Pat Buchanan's column from yesterday with the pithy headline, "Say Goodbye Grandma.")

Betsy McCaughey may have brought the euthanasia subject to the attention of the elite villagers, but the right has been steeped in this stuff for decades. Of course for decades the mainstream media has been telling us that Rush and his ilk are fine fellows, simply entertaining the fringe --- there's nothing to see here and nothing to worry about. Except it isn't really confined to the fringe, is it? Since the election, we've seen the entire Republican caucus genuflect to Rush as if he's Caligula. Just yesterday the chief Senate Republican negotiator on the health care reform spread this vile euthanasia canard as if were casually discussing the weather:

GRASSLEY: In countries that have government-run health care, just to give you an example, I’ve been told that the brain tumor that Sen. Kennedy has — because he’s 77 years old — would not be treated the way it’s treated in the United States. In other words, he would not get the care he gets here because of his age. In other words, they’d say ‘well he doesn’t have long to live even if he lived another four to five years.’ They’d say ‘well, we gotta spend money on people who can contribute more to economy.’ It’s a little like people saying when somebody gets to be 85 their life is worth less than when they were 35 and you pull the tubes on them.

Again, this is the supposedly good faith negotiator for whom Baucus and Obama are selling health reform down the river in their quixotic attempt to claim bipartisanship. No, Grassley isn't saying right out that Obama is a Nazi who wants to euthanize all the old people, but he's validating the dishonest talking points of those who do.

There is an age split on mistrust of this health care plan and there's a good reason for it. Older folks are probably more mistrustful of Obama, for the sad obvious reasons, but they are also uniquely victimized by misinformation and scare tactics. If any of you out there are dealing with geriatric parents, you know about stuff like this:

I recently became involved in helping my 88 year old Great Aunt , with her estate and personal matters. Last week she asked that I help her balance her check book, in which i noticed she was writing monthly checks to anything and everything that had to do with social security.It seems that she has been receiving petitions and contribution requests from our good friends in Washington DC and not just one or two. I had her save her 'junk mail' for one week, equaling a total of 117 envelopes ALL WANTING TO SAVE SOCIAL SECURITY and ALL WANTING A DONATION. When i asked her about this,her explanation was that our government is going to take her social security away and she wont be able to live. Hence the big debate: shes afraid the government will stop her social security check-but giving it back to them in donations.

The elderly are easy prey for all kinds of scare stories and scams from unscrupulous people. And nobody is more unscrupulous than a right winger desperate to obstruct a program or politician they know will be popular and empowering of liberals. Here's one example from a few years ago, and as far as I know they are still active today. The groups they fronted for certainly are.

I know it's seems surprising to many that the right is able to mobilize senior citizens against health care reform, but it doesn't surprise me at all. They've been laying the groundwork for this, from dozens of different directions, for decades. The "right to life" people's ongoing efforts to put euthanasia on the table is just well tilled little piece they are using for this particular moment.

The fundamental architecture of the conservative movement is built on a simple premise: liberals want to take all your money and then kill you or they want to kill you and then take all your money. It's not really any more complicated than that.

If someone had asked me how to respond to the euthanasia scare I probably would have tried to pre-empt it with something like this: "the Republicans want to interfere in your most private, personal decisions and force terminal patients to be hooked up to machines for years against their will, just like Terry Schiavo." With their crusading against living wills, it's has the benefit of being true.

If you don't put them on the defensive first, they get you every time. They've been working it for years ---it's reflex by now.