The South Florida Tea Party posted some shocking statistics last week: Compared to England and Canada, Americans have better cancer survival rates, a larger proportion of healthy low-income seniors and better treatment of diabetes.
It also said only 8 percent of President Barack Obama's cabinet has experience in the private sector, the worst ratio since before Theodore Roosevelt.
And it's all a load of crap.
The South Florida Tea Party's article is not only full of lies, it's full of uncreative ones. The post, with minor changes, has been around for years, as a chain email, blog rant and a post on TeaParty.org called "Secret Statistics Congress Doesn't Want You To Know."
While there was some truth in the numbers at one point, it has long since been destroyed. It's not clear at what point the dissemination of this particular information evolved past intentional misrepresentation and into ignorant regurgitation, but one thing's for sure: When it comes to the South Florida Tea Party's article, someone along the line is full of it.
It's easy to discredit the part about Obama's ivory-tower cabinet because it was debunked two years ago. The Tea Party post says the 8 percent figure "helps to explain the incompetence of this administration," but according to PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking website based in Florida, the stats are based on a study by a banking executive -- they did not refer to the entire cabinet, were taken out of context by Glenn Beck in 2009 and, as it turns out, were very flawed. For the context in which they're being cited, they're useless.
The part about health care is also a crock. For starters, the "recent 'Investor's Business Daily' article" that the South Florida Tea Party cites was published as an illustration (in print but not online) more than two years ago. The illustration cites only a 2009 Roll Call op-ed by Illinois Republican Congressman Mark Kirk, who was actually advocating for reform. (For another dose of irony, tea party members hate Kirk. Unless, of course, they're poaching his numbers.)
The Tea Party post also says the health care numbers are based on a survey by "the United Nations International Health Organization," which, if it exists, has never had a website or been credibly cited by anyone. The cancer numbers actually come from a 2007 study published The Lancet Oncology, and the rest of them, well, Kirk didn't specify where they came from, and Investor's Business Daily apparently just took his word for it.
But even if the statistics were as true as a compass under oath, they're irrelevant.
In short, they don't have anything to do with the U.S. health care legislation adopted last year. They are presented without comment in the South Florida Tea Party post, but the nearly identical TeaParty.org version says, "I don't know about you, but I don't want 'Universal Healthcare' comparable to England or Canada," the implication from both groups being that England lets cancer patients die and our pre-reform system was better than our new European-style health care system.
Except we don't have a European-style health care system.
It's an oft-cited connection that has no genuine basis in reality. Comparing health care in the United States and health care in Europe is like comparing apples and folding chairs -- with the exception of Switzerland, our system is nothing like the ones across the pond. And despite what you hear trumpeted on AM radio frequencies across the continent, there was no "government takeover," nor were there ever "death panels," though the South Florida Tea Party still believes in those too.
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Back here on Earth, the U.S. reforms have very little to do with the socialized systems that so terrify tea party members, who are being fed bogus information by the shovelful and, judging by how widespread these statistics are, they seem to think it tastes quite good. The U.S. plan calls for private insurers to provide insurance in the free market, though, with the new regulations, it is a market that isn't as "free" as it used to be.
Business will certainly be different, but nothing has been taken over, and those regulations would be a legitimate talking point if they weren'tt buried beneath the disingenuous mischaracterizations put forth by ramshackle organizations like the South Florida Tea Party.