Truth or Consequences

By Richard Thayer

There’s been a lot of debate over the past week about improving the “tone” in Congress: less inflammatory rhetoric and more civility.

All of this talk about the need for more civility has been greeted with a mixture of optimism and scepticism. Sure, it all sounds good, but what happens when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road? What happens then?

Well, for those of us who are the impatient type, I have good news. We won’t have to wait long. As a matter of fact, we’ll see how sincere our lawmakers are this week. The first test of our more respectful and humane Congress comes this week with the debate on the health care bill.

Personally, I think an important component of this new attitude toward civility should be “honesty.” Not only do our representatives in Washington have a tendency to be uncivil, but they also have a tendency toward dishonesty as well. It’s unfortunate, but typical, for our lawmakers to misrepresent the facts (lie) when they’re attempting to get support for a particular piece of legislation.

But it’s not just our legislators who’re being dishonest. The news media spins stories to support their own political biases. We see it every day in our papers, magazines and hear it on radio and television. Some are forthright and let it be known that they’re either liberal or conservative. Others don’t. If a person is not careful, they can believe something is true when in fact it’s not.

One of the issues that generated a lot of debate–and a lot of lies–over the past two years has been on health care in the United States. We’ve been bombarded with all kinds of misinformation. And, with the resurrection of the debate this week, additional misinformation will be generated in an effort to have the law repealed.

It may good practice for a cow to regurgitate its food so it can chew it again, but that’s not the case for us humans when it comes to health care.

As we prepare ourselves for another round of regurgitated misinformation, here are some facts we should bear in mind, compliments of FactCheck.org, a non-partisan organization:

— Independent, non-partisan experts project only a small or minimal impact on jobs, even before taking likely job gains in the health care and insurance industries into account.

— The House Republican leadership, in a report issued on January 6, badly misrepresents what the Congressional Budget Office has said about the law. In fact, CBO is among those saying the effect “will probably be small.”

— The GOP also cites a study projecting a 1.6 million job loss — but fails to mention that the study refers to a hypothetical employer mandate that is not part of the new law.

— The same study cited by the GOP also predicts an offsetting gain of 890,000 jobs in hospitals, doctors’ offices and insurance companies — a factor not mentioned by the House leadership.

And here are some additional facts from the Associated Press:

— Ahead of a vote on repeal in the GOP-led House this week, strong opposition to the law stands at 30 percent, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll.

— The strength and intensity of the opposition appears diminished, and only about one in four would like to see the law repealed.

— 43 percent of those surveyed say they would like to see the law changed so it does more to re-engineer the health care system, not less.

Another fact:

Although a repeal may be approved in the House, it won’t make it through the Senate. And if it should, it will most definitely be vetoed by President Obama.

Yes, it’s good for us to be more civil in our disagreements.

But it’s equally important that we be more honest, too.


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