HYPOCRITIC OATH: Government-Run Health Care Is Bad For America But Good For Joe Wilson’s Family

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NEWSWEEK: JOE WILSON (R-SC) IS PASSIONATE ABOUT STOPPING GOVERNMENT RUN HEALTH CARE! Except that he’s not?at least not when it comes to his, and his family’s, government-run health care. As a retired Army National Guard colonel, Wilson gets a lot of benefits (one of which, apparently, was not a full appreciation of the customs, traditions, and courtesies that mandate respect for one’s commander in chief). And with four sons in the armed services, the entire Wilson brood has enjoyed multiple generations of free military medical coverage, known as TRICARE. Yes, it’s true. As politicos and town-hall criers debate the finer points of the public option, employer hypocrite_1_1.jpgmandates, coverage for undocumented immigrants, and who’s more Hitler-like, they seem to miss a larger point: the United States has single-payer health care. It covers 9.5 million active-duty servicemen and women, military retirees, and their dependents?including almost a 10th of all Californians and Floridians, and nearly a quarter of a million residents of Wilson’s home state. Military beneficiaries like Wilson?who, as a retiree, is eligible for lifetime coverage?never have to worry about an eye exam, a CT scan, a prolonged labor, or an open-heart surgery. They have access not only to the military’s 133,500 uniformed health professionals, but cooperating private doctors as well?whose fees are paid by the Department of Defense. It’s high-quality care, too: surveys from 2007 and 2008 list TRICARE among “the best health insurer(s) in the nation” by customer satisfaction. Yet Wilson insists government-run health care is a problem. MORE

wilson-clowned.thumbnail.jpgNEW YORK TIMES: Joe Wilson, who will be forever known as the “You lie!” congressman, unless he does something even weirder in the future, has a lot of fans this weekend at the Taxpayer March on Washington. This is an anti-Obama demonstration organized by FreedomWorks, the group that helped bring us the summer town hall meeting protests. Those were, of course, the events where we learned that we did not actually have a national consensus on the inadvisability of bringing loaded weapons to places where the president is speaking. MORE

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Is there something in the water in the Palmetto state? True, Republican John McCain carried the state over Democrat Barack Obama,  59% to 37%, in the 2008 election. But opposition to the Democratic White House seems to have reached fever pitch there. First Republican Sen. Jim DeMint urged fellow conservatives flag_of_south_carolinasvg.thumbnail.pngto “break” President Obama by making his healthcare reform a Waterloo in his presidency, defeating him and his ideas with a big fat congressional rejection. Then came Gov. Mark Sanford. Even before his infamous fling with a mistress in Argentina that saw him go AWOL from the governor’s mansion and prompted aides to perpetuate a fabricated story about his hiking in the Appalachian Trail, the governor had a political moment in the sun. The onetime presidential aspirant made headlines in February by threatening to reject Obama’s stimulus package money. Even the Legislature balked at that one. Now comes Joe Wilson, the former Marine and six-term congressman who until Thursday was an obscure back-bencher. After his unprecedented outburst Wednesday night — calling Obama a liar from the floor of the House — he apologized. As Ticket reported, he also cut an ad asking supporters to send money to his cause. Because, as the Ticket also reported, Democrats have been sending lots of money to his rival, Rob Miller. In fact by this morning ActBlue’s efforts have sent more than $700,000 to Miller’s campaign coffers. MORE

wilson-clowned.thumbnail.jpgRELATED: I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race. I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton. But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it. MORE

palintonguecropped.thumbnail.jpgTHE ATLANTIC: In less than 48 hours, Rep. Joe Wilson’s two little words have lifted the relatively obscure congressman into what could only be called Sarah Palin Status. It’s a dual status. To their party, both are maverick heroes. To their detractors, they represent something between a morbidly fascinating joke and the perfect strawman. In liberal company, after all, “Did you hear what Palin said?” is the political equivalent of “A dyslexic walks into a bra.” There is no punchline. The joke has already been told. And by offering themselves up as jokes, they (and we) do the same to our health care discussion. Just as Sarah Palin’s death-panel blathering obscures what should be a substantive debate over how to cut Medicare costs without harming services, Joe Wilson’s locker-room shout-out caricatures the real controversy about health care for illegal immigrants. MORE

mcgoverntime.jpgGEORGE MCGOVERN: But what seems missing in the current battle is a single proposal that everyone can understand and that does not lend itself to demagoguery. If we want comprehensive health care for all our citizens, we can achieve it with a single sentence: Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans. Those of us over 65 have been enjoying this program for years. I go to the doctor or hospital of my choice, and my taxes pay all the bills. It’s wonderful. But I would have appreciated it even more if my wife and children and I had had such health-care coverage when we were younger. I want every American, from birth to death, to get the kind of health care I now receive. Removing the payments now going to the insurance corporations would considerably offset the tax increase necessary to cover all Americans. We know that Medicare has worked well for half a century for those of us over 65. Why does it become “socialized medicine” when we extend it to younger Americans? We recently bailed out the finance houses and banks to the tune of $700 billion. A country that can afford such an outlay while paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can afford to do what every other advanced democracy has done: underwrite quality health care for all its citizens.

As matters now stand, the insurance companies claim $450 billion a year of our health-care dollars. They will fight greedy_guy.thumbnail.jpghard to hold on to this bonanza. Consider the campaign funds given to the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health-care legislation. Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, a Democrat, and his political action committee have received nearly $4 million from the health-care lobby since 2003. The ranking Republican, Charles Grassley of Iowa, has received more than $2 million. It’s a mistake for one politician to judge the personal motives of another. But Sens. Baucus and Grassley are firm opponents of the single-payer system, as are other highly placed members of Congress who have been generously rewarded by the insurance lobby. MORE

Barack_ObamaCROPPED.1_1.jpgSALON: It’s still early, but so far, it looks like President Obama’s address to Congress was, mostly, a winner. CBS News is out with a poll showing that “Americans now give [Obama] the best marks of his presidency on handling health care, but they’re still divided over whether he’s clearly explained his plan.” Approval of the president’s handling of the issue has jumped 12 points in a week, from 40 percent to 52 percent. Disapproval has dropped nine points, from 47 percent to 38 percent. MORE

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