Responding to Alternate Realities
Ben Sargent is a political cartoonist who used to be with the Austin American Statesman and still publishes on the web. A few days ago, he published the image seen in the top right dealing with Obamacare. The cartoon has been passed around the web quite a bit in the last few days and a larger version of it can be seen on GoComics.
The cartoon mimics a common argument used by supporters of the Obamacare legislation. The basis of the argument is that the problem with health care is that there are large numbers of people in the country that are financially capable of paying for health insurance, but choose not to purchase it. When these people become ill or are involved in an accident, they use the emergency room services of a hostpital and the taxpayer is left to foot the bill for their poor choices.
The cartoon sets up a false reality in which it claims that all Republicans reside. In this alternate reality, up is really down and black is really white. Allowing people to continue to use the ER without paying for it is also falsely defined by conservatives as the "free market" while actually forcing these people to be responsible is "socialism."
While these arguments are enticing to those seeking to justify the mandate within Obamacare, the argument creates a logical fallacy known as a scarecrow. This technique involves ignoring the true argument at hand and creating a false arguement which is easier to address. In this case, the "scarecrow" is the myth that there are large or even small numbers of people who are capable of purchasing insurance but chose not to do so. The myth further states that these people are somehow able to forgoe the costs of their health care and pass it off to taxpayers. In fact, one of the chief arguments in favor of reforming health care was the large number of people declaring bankruptcy did so because of health care charges and the need to escape the pursuit of hospitals. In fact, the only group of people capable of escaping identification and the subsequent legal battle regarding payment of health care services are illegal aliens. This is the very same subset of people who are not required to purchase insurance under the mandate, yet will still be cared for in hospital ERs.
The cartoon further exasperates the myth of personal responsibility by declaring that the law requires people to be responsible for themselves by mandating that the purchase insurance. In reality, the law will indeed require that all Americans purchase health care, but it will now simply provides those who cannot pay for it with the funds to do so. Therefore, the cartoon defines personal responsibility as taking money from the government and using that money to purchase health insurance.
And Mr Sargent believes that Republicans live in an alternate reality....