Thursday, December 23, 2010

PolitiFiction

You may have seen the story, earlier in the week, that self-proclaimed watchdog group Politifact had declared, as its "Lie of the Year," the phrase "a government takeover of health care."
By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: "The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.' "
Politifact is, of course, a leftist media creation, a project of the St. Petersburg Times. Their primary conceit is that they are providing unbiased, objective evaluation of political claims made by, well, anyone who makes political claims. Which is fine, if you constrain yourselves to actually talking about facts. But there are many terms of art in the political realm which are factual or not depending on your underlying fundamental precepts and beliefs. The question of what, exactly, would constitute a "government takeover" is one on which people can legitimately disagree. If the government performs an eminent domain taking of a property and physically removes the owners, that's clearly a government takeover. If the government steps in and tells a landowner he can't cut down any trees within 100 feet of a shoreline, does that constitute a "government takeover" or doesn't it? Reasonable people can reasonably disagree.

Clearly, Politifact is interpreting the phrase "government takeover" in the strictest possible sense, in order to claim that those using the phrase are lying. The Wall Street Journal has called them on it:
In fact—if we may use that term without PolitiFact's seal of approval—at the heart of ObamaCare is a vast expansion of federal control over how U.S. health care is financed, and thus delivered. The regulations that PolitiFact waves off are designed to convert insurers into government contractors in the business of fulfilling political demands, with enormous implications for the future of U.S. medicine. All citizens will be required to pay into this system, regardless of their individual needs or preferences. Sounds like a government takeover to us.
Obviously, I agree.


And while we're here, I want to look at that quote from the professor in North Carolina:
The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.'
If there is an "increase in government authority," hasn't there, by definition, been a "takeover" of authority that was previously held by the private sector? Surely, that's a "basis in reality" for the label "government takeover"...

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