Years after it was debunked, Republicans are still hawking Sarah Palin’s “death panel” myth.
One time Republican Senator and presidential aspirant Rick Santorum recently gave a speech at a Young Americans for Freedom event where he announced American civilization is in peril by the looming possibility of more people getting access to health care. As he put it, “If we have a system where the government is going to be the principal provider of health care for the country, we’re done. Because then, you are dependent on the government for your life and your health…”
Santorum then went on to roll out Sarah Palin’s discredited “death panel” claim that secret government panels were being set up to determine who gets health care and who will be left by the side of the road to die, “And the reason is because most people don’t get sick, and so free health care is just that, free health care, until you get sick. Then, if you get sick and you don’t get health care, you die and you don’t vote. It’s actually a pretty clever system.”
The claim is pretty absurd on its face. Kevin Drum went so far as to wonder if Santorum actually, “knows that every American over the age of 65 has been receiving government health care for the past half century?” But I don’t think Santorum’s silly claims come out of ignorance of the health care system. They are first and foremost a symptom of our old friend the conservative information feedback loop. Simply put, the conservative media environment is so cut off from the rest of the media that even though mainstream outlets have been dismissing the Palin “death panel” claim for years, it’s still alive and well at conservative gatherings.
The end result is that Rick Santorum can go for years living in the media bubble of Fox News where everyone knows the death panels are coming for grandma and of course everyone got their health care by being a rugged individualism until Barack Obama came around and ruined everything.
In addition, these sorts of claims are also a product of the GOP’s lack of ideas when it comes to health care policy. If the Republican Party, or Rick Santorum for that matter, had actual policies to expand access to health care or to help bring down costs, discussions about health care policy could focus on, well, actual policy. Since those sorts of ideas don’t ever seem to materialize, people like Santorum are reduced to repeating made up fantasies, rather than debating the actual issues.
It would be nice if silly and debunked myths like “death panels” could finally die after they were knocked down years ago, but as long as the GOP continues to exist in a media environment dominated by the conservative information feedback loop (and therefore eschews policy substance for made up claims) these myths won’t be going anywhere.
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Photo by Charlie Riedel/AP