Brighten their holiday. Enrich their everyday.Give The Atlantic

Did Obama Help Create 'Death Panel' Hysteria?

by Robert Wright

Today Eugene Robinson argues that Obama aided and abetted the now-hysterical fears of health-care “rationing”:

Reform is being sold not just as a moral obligation but also as a way to control rising health care costs. That should have been a separate discussion. It is not illogical for skeptics to suspect that if millions of people are going to be newly covered by health insurance, either costs are going to skyrocket or services are going to be curtailed.

Mickey Kaus has been pushing this meme for awhile, but I guess now that it’s moved from the Slate-blog part of the Washington Post empire to the newpspaper-op-ed part, we should take it seriously. It may give too little credit to the ruthlessly efficient messaging machines of the Republican party and the health-care industry. I don’t think Obama had to dwell long or loudly on cost containment for them to sense and exploit its perverse political potential. (And, on a similarly cynical note, I don’t think it matters much, politically speaking, whether Jon Cohn is right in saying that Obama’s plan would indeed control costs.)

I certainly agree that Obama’s emphasis should have been more on the immediate personal benefits of reliable health coverage and less on distant, collective fiscal benefits. I’m just not sure this would have saved us from Sarah Palin’s death panels.