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How are we going to get the discussion back to the important things?

August 8, 2012

A big news item today is a commercial from an Obama SuperPAC, Priorities USA, in which a laid-off steelworker blames Mitt Romney for his wife’s death from cancer. The man worked for a steel company acquired by Bain Capital while Romney was there, and Bain kept the company running for years. Once they had to close it down, according to the man’s statement in the commercial, “they lost their health care.” Several years later he took his wife to the hospital – still with “no health care,” mind you – and she was diagnosed with cancer. He alludes that she had had it for a long time and did not tell him. By the time she was examined at the hospital she was diagnosed as stage four and died a few weeks later.

Holes in the narrative, first: Romney had left Bain before the decision was made to close the plant in 2001 due to bankruptcy – he left in 1999. Second, CNN reports that the woman had health insurance through her own employer at some time between the plant closure and her death in 2006. (She apparently left her job because of an injury of some kind.)

But the biggest point missed here is that the steelworker keeps referring to “losing his health care.” What he lost when the company went bankrupt was his health insurance, not his ability to receive health care. Once his wife went to the hospital in 2006, who paid for the visit?

Bill Burton, a former Obama staffer and one of the founders of the SuperPAC, denies that the ad is supposed to draw a connection between Romney and the death of this man’s wife, and yet…that’s exactly what he says.

Of course, SuperPACs can say pretty much anything they wish. If a Romney-supporting SuperPAC wanted to say that Obama was an alien from Alpha Centauri, they could. The claims in this commercial were no less ridiculous.

Of course, the point made by the commercial is that Mitt Romney is a hard-hearted rich guy, totally unconcerned about “regular” folks, only interested in squeezing the last dollar out of companies his investment firm buys. Burton even says they are trying to make the point that the repercussions of business closings extend for a very long time.

To quote, well, everybody: “Well, duh!” I think people understand that. Actually, a lot more people understand that today than in 2006, because far more businesses have closed as a result of Obama’s economic policies than Bain Capital could possibly have affected – hundreds of thousands, by one count.

But this commercial isn’t just trying to say that Mitt Romney doesn’t care about people. It also tries to say that the President should somehow keep businesses from closing – maybe force a company like Bain to keep the steel plant running, even though it was bleeding money, just because the employees need a job and “need health care.” Of course this is a promotion of Obamacare, but it goes farther into the narrative that companies should not be allowed to fail.

OK, if you don’t understand why that is incredibly stupid, I’ll lay it out for you: If the company loses enough money, eventually the money Bain has from other more successful ventures will run out. Then Bain would go out of business. Now what? Far more people would be out of work, and “would lose their health care.” Should one steel plant bring down thousands of other employees in other companies.

Well, of course not! Bain is a rich company, with people like rich guy Mitt Romney involved, and so they should just be able to somehow keep it going forever. It’s stunning to me how many people really do believe that kind of nonsense.

Of course, the other angle is that if we had Obamacare a decade ago, this woman might have lived. Maybe that would be true. Maybe if the family had some kind of health coverage that they paid for, she might have lived. Maybe if she or her husband had worked, they would have been able to have health coverage, and the outcome might have been different.

Or maybe, just maybe, despite what anyone could have done, she could have died anyway. We don’t know from the carefully-crafted message in the commercial.

I lost my job in 1981 because the school district in which I was teaching needed to cut staff because of severe financial problems. Nobody gave a rat’s ass if I had health care…and we had a new baby born just before my last day of work. I found another job during that summer, 300 miles away and in a very difficult situation…but it was a job. I don’t recall anyone telling me that the school district should have kept me and the other teachers let go at the time.

Of course, 1981 was…the first year of Ronald Reagan’s first term. Morning was just dawning in America.

To get back to the title of this piece, all that I’ve just written about shows me being sucked into what the Obama campaign wants us to talk about. We can’t talk about the real issues, like the real effects of tax cuts on spurring economic growth, because we are constantly being distracted by inconsequential crap like this. There are far too many people in “the chattering classes,” and they get far too much air time on TV and radio. They need something to talk about, and little bits like this are a lot easier to discuss than the complexities of the national economy…and even then, these things get less airtime than a trial of a former policeman who is accused of killing his wife.

We get the government we deserve, unfortunately. We need to elevate the discussion. If the media won’t do it, we need to do it ourselves. At least with the Internet we can find other sources of information that will help us really stay on track.

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