There are three very distinct groups that constitute public option opposition at Congressional town hall meetings across the country, and it's vitally important to recognize the difference between the three: 1) bussed in industry-funded front groups starting disruptions to silence other viewpoints along with insurance company employees well-camouflaged enough to fool the most vigilant and cynical among us, 2) local homegrown pro-life and/or elderly voters who have received disinformation about abortion or euthanasia and are sincerely concerned, and 3) local homegrown libertarians who have been consistent in their opposition to major federal government programs and are sincerely concerned.
How does one determine a strategy of speaking up at these meetings that simultaneously deals with all three disparate groups while at the same time convincing undecideds about the public option?
The answer below the fold...
I. The Ten Health Care Talking Points Every Public Option Supporter Should Know II. Understanding Why The Sequence Is Important III. A Short Summary of The Talking Points List IV. Rebuttals to The Ten Most Common Opposition Arguments ()
V. How To Use These Tools To Stop Disruptions ()
The Ten Health Care Talking Points EVERY PUBLIC OPTION SUPPORTER SHOULD KNOW
I. The Ten Health Care Talking Points Every Public Option Supporter Should Know
II. Understanding Why The Sequence Is Important
III. A Short Summary of The Talking Points List
IV. Rebuttals to The Ten Most Common Opposition Arguments ()
- When you need life-saving care, private insurance companies only profit by denying you and letting you die. If you have paid your premiums on time all your life, you're as likely to be dropped by your private insurance company when you need life-saving care as you are to get treated. A public option gives you a lifeline.
- Private insurance companies are spending over a million dollars a day to kill the public option by inventing phony citizen groups, and trying to scare the elderly about euthanasia and pro-lifers with abortion; they know the only way to kill reform is to get people of good conscience fighting each other over misinformation, while they laugh all the way to the bank. They don't think very highly of our intelligence.
- We pay more than any other country to be 24th in life expectancy: while the average Canadian family spends less than $2000 a year on health care with no waiting periods for life-saving care, the average American family spends $16,800 a year, waiting for private insurance companies to approve life-saving treatments.
- Fourteen thousand Americans lose their health insurance every day; over forty-six million are currently uninsured.
- Eighteen thousand Americans DIE each year due to lack of health care: .
- Nearly two-thirds of American personal bankruptcies are related to health care costs.
- Businesses - particularly small businesses - cannot afford to provide health insurance for their employees under the current employer based private insurance system, and will be forced to either drop their coverage or go out of business unless a public option is passed.
- One-sixth of all our government spending is on health care, twice as much as any other country spends out of its budget. Our nation pays $2.5 trillion for care costing $912 billion.
- Every independent estimate says the public option will save us money, from saving 150 billion dollars (CBO) to saving 265 billion dollars (Commonwealth). The Congressional Budget Office estimates the current bill in the House would actually leave a 6 billion dollar surplus
- So - if you'd rather spend more taxpayer money, bankrupt businesses, AND pay $16,800 a year for your family's private insurance coverage in exchange for a policy that can be dumped the second you actually need it, then the current system is great for you. If you'd rather spend less, wait less, have less of a chance of dying, and want to remove the corporate bureaucrat from between you and your doctor, then a public option is the way to go. Right now, even if you're lucky enough not to be dropped by your provider when you need urgent medical care, your private insurance company can overrule your doctor's advice for life-saving treatment and only offer to cover something cheaper; a public option would remove that middleman and leave these decisions where they belong, between the patient and doctor.
Any private citizen or elected Democrat making the case for the public option, whether going to a town meeting, speaking on the airwaves, or debating behind closed doors should know the order of these talking points in and out. They're quick, they're effective, they cite non-partisan sources, and , they're bulletproof. Most importantly, they kill every Republican talking point
Notes: The numbers are purposefully lowballed/rounded down in order to avoid a subsequent conversation devolving into bickering that distracts from the main points being made. The statistic about the average Canadian family paying less than $2000/yr is based on a single Canadian paying $40 a month, as the source reflects, times 12 months ($480/yr) times a family of four ($1920/yr).
Understanding Why The SEQUENCE of The List Is So Important
Consider, a simplified overview of the list would be:
- Don't believe for a second that you're immune
- They must think we're fucking idiots
- You're getting ripped off
- The walls are closing in
- The threat is a mortal one
- People are going broke
- Businesses are going broke
- Our government is going broke
- A public option saves everyone money
- Private insurance is what's killing the patient-doctor relationship
Steps one through three in sequence are what especially open the door for undecided citizens on the issue to listen to the remainder of the argument without glazing over at all the figures. Voters first listen if they think something effects THEM, they resent being tricked, and they hate being robbed - in that order; it's the same strategy Republicans have been using successfully (in their case, with boldface lies) for years: it begins with fear to grab the viewer, then taking umbrage to identify with the viewer, and finally telling the viewer who is taking them to the cleaners now that the trust has been earned. It's not something I pursued by design, but rather something I stumbled upon by accident; nonetheless, perhaps it's time someone applied that strategy honestly for a change, as the genuine sense of fear, umbrage, and thievery surrounding our murder by spreadsheet health care system is thoroughly legitimate and justified, and must continue to be brought to the attention of the electorate for the desperately needed public option to be signed into law.
A Short Summary Of The List
(Please note, this shorter verson is ONLY for situations where something with only a few hundred words will do, like a letter to the editor, or situations where you know for a fact you only have to speak; if you have a bit more time to speak - even a minute in total, which is usually the case at these Congressional Town Halls - the Ten Talking Points List in full is considerably more effective than the summary, and this shorter version should really only be used if absolutely necessary.)
- If you've always paid your premiums on time, you're as likely to be dropped by a private insurance company when you need life-saving care as you are to get treated; even if you aren't dropped, they have the ability to overrule your doctor's advice for life-saving treatment and only offer to cover something cheaper.
- Private insurance companies are spending $1.4M a day to kill the public option, inventing phony citizen groups, and trying to scare the elderly about euthanasia and pro-lifers with abortion; they know the only way to kill reform is to get people of good conscience fighting each other, while they laugh all the way to the bank. They don't think very highly of our intelligence.
- The average American family pays $16K/yr on health care while the avg. Canadian family pays less than $2K/yr, and businesses can no longer afford to provide insurance under the current system. Every independent estimate says the public option will SAVE the government money, from anywhere between $150B (CBO) to $265B (Commonwealth).
- So - if you'd rather spend more taxpayer money, bankrupt businesses, AND pay $16K a year for your family's private insurance coverage in exchange for a policy that can be dumped the second you actually need it, then the current system is great for you. If you'd rather spend less, have less of a chance of dying, and want to remove the corporate bureaucrat from between you and your doctor, then a public option is the way to go.
Rebuttals To The Ten Main Opposition Arguments At Town Hall Meetings
While the top ten list does well in painting a picture that eviscerates the main RW talking points on health care (whether the private system is really broken, the cost of the public option, waiting for health care, a bureaucrat between patient and doctor), there are still certain other recurring opposition arguments that will emerge at these meetings, and if you find them being repeated ad nauseum without being sufficiently rebutted by other citizens or the Congressperson, it is important to speak up and not let them go unchallenged to the ears of the undecided people present. In those situations, the list below offers you thirty second or less rebuttals that will leave the opposition in stunned silence.
A quick side note - in completing this list over the last couple of days, I came to the somewhat amusing realization that between the two lists, there is an ironclad retort to shoot down EVERY anti-public option argument you'll ever hear at these meetings; this exposes the opposition as only having so many arguments they must repeat ad nauseum, and only getting away with it because those arguments have thus far gone unchallenged by clear and concise rebuttals that beat them using their own reasoning, so if you can just logically shut each argument down one by one, they're completely out of gas. I know, I know... some will argue that it's all about convincing undecideds at these meetings - - and that you couldn't convince most of the diehard opponents if you were to reason with them for all of eternity - ; however, you don't have to convince them, but simply stump them into silence on a point they seemed completely certain of just a moment ago, and watch them give the appearance of effectively forfeiting the point in front of undecideds. That's the biggest victory possible at these things, in many ways; we often forget that the success of the RW in winning arguments on the airwaves in the eyes of undecideds from 2001-2004 was just as much due to the appearance of stumping Democrats into silence as it was due to language that appealed to undecideds, because watching two sides of the argument go back and forth gives the undecided person the impression that they've given the issue a fair hearing, and witnessed one side emerging as the more credible and confident in its side of the argument. If you clearly and concisely score a point at these town halls that even momentarily stumps an opposition voice on their own ideological terms, it looks like a loss for the anti-public option side to every undecided in that room. Never forget that. It's not just about who is louder (as the yellers think), or about who can give the wonkiest speech with the most numbers (a trap progressives too easily fall into); .
Now, without further ado...
- "Where In The Constitution Does It Say That We're Entitled to Universal Health Care?" - Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says the Congress must provide for the general welfare of the United States; how can the Congress say it is providing for the general welfare when fifty people die a day that didn’t have to? Now, I know - providing for the general welfare cannot be interpreted as every American being entitled to have the federal government to buy them a house, a bed, and fancy steak dinners every day; such broad interpretations would give Congress absurd powers, just as Madison correctly argued. General welfare does NOT mean the federal government has to provide us with all our necessities, because such a system would NOT be capitalism - there we agree. HOWEVER, Congress’s obligation to provide for the general welfare under the Constitution, along with the Constitutional provision of equal protection under the law, DOES suggest that Congress has an obligation to ensure that people who work hard and save responsibly have an OPPORTUNITY to get those necessities; a system that has effectively been rigged over the years so that most people are one emergency away from having their insurance policy dropped and being unable to get coverage due to pre-existing condition, and given no options but death when extensive treatment is necessary, cannot be seen as consistent with our government’s role as defined by the general welfare clause and equal protection clause of the Constitution
- "I Am Against The Obamacare Bill!" - There is no Obamacare bill. Obama doesn't have a bill in Congress, or even a bill in Congress he said he supports, so if you oppose "the Obamacare bill", you oppose a figment of your imagination.
- "Government Care Sucks; Reform What We Have First!" - Medicare and Medicaid are government run health insurance. They have problems, they need reform, but every poll shows that people are more unhappy with private insurance than they are with Medicare and Medicaid by double digits, and it makes sense to put out the biggest fire first. Most Americans aren't eligible for anything but private insurance anyway, so the idea that good solutions like reforming Medicare and malpractice lawsuits are enough on their own is just a slap in the face.
- "Just Look At The Mess In Massachussetts!" - Yes, just look at the mess in Massachussetts, a system where health insurance is mandated but still unaffordable and unreliable; it's what every Republican in Washington and every conservative in this meeting advocate when they demand the reform bill excludes a public option, because if you take the public option out of the bill, what's left is just insurance reform with mandates, which is nothing but a giant check to the insurance companies in exchange for FORCING Americans to buy unreliable and increasingly expensive insurance - just like in Massachussetts. If you hate the system in Massachussetts so much, stop pushing for it. Republican Governor Romney who signed that into law is the Republican party's establishment Presidential candidate going into 2012, while nearly every Republican in Washington has now said they willing to vote for mandated insurance if the public option is taken out just like in Romneycare. And you have the nerve to tell public option supporters we should look at the mess in Massachussetts! We're pushing for an alternative, while you're steering us full speed ahead towards Romneycare nationwide!
- "A Public Option Will Put Private Insurance Companies Out of Business!" - No, not if you believe the Congressional Budget Office, who says private insurance companies will get MORE business when a public option is passed.
- "Socialism! I Believe In The Free Market!" - I believe that competition and more choices are good for the market. A public option is one more choice, and more options are good for the consumer and good for the market. The public option bills being proposed let you keep your private plan if you want, and use the public option if you choose. If the public option ends up being crap as some here think, people won't choose it - that's what our merit-based marketplace is all about - and if people don't choose the public option because private insurance is so much better, then no money in the program will be spent, and we've lost nothing; so this not a win or lose, but a win or break even, and you have to be pretty timid to be afraid of that. Besides, if the market is our real concern, how can we compete with other countries if we believe that musicians, artists, and millions of self-employed low-level small businesspeople of all stripes should die because it’s their fault they couldn’t afford an exorbitantly priced private insurance policy; if our most creative minds don’t even deserve to live, how can we remain the country of the most innovation, and not be passed by? With fifty people dying a day only in America and not among any of our Western competitors, what about the loss of productivity to our economy, the impact on the person’s family and the burdens placed on them, and the subsequent loss of consumer dollars in the marketplace due to the absence of the no longer existing consumer?
- "Big Money Interests Are Pushing The Public Option!" - If you want to be cynical and vigilant as a citizen against big money influencing the government, YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE MONEY. On one side, there are BILLIONS of dollars at stake for the insurance companies, because they have the power to drop or deny anyone they please when they need urgent care in order to maximize their profits - of course they don’t want to give that up. On the other side, you have no financial motive that could even compare - who stands to make billions from the public option? Contributions to political candidates from unions only deal with money in the millions; they don't have billions of dollars at stake with anything like the insurance companies do. So against the public option, you have a source of money, you have a motive, and you have planning and mass collusion by the insurance companies for decades to block any reforms, documented repeatedly by various non-partisan sources; on the other side, what even compares? Being vigilant against big money interests screwing with legislation that affects the people is VITAL, and I applaud everyone here who does so - but you HAVE TO FOLLOW THE MONEY, or otherwise, for all you know, you're fighting against the very things you think you're fighting for.
- "I Don't Want To Be A Throwaway!" - Nothing in any bill allows the government to pick the time of death of any American, it would be illegal, and there would be no political gain to anyone in DC doing it in any party, so we really have to use our common sense here. Right now, if you're an American and your insurance company drops you when you need urgent care, you can't get another policy due to pre-existing condition, and have no options but to die; the only reason that Americans over 65 don't have to worry about that is because of government programs like Medicare. A public option would give all Americans that safety net. Nobody should be a throwaway, but it will continue to happen at the rate of fifty dying a day until a public option is passed.
- "This Bill Is Designed To Increase Abortions!" - It is not. The President of the United States - whoever he is, whatever party he represents - is bound to uphold the law. Health providers that receive federal funding must abide by federal law - this was true before this bill, it will be true after this bill, and with or without this bill - that's the law. Roe vs. Wade is a decision many people of good conscience disagree on, but it is established legal precedent, and our elected officials must uphold the law until it is changed.
- "BOOOOO!!!!" - I'm sure that all the people yelling and booing have been lucky, they've never seen someone get denied life-saving treatment or be dropped altogether by their insurance company - or had it happen to themself. It would be easy for me to say that I hope you become one of those 14K a day who lose their health insurance so you can understand - but the truth is I hope none of you ever have to deal with that, I hope you never have to end up as one of those uninsured fifty people a day who die because they're refused the health care they needed to live.
Getting Your Arsenal In Order
When you attend your local town hall meetings, please feel free, welcome, and encouraged to print out copies of this newly updated Word document, containing the Top Ten Talking Points, sources, and author information all on one page, and containing Rebuttals to The Ten Most Common Opposition Arguments on another (for printing out on the back of the same page). The initial page in particular is useful not only as a reference for when you speak but also for the purpose of leaving copies on the table at the beginning of the meeting for undecideds to take; I did this myself and my fiancee saw copies around the room during the course of the town hall, so it does work.
If you are looking for additional effective information to print out and bring with you to leave as a hand-out, I recommend NWTerriD's list of how the public option benefits people personally, and I also recommend this awesome diagram which makes the case for the public option with thunderous simplicity and efficient minimalism, using the least amount of words and imagery possible.
Given the title of this diary, I can't end it without reminding everyone what to do at town halls where people are being disruptive to the point that others have to stop speaking for several seconds at a time; if this happens to you, do what I did, start off by using talking point two to disarm them directly:
(Note: If statements like those in my initial sentence do not apply to you, at least preface your comments by pointing out that you've lived in the district for years if that is the case.)
"I've been an independent voter most of my life, I've lived in this district for most of my life, and I've never been to a town hall before, but I'm here because I am appalled that the private insurance companies are spending over a million dollars a day to kill the public option, including paying off and bussing in phony citizen groups; this bothers me because there are people here from the district on sides of this issue - for and against - while the sort of people who would bark and yell and prevent others from talking have been bussed in by insurance companies to town halls around the country, so we can tell right away who they are. I suppose it's no surprise that it's happening, though - the insurance companies know the only way to kill the public option is to get people of good conscience fighting over lies about euthanasia and abortion and anything else that will work ; these guys actually people that sit in rooms with focus groups and plan out "what lie would target pro-life voters, what lie would target the elderly, what misinformation is effective as we take a knife and pare off sections of the public to fight amongst each other" - ANYTHING... to keep us distracted, while they laugh all the way to the bank. They don't think very highly of our intelligence. But I think that this year - - they're ."
After I made a comment similar to that one as the first audience remark during the town meeting I attended, the majority of the room erupted in applause, with only silence and no booing coming from the stunned wingnuts.
For the rest of the meeting, they still did make SOME noise and still talked back when they heard things they didn't like - but no longer loudly and abrasively enough to disrupt the meeting and interrupt anyone who spoke in favor of a public option to the point where the person had to stop talking. Their cover was blown. The meeting remained contentious, with the passion, drama, and - I must admit - entertainment value more reminiscient of a wrestling event than what one would picture as a local Democratic party town hall in sparsely populated area - but a contentious meeting and a dysfunctional meeting are worlds apart, and indeed at opposite ends; one is the ultimate expression of democracy, the other is the ultimate stifling of it.
, using the same type of language, particularly including the "insurance companies don't think very highly of our intelligence"; they are not prepared to be called out, and it throws them off their game. There was no doubt leaving the meeting I went to that the public option side in the room had won the debate, and that the opposition actually only represented 25-30% of the room - but the perception could have easily gone the other way had the meeting continued the way it started, with the minority sounding so loud it seemed to be a majority; calling these people out changes them from a fearless amorphous blob of noise that can easily be overestimated to a group of people who instead feel they have to stand and applaud at particular comments to get their viewpoint across, .
Note that this approach to diffuse disruptions has a constructive effect on each of the three opposition groups identified at the outset of this diary AND undecideds; group 1 (the yellers) is exposed and doesn't want to risk exposing themselves further by making too much noise, group 2 (the misinformed) is given the one argument that might give them an outside chance of reconsidering their views on reform - the fact that they might be manipulated, group 3 (the libertarians) is flummoxed and thrown off balance because they don't want to be associated with the astroturfers or insurance companies, and undecideds respond to the possibility of manipulation and divisiveness with the same potential light bulb moment as group 2 but with an exponentially higher success rate.
Best of all, those who show up just to cause trouble (Group 1) are pacified with this approach in one fell swoop, and if they still continue to disrupt, rebuttal #10 is waiting in your back pocket to finish them off. Group 2 (the misinformed), if they still continue to doubt, can then be handled with rebuttals #8 and #9. Group 3's arguments can be effectively countered for the duration of the meeting with rebuttals #1 - #7, while undecideds will best respond to The Ten Health Care Talking Points and - as mentioned before - the sight of confident opposition being stumped into silence by devastating rebuttals (moreso than to the strength of the rebuttals themselves).
Lastly as a general tip, when considering the broader dichotomy of how to best approach undecideds versus how to best approach diehard conservatives, always remember that - somewhat counterintuitive to the standard image of cool headed moderates versus passionate extremists (especially in light of town halls full of quiet attentive undecideds and rowdy far-right ideologues) - the fact is that undecideds generally glaze over at a recitation of figures unless they feel a personal connection to what is being explained, while diehard conservatives recoil at emotional appeals based on empathy and responds only to the cerebral; that's why the rebuttals list, despite its assertive tone, is entirely based on reason and not emotional appeal - and why The Ten Talking Points List, despite its reliance on figures, is more focused on painting a compelling picture that connects with the person.