Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck stir the pot over Medicare cuts.

How to fix health policy.
Aug. 12 2009 5:26 PM

The Medicare-Isn't-Government Meme, Part 2

Why Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are complaining about possible spending cuts.

Click here for a guide to following the health care reform story online.

(Continued from Page 1)

More likely, Campbell is a devotee of Rush Limbaugh, self-proclaimed "intellectual engine of the conservative movement" (a status that Republican politicians have learned the hard way not to challenge). Conservatism's philosopher-king observed on Aug. 6:

[I]f you go and take a look at this, you will find that the Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo. I'm going to show you people watching on the Dittocam this, and there you are. The middle frame is the Obama health care logo. At the bottom is an official Nazi logo, eagle and everything, spread wings, or bird with spread wings. … Obama's got a health care logo that's right out of Adolf Hitler's playbook.

(Quite apart from this assertion's inanity, Limbaugh's long career in radio appears to have dulled his powers of visual observation. Click here and scroll down to observe the imagined similarity.)

Limbaugh continued:

Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate. …  He was called the Messiah. He said the people spoke through him.  Do you know what the very first law that Hitler ordained was? The very first law was a law declaring how to cook lobsters. They were to be boiled. That was deemed to be the least painful.  The law was sent around to all the restaurants. Now, does this sound like something any conservative president has ever done or does it sound like the things that liberals are doing all over this country?

Advertisement

Limbaugh doesn't advocate expanding Medicare benefits. But he has beefed that Democrats have long made a practice of attacking Republicans for advocating cuts in Medicaid and Medicare and yet aren't taking enough heat for (potentially) doing the same. Quoting a New York Post column by Rich Lowry in which Lowry said that "almost every other day, Obama finds another $100 billion to cut out of Medicare and Medicaid," Limbaugh complained on June 16:

[A]nd nobody is upset about it! Can you remember a time when a government official started talking about cutting Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid and nobody beefed? Never! Obama is getting away with it each and every day.

If Campbell isn't a Limbaugh listener, perhaps she watches Glenn Beck on Fox News. Unlike Limbaugh, Beck doesn't profess to be a great conservative thinker or even a consistent one. Still, it was odd to see him berate David Certner, federal affairs director of the American Association of Retired Persons, for countenancing potential cuts in Medicare spending. Beck's underlying point was that health care reform is noxious and evil, and that Certner is wrong to favor it. Rather than state, however, that all manifestations of government-funded health care, Medicare included, constitute unjustifiable state intervention in the free market, Beck argued that Medicare spending is sacred and must not be diverted to fund health care for the general population. Let's go to the tape:

[S]ir, you at the AARP, who are supposed to be representing people like my parents, and people like me eventually, you should be ashamed of yourself. You really should be ashamed of yourself. … I've gone to your Web site, sir, and I've seen: "We've cancelled our AARP membership after 11 years." "Is it true that health care would keep me from getting stents and bypasses if I'm over 59?"

This is Claude Pepperish demagogy. It wasn't right when Pepper, a liberal Democratic congressman from Florida, indulged in it. But at least it made ideological sense: Pepper supported government social welfare programs like Medicare. Limbaugh and Beck oppose them. Somebody please tell Diane Campbell.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.