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Obama Doubles-Down on False Dilemma

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As opposition against Obama’s proposed massive government takeover of health care grows, so does the sense of urgency on both sides of the debate.  It seems an all-too-familiar argument is popping up all over the place – appearing recently and most prominently in Obama’s carefully manufactured “Town Halls” on 8/11/09 and 8/14/09.  In essence, the argument goes:

“Opponents to the plan are trying to scare you.  What is truly scary is if we do nothing.”

… Wait … are those our only two choices?


This is the False Dilemma fallacy at its finest (with a touch of Circumstantial Ad Hominem for good measure).  The problem with the False Dilemma is that it presents you with a false range of choices, then requires you to choose one.  In this case, a broad generalization is made about opponents: That their main purpose is to scare you.

Who wants to be scared?  Not me!  Those opponents must be bad people, so why should I listen to them?

Never fear!  The false dilemma has a second choice for you: “We must act now!  After all, the truly scary thing would be to do nothing at all.”

Unfortunately for this particular argument, there are numerous options other than only “scaring people” and “doing nothing.”  The health care system is massive, the problems are growing, and it does require prompt attention.  The potentials for positive reform are many, and there are several key issues that deserve open, pragmatic, deliberate, and robust debate. A vast majority of Americans agree that our health care system needs “reform.”  However, this does not mean they want massive, sweeping, sudden, and permanent government-mandated changes to the current system.

For example, many have argued that addressing tort reform would make a huge difference in health insurance costs.  (Ever notice all those ambulance chasers peddling their services on TV, begging you to sue a doctor?)  Lawsuits cost money, regardless of the outcome.  Either way, frivolous lawsuits drive up the amount of insurance doctors and hospitals require, thus resulting in increased costs to the consumer.  Additionally, in order to avoid getting sued in the first place, doctors will run multiple tests “just to be on the safe side” when fewer tests would suffice.  Little do patients know, the doctors are being “safe” with regards to their legal liability as much as they are being “safe” out of concern for their patients’ health.

Others point to the rising costs associated with the drug industry.  It is not uncommon for doctors to prescribe name-brand drugs to those with insurance, while prescribing generic drugs to those with lower quality (or non-existent) insurance.  (How many slick, multimillion dollar drug campaigns do you see running next to the ambulance-chaser ads?  Think you might have Restless Leg Syndrome?  Short of breath?  Feeling blue?  Go see your doctor and get a prescription!)  Ultimately this results in higher consumer drug purchases, more costs to the insurance company, which in turn passes this cost on to consumers in the form of higher premiums.

These are only two possible areas in which huge savings could be realized.  These are also two areas that Obama has completely ignored.  In fact, nowhere in the 1,000+ page bill have any proposals been addressed regarding tort reform or drug costs.  I guess it’s “hands off” the big drug companies and the lawyers.

It is clear that opponents to Obama’s massive government-run health care plan have reasonable and valid concerns.  There are also countless ways to start reforming the health care system, one step at a time.  However, one of Obama’s core arguments for completely commandeering 1/6th of the U.S. economy overnight is faulty at best.

Is it wrong for Americans to be concerned that their government seeks to take control over the way they are able to tend to their own health needs?  Is it unreasonable for Americans to ask their representatives to slow down, read the bill in its entirety, and consider the repercussions?  Is it not possible to achieve reform by aggressively taking on individual problems one at a time, rather than trying to use the heavy fist of big government to smash what currently exists, only to rebuild something in its own image: a massive, wasteful, bulky, and clumsy bureaucracy charged with the duty of ensuring our personal health and well-being?

Perhaps Obama’s False Dilemma argument deserves a False Dilemma counter-argument:

Proponents of this plan are trying to scare you.  What is truly scary is if we rush in and try to do too much, too suddenly, and too permanently.

Somewhere in between is compromise.  The vast majority of Americans know reform needs to happen, and happen soon.  However, if many Americans are feeling a little uneasy about Uncle Sam marching in and “offering” to take over their freedom to make their own health care decisions, all the while with a big ear-to-ear grin and a “trust me, nothing will go wrong” attitude, perhaps their fears are not altogether unwarranted.

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Written by ericcvorst

August 16, 2009 at 2:56 am

Posted in Main Page

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