Home » Congress » Medicare Budget Cuts and Orwellian Doublethink

Medicare Budget Cuts and Orwellian Doublethink

One political slight-of-hand you’ll see frequently is the myth of “budget cuts”. When a politician (or commonly the media) speaks of a “budget cut”, that’s not really what it means. Consider the article Bush Budget Plan Targets Medicare, Medicaid for Cuts. Naturally, you’d think that means the budget will be smaller than last year — and you would be wrong. Both Medicare and Medicaid have increases (about 5%) from the previous year, as you can see from the submitted budget. What’s going on here?

It’s 1984 Orwellian doublethink. What a “budget cut” in political terms means is what they got is smaller than what they wanted (or asked for). To show the absurdity of this, imagine you make $35,000 per year. You receive a raise of $3,000 (about 8.5%) — would you go home and tell your family you got a cut in pay? You would if you were a politician. You see, if you ask for a raise of $3,500, and get a raise of $3,000, that’s a “cut” of $500 in politician doublethink.

But allow Orwell to explain Doublethink:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. … To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. (Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, London, pp 35, 176-177)

Doublethink isn’t just a Federal government problem — you’ll see this slight-of-hand at all levels of government, with the media frequently complicit by going along with the ruse.

In reality, in the new Federal proposed budget (look at Table S-7 “Budget Summary by Category”), Medicare and Medicaid both increased from 2007 to 2008. Medicare from 367 to 386 billion, and Medicaid from 198 to 209 billion. Only in Washington could increases of over 5% (an increase above the inflation rate) be seen as “cuts”. For the media to report these as “spending cuts” is dishonest and unethical.

Another example, titled Bush seen as ‘declaring war’ on health care.

Democratic lawmakers were cool to the recommendations. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., described the Medicare and Medicaid proposals as “declaring war” on the poor and on Democrats.

That sounds really bad, doesn’t it? Yet that’s Orwellian doublethink (Stark gets bonus points for linking the Medicare budget to a war on Democrats). In the same article, you’ll find this (from the land of reality):

… the health care program for seniors would grow at a 6.7 percent clip rather than a 7.6 percent rate, budget officials said.

Representative Stark demonstrates doublethink at it’s best (or worst)! A rate of increase (6.7%) almost twice that of inflation is “declaring war”? Either Representative Stark is ignorant of basic math, or wants to make political points via doublethink. Either way it’s dishonest, and it’s unethical for the media to go along. Of course, Representative Stark is not the only Congressman living in an alternate reality — they all visit fantasy island whenever it serves political purposes.

Always keep doublethink in mind when you hear “cuts”. Ask to see the actual data and numbers, and you’ll usually find what they mean by cut is not a reduction from the previous period, but simply not as much as they wanted — Orwellian doublethink at its best.

The US Congress — George Orwell would be proud.

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