Can We Hear It for Truth-Telling?

Although the They’re going to kill the grannies! campaign continues, some heavyweight voices of sanity are being heard above the roar. Sojourners founder/author/activist Jim Wallis weighed in Friday with a few choice words of wisdom:

I have said that one important moral principle for the health care debate is truth-telling. For decades, the physical health and well-being of our country has been a proxy battle for partisan politics. Industry interests and partisan fighting are once again threatening the current opportunity for a public dialogue about what is best for our health-care system. What we need is an honest and fair debate with good information, not sabotage of reform with half-truths and misinformation.

Yet in recent weeks, conservative radio ads have claimed that health-care reform will kill the elderly (it won’t), that it will include federal funding for abortion (it doesn’t), and that it is a socialist takeover of the health-care system (it isn’t). The organizations promoting these claims, including some Religious Right groups, are either badly misinformed, or they are deliberately distorting reality.

I think it’s all of the above. But what’s particularly frightening is the number of people who, hearing these messages over and over, are passing them along as presumed truth. My Inbox is having some dark days thanks to conservative friends wanting to know if I’m aware of one untruth or another. Because I have some conservative friends I like and respect, I try to listen, understand their points of view and keep lines of communication open — but it’s getting hard. Wallis cites one reason why:

A particularly egregious example is an ad that the Family Research Council has run in selected states. It depicts an elderly man and his wife sitting at their kitchen table. He turns to his wife and says, “They won’t pay for my surgery. What are we going to do?” He continues, “and to think that Planned Parenthood is included in the government-run health care plan and spending tax dollars on abortion. They won’t pay for my surgery, but we’re forced to pay for abortion.”

These kinds of ads should be stopped. They do not contribute to the debate that is needed to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. It is rather exactly the kind of misinformation campaign that could destroy needed reform.

It’s going to be a long, hard August.

Jim Wallis: Truth-telling and Responsibility in Health Care.


  1. I find it ironic, and sad, and worse, to see the lies and BS on this subject, when I know and every Canadian knows, the incredible sense of calm and security you feel living in a country with healthcare funded through government and knowing you will never ever be bankrupted by anything medical — including childbirth — that no hospital or nurse or specialist will refuse you. No Canadian EVER has some government bureaucrat in the examining room or ER or OR. Decisions about funding and siting and administering treatment, medication, equipment and surgery are made by healthcare officials with a larger context — making sure everyone has access. NOT based on ensuring fat profits to shareholders and millions and millions of $$$$$ in bonus and salary to HMO CEO’s!

    This sort of collective-focused decision-making comes from a matrix that does not and cannot exist in a country where the individual cares little about some stranger dying down the street as long as he gets his.

    This “debate” — to anyone who has lived, thrived and been treated well medically by another nation’s universal healthcare — is like listening to a box full of wasps. A lot of noise with zero point of reference beyond their fury and their fear.

    The ignorance is appalling and it is the worst conceivable example of American exceptionalism. If it works, and works well, for the French, British, Canadians, Australians and others, of course it could not possibly ever work here. Absurd!

    1. Thanks to many well-cared-for Canadian friends and relatives (and several personal experiences), I wholeheartedly agree. And we HAVE to start caring about the stranger dying, or suffering, down the street. My 18-yr Kaiser experience convinces me that physicians unworried about building a practice, “increasing profitability” etc etc can focus on providing excellent care. So why not for the stranger as well as the Medicare recipient?

  2. The internet is a hotbed of false advertising, it appears, and likely to remain so. I keep reading crazy messages from friends because it offers the chance to send a calm and reasoned response… but some days calm and reason are hard to maintain.

  3. Todd, I have to believe that every ray of truth will indeed help, and that somehow people will slow down with the yelling. If my Medicare has to suffer (and I am a very happy Kaiser member) for broader coverage to happen, so be it.

  4. This is so true. I am having similar experiences with friends sending me emails with the latest scare tactics. Doesn’t the FCC have a responsibility to prevent outright false advertising?

  5. Thanks for posting this. An appeal for truth-telling is a small ray of sunshine. But can truth even help when it seems incensed people are yelling that the government had better keep its greedy hands off of their Medicare?

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