Ron Paul does a great job in these debates painting himself as the kindly old country doctor who remembers better times, when health care was available to all and didn't cost very much. Maybe costs were less because leeches were cheaper back then.
This particular spin suggests that Medicare and Medicaid were somehow birthed out of an idea and nothing more, that there was no reality at the time where people died, or couldn't get treated, where the elderly were always cared for in their old age and never had to rely on their family, or even bankrupt them, or where people simply died because there was no doctor to care for them or treat them.
It's an image that might be painted through the artists' eye, but it isn't realistic or reflective of what people endured. Neither is his answer to this woman's question, which is simple enough:
QUESTION: My name is Lynn Frazier and I live here in Jacksonville. And for the Republican presidential candidates, my question is, I'm currently unemployed and I found myself unemployed for the first time in 10 years and unable to afford health care benefits.
What type of hope can you promise me and others in my position?
BLITZER: Let's ask Congressman Paul.
Yes, let's ask Congressman Paul to give this woman a very real answer to a very real problem happening today, in this time, in this place. Look at what he says:
PAUL: Well, it's a tragedy because this is a consequence of the government being involved in medicine since 1965.
When I was growing up, we didn't have a whole lot, but my dad had a small insurance, but medical care costs weren't that much. And you should have an opportunity -- medical care insurance should be given to you as an individual, so if you're employed or not employed, you have -- you just take care of that and you keep it up. When you lose a job, sometimes you lose your insurance.
But the cost is so high. When you pump money into something, like housing, cost -- prices go up. If you pump money into education, the cost of education goes up. When the government gets involved in medicine, you don't get better care; you get -- cost goes up and it distorts the economy and leads to a crisis.
But your medical care should go with you. You should get total deduction on it. It would be so much less expensive. It doesn't solve every single problem, but you're -- you're suffering from the consequence of way too much government and the cost going up because government has inflated the cost and we have a government-created recession, and that is a consequence of the business cycle.
Basically he just shrugged. Just shrugged and patted her rhetorically on the head and said, "Gosh, isn't it a shame?"
This is what Republicans offer as solutions? Gee, isn't it a shame? This is supposed to somehow be comforting? And by the way, he's wrong about government involvement driving up costs. It's not government driving up costs, it's private insurers driving up costs and expectations by covering outrageously priced drugs and equipment and yes, provider fees. But hey, gee, isn't it a shame?
And how is it that having individual insurance untied to employment (an idea I support, by the way, but only in the context of a plan that's got a national risk pool and is non-profit) would possibly bring down the costs? Answer? It wouldn't.
But you know, Ron Paul delivers his middle-finger answer with that kindly, concerned look as if to say, I really care about you. Except I don't. Nor should you look to anything I might do as an answer.
This particular section of the debate took a natural turn toward Romney's Massachusetts plan, and the subsequent exchange between Santorum and Romney is worthy of a separate post. But Paul jumped back into the fray at Wolf Blitzer's invitation, where he once again rewrote history just like he did in the last debate.
BLITZER: Congressman Paul, who is right?
PAUL: I think they're all wrong.
PAUL: I think this -- this is a typical result of when you get government involved, because all you are arguing about is which form of government you want. They have way too much confidence in government sorting this out.
So, I would say there's a much better way. And that is allow the people to make their decisions and not get the government involved. You know, it has only been...
PAUL: When I started medicine, there was no Medicare or Medicaid. And nobody was out in the streets without it. Now, now people are suffering, all the complaints going on. So the government isn't our solution.
Bull. Pure, straight bull. Any student of health policy history knows costs were rising steadily and out of reach for much of the middle class and if you were poor, forget it. People were sick. People were dying. And some people couldn't get treatment and couldn't afford treatment even if it was available.
Here's an excerpt from a speech by Morris Fishbein arguing for socialized medicine in 1928 before the American Medical Association:
For some time the statement has been made that only two groups of persons can afford to be ill, the wealthy and the very poor. The former are able to pay for what they get and the latter get a rather good type of service without charge.
The group that gives the greatest concern to students of the situation is the middle class. This group has been the victim of exploitation since the earliest times. It exists in one-room kitchenettes in the cities and must perforce go to the hospital in times of sickness. In the country and in the villages it is far removed from the available hospitals and pays mileage charges in addition to medical fees for medical attention. Because of its transient character it has fallen out of touch with the old-time family physician.
1928 is a little bit before Ron Paul's time practicing medicine, but it's not too far removed from when he was growing up. Whatever his specific experience might have been, it's not representative of the people's situation as a whole.
It would be very nice if a debate moderator or a talking head would actually stop for a minute and push him on this point. He gets away with it because no one takes him seriously, but it's a dangerous and untrue thing to be saying on the national stage.