Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, Law Professor at the Washington and Lee University:
What we are learning from the Health Care Town Halls is just how weird and downright toxic the radical right has become in the United States. Their strategy seems to be simply to spread misinformation and to shout down rational debate. These are the birthers and tea-baggers and they have little interest in the real problems facing our health care system--50 million uninsured, uncontrolled costs, and inadequate quality. The faux issues they are raising--a government takeover of our health care system, denial of health care to the sick by the government, the end of private health insurance--demonstrate that they have simply not read the proposed legislation.
Indeed, the basics of the legislation--managed competition, expansion of Medicaid, and public subisidies for the purchase of private insurance--are precisely the solutions that free market advocacy groups have been pushing for years.The Town Hall intimidation campaign seems to be led by a group called Patients First, which in turn is a front for a group called Americans for Prosperity.
Americans for Prosperity, according to Sourcewatch, has in the past opposed tobacco control legislation on behalf of the tobacco industry (making their involvement in health care somewhat ironic). AFPs largest funder has been the Claude Lambe Foundation, which in turn is funded by Koch Industries, the "nations largest privately held energy company," and which has longsupported right wing causes together with other Koch foundations right wing causes.Much of the opposition to the health reform legislation moving through Congress is based on real concerns about how much it will cost the government and whether it will be effective.
One would hope that town halls could provide a forum for rationally expressing concerns and also for responding to them. It is telling that, although some recent polls show that opposition to "President Obama's health care plan" slightly outweighs support, once the elements of that plan are described, support for the plan rises dramatically.
The public clearly needs more information. But this exchange of information cannot take place if the meetings are mobbed by goons trying to shout down rational dialogue. Fortunately, there is every indication that this strategy is backfiring as ordinary Americans see just how ugly right wing extremism has become.