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The Politics of Fabrication and Fear

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The politics of fabrication and fear is back. In the tradition of Karl Rove, the architects of our recession are at it again, pushing a fear-stoking message based on falsehoods. They are delighting as the fear turns into public anger, and the cable news networks can't get enough.

Some have marveled at how the special interests and the right wing leadership have influenced the health insurance reform debate by fostering town hall tempers. I suppose they would call a political strategy based on misinformation smart. I prefer to call it tremendously cynical. It is the same sort of politics that took our country to war in Iraq.

President Obama has worked incredibly hard to communicate what health insurance reform would mean to every American, using his figurative megaphone more assertively and repeatedly than on any other issue. Many of us in Congress have worked to back him up.

We strive to communicate the facts -- facts about the reform we are actually pursuing, facts about what more of the same could cost our families. Unfortunately, facts and legislation don't often make for good television.

The projection that one out of every three dollars the average American earns could soon be consumed by health insurance costs doesn't make for good television. The legislative effort to stop insurance companies from denying valid claims or refusing to cover pre-existing conditions doesn't make for good television. The fact that we want Americans to have a real choice of health insurance doesn't make for good television.

What does make for good television is people, driven out of fear by a threat that doesn't exist, showing their anger and frustration at public meetings. They do this because they are told that health insurance reform will amount to a "government takeover" of health care, "socialized medicine" and the implementation of so-called "death panels." And the images of people angrily repeating this bill of goods they have been sold look better on TV than the response explaining what reform would really mean.

Let's get this straight, there is no truth to a government takeover, socialism or so-called death panels.

Instead, here are some actual facts that are truly frightening: until recently, our nation was on the brink of another Great Depression. Americans lost trillions of dollars -- that's trillions, with a "T" -- worth of investments and retirement savings with the collapse of the financial markets. Millions of American families have lost their homes to foreclosure over the past couple of years.

And the same people who steered our families into this economic ditch want to protect the status quo when it comes to health insurance. They want to "break" the president who is working to bring our nation to a place of economic security.

Let's not have short memories about what brought us into this recession and what it will take to create long term economic security for our families.

In this struggle of fabrication versus facts, those of us who think health insurance needs to be reformed should keep emphasizing what we hope to do and what would happen if nothing is done. But there's another set of facts we have to highlight.

We have to talk about and stand with our constituents who have approached us year after year, some in tears, to tell us how their health insurance simply wasn't there when they needed it the most. How their small business is drowning under the costs of providing their employees with insurance. How they are in a health care abyss between Medicaid and costly insurance.

How in New Jersey, an expectant mother was denied coverage for all of her pregnancy-related costs when her insurance company claimed she couldn't prove that her pregnancy started while enrolled in their plan.

These stories -- and there are millions upon millions of them across this land -- are the reason that health insurance reform is so crucial. These stories help illustrate why focusing on fabrications is so detrimental to our nation. These stories are why we can't let the people who created this recession force us to accept more of the same.