Truth Tales


If this becomes the party line, the Democrats are in big trouble.  Every time something goes wrong with their electoral fortunes, Democrats seem to revert to the same defense mechanism:  they are victims of crafty and vicious Republicans who use their secret mind control machines to spread a particularly powerful brand of lies.

You know what doesn't build a powerful electoral message?  Telling each other that everyone actually loves your program, except for the fact that the other guy tells so many lies about it!  I mean, this is particularly rich coming out of an election where your candidate assured voters that your opponent supported a law to turn rape victims away from emergency rooms (maybe the problem is that Republicans pick believable lies?)  But it's never a good strategy.

First of all, your perception of what constitutes a lie, versus what constitutes an uncharitable interpretation of your policies, is bound to be somewhat skewed.  I quote the normally extremely astute Mr. Silver:

And those lies have had an impact. Let's look at, for example, at what opponents of the bill believe, according to the latest Pew poll:

Among those opposed to the health care bill, majorities think that their choice of doctors would be impaired, their out-of-pocket costs would go up, their wait times would increase, and the quality of their care would suffer. Meanwhile, only 27 percent of Americans opposed to the health care bill -- and only 39 percent overall -- believe that their ability to get coverage would improve if they had a pre-existing condition.If that's what people believe, then forget a majority -- it's amazing that health care has even the 40 percent support that it does. But these beliefs range from mostly or probably wrong to completely and demonstrably untrue

Now, on one item, the "anti's" are pretty obviously wrong--the program was pretty clearly better for people like me with pre-existing conditions.  But all the rest of it is debatable.  Obviously, Nate believes that the bill will improve things like out-of-pocket costs and choice of doctor.  That's why he supports it.  But those aren't scientific facts; they are opinions.  In fact, in Massachusetts, the new system has led to considerable bottlenecking of health services which has reduced access for those who already had care--it's harder to get a doctor's appointment, etc. 

If you make the mistake of thinking that your opinions are scientific facts, then it's obviously going to be mysterious and not a little scary that people believe otherwise.  Then you have to start inventing shadowy conspiracies against The Truth.

But while I do see categorical errors like people believing that this bill will make it worse for those with pre-existing conditions, when I look at the polls, most of the concerns are pretty reasonable.  People aren't responding to "lies".  They are saying that they do not believe administration claims that this program will reduce the budget deficit without impacting quality of care--a pretty safe bet, to my mind.  But even if you disagree, it is not crazy and delusional to believe that government programs often do not deliver what the politicians who enacted them promised.  It's a pretty safe reading of history, actually.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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