Archive for the 'Healthcare' Category

Shakespeare Anagram: Twelfth Night

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Let’s call it the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and President Hyde.

It all started last weekend, when a coalition of white supremacist organizations staged a demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. The idea was that the different alt-right factions, including the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, could come together and present a unified front for nationalism and racial purity. With swastika flags, burning torches, and chants such as “Jews will not replace us,” they presented an unambiguous message of anger and hate. Counter-protesters showed up to resist their message, and one particularly disturbed individual drove his car into them, injuring many, and killing Heather Heyer, age 32.

Before we go on, it should be clear that this is not in any way a left vs. right thing. This has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic ideology. Everyone in America should be against this, regardless of how you feel about the tax code or health care reform. And indeed, many prominent Republicans immediately spoke out against this protest and its message of hate. We should expect no less.

But on Saturday, as the events were still unfolding, President Trump came out to read a prepared statement, in which he stated that “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.” He then stopped reading, looked up, and added “on many sides… on many sides.”

Deflection is a common rhetorical technique, used by politicians and their supporters, mainly when they are losing the argument and want to shift the focus of the conversation. Push a Trump supporter (or President Trump himself) too far, and you’ll get an earful of Benghazi or Hillary’s e-mails. And, yes, we do it too when our back is against the wall. (Sure, Obama used drones, but Bush did it too!)

So there’s nothing unusual about deflection, and it’s easy to call it out when it happens. But why on earth would President Trump use such a technique, or any technique at all, to defend the white supremacists? Sure, you can use deflection to shift focus onto the counter-protesters if you want to. But why? It only makes sense if you see the alt-right as “your side.” Is that what the President was signaling?

Needless to say, many were left feeling unsatisfied with this statement on Saturday. Pushback against his comments became so ubiquitous that he was forced to issue another statement last Monday. This time, he said all of the things a President is supposed to say, decrying racism as evil, and naming the various hate groups as well as the name of the woman who died in the protest. Some said he looked like a hostage being forced to read a statement against his will. Others criticized him for not speaking out sooner. But he said everything we asked him to say, and if he had left it there, the issue would have been closed.

He did not leave it there.

The next day, he was making an announcement about infrastructure. But when he took questions, they were not about infrastructure. This time, the President, finally freed from the oppressive shackles of prepared statements written by his more thoughtful policy advisors, doubled down on his deflection away from the white supremacists. He never explicitly said both sides were equally to blame, but that seemed to be his attitude. He coined the term “alt-left” as though people who want to raise the minimum wage and implement a single-payer healthcare system were on the same moral plane as Nazis. He also implied that it was the counter-protestors who were physically attacking the alt-right, when all of the evidence I’ve seen is to the contrary. He also felt the need to point out that the white supremacists had a permit, while the counter-protesters did not. (Seriously, he said that.) This was a new low for the Trump presidency, and that’s no easy bar to clear.

But then, this past Monday, he gave an address laying out a foreboding agenda in Afghanistan. Content aside, he was calmly reading from the teleprompter, just like a real big-boy president. He was measured, dignified, and – dare I say it – uncharacteristically presidential. He began with an eloquent call for unity against division. Had he not already relinquished all moral authority to make such a statement, it would have been beautiful. And when he talked about Afghanistan, he projected strength and resolve. There was the occasional reference to the previous administration’s blame and more than a little unearned braggadocio, but he didn’t trip over the podium or light himself on fire, and I caught myself hoping to see more of this president moving forward.

It took exactly one day to burst that bubble. At a campaign rally (!) in Arizona on Tuesday, he gave a completely unhinged performance, telling an alternate-universe version of the story above, and attacking the media as fake news outlets out to get him personally.

At the moment, it feels like we have two presidents, and when he speaks, we don’t know which one we’re going to get. But let’s not be under any illusions about which one is the @realDonaldTrump.

From Twelfth Night:

One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons;
A natural perspective, that is, and is not!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

I see two presidents: one, a non-factual peevish scab; another can pivot, read notation.

Shakespeare Anagram: Troilus and Cressida

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

This week, President Trump announced that he is withdrawing us from the Paris Climate Accord.

Now, in all likelihood, Trump is using this as a starting position for a renegotiation. That doesn’t mean we won’t actually pull out of the accord, as it seems unlikely such a renegotiation will be possible.

What this is really about is President Trump trying to show up President Obama. In his mind, he’s the greatest negotiator who ever lived. In reality, how good is he? He couldn’t even talk Republicans into repealing Obamacare.

What’s really scary about this is that, despite the unprecedented international coordination that went into making the deal, experts agree that it didn’t go nearly far enough to slow down the warming of the planet. Further action will still be needed, and that is going to be extremely difficult politically.

But what we definitely don’t want to do is move in the opposite direction, which is what this president is threatening to do. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to undo the damage that is done, and future generations may just look that this as the moment when we passed the point of no return.

Anyway, enjoy the anagram.

From Troilus and Cressida:

Paris is dirt to him.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Idiot rips; it harms.

Shakespeare Anagram: Macbeth

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Lacking the necessary votes, the Republicans have pulled their health care bill from the House floor.

It’s hard to tell what the future will bring, but Paul Ryan seems to be backing off for now.

From Macbeth:

Throw physic to the dogs; I’ll none of it.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Hit the core GOP, shot down in its folly.

An Open Letter to President Trump

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

President Trump, I want to start by being straight with you. I didn’t vote for you, and was not happy to see you win. But I do acknowledge that you won fair and square, and that you are the legitimate president. And I really do want America to win on your watch, so we’re on the same team now. And that’s why I want to tell you how you can go down in history as the greatest president that anyone has ever seen. A lot of people tell me that you have a very good brain, so I know you will see the wisdom in what I’m about to tell you. You, and you alone, can reform the healthcare system. Big League.

Recently, you observed that “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” How true that is. Health care is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. You have said you would replace ObamaCare with “something terrific.” You have promised your plan would “cover everybody.” That plan has a name, Mr. President. It’s called single payer.

This is something President Obama would have loved to have put his name on, but he couldn’t get it done. He couldn’t even get a public option passed, with both houses of Congress on his side. Hillary Clinton would have supported single payer, but she said in the Democratic primaries that she would not have fought for it. Bernie Sanders would have fought for it and lost. There is only one president who could make this happen, and he won the election. It’s President Donald J. Trump. You.

If you decided to come out in favor of single payer, your core supporters would rally around it. They’ve demonstrated many, many times that they don’t care about actual policy positions or traditional Republican values. They only care about winning. They’d do it just to help you embarrass President Obama. All you’d have to do is tweet “Obamacare is a total disaster! We need to repeal it IMMEDIATELY and replace it with single payer,” and you’d add 30% of the population to its support.

Liberals like me care more about policy than personality, that I can tell you. If you went for single payer, it would drive us crazy. We’d have to support you, or we’d be hypocrites forever. We’d have to talk about how President Trump saved the country. When you withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we filled Twitter with grudging praise for you. We couldn’t help it. If you did this, we’d be falling all over ourselves. It would be unbelievable. Liberals would be lining up for repeal and replace.

And when single payer did go into effect, it would be so beautiful. Everyone would be covered. Single payer will bring costs down, too. Politicians don’t understand how to do that. That’s why people voted for a smart businessman to run things for a while. You need to step in and show them. The American healthcare system would be so popular it would make your head spin. They’d call it TrumpCare and talk about how much better it was than loser ObamaCare. The question of who was the better president will have been settled once and for all. Who made single payer happen? It was President Trump.

And the best part is: you already favor this. We know you do. You couldn’t say so during the election. You had a primary to win. Everyone understands that. And pivoting in the general would have shown weakness. But you’re the president now, and you get to make the decisions based on what you believe, not what you might have said or not said while campaigning. As for the people who voted for you based on those positions, they will be the ones that will most benefit from single payer. Believe me. Some people will think it’s unfair that we have a program that helps Donald Trump’s supporters, but you represent the people, not the politicians.

Paul Ryan will be one of the people who will fight you on this. But Paul Ryan never supported you, even after you won the Republican primary. Quite frankly, he was rather disrespectful. I could say something right now, but I won’t. And Ryan is not alone. A lot of career politician Republicans won’t like this. But they are not the president. You are. And between your loyal supporters and the liberals who are already on board, the popular support for this bill will be tremendous. They won’t have any choice but to bend to your will.

That’s the respect you deserve to have, Mr. President. It’s time for you to take it.

Shakespeare Anagram: Othello

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

From Othello:

I have told thee often, and I re-tell thee again and again, I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted: thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The lie: conservatives joining here don’t care about managing the health insurance fee. It’s an inane move to undo the last leader’s signature idea. They loathe him, eh?

Shakespeare Anagram: Richard II

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

From Richard II:

As dissolute as desperate; yet, through both,
I see some sparkles of a better hope,
Which elder days may happily bring forth.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Iran deal hedges? Obamacare posts possible? Let’s pray the freakish tragedy the Trump White House hotly forbodes is hype.

Don’t Be Rotten to the Core

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I thought I’d take this opportunity, while the federal government is shut down over the question of its own power to legislate, to talk about another somewhat controversial initiative, namely the Common Core State Standards.

It should be noted that this is not a simple left-right issue. At a recent conference, I heard Kim Marshall joke that he never thought he’d see national standards because “the right doesn’t like national, and the left doesn’t like standards.” So, as you might expect, the Common Core seems to be embraced by moderates in both parties, while being attacked by extremists on both sides. Teachers and parents, who are the most directly affected by the changes, express the same range of opinions as policymakers and pundits. So, the discussion continues.

To get a sense of the issues involved, as well as the general tone, check out this New York Times editorial by Bill Keller, and this response by Susan Ohanian.

For the record, I agree with the Bill Keller editorial (you can just change that “K” into an “H” and we’re good). I’m a fan of the Common Core, though I have a number of concerns about the way it’s being implemented. But I respect the opinions of many who oppose it, and understand the quite valid reasons why they do. Unfortunately, most of the rhetoric that I encounter against the initiative is either focused on areas that have very little to do with the standards themselves, or are based in a fog of misinformation.

Now, if you’ve read the standards, and you honestly believe that we should not want our students to be able to cite evidence from informational texts to support an argument, I’m very willing to have that conversation. If you think the Common Core shifts aren’t the right direction for our students, I’m very willing to have that conversation. If you have a problem with emphasizing literacy in the content areas, I’m very willing to have that conversation. That’s just not the conversation I’ve been hearing about the Common Core, and if we’re going to discuss these very large-scale changes in the way they deserve to be discussed, we need to clear the air of distractions and distortions.

With that in mind, I present the Top Ten Most Common Objections to the Common Core, and my responses to them. This is meant to be the beginning of a conversation and not the last word, so please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section below.

1. The Common Core is too rigorous. The standards are not developmentally appropriate.

I think we’re feeling that now because we’re transitioning into these standards from a less rigorous system. If students come in on grade level, what they’re being asked to learn in each year is very reasonable. The problem is that we’re so far from that “if,” that the standards can often seem very unreasonable. Add to that a rushed implementation, complete with career-destroying and school-closing accountability, and the Common Core expectations can leave a very bad taste in our mouths.

What’s more, the Common Core includes qualitative shifts as well as quantitative shifts, so students will be as unfamiliar with the new ways of learning as their teachers are. The good news is that each year we implement the Common Core, students will become more used to Common Core ideas such as text-based answers and standards of mathematical practice, and will be better prepared for the work of their grade each year. It will likely get worse before it gets better, but I do think there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it will at least become visible in the next year or two.

2. The Common Core is not rigorous enough. My state had better standards before.

Well, the standards are meant to represent only the minimum of where students need to be in their grade level in order to be on track for college and career readiness by the end of Grade 12. So if you can meet these standards and then exceed them, more power to you. States that adopt the Common Core are also free to change up to 15%, and to add additional standards as well.

So here in New York State, we added Pre-K standards that aren’t in the national version, we put in additional standards throughout the documents (including Responding to Literature standards in ELA and teaching money in early-grade math classrooms), and we still retain the state-wide content standards in social studies and science that students need to pass their Regents. And even where states are slacking, a high-performing school won’t suddenly lower their standards just because they can. That’s not how they became high-performing schools in the first place.

3. The Common Core is a mandated top-down program that infringes on state control of schools.

The Common Core is not mandated by the federal government. States can choose to adopt the Common Core or opt out. I hesitate to present the most blindingly obvious of proofs, but here we go: not all of the states adopted the standards. Some states chose to opt out. That should suffice as proof enough that states can choose to opt out if they want to.

Did the federal government sweeten the deal by adding Race to the Top incentives for states that adopted the Common Core? Yes. But that’s bribery, not coersion. You can say no to a bribe, even if you need the money. And this wasn’t even that much of a bribe, as everyone knew there were only going to be a limited number of states that won Race to the Top funding and Common Core adoption was far from a guarantee.

Whether you love or hate the Common Core, it was your state legislature that adopted the standards, and the credit or blame should be placed there. States are just as capable of having cynical self-serving politicians as the federal government is, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But some states may have genuinely adopted the Common Core to improve education for their students, even if you don’t think it will.

Frankly, I’m no more a fan of Race to the Top than I was of No Child Left Behind. I don’t think states should have to compete for education funding. And there were other incentives in the Race to the Top formula I had issues with, like the charter school expansions. But these are criticisms of federal education policy, and not the Common Core standards themselves.

4. The Common Core is a result of the corporate reform movement that’s undermining public education.

Maybe.

I don’t think the standards do undermine public education, though, and I believe the people who actually put them together are earnest in their attempts to improve it. I’m not blind to some of the strange bedfellows involved with the process, but if an idea leads to good things, I don’t care where it comes from. This is an argument that just doesn’t work on its own. Just because Bill Gates funded it, it isn’t necessarily Windows 7. Zing!

5. The Common Core is only about testing and accountability.

I hate to break it to you, but the testing and accountability movement has been around a lot longer than the Common Core. We’re already teaching to the test, so it makes sense to design a better test, one worth teaching to. You can read about early attempts to align New York’s state-wide exams to the Common Core in this article, and I’m quoted towards the end, but the bottom line is that they didn’t go very well.

Two multi-state consortiums are now hard at work to build a better test, though this turns out to be a tougher job than they originally thought. They are talking about having students take the state-wide (actually, consortium-wide) tests on computers, which means that every school needs to have computers. That could be a logistical nightmare in itself, but it could also mean more funding for computers in schools.

In New York City, teachers are being evaluated through a system that uses test scores, in one form or another, as 40% of a teacher’s score, while the other 60% will be based on the Danielson Framework. In my opinion, that’s a vast improvement over using test scores alone, which even the Gates-funded MET study doesn’t endorse.

6. The Common Core is a conspiracy to keep the poor uneducated.

No, that’s what we have now. There is a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. Having a set of common standards is one step in the process of attempting to close that gap.

7. The Common Core replaces literature with government manuals.

That simply isn’t true. There is an entire section of the standards that covers Reading Literature. There may be a government manual listed somewhere in the examples of informational texts, but it’s disingenuous to hold that up as the centerpiece of Common Core expectations for student reading. Anyone who makes this argument is either unfamiliar with the standards, or uninterested in engaging in a serious discussion about them.

8. People are making money from the Common Core!

This is true, in as much as we need people to write tests, publish classroom materials, and train teachers. But we would have needed this anyway, Common Core or no.

Liberals tend to think that everyone should do their jobs with the purest of motives, and if someone’s profiting from something, it must be an evil conspiracy. Conservatives tend to believe the opposite: that if you made money from an idea, then that proves the idea had market value, and those who improve the system deserve to profit from their innovations. I take a more neutral view of profit’s correlation with good in the world. I work in teacher training, and the Common Core affects what I teach, but not how often I teach or how much money I make. I have no financial interest in defending the Common Core.

Keller’s editorial estimates the costs of the new tests at about $29 per student, in a system that spends over $9,000 per student in a year. You might not like the Common Core for other reasons, but cost alone can’t be the only reason to oppose it.

9. These Common Core-aligned materials I have are bad.

I don’t doubt it. But just because a product claims to be “Common Core-aligned,” it doesn’t mean that it is Common Core-endorsed. I have no end of problems with the range of “Common Core-aligned” curricula being rolled out by New York City alone. This is not a function of poor standards, but rather poor implementation.

By the way, a lot of the Common Core-aligned materials were delayed getting into schools this year, even as teachers were required to start using them. You don’t have to convince me that we’re having implementation problems.

And I spent last summer modifying my own organization’s social studies curricula to be Common Core-aligned, and I feel strongly that our products improved immensely because of it.

10. The Common Core is untested, and shouldn’t be implemented on such a large scale without a pilot program.

This is from Reign of Error author Diane Ravitch, and she makes a fair point. But nothing’s written in stone. The standards will work in some ways and need mending in others. And where they need mending, we’ll mend them. Ten years from now, we may come to see the current version of the Common Core as a really good first draft. Or we may remember it as New Coke. There’s no way to know until we try it out. That can be used as an argument for it as well as against it.

I do think that we should do everything we can do to make it work. That’s the only way we’ll really know if it doesn’t.

Honorable Mention: President Obama is for it, and therefore I must be against it.

Hey, look! Someone over there is getting health care.

I really do see a lot of parallel between the Affordable Care Act debacle and the Common Core controversy. Tea party Republicans want to talk about how Obamacare will destroy the economy and force the government between you and your doctor and lead to the apocalypse, but they really oppose it on ideological principles. If they would talk about their principles, we could have an honest debate, but they know these principles sound cold and selfish, so they obfuscate. Common Core opponents dance around the actual changes being made in education because most of them make sense. The real concern, as I see it, is the danger of the larger corporate-funded movement to use testing and data to prove the ineffectiveness of public education in order to move to a privatized free-market system.

That’s a concern worth discussing directly, and I’m very willing to have that conversation.

A Few Thoughts about Guns

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Is it just me, or is all of the rhetoric about gun control getting a bit overheated?

If there are two sides – pro-gun and anti-gun – then I’d have to put myself on the side that favors more control than we have now. But the spectrum of options available to us as a society is wide-ranging, and the changes we are talking about are relatively small. There’s no serious movement to ban and confiscate guns. Nobody is proposing allowing citizens to own biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. Where we come down is going to be somewhere very much in the middle of these polar extremes, and pretty close to where we are now.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to the bombast coming from the right, though. It’s as though all of the issues from the 2012 election have faded away, and conservatives have decided to concentrate their efforts over the one issue where they feel like they’re on solid ground. Their arguments range from absolutist interpretations of the Constitution to catchy slogans to actual threats of violence. The threats of violence in particular seem an odd strategy for convincing us that they should keep their guns, but it’s hard to stay rational once the panic sets in. When the only tool you have is a TEC-9, the whole world looks like Call of Duty. I will admit that some of the slogans use some nice wordplay. “The only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Nice use of antithesis with parallel structure! And then, there’s the Constitution…

Just as the First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre, the Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to turn a traffic jam into the end of a Quentin Tarantino movie. It is true that the founders gave us the right to keep and bear arms so that we could protect ourselves from government tyranny. The only problem is that the people currently making that argument are the same people who screamed that the Affordable Care Act was government tyranny. So, Freedom-Protectors, at what point are you planning to break out the arsenal? And when you fantasize about protecting our freedoms with an assault rifle, precisely who is it that you imagine yourself gunning down? American soldiers? Uniformed police officers? Elected officials? Federal agents? Protecting our freedom sounds pretty messy.

Speaking of the Affordable Care Act, one of the heartwarming things to come out of the gun-control debate is to see the right starting to call for better mental healthcare in the wake of the school shootings. Yeah, someone should get on that. I’m thinking some kind of public option, or even a single-payer system. What say you?

So, really, most of the pro-gun arguments I’ve heard are pure nonsense, and are embraced largely for their favorable conclusion: we should be allowed to have guns. The good news for gun enthusiasts, though, is that they don’t actually need to make a case to protect guns. In a free society, the burden of evidence is on those of us who would take rights away. And most people who are in favor of guns largely have positive experiences with them. They go hunting on the weekends, or they take their kids to the shooting range. Maybe they like to do a little skeet-shooting at Camp David. Everyone has fun and nobody gets hurt. They aren’t bothering anybody, and don’t understand why they should have to make any changes in their lifestyle just because some lunatic decides to go on a rampage in a school or a movie theatre. I agree.

What we’re talking about, though, is just some simple common sense reforms, such as requiring background checks or restricting assault weapons. We regulate cars better than we regulate guns, and yeah, you can have as many cars as you want. One of the weapons under discussion is called the Street Sweeper. Whoever named that gun had a pretty good idea about what it was primarily going to be used for. We should take notice. That doesn’t make a good fundraising pitch for the NRA, though, so they talk about the government coming for your guns, a scenario that doesn’t even make practical sense let alone political sense.

Ultimately, the actual changes being proposed are slight and incremental. We can have reasonable discussions about whether or not we should do them, but doing them won’t necessarily bring about major changes in gun violence in this country. Nor will they amount to an egregious violation of civil liberties. At this point, the heat generated by the argument is mostly about culture. There is one culture that wants an armed society, and another culture that doesn’t. We’ll argue it out and then we’ll vote through our elected representatives. But in so much as it is about culture, it’s worth giving some thought about what kind of country we want to live in.

Which side are you on? The litmus test is not the Sandy Hook school shooting. It’s not Aurora or Tuscon or Columbine. We’re all against random shootings of innocent people. The real litmus test centers on the events of February 26, 2012. That was one year ago tonight. That was the night that George Zimmerman shot and killed Treyvon Martin.

That much is certain, but the details are still murky a year later. That didn’t seem to matter so much at the time. People on both sides of the debate rushed to judgement before all of the facts were in. Did a trigger-happy gun nut racially profile a black kid and then shoot him? Or, is it true that a vigilant neighborhood watchman bravely defended his person and his community from a dangerous thug who attacked him without provocation? Or is the truth somewhere in the middle? Where it always, always is.

In the examination of this particular incident, it matters a great deal. This is a real case. One person is dead, another is on trial for his murder. A jury will have to weigh the evidence and make a serious deliberation to make sure their determination is just. But in a more general sense, it doesn’t really matter what happened this one time.

There is a more generalized version of the incident that has played out in the media and in the imaginations of everyone who has a purely political stake in the outcome for the past year. In the real case, we want to know facts, details, evidence. In the imaginary case, these things are a distraction. They take the case further away from what we need it to be. Because when the case remains general, we can imagine all of the possible angles and discuss how we feel about them. It’s not hard to imagine each various interpretation of this one incident being true in another similar incident. What we’re really arguing about is the sum total of all of the possible permutations of the event. What we’re really arguing is about the next time. I can’t tell you what to think about that, but I can tell you what I think.

I’m not really afraid of bad guys with guns. Maybe I should be. Studies show that people who tend to be more fearful skew conservative, so maybe they feel like they really need to protect themselves against bad guys with guns. For my part, I feel like there are so many other things out there that are going to get me first that I really don’t put it high on my list. So, I don’t live in fear of bad guys with guns. What terrifies me beyond belief is good guys with guns.

Good guys come in all shapes and sizes, and I don’t like the idea of them all carrying guns. There are so many more good guys than bad guys, and with a wider range of skills, judgment, and common sense. Some people carry a gun hoping they will never have to use it. Other people carry a gun with a hope that they will. And then there are the mistakes. Recall the vice president who shot his friend in the face while hunting. Recall the heroic athlete who fired four shots into a bathroom door. Choose your favorite statistic about guns kept in the home. It turns out that introducing a new gun into a situation is almost always a bad idea, unless you are well trained and have strictly enforced rules of engagement.

George Zimmerman was supposed to be a good guy with a gun. Whether he turned out to be or not depends on your culture.

Three Truths and a Lie

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Your results may vary.

Over the past few days, Mitt Romney made three of the four statements below. The other statement, I just made up. Can you find the fake Romney quote among the genuine?

I put links to the sources after each quote. They lead to the story as reported by Talking Points Memo, your source for liberal-friendly political news. The fake quote’s source link leads to my favorite picture of President Obama.

1. “I admit this, he has one thing he did not do in his first four years, he’s said he’s going to do in his next four years, which is to raise taxes.” Source

2. “Look, George W. Bush was president when the financial meltdown began. I know that. And the Obama team has done a pretty good job of turning all of that around. But, the next four years are going to be critical.” Source

3. “The largest contributors to the Democratic Party are the teachers’ unions. And so if they can elect someone, then that person is supposed to be representing the public vis-a-vis the teachers’ union, but actually most of the money came from the teachers’ union. It’s an extraordinary conflict of interest.” Source

4. “Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.” Source

How did you do?

The fake quote was inspired by this story. And now that you know which of the quotes are real, feel free to discuss them in the comments section.

UPDATE: Should have waited a day

“[D]on’t forget — I got everybody in my state insured,” Romney told NBC. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”

Some Context

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Taking quotes out of context is a peculiar breed of dishonesty. It carries a sense of credibility, as the person actually said the words, but that only makes the lie more powerful when the meaning isn’t preserved. Lately, we’ve seen a number of instances of a particularly virulent strain of the practice, one in which the out-of-context quote conveniently fits an existing narrative about the speaker. The liar is comforted that his lie is meant to convey a deeper truth.

For example, a while back, Mitt Romney offered the statement “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Now, anyone watching the original speech in context understood that he was talking about his preference to retain the ability to change health insurance companies. But because the left had already characterized him as someone who had built his fortune destroying jobs, it became very easy to shorten the quote to “I like being able to fire people,” or simply “I like… to fire people.” It doesn’t really feel like lying if we believe it to be an accurate portrayal of how he really feels deep down, right?

So when Barack Obama uttered the now-famous sentence “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Republicans didn’t care that he was referring to roads and bridges. They knew that he really believed in his heart that business owners didn’t deserve credit for their own success, so taking him out of context seemed to be fair game. In a way, it felt even more honest than leaving the quote in context. They went so far as to base their entire convention around the misleading reference, shouting back at their fictionalized idea of the president’s intentions with righteous fervor. By the end of the convention, the imaginary Barack Obama seemed so real that Clint Eastwood even tried to have a conversation with it.

Now, a video has surfaced which has raised some questions about what Mitt Romney meant when he said that it’s not his job to worry about the 47% of Americans that don’t pay federal income taxes:

Well, there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement and government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49 … I mean, he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax; 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. He’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years.

And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center, that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like.

He was talking about his job as a candidate, not as a future president. So a response of “Well, Barack Obama is president to ALL of the people” is an unfair non-sequitur. All he’s saying is that it would be a waste of his time to court the votes of the non-taxpayer, because to do so would require getting them to vote against their own entitlements, thus taking responsibility and caring for their lives.

In fact, a President Romney would indeed convince the 47% to take personal responsibility and care for their lives by helpfully removing the safety net, their dependence on which has caused them so much detriment. You’re welcome. Added to which, we are to believe that a Romney presidency will lead to an immediate American Renaissance in military strength, traditional family values, and economic prosperity for all Americans rich and poor alike. The statement just doesn’t make any sense, from Romney’s point of view, if he’s talking about himself as president.

Now, I have to admit that there’s a part of me that is a bit amused by Romney’s complaint that he’s being taken out of context. Sorry, Mitt. You built that.

But I actually think it’s important to look at what he said in context, because that in itself is disturbing enough without having to distort it. And yes, the 47% does include soldiers and seniors, but I am willing to give Governor Romney the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably wasn’t talking about them. I want to focus on what he really meant, not what we want him to have meant.

If you look at what he is saying and who he is saying it to, you can see that he is painting a very broad picture of people who pay no federal income taxes as lazy freeloaders – not just the people who receive government aid, but also people who simply pay no taxes because they don’t earn enough to tax. That would be the poor, many of whom do harder work every day than Mitt Romney or I could even imagine. Now, these people never asked for a government handout; they just benefit from a tax code that doesn’t take food off of their table. Like everyone else, they’ll pay the lowest rate possible and certainly won’t volunteer to pay more. If anyone can appreciate that, it should be Mitt Romney.

When a man who owns a car elevator bemoans at a $50,000-a-plate dinner how the working class believes that they are entitled to food, we really have to consider what that means for us as a nation. Marie Antoinette, at least, offered cake.