President Obama has taken some flack for his “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” lie. Let us say up front that the statement in question is, in fact, a lie. This is assuming “lie” still refers to something you say as if it were true, even though you know it to be untrue. If it means anything other than that, we were not informed.
Mr. Obama’s health care plan is the signature policy initiative of his entire presidency, and certainly of his first term. If any reader thinks for one minute he didn’t know the full implication of what he was saying, and the facts surrounding it, that reader is likely insane. (Note that this does not mean this reader should cease reading The National Protrusion. In fact, it might be even more appropriate than ever for them to become an avid reader if they’ve recently discovered they might be insane.)
Yes, we acknowledge the statement was a lie. But with that acknowledgement does not come condemnation. In fact, not only are we fine with the lie, we think the president should have gone further.
Let’s remember the environment in which this statement was made, admittedly what seems like thousands of times. We had people protesting outside all types of federal buildings, holding up signs comparing the president to Hitler and/or Stalin for having the audacity to have the government take part in Americans’ health care coverage. Many of these people were already happily receiving government assistance in one form or another, though they may have failed to realize that what they were getting was in fact government assistance. But stupidity is not a protection from hypocrisy.
We also had the Queen of the Dumbed, Sarah Palin, warning that there would be “death panels” that would decide people’s ultimate fate, and many like-minded voices screaming about the government trying to kill your grandmother. Trust me, no one wants to kill your grandmother, except maybe you. And we couldn’t really pass judgment on such a thing, not knowing your grandmother.
We also must consider how the American people prefer to have their information fed to them. If history is a guide, and we think it is, at least until it is changed by those in power, then one can reasonably assume Americans like information to come in the form of catch phrases, sound bites and easily digestible generalizations. In fact, the food metaphor is rather fitting in this case: Americans like their politicians’ statements the way they like their food — cheap, tasty and devoid of any substantive value. They don’t like things that are filled with nuance; they like things that are filled with cheese. If any reader thinks the bill would have had a prayer of passing if the president said, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, but there are several caveats to that,” that reader is probably one of the people who realized earlier that they were insane. In fact, we’re not sure Americans even know what a caveat is. We offer them this helpful hint: It has nothing to do with fish eggs.
In all, the president was battling misinformation, disinformation, a lack of information, and just plain stupidity disguising itself as information, when this bill was being debated by citizens and the Congress alike. So, the question isn’t, Why did he lie? It’s, Why didn’t he lie more?
If it were us, we would have promised whatever was necessary to get the bill through. “Not only will you be able to keep your current plan, if you like it,” we would have told the American people. “You will also get a lifetime supply of free ice cream. And it’s magical ice cream. It is specially designed to not give you type 2 diabetes, no matter how much of it you eat.”
Or, “Not only will you be able to keep your health plan if you like it, you’ll get a free rifle, pre-loaded.” We would say we would offer them the ability to bypass the background checks required to get a rifle, but there don’t appear to be any such checks in this country, so we don’t see that as a necessary addition to the offer.
A final option might have been to offer Americans cash in exchange for supporting the bill. We are well aware, however, that it wouldn’t have been possible for the president to offer money from the government. The public would see that as a handout, and they would not accept it, even though they were simultaneously aggressively taking advantage of as many government handouts as were available. We feel they would accept it, though, if they felt it was being taken from someone else — preferably someone of a different race and/or class than them — in order for it to be given to them. If we combine this one thing Americans love — hatred of the “other” — with something else they love — the lottery — we can offer the following as a way the president could have phrased such a sales pitch:
“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. And in addition, you will all be entered in the Affordable Care Act Lottery. Now, this is a special lottery. It has millions of winners, all of whom win thousands of dollars each. The winnings are taken from a group that doesn’t deserve it. It’s all done with a complicated algorithm. Just suffice it to say that if you’re a racist, your portion will be taken from a black family. If you’re a sexist, it will be taken from a women’s group. A homophobe? Great — your portion will be taken from a married gay couple. All you have to do is tell your representative in congress that you support this health care law, and you are automatically entered in this lottery. No further action is required on your part. You just get the money, money taken from someone else who totally doesn’t deserve it. And, I’m not sure if I mentioned it already, but you can also keep your health care plan if you like it.”