FreedomWorks fails to cure what ails

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September 15, 2009

1:09 AM

It happened when the far left protested to immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq: a national dialogue about responsible drawdown versus extended occupation was marred by protesters calling then-President George W. Bush a war criminal and demanding withdrawal, no matter the cost to Iraqi security in the short term or U.S. security in the long term. Then it happened again Saturday, when a few thousand people marched on Washington, D.C. as part of a FreedomWorks march. FreedomWorks, an organization that claims to stand for “Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom,” sounds pretty good at first, but the organization instead turned into an outlet for misinformation and scare tactics.

FreedomWorks’s mission, “to educate Americans about free-market economics,” is a laudable, if limited, goal. Its board of directors, including Steve Forbes of Forbes Magazine, certainly knows a thing or two about economics. However, FreedomWorks fails to communicate to its grassroots membership that the definition of socialized medicine is a full-government takeover of healthcare, not the limited public option that President Barack Obama is proposing. Of course, FreedomWorks knows that ObamaCare is not socialism, but if they admit that, what will happen to its chances of killing the healthcare bill? Perhaps FreedomWorks has simply been hijacked by talk show hosts and a small, yet increasingly loud, faction of the Republican Party.

With people carrying signs like, “Glen Beck for President” (his name is Glenn) and “Bury ObamaCare with Kennedy” (talk about disrespectful), FreedomWorks’s protest has grabbed headlines on the internet and on paper. Instead of having a national dialogue about real solutions for our healthcare problem, we are once again stuck in the muck of abrasive, partisan politics. FreedomWorks is in a unique position to present legitimate arguments and alternatives to Congress’s plan. For some reason, it’s chosen to try and see who can yell the loudest and, apparently, they don’t have a problem toting signs with swastikas either. We deserve better.

The news of the FreedomWorks march is by no means limited to the national press. Even in our own Flat Hat, we see lead-ins like, “much like car insurance, a truly competitive free market will bring prices down.” Once again, the teaser of a rational premise leads to the absurd: “For argument’s sake, assume that ObamaCare eventually works much like Canada’s public option,” wrote John Michael King ’12, in an editorial in the Sept. 10 edition of The Flat Hat. King distorts the view of the American Medical Student Association’s paper on waiting times. He fails to include that, “despite [anecdotal evidence], an objective look at the issue reveals that the evidence for waiting lists is inconclusive.” Additionally, how can we compare a public option that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates will cover five percent of Americans to socialized medicine, a system where the state pays for everyone’s care? And then claim that our president is a socialist?

Instead, let’s change the tone of this debate, as a campus and as a nation. Let’s see what the final bill coming out of Congress looks like and debate on its merits. To be clear, there are legitimate concerns about an encroaching government. But using hyperbole to derail an important debate is not a solution. A discussion grounded in economics about how a public option could crowd out private insurers in the long run is interesting. Calling ObamaCare “socialism” is irresponsible. Rather than scoring cheap political points with scare tactics, we should check our facts and have a civilized discussion.

E-mail Harrison Roday at hnroday@wm.edu.

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