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Oliver Twisted: Meltdown with Keith Olbermann Part 10

Posted on October 13 2009 9:45 pm
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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This will be the last report on this particular tree falling in the forest—not that we are going to end this series on Keith Olbermann, or MSNBC in general– but on Keith Olbermann’s not-so- Special Comment on Health Care grandiosely entitled, The Fight Against Death.

Tonight, Keith reported proudly just how short a reach he has, when he got all excited that his audience had contributed just under 50 cents per viewer to provide free health care to the needy. Mocking the fact that Keith has raised a half million bucks for charity might seem, well, uncharitable, but Keith’s motives are a bit unique.

He ended his health care rant last week with the challenge to his audience to provide key health care clinics in 6 states where Democrat senators are unlikely to vote for a government takeover of health care. This was somehow going to shame them into voting for the “public option.” Sounds like an incentive for a senator to join the undecided ranks and get some free health care for his people to me.

Gee, Keith, even Scrooge gave to the poor houses to uh, help the poor….

Rush Limbaugh, for instance, raises around $3 MILLION when he has his annual radio-thon for leukemia without a political motive.

And while you might will put some of the blame on Keith’s less than heart-tugging appeal to use charity as a weapon, as Peter Schweizer has pointed out, liberals generally give less than conservatives—a lot less—and are much better at demanding the rest of us pay for their charitable interests and live by their code of “ethics.”

What’s next Sally Struthers crying for us to help the starving children of Zimbabwe “So we can show that thug Mugube a thing or two!” ? South Park take note.

Also Tuesday, Keith blasted a study paid for by an insurance industry group that premiums were going to rise more under the Baucus health plan—because it was “paid for by the insurance cartel!”

Keith hit on other media outlets who didn’t label like he did, saying, “It doesn’t seem such a giant leap to me to say who supported this study…” That was a case of pots and kettles.

OLBERMAN: “…my dad … luckier than at least 45,000 Americans, because as discovered in a new study conducted by Harvard University and the Cambridge Health Alliance, that’s how many of us are dying each year because we don’t have insurance.

The number is horrible. But when it’s contrasted to what faced my father that night, it is unforgivable, because as Cambridge’s summary of the findings put it: deaths associated with lack of health insurance now exceed those caused by many common killers such as kidney disease.”

Hmmm. “Harvard study,” and “Cambridge says,” but where is the mention that the study he was basing his whole “death” claim on—along with his new competitor in the demagoguery sweepstakes Florida Rep. Alan Grayson—was commissioned by Physicians for a National Health Program. PNHP is an association of doctors committed to single payer socialized medicine. Was that a “giant leap?”

But who cares who commissions a study? What about the data?

What Olbermann, Grayson, Schultz, Maddow and company are not mentioning is this was not a study of national mortality data. (which would be available) but a statistical sample of 9,000 people, (like a poll) and an awful lot of self-reporting was used to make its conclusions.

But as much of a stretch as PNHP’s projection that 45,000 Americans will die this year because of a lack of health insurance is—and we’ll talk about why, in a minute—Keith made an even bigger stretch.

He found, as the numbskull editor hilariously demanded in The Wire, “the Dickensian aspect” of the health care debate.

Mark Twain once attributed to Benjamin Disraeli the remark “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Here are some of each:

OLBERMANN: My father had less to fear that night from bad kidneys than he would have if he hadn’t had insurance. And yet we let this continue. You and I, this society, our country, Democrats and Republicans, this is the study that congressman from Florida quoted, about which the Republicans demanded an apology when they should have been standing there shrieking, demanding that we fix this.

No one demanded an apology because someone quoted a study. That’s just idiocy. They wouldn’t even let that straw man walk on the Yellow Brick Road.

But as much of a stretch as PNHP’s projection that 45,000 Americans will die this year because of a lack of health insurance is—and we’ll talk about why, in a minute—Keith made an even bigger stretch.

He found, as the numbskull editor hilariously demanded in The Wire, “the Dickensian aspect” of the health care debate.

OLBERMANN: Uninsured working age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts. People, in short, are dying for lack of money.

Dying as surely as they did when Charles Dickens wrote about the exact same problem, a boy who couldn’t get sufficient medical care for his affliction, of the underprivileged suffering not just privation but death as an uncomfortable mode silently and unseeingly through the streets of London. The book was called “A Christmas Carol” and the boy Dickens imagined was called “Tiny Tim.” And it was published on the 19th of December, 1843.

It is 166 years later and the problem is not only still with us, it is getting worse. The mortality rate among Americans under the age of 65 who are uninsured is 40 percent higher than those with insurance. In 1993, a similar study found the difference was only 20 percent. We are moving backwards.

We are letting people die because they do not have insurance? What’s worst is that barring meaningful health care reform now, this will only grow. The difference between the surveys from 1993 and now suggest: this fatal insurance gap is growing by about 1 percent per year. Your chances of dying because you don’t have insurance are now 40 percent higher than those who have it. By extrapolation, three years from now, your chances will be 43 percent higher.

And by extrapolation, looking at last year, gasoline would be $7 a gallon by now. By extrapolation, next year, farmers will be paying US a buck fifty a gallon to take their milk.

OLBERMANN: Your chances of dying because you used to smoke compared to those who never smoked, are only 42 percent higher. You heard that right! At the current rate in 2012, you will be more fortunate, more secure, more long-lived if you used to SMOKE than if you don’t have insurance!!

Really, going without insurance is only as dangerous as smoking? Gee, instead of outlawing private insurance, why not start with outlawing smoking?

OLBERMANN: It is mind-boggling and mindless.

At last, a completely true statement.

OLBERMANN: This is the country you want? This is the country you will accept? Do those other people in this country have meaning to you? Or are they just extras in your movies? Backgrounds in your painting? Choruses in your solo?

Without access to insurance for all of us, and the only way we get it is with the government supplying the gaps-just like it does in flood insurance for God’s sake-that fatal gap will just keep growing. The 45 percent higher likelihood of death for the uninsured compared to the insured by 2014. By 2022, the figure will be 53 percent higher — 53 percent.

And if the trend continues, the Detroit Lions will have lost 155 more football games. And farmers will be paying us $18.00 for every gallon of milk we will take with us…!

Calm down. If you have a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of dying this year, your chances fall to 1 in less than 600,000. That’s not the same as saying your life expectancy is 42% lower. Also, the “study” was based on a statistical sampling, like polling. It is NOT measuring the mortality rates among the whole population. Why? These figures are availaibe.

OLBERMANN: In the 1840s, as Dickens wrote “Christmas Carol,” in a time at which we now look back with horror, the city of Manchester in England commissioned a crude study of mortality among its residents, a doctor, P.N. Haland, categorized the sanitary conditions of the houses in the streets of Manchester into three classes. And when he compared the death rate in the first class houses in the first class streets to the death rate in the second class houses in the third class streets, he found mortality in those worst locations was 53 percent higher!

If we do not reverse this trend in 14 years time, we will not be living in the America of 2022. The shadows of the things that may be tell us that we will instead be living in an insurance-driven version of the Dickensian England of 1843 — again. God bless us, everyone.

The PNHP studied 9000 people and determined by extrapolation that 45,000 people will die this year because of a lack of health insurance. This was not a scientific examination of nationwide mortality rates.

This was not even a study of why and how people died. In fact, much of the case was based on the premise that people who had health insurance were more likely to take advantage of PREVENTIVE CARE. That’s right, this number was not about people who died because they did not receive treatment while they were sick!

This is Alan Grayson’s “holocaust.”

But aren’t people who buy health insurance, for instance, also more likely to be the type of person who seeks out preventive care—the kind of person who is not going to take the risk of skipping physicals, screenings and tests?

Remember the breast implant scare? “Scientific studies” put Dow Corning into bankruptcy because supposedly the devices were harmful to women’s immune systems. But no study took into account whether a significant number of breast implants were going to women who might have a lifestyle that would put their immune system more at risk than your average working mom. That would be too puritanical. Thousands of lost jobs later someone finally asked: Gee, do you think that strippers, call girls and porn stars might have a less than healthy lifestyle?

Those are also people who might not be likely to buy health insurance… not to mention gangbangers, motorcycle gangs, drug dealers, and anyone who makes their living illegally, all who tend to bring down mortality rates.

Mortality rates are brought up far more often in this argument than the dubious PNHP study. The United States is a couple of years lower than some Western nations with socialized medicine. However, if you live to be 60 in the United States, your life expectancy is a few years higher than in those countries. And if you have cancer, your survival rate is much higher.

In other words, in the United States, in our semi-free market of health care, we fight against death and take care of our old people much better than in Britain or France.

However, a population in which the highest cause of death among the young is a gunshot wound, for instance, does not do great things for national average life expectancy. And in those places, publicly funded health insurance would not cure that problem.

As the hillbilly said, “Figgers lie and liars figger.” Keith Olbermann’s fundraising figures show that he’s unlikely to be an influential figure in the health insurance debate.

Thank God.

Part 11: Healthcare Reform, the Fight for the American Dream

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