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Pulling The (Financial) Plug

I got a chance to talk about the Schiavo case the other night with various liberal types who were more important than me. People wondered how liberals could effectively use the right's apparent overreach on the Schiavo question to make some larger points about the gang running the show right now, without simply ourselves sinking to their level of crassness and provoking an equal and opposite backlash. My suggestion was that the public's awareness of this case, and the multiple levels of tragedy taking place here, might be a good opportunity to bring home to people the human dimension of some Republican budgetary decisions. The fact that right before this congress decided to step in and "save" Terri it was busy cutting funding for the state Medicaid programs that provide hospice and nursing hoe care for the elderly and disabled around the country is surely something the American people ought to hear about -- especially when the budget returns from conference committee. Along the same lines, Shakespear's Sister notes cuts for treating people with traumatic brain injury and the elimination of the Federal Traumatic Brain Injury Program. This isn't directly relevant to the Schiavo case (it's probably more relevant to our troops) but the moment of enhanced interest in brain injury issues is unmistakeable.

March 26, 2005 | Permalink


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I don't know that the Democrats should do anything to try to capitalize on this. The Republicans are doing something truly stupid and I don't think that the Democrats have demonstrated that they can be trusted to not out-stupid them.

If your opponent is making a mistake, don't interrupt him.

Posted by: Jaybird | Mar 26, 2005 10:19:00 AM

A "nursing hoe"? Is that like, from one of those "Candy Striper" or "Night Shift Nurses" classic porn tapes?

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Mar 26, 2005 10:19:55 AM

I should say that any government program that provides a "nursing hoe" service gratis would have er, rigid, support across party lines. At least, among guys.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Mar 26, 2005 10:21:38 AM

... with various liberal types who were more important than me.

And now you are more important than them? What did you do to them? Fess up now. And are you saying you are more importan than me? Or than of my kids? Jebus, your havaad education has swollen that head of yours.

Posted by: foo | Mar 26, 2005 10:44:33 AM

Don't the Medicade cuts indereclt force more burden on state governments? I am a little rusty in my Medicade funding analysis, so correct me if I'm wrong, but unless states drop some people from the Medicade rolls, states will have to pick up the difference, right? I think that this was attempted by Governor Barbour in Mississippi, and even he didn't have the political power to push through Medicade eligability cuts. This seems like another issue that could be used to drive a wedge between the "federalist Republicans" and the social conservatives.

Posted by: blogsy mcblog | Mar 26, 2005 10:54:09 AM

I think that trying to convert a media circus like this into a message about real world issues is impossible. And if I may say so, that's typical Dem wonk loser rationality. The Sciavo case is processed in the reptile brain, the issue stuff is processed in the cortex.

I think that it should be possible to tar Bush, DeLay, et al with their more vicious partners in this case, and also to tar the supposdely pious "pro-life" operatives with the incredibly cynical Jeb, Dubya, and DeLay. There could be a teaching moment there for pro-life voters who are not financially or institutionally the property of the Republican Party.

So we should descend to a much subtler, more sophisticated level of completely tasteful crassness by pointing out that there are a lot of very bad apples in that perticular barrel, and that it would be best for the good apples if the bad apples were removed.

Posted by: John Emerson | Mar 26, 2005 10:55:06 AM

liberal types who were more important than me

More important than you! You are a journalist, man. Hold your head up! The most important profession in the world.

Posted by: epistemology | Mar 26, 2005 10:57:07 AM

People who argue for universal value of life and for erring always on the side of life should be willing to support, just as actively, other life-death cases:

- Medicaid/Medicare and universal minimum health insurance
- Abolition of death penalty
- Abolition of torture
- Gun control

- Aid to the poorest countries to fight hunger, malnutrition, malaria, HIV, pneumonia, diarrhea etc
- Prevention of genocide (e.g., Rwanda, Darfur)

I would take the most passionate arguments put forward in the Terri Schiavo case, applied them to cases above and asked the authors of these arguments (Delay et al) if they still stand behind them.

Or human lives do differ in value, depending on the race, social status, eligibility to vote?

Posted by: MrM | Mar 26, 2005 10:59:49 AM

I think it is important to point out the contradiction of cutting medicaid and interfering in the Schiavo case.

I also think that Democratic precinct captains can use this case-

Posted by: Alice Marshall | Mar 26, 2005 12:03:23 PM

My hope is that result of this episode will be a reawakened understanding and enduring waryness about much of the right-to-life component of the religious right crowd. People know dangerous fanaticism when they see it. They recognize its tendency to produce hysteria and even violence, and understand how its irrational power can spill over to threaten other aspects of civil society and democratic self-government.

In recent days there has been a stepping away by non-fanatical Republicans from Congress's impetuous initial support of the pro-reinsertion camp. We can let them separate themselves gracefully without turning this into a bitter partisan fight, where party loyalty will be aroused and force people into camps they would not otherwise occupy. It strikes me that many of them have a new appreciation of what a dangerous political game they have been playing in granting so much power to this part of their coalition. I am disappointed that many Democrats responded initially with timidity and acquiescence, but they have found their confidence and footing in the past couple of days, and are now making their case in a forthright and reasonable way.

My expectation is that this case will restore a national sense that it is the more liberal camp that has always had the more balanced and responsible views about issues of life and death, and biomedical ethics, and the pendulum will begin to swing back to their side after two decades of erosion and intimidation by religious extremists. For one thing, I expect a boost to the pro-choice side in the abortion debate. The pro-lifers have really stigmatized and isolated themselves with this one.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Mar 26, 2005 1:44:55 PM

I tend to agree with you, but I share the concern expressed above that this is a "reptile brain" issue, and thus not very accessible to rational arguments about funding. Because of this, I think the Dems should demagogue back about interference with private decisions. Practically every adult these days has had to deal with end-of-life issues or knows someone who has, so this is a hot-button topic for most of the country. I think that might be a more successful approach, though the funding issues should be brought up as well.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD | Mar 26, 2005 4:34:27 PM

Well, there is no doubt that our Democratic legislators need troops on the ground on these issues. Every year the Dems in the statehouse have to somehow make the Medicaid and state programs work. When I read a good news story about long-term care issues I drop the journalist an e-mail thanking them. I also thank the legislators. The battle to fund these programs is fought every year in every statehouse, so you can definitely voice an opinion.

Posted by: serial catowner | Mar 26, 2005 7:30:19 PM

Re: My hope is that result of this episode will be a reawakened understanding and enduring waryness about much of the right-to-life component of the religious right crowd.

I have to wonder how long until the logic of their position compels the Right to Life folks, if not the Religious Right in general, to demand universal health care. The Roman Catholic church also does include that on its political wish list as part of its life-agenda. If only the Protestant Right would get with the program, then the GOP would suddenly discover the wisdom of the separation of Church and State, while the universal healthcare movement could benefit handily from some of the fanaticism and energy this crowd can muster.

Posted by: JonF | Mar 26, 2005 9:14:31 PM

People wondered how liberals could effectively use the right's apparent overreach on the Schiavo question to make some larger points about the gang running the show right now
There are 2 major exploitable fault lines I see here:

- Use Schiavo to enhance support for Medicare/Medicaid, with an eye toward future universal healthcare.

- Use Schiavo to reinforce that Republicans are in the grip of Christian Conservative zealots. On a wide variety of issues, the Republicans represent a loud minority, while the Democrats represent a silent majority.

The two fault lines are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 27, 2005 12:14:46 AM

The two issues that must be hammered again and again and again are "separation of church and state" and that the US Government is a "government of law not men." These are fundamental constitutional principles, and the principles that above all distinguish our form of government from that of the Mullahs. We cannot be afraid to express these ideas and to do so on every possible occasion. There are no exceptions.

Posted by: Hank Stone | Mar 27, 2005 5:44:04 PM

Gary North has the best round-up of the Schiavo situation vis-a-vis Medicare.

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