How to Argue With a Right Winger

in the interest of the relative sanity of the populous, I should probably start
by advising you to never argue with a right winger in a one-on-one,
face-to-face situation.  It's better to preserve
the brain cells, and just shake your head and walk away muttering.  (But make sure you mutter, because the
muttering drives them batshit.) The only reason to even counter a right winger
on anything would be to influence 
any  reasonable people who might
be lurking nearby, and might possibly be influenced by the  right winger's diatribe in some small way.

me be clear; I'm only talking about right wingers, not conservatives.  If you're wondering what the difference is,
you're drinking the Kool-Aid, friends, and you have to stop.  Conservatives actually use facts to develop
arguments that run counter to ours, and they're our loyal opposition, not the
enemy. It is possible to for two people to see the same set of facts and come
away with different points of view. Right wingers, however, approach every
issue with a preconceived notion, and look for any information possible to
support that notion.  That's why almost
everything you hear coming from right wing media is a lie; they're feeding the
piranhas, as it were. 

key thing to remember about arguing with right wingers is that it's simply not
possible to convince them of anything, because they already think they know it
all. Therefore, if you set as a threshold of "winning" an argument
the admission that you're right, all I can say is, grow up, Peter Pan, because
it's not going to happen.

all know people like this. We run into them at our workplaces, they're in our
families, and they're in line at the grocery store, or in the waiting room at
the local car repair shop, "enlightening" anyone within earshot of
all of the things they "know" about everything, and the solutions to
every problem they see happening with this country.  They're blowhards and they're idiots, and
they’re a fertile market for the right wing media, because they're incredibly

always remember to ignore them, and argue only against their facts, not their
conclusions. In most cases, their conclusions aren't in the least bit
plausible, anyway, and if you listen to reasonable people carefully, when they
repeat right wing talking points, they repeat the false facts, and not
necessarily the conclusions.


you may think right wingers don't believe a lot of the crap they say, but they
really do. While it is unlikely that Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter believes the
garbage spewing from their mouths/keyboards, and I pretty much know for a fact
that Roger Ailes knows that most of the bullshit coming out of Fox News is, in
fact, bullshit, the rank and file are absolutely "true believers."
They buy all of it.


of media such as Fox News as a huge dandelion. When a dandelion seeds, it
creates what is called a "parachute ball," which depends on the wind
to carry the seeds far and wide. Each seed has huge "wings" that
carry it to where it will plant itself and create yet another dandelion.  The gullible minions that make up the Fox
News audience are those wings, and the propaganda they throw out there are the
"parachute balls." Currently, right wing media has a lot of


way you approach an argument with a right winger is counterintuitive, because
it requires you to turn normal rules of debate upside down. IGNORE the
substance of the argument completely, because it will always be absurd.
Instead, go after the facts underlying the argument.  This is necessary for two reasons. First, it
preserves your sanity. But right wingers have a unique knack of using
plausible, but phony "facts" to create their absurd main argument.
Even if the reasonable people lurking nearby don’t buy the premise, they might
buy some of the fake "facts" being used. And that's the point; that's
what the right wing media does. It uses ridiculous assertions such as
"Obama is a commie fascist community organizing tyrant" in order to
peddle the phony "fact" that the government will take control of the
entire health care system.  By
surrounding the phony "fact" with a ridiculous conclusion, in some
warped way, they make the "fact" seem plausible.  The phony "facts" are the seeds,
but the wings that carry them are the paranoid delusions about President Obama
being a Nazi, or some such nonsense.


don't make the mistake of thinking that all right wingers sound like
incomprehensible loons.  There are some,
usually the (capital L) Libertarian types, who are quite studied in the art of
subtle bullshit. Therefore,  our second
lesson should be to refrain from reacting to something a right winger says
directly. Instead, sit on it for a bit, and examine it somewhat before you
respond. In order to respond to a right winger, it will be necessary to extract
the pseudo-facts  from the huge steaming
argument they present.


an example. In one of my previous posts, I simply noted that it was rational to
make everyone buy health insurance. Basically, what I said was that we should
cover everyone because, when some ignorant "numbnuts" (the word I
used ) decides that he doesn't need health insurance and gets hit by a bus or
has a heart attack, the rest of us pay their bills. When another
"numbuts" decides to be a cheapskate and only pay for a
"catastrophic" insurance plan with a $50,000 deductible, even though
he doesn't have $50,000 or access to $50,000, the rest of us end up paying
that, too.


is a response I received from a seasoned right winger. Read this carefully
because, at first glance, it almost sounds reasonable:


I am one of
those uninsured numb nuts that you refer to. I quit my … job several years
ago and have not been employed since. A preexisting back condition meant that
it made no sense for me to get my own insurance since the most likely medical
expense I was bound to have—I am an otherwise-healthy 40-something–would be
uncovered. And so it was. I eventually had back surgery last fall. Total bill
was $13,000. I paid every penny in less time than the health care providers
would have gotten it from any insurance company, and over half of it was paid before
the operation. The $1379 I paid for my MRI (argued down from $1900) was $1079
more than Medicare pays. So it’s safe to assume that a portion of that bill was
because I was also paying for the losses the system takes from your vaunted
public services. (I later discovered that I should have gone to a private,
dedicated MRI provider in a large city some distance away that charged $600 for
the same procedure that I paid through the nose for at our local non-profit
hospital. I literally could have flown there, stayed at a nice hotel, eaten
several nice meals, rented a car, had the MRI, flown home and pocketed at least
$150 over what I was charged locally. THAT is how we’re going to get health
care costs down in a sustainable manner and without asking the rich to foot the
bill for the rest of us.)


Speaking of
the rich, I’m also pretty sure that there aren’t a lot of guys making $100K and
stiffing the general public for their medical bills. The system I encountered
just didn’t allow for that. So let us still have the right to be foolish with
our own money. You can bitch about those who stiff the system but there are
still plenty of us out here paying for ourselves and who take offense at your
myopic labeling of all uninsured folks as being “numb nuts.”  In fact, by
most accounts we are overpaying. Stupidity is its own punishment. It doesn’t
need to be illegal. And as long as we aren’t costing you one red cent then it is
absolutely none of your business.


how he couches ridiculous arguments in "reasonable sounding" terms.
But can you count the factual and logical 
errors in the above? First, note the straw man. I'm talking about people
who are stricken with unexpected illness or injury; he's responding with a
moderately predictable health condition. 
Of course, he follows that up with ignorance, as he suggests that he's
quite insurable, and that today's health insurance market would welcome him
with open arms, but they just wouldn't cover his bad back.  But it's the "none of your
business" that reveals him as a right winger who doesn't understand how an
insurance system works.


any case, here's my response. Note that I barely touch on his main contention,
that he should have the "freedom" to choose whether or not he should
be insured, without the resultant responsibility:


just wrong about “none of our business.” We all pay for the choice to not carry
insurance every day. You just choose not to see it.


of all, if every bill was paid when it was incurred, hospitals and medical
corporations wouldn’t have had to increase their prices as much. The $13,000
you paid might have only been $7,000, if everyone who walked through those
doors was able to pay their bills. So, not covering everyone cost you a lot of
money when you finally needed care. But what if you got to the hospital and on
the way there, you contracted meningitis from someone else walking who’s around
without insurance and can’t afford to go to the doctor, and your $13,000 bill
suddenly balloons to $130,000? What if you have a heart attack and need a
bypass, which the hospital tells you will cost $100,000? What if you’re walking
along the street and you’re hit by an uninsured motorist, and you  end up
in the ICU for a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, and incur a couple of
hundred thousand dollars in bills?


also point out that $100,000 a year isn’t rich anymore. And there are countless
stories out there of people who make that much money and more, who are stricken
with illness and end up in bankruptcy court because they can’t afford to pay
their hospital bill. More than half of all bankruptcies every year list as a
major component health care bills. In fact, in more than half of those cases,
medical bills are the main reason for the bankruptcy. That’s nearly half a
million people a year who go bankrupt because of medical bills and end up not
paying them.  The rest of us have to pick up that slack.


can’t predict when you’re going to get sick, you can’t predict how much it will
cost, and you cannot predict that you will have enough cash in the bank when it
happens to cover the bill.  Therefore, to not carry insurance is
irresponsible, period. And FYI, I know a lot of rich people, and I don’t know
one that doesn’t carry insurance. A few only carry catastrophic policies, and
that’s fine. But even with those policies, people should have to purchase a
bond for the deductible.


urge you to look up the case of Christopher Reeve. I’m sure you would agree
that his plight was unexpected. Well, he had insurance, but that insurance had
a $2 million limit, which was reached within a few years. If Robin Williams
hadn’t agreed to pick up the rest of the bill after the insurance company cut
off the Reeve family, that bill would not have been paid by anyone, and the
rest of us would have ended up paying for it. That’s the point; you were able
to pay the $13,000, but would you have been able to pay $130,000? How about
$500,000? At what point would you have had to go into bankruptcy court and left
the rest of us with insurance holding the bag? That’s the issue.


the rest of us weren’t paying the stupid person’s bills for them, I would agree
with you. But we are. In fact, even you paid, as I showed above. If everyone
was covered, you would have paid far less for that procedure.  Under a
universal coverage system, why should everyone else pay for your decision to
not pay in, when you’re stricken with an illness and incur more in hospital bills
than you can afford to pay?


that I knocked down his "facts" one by one.  Of course, being a right winger, he
responded. The response is priceless:


point you’re missing is the economics of the whole medical and health care
profession as it ties to coverage by insurance (in its current form). Insurance
is one of the main problems and drivers of higher “standard” medical costs
(i.e. leaving out costs from improved technology) along with frivolous lawsuits
and government programs that underpay. A public option will still be a
situation where other people are spending other people’s money, as it is with
no-fault auto insurance, and at best we can only hope to slow the growth of
medical expenses…and that is a bleak hope at best. Beyond my deductible I don’t
really care how much it costs to fix my car. Beyond my deductible I don’t
really care what it costs for medical procedures. And evidently the insurance
companies don’t care all that much, either. It is easier to increase their
premiums than to thoroughly understand costs.


we have laser eye surgery—complex, using expensive machinery, highly trained
specialists, usually in nice buildings—and their costs have been coming down
for years. Virtually no insurance is involved, competition is vibrant and
pricing is out in the open. I don’t know what percentage of medical procedures
would lend themselves to a similar model but it’s a helluva lot more than we
have currently.  


government-run Medicare is going to balloon out of control beyond 2016, as
Orszag has said on numerous occasions (and I have no reason to doubt him)—this
being a program that is widely acknowledged to already underpay for
procedures—what makes you think Obamacare will behave any differently? With every
single program the government has ever touched either under-delivering or on
the road to untenable financial distress why is this one going to finally be
the one that works?


saying we need to remove insurance companies from insulating patients from the
costs of their procedures. And I’d begin by making it no longer necessary for
them to cover routine medical procedures such as physicals and office
procedures. This could and should be paid for out of a private, tax-exempt
health saving account run by the patients’ banks. For starters this will cut
down drastically on the under-reported problem of hypochondria and its drain on
medical system resources. But it would also make the whole industry more cost
conscious. Doctors today have no idea what a procedure will cost. I was only
told an estimate (+/- $5K) two hours before my surgery despite a week of
cage-rattling. That wasn’t an accident.


it isn’t just the lack of competition between insurance companies—that can be
changed by allowing competition across state lines…it’s the lack of competition
between medical providers! Most small towns have only local monopolies to
provide their care. This wasn’t always the case. Mergers between large
providers are happening all the time under the false notion that bigger is
cheaper. And as I’ve shown with my MRI costs, even a non-profit monopoly is no
match for a private-sector competitive market when it comes to providing low
cost, high quality service. $29 kids physicals at Target Clinic? My local system
can’t touch that.


$500,000 and up medical situations are indeed tragic. I am not an actuary and
so I have no idea how best to cover those situations. But I can’t help
wondering why anything should cost that much. Why did I have to pay $2500 to
spend a night in the hospital (double occupancy) when it was nothing more a
Motel 6 with an electric bed and LPN checking in on me for two minutes an hour?
And that was cheap compared to most areas of the country. I could have gone to
a Hilton, hired private LPNs and pocketed at least $1500, all while having a
private room. Why was a friend’s bill for a non-emergency ambulance ride 1.5
miles to the hospital priced at $1200? These are simply insane figures bloated
by God knows what—but they correlate to increased government involvement over
the last thirty years, not less.   


father worked for a Canadian-based company. Everyone he’s worked with who was
transferred up there comes back down to the U.S. for their medical help. Again,
why will our system perform better? The poor have Medicaid and so their
coverage—the humane aspect of universal health care–isn’t really part of the
argument for reform. But while my bills may have been inflated by people of
means who didn’t pay their expenses due to lack of insurance it was also most
certainly inflated by a Medicare/Medicaid system that underpays as well.


if I had bills totaling $130,000 I would still be able find a way to pay
without costing my fellow citizens one red cent. That was considered prior to
quitting my job. And failing that, worst case I would be able to work out a
long-term repayment with the hospital that would not cost Joe Citizen or Jane
Insured Patient anywhere near much as any government program nor would it put
me into bankruptcy. Private programs like that abound. And if you think that my
quaint, responsible behavior of being a disciplined saver gives you the right
to tell me how I should spend my money then you are clearly living in the wrong
country, the wrong continent and wrong century. This marshmallow dream that I
have a duty to throw in with the government because that will somehow magically
cure our system of deadbeats rather than provide vast new venues for fraud and
unbridled lawsuits then you will be proven sadly mistaken. Why can’t we even
consider a system like Germany, which is arguably more privatized than we are
according to T.R. Reid (Democrat)? Why is it SOOOOOO important that the
government get its mitts into this mess that they have largely helped create?
Only a lawyer could think that would be beneficial…


this amazing? Can you believe the wingnuttery in the above? First of all,
here's a guy who thinks he understands the economics of health care, but all he
does is regurgitate stuff that's been proven bullshit many times.  My response was too long, and you've indulged
me enough to make it this far, so I'll just recap.


due to all torts, frivolous or not, represent 2-3% of health care costs, which
is not enough to fix the system.

Medicare and Medicaid pay less than private insurance, the government programs
pay faster, they pay everything, and they require far less overhead.

eye treatment is almost totally elective surgery, which is why the free market
works on that. I can plan for, save or finance for that, which makes it a straw

reason Medicare is running out of money is because of inflation caused by
increasing numbers of sick people denied coverage.

 There is nothing preventing insurance companies
from competing. 

not covering routine office visits, which this genius thinks is causing
financial problems with the system, you INCREASE the likelihood that people
will need more expensive care later.

he REALLY think the average person can simply "get" $130,000 to pay a
medical bill? Like I said, folks, cognitive dissonance is in their DNA. 

given that Canadians get most health care for free, and ours is so damned
expensive, unless his father's "workers" were multi-millionaires,
it's quite unlikely they were flocking to the US for care.


the silly use of TR Reid's name, to give him "street cred," and the
non sequitur of using the German example of a system we could emulate. He would
probably be shocked that I agree, although not for the reasons he pretends are
"facts." Many facets of the German system are worth emulating.  But he clearly either knows nothing about the
German health care system, or he's engaging in sophistry on a grand scale. See,
he's right that the German health care DELIVERY system is almost fully
privatized, but then, so is the Canadian system, which he claims is causing
people to flee to the US for health care. 
But the German INSURANCE system is almost completely socialized, and
administered by the government through statutes. Premiums are based entirely on
an individual's ability to pay.  Only 8%
of Germans have private insurance.

I said; I gave him a long response, full of refutations of facts, and here's
his further response:


argued. You forgot to mention the questionability of my parentage.


what you want. I won’t convince you otherwise and you certainly aren’t
convincing me. Continue your rant. I’ll leave you alone now…


is how you know you've won when arguing with a right winger. Note the sarcastic
tone in the first line, and the implication that I somehow insulted him. Then,
notice the use of the words "believe" and "convince." I
said nothing in any of my responses that would constitute anything but an attempt
to disprove his stated "facts." I wasn't trying to convince him of
anything. And what was he trying to convince me of, exactly?

those words, "believe" and "convince," are very important
to those on the far right, because they are ruled entirely by emotion. Yeah, I
know they like to mock liberals for our supposed "touchy feely"
feeling for others, but they are the ones who are completely emotional. And
their emotion absolutely overrides every logical instinct the human mind is
capable of. That's why you have to stick to facts, and refute those.

And to answer the unasked question, yes; my answer was designed for use in a column. Hope you like it.

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