by Terry H. Schwadron
Words matter, we can agree. Idiotic, hateful words matter. Misleading words for political gain matter too.
Yes, we’ve a President who seems not to hesitate before tweeting allegations and evidence-challenged assertions; defending his often fact-free verbal noodling is a full-time job for Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway, who look simply silly suggesting that “wiretaps” are not necessarily wiretaps and microwaves might be cameras.
Bad speaking is not limited to this administration, of course, but bad three captured set me on edge. Please listen, learn and avoid sticking feet in mouths.
First up, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has a long history of remarks that play poorly with me, at least, tweeted to endorse the views of a far-right Dutch politician named Geert Wilders. Praising Wilders, who was depicted in an accompanying cartoon plugging a hole in a wall that reads “Western civilization,” King said, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
On Monday, he doubled down, saying, “Well, of course I meant exactly what I said. It’s a clear message. We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half century or a little more. And Geert Wilders knows that and that’s part of his campaign and part of his agenda.”
King regularly calls out illegal immigration to the United States and immigrants who don’t “assimilate into the American culture.” King also emphasized his view that “western civilization” is “a superior civilization.” Wow.
“I’d like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we look a lot the same, from that perspective,” he said.
Forget the fact that demographics have been changing in the U.S. for decades. It’s an argument for white supremacy by any other name, and it needs to be stomped on. There was some response from congressional colleagues, including a spokesman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan, but it was relatively muted criticism.
These words matter.
So, too, should the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that health insurance won’t cost more if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act. It is patently false for millions.
Price said: “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through, understanding that they’ll have choices that they can select the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not the government forces them to buy.”
The only choices that Americans will get for less money will amount to less coverage, of course. The oodles of coverage in print and television trying to parse the Republican proposals make clear that insurance in fact will cost more for older, sicker people, will provide huge tax cuts to the wealthy, and will be good only for younger, more affluent people who think they don’t need insurance. Older and lower-income individuals almost certainly will pay more for premiums and out of pocket expenses.
Health policy experts have found that the Republican repeal bill would be to raise costs for the average insurance enrollee by $1,542 per year in 2017, and by $2,409 in 2020.
Meanwhile, Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, joined Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) in arguing that it doesn’t matter whether fewer Americans will have coverage. “It’s not just about coverage, it’s about access to care, it’s about access to be able to see your doctors,” Cohn said on Fox News. Sunday.” “The numbers of who’s covered and who is not covered ― that’s interesting, and I know that may make some headlines, but what we care about is people’s ability to get health care and people’s ability to go see their doctor.”
“Coverage is really important if you lose it,” responded host Chris Wallace.
Low-income Americans would also face consequences in both access and cost under the repeal bill with the GOP’s plan to get rid of the expansion of Medicaid and turn it into a block grant program.
These words matter, too. They are deceptive advertising, and however heartfelt by the speakers, simply wrong. Unfortunately, that is fully acceptable these days.
The third award winner this week was Rep. Rick DeSantis, (R-Fla) who said in response to a television question about the health care bill that people could just turn to emergency rooms for treatment if they were uninsured, adding that someone else would pick up the bill as if that would not be taxpayers. Even if it involved cancer,
DeSantis said, people with cancer could go to the emergency room for chemo treatments.
On Facebook, DeSantis later recanted: “I received criticism this week for an interview I did on CNN and, having reviewed the transcript, I think criticism is warranted. Serious diseases such as cancer require highly specialized treatment, not ad hoc visits to the ER. Implying otherwise is not correct as a matter of fact, not reflective of my views, and inconsistent with my support of legislation such as the 21st Century Cures Act. The bottom line is I muffed my answer and should have formulated a better response.”
Well, at least he realized that stupid words matter.