Health-Care Lessons From RNC Chairman Michael Steele

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I understand why the standards for an op-ed published by a public figure (e.g. RNC chairman Michael Steele) in a major American newspaper (e.g. the Washington Post) would by lower than normal. But I still think that, when one such op-ed gets published, it's important to be just as cruel as normal about its flaws and failings.

Right then. Here's Michael Steele's op-ed in this morning's Washington Post:

Obama's government-run health "reform" would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care. While nonthreatening at first, something that is quite normal for a family to do becomes troublesome when the government gets involved. Seniors know that government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but. The government should simply butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and their doctors.

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I've said this all before, but it's important to be repetitive about what the GOP strategy on this subject has been. Namely, (1) Make a silly claim ("death panels!"); (2) Have the silly claim disproved ("there are no death panels!"); (3) Avoid defending the original silly claim, and instead chalk the whole controversy up to an interpretive ambiguity or an inherently uncertain question about what may or may not happen in the vague and sinister future ("programs that seem benign at first can become anything but"). Like Jim Morrison before him, philosopher-poet Michael Steele knows that the the future is uncertain and the end is always near.  

Anyway, two points about this. First, the Steele standard -- that the government "butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and their doctors" -- is easily met by a bill in which end-of-life counseling is totally optional. As it happens, that describes the current House bill. Second, what is crucially missing from Steele's op-ed is any sense of how a perfectly "nonthreatening" caterpillar of a program morphs into a butterfly that is "anything but." Since no one wants the threatening program and no one has proposed the threatening program, and since we live a nation with robust political rights robust and opportunities for political opposition, I think the Steele scenario is pretty darn unlikely.

And at the very least, we know that no matter what happens in the future Michael Steele will be able to publish anything in the Washington Post.

(Photo: Flickr User moonstarsilverwolf)

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Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.
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