After orchestrating and funding the so-called Tea Parties movement, Americans for Prosperity — a nationwide front group founded and funded by the right-wing polluter Koch Industries — is launching an ad campaign characterizing President Obama’s effort to reform the health care system as a government take-over that will ration care and care and deny treatments.
Americans for Prosperity is notorious for its fake grassroots efforts, funneling millions of dollars into conservative campaigns designed to undermine Democratic initiatives. As Lee Fang put it, “AFP is a professional AstroTurf machine”:
- Hosted ‘Drill Baby, Drill’ rallies around the country.
- Started NoStimulus.com, “a grassroots website that we hope will be a focal point for the widespread frustration ordinary Americans feel at the runaway government growth that we see during good economic times and bad.”
Now, operating under the name Patients United Now, Americans for Prosperity — which is mostly funded by large multinational corporations — is masquerading as an organic grassroots movement outraged over the Presidents health care proposals:
We are people just like you. We went to D.C. with questions about “reform”— because we all favor policies which keep insurance costs down and help those patients with pre-existing conditions get coverage. Buying “care insurance” should be like buying car insurance: flexible, transparent and simple. We support health care for the poor through Medicaid.
But what we found SHOCKED US: Radical solutions. Discussions behind closed doors. Patients like us NOT included, just big companies, lobbyists, unions and politicians.
For many in D.C. cutting costs means CUTTING CARE—-your care.
The effort provides cover or ‘grassroots clout’ for conservative politicians and activists to oppose the President’s health care initiative. But this collection of trumped-up charges, outright lies and complete fabrications makes little headway in critiquing the President’s actual proposal. Because just like all other peddlers of the “government take-over” critique — Frank Luntz, Conservatives for Patients Rights, Betsy McCaughey, and Sally Pipes — the goal is to define Obama’s proposal in their terms rather than to engage in a debate about health care or offer real solutions to the crisis. As Frank Luntz admitted to the New York Times, “we don’t know what he is proposing. We want to avoid ‘a Washington takeover.’”
A so-called “government-takeover” may be a personal ideological crusade for AFP — whose founders also established the conservative CATO organization — and its AstroTurf movement of corporate clients, but most Americans support greater government involvement in the health care system. A recent poll by Lake Research for Health Care For America Now shows that there is “intense and widespread support” for the choice of a public health insurance plan, with 73% of voters favoring a choice of a public or private plan, including large majorities of Democrats and independents (77% and 79%) but surprisingly, even a high plurality of Republicans (63%).
The cast of health care crisis deniers and stone throwers, whose constituency are only as large as their fund raising outreach efforts, are prominent not for their message, but for their coffers. Frank Luntz represents Blue Cross Blue Shield, CIGNA Dental Health and Pfizer. Conservatives for Patients Rights are funded by ‘undisclosed’ special interests and a $20 million personal investment from CEO Rick Scott, Betsy McCaughey sits on the board of a medical device company and Sally Pipes’ Pacific Research Institute receives money from Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris), Microsoft, Pfizer and ExxonMobil.
So if the question is, why do it? Why lie about the President’s efforts? Then the answer is a mix of ideological conservative zeal, political calculation — denying Democrats a victory on the issue — and businesses interest. Ultimately, these groups are expressing the voices and opinions of their particular backers — large corporations — not the American public.
Other reactions from the blogosphere:
- Jason Rosenbaum: “The group is right out of Frank Luntz’s playbook…So, let’s say it once again: The health care reform proposal from President Obama is not a copy of any other system in the world. We’re not going to become Britain or Canada.”
- SEIU: “Seems you can’t have too many groups crying “CANADA!” in a crowded cable market.”
- Jonathan Cohn: “Reformed health care in the U.S. would, in all likelihood, look more like what you find in France, the Netherlands, or Switzlerand. These countries don’t have problems with chronic waiting times.”
- Tim Foley: “But if you’re thinking this new group might actually be vocal about how we only receive the recommended preventative care 50% of the time in the U.S. (according to a RAND study), you’re mistaken. Instead, it’s more smack talk about Canada and the U.K., and a complete media blackout on the dozens of other countries with high performing national health care systems.”
- Media Matters Action Network: point by point debunk of PUN’s ad.