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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/20/11

Inflexibility as a Poor Narrative Stance: The Republicans on Health Care and Sarah Palin on Tucson

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Message Bud Goodall

So I am listening to NPR on the way home from the office and I hear the announcement about the Republicans in the House voting to repeal the Obama health care reform bill.   My first response was "so what?"   After all, it won't make it past the Senate and Obama said even if it did, he'd veto it.   So the Congressional Republicans are just wasting time, holding a symbolic vote that has no substance, and meanwhile the country awaits serious attention to serious problems that will require something other than inflexibility and old campaign promises to resolve.  

The NPR report used data from Factcheck.Org to refute, point by point, all of the charges the Republicans made.   Here are some relevant questions: If I make under $15K a year, do I have to purchase health insurance (as the Republicans claim, saying this is socialistic).   The answer is NO.   In fact, under the new plan, a person making less than 133% of the poverty rate will be covered, for free, under Medicaid.

How about if I am a small business owner and have only 24 employees -" do I have to buy health insurance for all of them?   Because, as the Republicans would have us believe, you have no choice.   This is socialism!   But the facts are that any small business owner with less than 25 employees gets a major tax incentive to cover them, thus nullifying the cost of the coverage.  

But how about those 600,000 jobs that the Republicans say will be "killed" by this reform?   Huh?   Turns out the majority of these "lost" jobs will be due to people voluntarily retiring early because their health insurance is no longer tied to the job they have.   Under the reform plan, they can purchase their own insurance and do something else with their lives.

And so on.   No death panels.   No new IRS agents to harass us.

The list of lies--because that is what they are--perpetrated by the insurance industry Republicans in Congress (which is to say, all of them) is a testament to how little regard they have for either the truth or promoting the common good.   That last phrase is the purpose of government, according to their beloved but clearly misunderstood or just distorted "founders."   The former--truth--is a concept as old as time but codified for at least the last 2500 years, so it's hardly a new idea.   But it can get in the way of fundraising.   At least for those on the right.

Here's the problem, and it is a communication problem.   Or it is a "communication best practices" problem, if you have to have a business world term to legitimate what it otherwise a commonsensical notion.   Remaining inflexible is a bad idea .   It is a bad communication practice that makes a mockery of what a "best communication practice" would be.  

Inflexibility costs you the respect of every citizen still capable of raising a spoon to their lips for the broth in their senior cup of soup.   It costs you the credibility of past and future positions on other issues with everyone from the college student struggling to pay the rising cost of tuition while working two jobs to the out-of-work former college professor who was cut from a job they loved and did well for no good reason other than the university they worked for didn't have the money to keep them.  

Or the woman who found the courage to leave an abusive husband because she could work outside the home and pay her own bills who found out that she just lost her job because her company couldn't make the necessary quarterly profit to keep her, and thousands like her, employed.  

Or the fellow down the street, who went back to law school, who graduated with honors only to find out that no one was hiring newly minted lawyers because to do so would mean letting go folks that were already on their payroll.   So he delivers pizza.

I could go on and on and on.   No need to.   You know people like these.   Or you worry that one day soon you may become one of them.

If you do become one of them, chances are good that you will be damned glad that you have health care.   No matter how down on your luck you get, under the Obama plan you can at least count on that.   Which is a very good thing because chances are good that "looking for work" will become--without a federal jobs program that seems unlikely with the know-nothing, do-nothing, insurance industry Republicans who dominate the House in Congress--far too common in America.

Which brings me to Sarah Palin.   I live in Arizona but it is as a patriotic American that I want to say, "Go away , Sarah Palin."   But being the polite guy I am, I never would.   I actually want to say more than that to her and most of it not nearly so nice as that pronouncement, but my president has encouraged me, and you, not to.  

But here is why I want to say nasty things to her.   Palin's lame response to her own role in creating a climate of anti-government, "pick up your arms" rhetoric did contribute to the tragedy in Tucson and only a moron unfamiliar with the history of rhetoric, hate speech, and its influence on others would think otherwise.   Loughner was an anti-government fanatic.   Giffords was a member of government he targeted for death.   She believed someone would carry out one of those threats with a gun.   Someone did.   It was him.

So, again, go away, Sarah Palin.   You don't know what you are talking about.   And pardon me, Mr. President, for being less than courteous about it.   But I do know of whereof I speak.   I'm a scholar who studies extremist speech.   In fact, I did a short film about the Tea Party rhetoric and images and worried about the likelihood of someone a gun taking them seriously and showed it at our National Communication Association convention last November.  

I'm telling you that Palin's call to her followers to "arm themselves" and to "reload" was not about voting.   She lies.   And her incredibly inflexible reply to the tragedy in Tucson was conduct unbecoming of anyone elected to represent the American people in any office above that of, maybe, a scooper of elephant poop.

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H. L. (Bud) Goodall, Jr. lives in Arizona where he is a college professor and writer. He has published 20 books and many articles and chapters on a variety of communication issues. His most recent books include Counter-Narrative: How Progressive (more...)
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