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August 20, 2009

The Real Death Panels

By: John Caruso

As a fan of the oddly-shaped roll of toilet paper otherwise known as Investor's Business Daily, I'm deeply saddened to have remained ignorant of this outstanding performance of theirs for the past two weeks:

...many Britons were surprised to read a recent editorial in the American newspaper Investor’s Business Daily. The editorial stated, "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." Well, Hawking was in fact born in Britain and has lived there his whole life. The newspaper was forced to run a correction. Hawking said, "I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for the NHS. [I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.]" That’s the National Health Service of Britain.

After expunging this exquisite error from the original article (the soberly-titled "How House Bill Runs Over Grandma"), IBD issued a petty, quibbling non-apology of a "retraction", in which they stated that Hawking "was a bad example" to illustrate their thesis.  This prompted one pithy commenter to respond:

Picking Hawking wasn't just "a bad example." It was a counterexample. And one that shows sloppy, partisan thinking at that. Now ask yourselves, how many counterexamples do you have to see before you change your minds about something?

This is actually far too charitable, since it implies that IBD is concerned enough about silly trivialities like "facts" that any amount of evidence could convince it that the position dictated by its ideology is the wrong one.  But a second commenter offered an even better response, in the form of an anecdote which I think you'll agree is truly hilarious:

My brother died in January after about 15 years of living with ALS. His death occurred after his health insurance (top of the line) was exhausted. My efforts to get the insurance carrier to extend coverage three more months to permit him to be around for the birth of his first grandchild, after which he was to be removed from his ventilator, were denied. This is the American system.

Oops, did I write "hilarious"?  I meant "horrifying beyond imagining."  (Though to be fair, the corporate health insurer in this anecdote didn't technically "run over Grandpa", since they prevented this man's brother from becoming a grandfather in the first place.)

What is hilarious here is that while we're wasting time talking about absurd straw men like government "death panels"—meaning nothing more menacing than elective end-of-life counseling (formerly endorsed and even sponsored by many Republicans, until their lunatic wing's propaganda pushed them away from it)—there are actual, literal corporate death panels ending the lives of people in this country every single day.

These corporate death panels operate under the overriding principle of minimizing costs and maximizing profits.  And if you can't see what that means for the people unfortunate enough to need life-saving health care from them, you may have a promising future on the editorial staff of Investor's Business Daily.

[ Previous dust-ups with IBD here and here.  Funny stuff, but I can't take any credit for that, since IBD provides all the humor up front. ]

— John Caruso

Posted at August 20, 2009 12:54 PM

Ooh, neat, I'm going to use that excuse.

Me: I'm sick of hearing about how evil corporations are. After all, it's not as if they do business in a foreign country and don't share their profits with the people there.

Counterpoint: They DON'T share their profits with the people there.

Me: Okay, bad example. But look at all the jobs the big corporations provide. How would Americans make a living without them?

Counterpoint: Millions of Americans have lost jobs in the past three years from giant corporations.

Me: Okay, bad example, . . . ad nauseum

Does "ad nauseum" mean "to the vomitorium"? If not, it should.

Posted by: catherine at August 20, 2009 03:43 PM

In Latin, nauseam = accusative of 'nausea', otherwise known as sea-sickness (originally from ship = 'naus' in Greek, not sea = 'sea' :).

Posted by: saurabh at August 20, 2009 04:09 PM

These sick mf's suggest to me that death panels might just be a good thing. We do have a majority don't we.

Posted by: knowdoubt at August 20, 2009 04:53 PM

I wonder whether this "error" was a reporter's attempt to punk his/her editor.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at August 20, 2009 05:03 PM

Aaron, I find your lack of faith in IBD's malignant ignorance disturbing. You're hereby sentenced to read IBD's editorials for the next week—e.g. this one, which compares House Democrats to the "East German Stasi" and says that right-wing screeching at town hall meetings shows that "even after decades of a demoralizing leftward drift, Americans have their limits".

(I'm just kidding about the sentence, of course; flogging would be more merciful.)

Posted by: John Caruso at August 20, 2009 05:30 PM

Well, if that cheapskate Stephen Hawking was willing to pay a bit extra to get the talking-machine with a British accent, the good people at Investors Business Daily wouldn't have to guess which country he was from.

Posted by: SteveB at August 20, 2009 05:52 PM

What are you going to do? These folks know that the best defense is a good offense. People are stupid and cowardly enough to be convinced by rhetoric transparently designed to serve the least sympathetic industry on the planet after the oil & gas industry, that is, the insurance industry. You get stupid and cowardly people to do things by fooling and scaring them, which, amazingly, works even if the policies you're advancing *demonstrably and clearly* hurt those same stupid and cowardly people. Sometimes in my more cynical moments I imagine that the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives these days are that liberals feel the need to pretend that stupid and cowardly people aren't, whereas conservatives are not hampered by such denial and happily exploit the sh*t out of such scared morons.

Posted by: Tommy Alpha Queequeg at August 20, 2009 10:22 PM

tremendous post

Posted by: N E at August 20, 2009 11:11 PM

Boring story - back when I was just out of high school, I worked as a page at the local library. One of my jobs was to set out all the day's editions of the newspapers. Even at that tender age, I remember being shocked at what a complete piece of garbage the IBD was. I thought of as the WSJ for *complete* morons. I later learned to have more respect for the WSJ, but I am glad to know that the IBD has kept up their reputation in my eyes.

Posted by: Erik at August 21, 2009 02:29 AM

People are stupid and cowardly enough to be convinced by rhetoric transparently designed to serve the least sympathetic industry on the planet...

In the end, the insurance industry will get exactly what it wants out of health care "reform", because Max Baucus and the leadership of the Democratic Party are bought-and-paid-for tools of the insurance industry. Glenn Beck and his moronic followers may provide some amusement along the way, but they're mostly a distraction, and the conclusion you've come to - that we "lost" the health care battle because the right wing is ruthless and effective and the American people are morons - is exactly the conclusion that most liberal democrats will come to in order to shield themselves from understanding what their party is really about (not saying that's you're objective here.)

Posted by: SteveB at August 21, 2009 08:26 AM

I think I can embrace death panels at this point, we are in the majority are we not? These people who think intimidation and killing an elected President because he doesn't represent their view, but those of the majority probably can only be cured by a death panel, I would trust their judgment.

Posted by: knowdoubt at August 21, 2009 09:06 AM

It's not a "right/left" thang, it's owners vs. serfs. Why obscure that reality with polarizing terms that function to keep the People divided? During the worst financial crisis in US history, millions unemployed, foreclosed on, etc., Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and other banks post record profits and award themselves huge bonuses, courtesy of the serfs, ehr, taxpayers and their progeny, lo, to the 7th generation.

They own us. Since We the People won't rebel, we remain their chattel. Helots, if you prefer, a transition form between freemen and slaves.

Or prawns, if you saw District 9. Prawns kept docile with cat food.

Posted by: Oarwell at August 21, 2009 10:33 AM

I meant those of the minority probably can only be cured...

Posted by: knowdoubt at August 21, 2009 03:59 PM

You don't need health insurance if you're already dead. That guy with ALS was just soaking the system.

Posted by: ChrisV82 at August 23, 2009 05:27 PM