Sutton creating myths about reform?

Is Betty Sutton, Ohio’s 13th Congressional District Representative (D-Akron), using teleconference calls to fabricate tall tales about what’s in the Obamacare bill that would otherwise be called into question if she were holding a town hall in an arena or stadium?

That she only addressed 9 questioners in one hour is, in itself, a slap in the public’s face.

On Tuesday night (August 25), from my home in exile, I went to a town hall meeting hosted by Democrat Congressman Adam Smith, of Washington’s 9th District.  The health care bill he described doesn’t seem to resemble the health care bill that Sutton described.

To raucous cheers, Smith said he would not support the Obamacare bill if it were brought to a House vote in its current form.

The Seattle Times coverage included this snippet about Smith’s concerns about the current bill:

” . . . he [Smith] expressed discontent with parts of the health proposals currently wending their way through Congress. For example, he is concerned that some options, such as health savings accounts, wouldn’t be available several years out.”

Tacoma’s The News Tribune included the following in its town hall report:

“Smith was cheered loudly when he said he wouldn’t support Democrats’ health care reform plan in its current form, saying the bill incorporates too many issues not relevant to providing universal health care. He named provisions for end-of-life counseling as something he didn’t believe belonged in the health care reform bill.

“‘There are huge issues in there that are not necessary to establishing universal access,’ said Smith, adding that he expects a very different version of the health care reform bill will reach the House floor.”

While he, like Sutton, favors a public option (I disagree–my own stance on health care can be found here), and while he espouses the same goals of expansion, access, and affordability of health care that Sutton does, the bill that Sutton is talking about already sounds like a “very different version.” to me.  Lorain’s Morning Journal reported that Sutton offered this portrayal of the current bill:

“The public option would be subject to the same market reforms as private plans and would be budget-neutral, adding nothing to the federal deficit to burden future generations, Sutton said.

“A caller named Ben in Avon Lake said he was against the growing expenditures Congress is making.

“Sutton replied the proposed plan would reduce administrative waste, abuse and overpayments.”

The public option in the current bill would be budget-neutral?  Does Sutton really mean that?  Smith acknowledged that a public option is not without a price tag.  Smith said, however, that the entire Federal budget would need to be addressed to bring budgetary concerns in line.  Smith added that he supported a balanced budget when he first arrived in Congress in 1997, and he said that he’d like to return to balanced budgets in the future.

The proposed plan would reduce administrative waste?  Does Sutton really mean that?  Is she talking about the proposed plan in the current bill?  Or is she talking about some wishful thinking about what she hopes will be incorporated into the proposal at some future point?  In his criticisms of the current bill, Smith said that it unnecessarily adds several bureaucratic structures to the Federal government that aren’t crucial to improving access to health care.  To me, that sounds like the current plan increases the administrative waste.

Elyria’s Chronicle-Telegram also covered Sutton’s teleconference call.  One caller . . .

“. . . asked Sutton if she actually read the nearly 1,100-page bill and without a lawyer to help her.

“‘I did read it …’ she said. ‘And as to your question about whether I had a lawyer with me, I am a lawyer, so I don’t know how much that helped.'”

Perhaps she should have invited Rep. Adam Smith to be her study buddy as she read through the bill, so that House members within the same caucus would have similar accounts of what the current bill entails.

Even if she isn’t using the telephone medium to get away with distorting the provisions of the bill, even if she really believes what she says is true, what does it say about Betty Sutton that she restricts public access to her through this sheltered medium?  Doesn’t it suggest that she’s a control freak who wants to tackle only a bare minimum of queries with carefully scripted responses wherein she always gets the last word?  Is that a dialogue with the public?  Or does it more closely resemble a more authoritarian rule-by-decree approach?

The Morning Journal ran an editorial that offered Sutton a criticism of its own:

“A matter of such magnitude and concern to all is a topic on which Sutton owes her constituents an in-person discussion. Hearing from a handful of disembodied voices on the phone is virtually worthless compared to the real communication one gets with an audience face to face.

“Sutton was elected to represent, and listen to, all of Lorain County, including those who disagree with her support of the proposed health reform legislation.

“Distancing herself from constituents by the length of a phone line in such an important conversation disrespects those constituents.”

Contrast that with this editorial from The News Tribune about Smith’s approach to public dialogue:

“Smith deserves some of the credit. His unwavering commitment to town halls – despite this summer’s specter of large, angry crowds – deflected much of the indignation that has been directed at some of his colleagues. It’s hard to be too mad at a guy who comes to see you even when he knows he’s in for a bruising.

“Smith also deftly managed the crowd, bowing to a shouted request to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meeting but later chiding audience members for shouting down others.

“For those who had never met him, Smith’s wry delivery and moderate leanings were no doubt disarming. The congressman knew what he was doing when he prolonged his opening speech to criticize end-of-life consultations as a way to get seniors to settle for less care.”

Granted, I disagreed with a number of Smith’s views, and I never got an opportunity to pose my own questions about the legislative process as it applies to Obamacare (though I did submit some in written form), but Smith was able to go with the flow, exhibiting patience with the crowd, never allowing himself to become unhinged no matter how provocative the shouts might be.

Furthermore, Smith denounced the way in which some of his colleagues characterized Obamacare opponents as brown-shirted astroturf mobs.  Apparently, Sutton buys into the astroturf mob paranoia.

I seriously don’t think Sutton, with her allergic reaction to the public so plainly evident, is well-suited to be a U.S. Rep.  I’m eager to see a challenger enter the fray for next year’s election cycle.

13 Responses to “Sutton creating myths about reform?”

  1. Badtux Says:

    I am not a lawyer, but I am expert in reading legal language due to my job (which involves interacting with various government agencies on a regular basis). I too have read the bill multiple times when attempting to verify or invalidate various things that I’ve read about the bill. My reading of the bill matches Sutton’s — there is clear legal language in the bill that says that the public option will not be allowed to use Treasury money to operate but will have to compete fairly in the open market.

    It is sad that there are so many people who don’t know how to read clear legal language who read so many bizarre things into HR3200. The bill is a fairly conservative setup that reads like a mashup of the German, Dutch, and Swiss healthcare systems, systems which we know work. It’s not a bizarre experiment, it’s an attempt to take the best from overseas experiments that have succeeded and apply them to American healthcare. It is just sad that so many people are so incapable of reading clear legal language that they read bizarre things like “death panels” into what is a fairly conservative bill.

    • buckeyerino Says:

      Though you agree with Sutton, that doesn’t bridge the gap between what Sutton is saying and what Smith is saying. The chasm still exists.

      I’ve already written at length about the mixed messages sent from Capitol Hill and how the public is reacting to it in ever-larger numbers: “Obamacare hysteria.”

  2. Badtux Says:

    No, I don’t agree with Sutton. I agree with the FACTS that Sutton presents, which is a different thing entirely. Facts are facts, regardless of who states them. There IS an objective reality that exists independent of who says what. Opinions are something you can agree or disagree with, because opinions are just that — opinions. Reality, on the other hand, simply IS, and exists independent of what anybody states about it.

    Einstein’s theory of relativity, for example, was just as true 2,000 years before it was stated as it is today — the reality of relativity exists regardless of what anybody states (or does not state) about it. The same thing applies to the clear legal language of HR3200. It says what it says in clear and unambiguous legal language, regardless of what anybody states about it. It clearly and unambiguously, for example, states that the public option will NOT receive taxpayer money, and that the taxpayer subsidies to help low-income people purchase health insurance will NOT go to illegals. Those are facts. Those are what the law says, in clear and unambiguous legal language (which, BTW, is *not* the same thing as English — in legal language words have a single meaning defined by statute, not the multiple ambiguous meanings a word may have in regular English). These facts remain the same regardless of who states what about the law, whether conservative or liberal. The fact that there are so many statements being made about what HR3200 is and what it does that have no relationship to anything actually written into the law makes me wonder if some folks have come totally unmoored from reality…

    • buckeyerino Says:

      “Facts?” I’ve already written about those elusive and ephemeral “facts”: Obamacare hysteria

      Thanks for commenting, though. Perhaps you’d gain more traction along this vein if you critiqued and commented on the blog entry I’ve pointed you toward.

      • Badtux Says:

        Not much for me to say there. Someone makes speculations, anybody can speculate. Back when Bush was President, there were lefties who speculated that he wasn’t going to leave office on January 20, that he was going to engineer a terrorist attack and then declare martial law, and who shouted me down when I pointed out that a) there was not anything in the record of the Bush Administration indicating the level of competency that would be needed to carry out such a conspiracy without it being revealed long before it were actually carried out, and b) there was nothing in the personality of George W. Bush that indicated that he had in any way a desire or willingness to be a dictator even if there were people within his administration who might have liked him to be one, if anything during his last year of office he seemed to be in a hurry to get it over with and get out. But trying to reason with people making paranoid speculations, I learned, is futile, whether such people are on the left or on the right. They’re far too busy donning their tin foil hats and imagining vast conspiracies against themselves to worry about little things like, well, reality.

        As we all know, it took the reality of President Barack Obama swearing the oath of office to shut up the lefties’ paranoid speculations about a Bush junta, just as it took the reality of Medicare actually working and providing health care to our elders to shut up right-wingers whining that Medicare was Communism and would result in death panels turning elders into Soylent Green (yes, some arguments against HR3200 are recycled from 1965, I’ve heard’em before). So it goes. So it goes. Not much to discuss there, so … (shrug). Bye, I guess.

      • buckeyerino Says:

        Well, Badtux, here’s a fact for you: members of the Democrat Caucus have different interpretations of what the Obamacare bill says.

        Of course, the lack of reconciliation between contradictory views fuels speculation, which, in turn, fuels distrust in the politicians in Washington DC, which, in turn, fuels Obamacare hysteria, which seems perfectly reasonable to me, considering the circumstances.

      • Badtux Says:

        Who are these “members of the Democrat Caucus”? There is no such thing as a “Democrat Caucus”. They are the DEMOCRATIC Caucus (that is their name that they gave themselves). Calling someone by a name other than their correct name that they call themselves is disrespectful unless you are a close personal friend of the person. I submit that you are not a close personal friend of the members of the Democratic Caucus :).

        Furthermore, I will simply quote Will Rogers: “I am a member of no organized party. I am a Democrat.” What is today’s Democratic Party is not a monolithic party. It is what would be, in a proportional parliamentary system, a coalition of smaller parties whose sole “glue” is that they don’t like Republicans for one reason or another, which is a thin strand to hang a party on but it’s what they have. The fact that what would be the leftist Socialist Party and Green Party in a parliamentary democracy do not always have the same opinions as the members of what would be the centrist Labor Party or center-right Christian Democrat party in a parliamentary democracy is unsurprising, because these people are members of the same party only because in a first-past-goalpost electoral system, all minor parties must join one of the two major parties if they are going to guarantee being part of the ruling coalition that gets the 50%+1 votes needed to guarantee election. The Republicans have driven many of these smaller parties out of their coalition and into the Democratic coalition via their rigidity about what a “real” Republican must be (thus the term “RINO” applied to Republicans who are not “ideologically correct”), but that does not mean that they will agree with the majority of Democrats about everything.

        Back to the facts of the law: Opinions may vary about whether various provisions of the law are a good idea or not, and I would expect opinions to differ based on what’s best for your own particular constituency (e.g., I would certainly expect Kentucky’s legislators to be very concerned about the bill, since it would impact Humana, which is based there and is a major part of their economy, severely). What I did not expect, and am still somewhat disconcerted about, is outright fabrication of “facts” that are not part of the actual text of the bill and which have never even been discussed or proposed for inclusion in the bill. Honorable men can have a difference of opinion about whether a provision is worthwhile or not and still remain honorable men. But when certain people simply fabricate things that aren’t even in the bill in order to attack the bill, we have left the realm of honorable men and entered a different realm entirely.

        Finally, one last thought: Why has Medicare never, *ever* rationed care in its 45 years of existence? Hint: It would be political suicide for any legislator who actually proposed to do so. The same applies to HR3200. If the bill actually did the evil things its most flamboyant detractors claimed, there isn’t a Democrat in Congress who would vote for the thing, because once it was put into place, the resulting disaster would cause them all to be voted out in disgrace. While I have a generally low opinion of the majority of Democratic members of Congress, they aren’t the brightest lamps in the chandelier for the most part, they do have a very well developed self preservation instinct. The notion that they would propose or sign into law a bill that did such evil things as to cause old people to be being rendered for catfood within months of its passage by death committees is simply ludicrous, no legislator wishing to get re-elected would ever vote for such a thing because he’d be looking for a new job shortly. It is true that last-minute revisions are often made to bills, but generally those are to add pork for a particular Congressman’s district, not a fundamental change in the bill’s provisions. Congressmen have staffers to monitor bills and notify them if there has been a fundamental change in bills’ provisions prior to the vote. They are quite motivated to hire competent staffers for that job because it is their political survival on the line if somehow they managed to sign a bill that rendered Grandma into cat food — they wouldn’t be able to get a job at the McDonald’s drive-thru window if they somehow managed to sign something that obviously evil.

        It’s called *DEMOCRACY*. And while it’s messy, it does work, in general. So I’m going to look at the actual bill, not speculations about things that aren’t even proposed for the bill, and leave the speculation to science fiction writers and overpaid hacks with nothing better to do than invent new imaginary strawman problems to do battle with. There are plenty of real problems and improvements that could be made in the bill (for example, their definition of a small business exempt from the penalty for not insuring workers is ludicrous), so it seems to me that honorable men would be focusing on those real problems rather than on imaginary made-up ones created solely from their fertile imaginations about what “could happen” in some imaginary world where Democratic legislators had electoral death wishes. Sadly, honorable men seem to be in short supply in too many places…

      • buckeyerino Says:

        OK, Badtux, that leaves us back at square one, where you agree with Sutton, but that doesn’t bridge the chasm between what Sutton is saying and what Smith is saying about the same bill. I wonder if the coverage of the Charlie Wilson teleconference call will yield another interpretation of what the bill says.

        Facts are so hard to come by.

        Medicare actually does ration care, which I know from my own family’s experience, particularly in the field of mental health. A growing number of mental health providers operate on a cash-only basis. For counseling, Medicare will reimburse for providers with an LISW license, which are the most expensive among the range of counselors, but won’t reimburse for providers with less than an LISW license. This results in a critical shortage of counseling providers covered under Medicare, resulting in waits of up to two months to get an initial appointment, and difficulty scheduling regular followup visits thereafter. It is quite common, when placing a call to a provider, to hear a recorded message urging patients to go to a hospital emergency room if they have an urgent need for intervention. Oddly enough, if a patient goes to an emergency room and is admitted as a patient to a psychiatric ward, the vast majority of care during the hospital stay will be provided by those with less than an LISW license (yet Medicare will reimburse under these circumstances). Use of the emergency room, of course, jacks up the costs of health care for everyone. Lengthy emergency room waits are yet another illustration of rationing. So, if one wants to find examples of health care rationing when the government takes over, one need look no further than Medicare and mental health. Our family got the best results by going to the cash-only mental health providers.

        As a sidenote, more often than not, the RINO moniker gets applied to me by Libertarians within the Republican ranks. The GOP is much more ideologically diverse than what you give it credit for.

  3. jacksmith Says:

    NO CO-OP’S! A Little History Lesson

    Young People. America needs your help.

    More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 77% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (86% of democrats, 75% of independents, and 72% of republicans). Basically everyone.

    According to a new AARP POLL: 86 percent of seniors want universal healthcare security for All, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans. And 79% of seniors support creating a new strong Government-run public option plan, available immediately. Including 89% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans, STUNNING!! Senator Max Baucus, You better come out of committee with a strong government-run public option available on day one.

    The History:

    Our last great economic catastrophe was called the Great Depression. Then as now it was caused by a reckless, and corrupt Republican administration and republican congress. FDR a Democrat, was then elected to save the nation and the American people from the unbridled GREED and profiteering, of the unregulated predatory self-interest of the banking industry and Wallstreet. Just like now.

    FDR proposed a Government-run health insurance plan to go with Social Security. To assure all Americans high quality, easily accessible, affordable, National Healthcare security. Regardless of where you lived, worked, or your ability to pay. But the AMA riled against it. Using all manor of scare tactics, like Calling it SOCIALIZED MEDICINE!! :-0

    So FDR established thousands of co-op’s around the country in rural America. And all of them failed. The biggest of these co-op organizations would become the grandfather of the predatory monster that all of you know today as the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry. And the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry.

    This former co-op would grow so powerful that it would corrupt every aspect of healthcare delivery in America. Even corrupting the Government of the United States.

    This former co-op’s name is BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD.

    Do you see now why even the suggestion of co-op’s is ridiculous. It makes me so ANGRY! Co-op’s are not a substitute for a government-run public option.

    They are trying to pull the wool over our eye’s again. Senators, if you don’t have the votes now, GET THEM! Or turn them over to us. WE WILL! DEAL WITH THEM. Why do you think we gave your party Control of the House, Control of the Senate, Control of the Whitehouse. The only option on the table that has any chance of fixing our healthcare crisis is a STRONG GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION.

    An insurance mandate and subsidies without a strong government-run public option choice available on day one, would be worse than the healthcare catastrophe we have now. The insurance, and healthcare industry have been very successful at exploiting the good hearts of the American people. But Congress and the president must not let that happen this time. House Progressives and members of the Tri-caucus must continue to hold firm on their demand for a strong Government-run public option.

    A healthcare reform bill with mandates and subsidies but without a STRONG government-run public option choice on day one, would be much worse than NO healthcare reform at all. So you must be strong and KILL IT! if you have too. And let the chips fall where they may. You can do insurance reform without mandates, subsidies, or taxpayer expense.

    Actually, no tax payer funds should be use to subsidize any private for profit insurance plans. So, NO TAX PAYER SUBSIDIES TO PRIVATE FOR PROFIT PLANS. Tax payer funds should only be used to subsidize the public plans. Healthcare reform should be 100% for the American people. Not another taxpayer bailout of the private for profit insurance industry, disguised as healthcare reform for the people.

    God Bless You

    Jacksmith — Working Class

    Twitter search #welovetheNHS #NHS Check it out

    (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/)

    Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSM8t_cLZgk&feature=player_embedded)

    American HEROES!! 🙂 Click replay to play http://bit.ly/j31oU

    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbWw23XwO5o) CYBER WARRIORS!! – TAKE THIS VIRAL

    • buckeyerino Says:

      Okay, the polling stats in your post are so over-the-top that there is no way a sensible person could lend any credibility to it.

      I see that Betty Sutton’s myth propagation is just the tip of the iceberg. It is quickly becoming apparent to me that conjuring grander and more elaborate myths is a competitive sport among Sutton’s supporters.

  4. In DC on 9/14/09: The Beltway Cocoon « Buckeye RINO Says:

    […] In August, I attended a town hall hosted by Rep. Adam Smith and his staff.  On that occasion, I filled out a form listing my concerns about the legislation before Congress, especially the process of legislating that we’ve all come to distrust.  There were certain pledges Rep. Smith made at that town hall regarding what kind of a health care bill he would support.  I hadn’t heard a reply to the form I filled out at the town hall, so I sent an email in advance of my departure for DC that fleshed out more of my concerns about pending legislation. […]

  5. It’s about the jobs, Mr. President « Buckeye RINO Says:

    […] and Betty Sutton would be a good thing for voters to do . . . this year, in the case of Kaptur and Sutton.  We’ll deal with Sherrod in 2012.  And if you really want to burst out of your bubble, Mr. […]

  6. Ohio’s most liberal Representative to Congress is Betty Sutton « Buckeye RINO Says:

    […] true in the case of Obamacare.  But I’m here to tell you that it’s all a myth.  Sutton has worked to propagate just such a myth. Obamacare will have REAL costs, and you’ll feel them acutely when you file your taxes next […]


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