The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

Medicare, shmedicare

North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx has a suggestion for solving the health care crisis—abolish Medicare that provides health care for Americans over 65 and do away with Medicaid, which provides care for people the most vulnerable people in the nation, including people with disabilities, children, and pregnant women.

That ought to help.

The Mountain Times reports that when Foxx was asked at a recent appearance before the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce how she would address the current problems with health care, she said the problem is the federal government.

"What we need is for the federal government to get out of the health care business and put it out in the private market for everybody."

In other words, senior citizens living on social security who have a chronic health disease don't need Medicare, they need to buy their own insurance or pay the medical bills themselves. That will solve the problem.

Foxx also repeated her call to lower the federal corporate income tax rate, saying Ireland reduced it a few years ago and an economic boom ensued. Foxx didn't mention that Ireland, like the rest of the world, is now struggling economically, making the story a little dated.

More importantly, Foxx also forgot to mention, as she always does, that Ireland has national health care provided by the government. But isn't that a bad idea?

The bridge back to the 20th century

You better hope that your local school system doesn't have any technology problems if the Senate gets its way. The Senate budget cuts the staff at the Department of Public Instruction by 63 percent over the next two years.

That would cripple the technology system that helps local school districts. And no updates would be possible, and wait times for help would be measured in days and weeks even for the most urgent requests.

That's exactly what we need in public schools, a rush back to the 20th century.

The Earth is flat and elephants can dance

Plenty has been written about the anti-government, anti-tax, "tea parties" held across the country this week, promoted by national right-wing groups and their state allies. Too much has been written probably.

Most of the critical analyses have focused on the illogic of the arguments, people who are receiving a tax cut complaining about their taxes increasing or on the hyperbole from many of the speakers, like the references to Lenin and America on the road to communism.

But the tea parties have also provided a reminder of a major problem in today's mainstream media, the willingness to print almost any comment completely unchallenged, except for an occasional quote from an advocate with an opposing view.

It is not surprising in alternative media with an obvious point of view, like the Rhino Times in Greensboro. Included in the paper's coverage of the local tea party extravaganza was a quote from one partier who was complaining about his taxes and the federal stimulus package.

He told the paper that "the Congressional Budget Office said that, if you did nothing, the recession would right itself in a year."

Really? The same Congressional Budget Office that said recently "the government's $787 billion economic stimulus package and very aggressive actions by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are projected to help end the recession in the fall of 2009."

The same one whose director recently said in testimony before Congress that without a major stimulus plan "the shortfall in the nation's output relative to its potential would be the largest – in terms of both length and depth – since the Depression of the 1930s."

But it's not just the unabashedly right-wing media allowing misleading claims to be presented completely unchallenged. The mainstream media does it too, from the network news to small North Carolina papers like the Macon County News in Franklin.

The paper's coverage of the local tea party quoted unsuccessful Republican legislative candidate Susan Pons saying that "Americans work from Jan. 1 to July 17 to pay off the government's portion of our taxes."

The conservative Tax Foundation, a favorite source for folks on the right, says that Americans work until April 13 to earn enough money to pay for all local, state, and federal taxes. That is three months before July and even the April date is misleading because of the flawed methodology used by the Tax Foundation.

It's not that hard to check the facts or the dates. You wonder what someone could claim and have reported in the paper.  One media critic illustrated the problem by speculating about what would happen if a presidential candidate claimed in a speech that the Earth is flat and his opponent was asked to respond and said the claim was absurd, that everybody knows the Earth is round. The way things are going lately, the story the next morning would say "candidates disagree on the shape of the Earth."

The Congressional Budget Office thinks the stimulus package will help shorten the recession and it takes nowhere near July for workers to earn enough to pay their taxes.

But it is true that elephants can dance. You heard it here first.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
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