Earlier this afternoon, Fox News's Shepard Smith demonstrated some of that trademarked independent thinking that so often gets him in dutch with the cable network's most dedicated viewers, when he took on Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and offered up some serious-minded and well-informed pushback on the public option. His initial response, for my money, is rich with substance and exceedingly well-expressed:
SMITH: Over the last ten years health care costs in America have skyrocketed. Regular folks cannot afford it. So, they tax the system by not getting preventative medicine. They go to the emergency room in the last case and we all wind up paying for it. As the costs have gone up, the insurance industry's profits, on average, have gone up more than 350%. And it is the insurance companies which have paid, and who have contributed to Senators and Congressmen on both sides of the aisle to the point where now we cannot get what all concerned on Capitol Hill seem to believe and more 60% of Americans say they would support, which is a public option. This has been an enormous win for the health-care industry, that is an unquestioned fact. But I wonder, what happens to the American people when we come out with legislation now which requires everyone to have health care insurance -- or many more people -- but does not give a public option? Therefore millions more people will have to buy insurance from the very corporations that are overcharging us, and whose profits have gone up 350 percent in the last ten years. It seems like we the people are the ones getting the shaft here.
Barrasso's response to this is to limply offer up the criticism that "we have not allowed the American people to read the bill," which to my knowledge, does not contain a section entitled, "Oh By The Way, We Are All In Bed With Lobbyists, Like Whores." Smith continues to press the point: "But with every vote against the public option is a vote for the insurance companies, sir, it is."
As much as I appreciate Smith for some informed support of the public option, it's a far rarer thing to see someone in the media, anywhere, who's willing to pin the blame for the degradation of the health care reform package on the toxic relationship between legislators and lobbyists. The only thing that would improve on this exchange would be for Shepard Smith to levy the same charges at Max Baucus or Kent Conrad, who, unlike John Barrasso, are actually relevant to the debate. But, hey, you go to war against the idiots that show up, I guess!
Immediately following the Barrasso segment, it should be noted, Smith interviewed Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh and challenged her on the same health care issue: