I try very hard to not think less of people because their views differ from mine, but Frank Luntz has assembled a group of some real gems in this focus group, and keeping true to my goal is a bit hard after listening to these people. Let’s take it bit by bit, just for fun.
First of all, it’s clear that these folks are angry. Angry at pretty much everybody.
First guy: he’s mad because we’re spending as much for refugees and immigrants as we’re paying for VA care. He spits out some number, $168 billion per year. I have no idea where that number came from, or what makes him think that. I googled “168 billion dollars” to see what pops up with that number, and nothing was particularly helpful. The first two hits were about Alibaba’s valuation rising to $168 billion after earnings, then a link to a book talking about GDP estimates from 1942 (a prediction for December 1942), but nothing else really helpful. A Washington Post article reports that the FY2015 enacted spending for refugee resettlement is $1.6 billion (a far cry from $168 billion), and the FY2015 budget for the VA Health system was $56.5 billion, and the whole Veterans Affairs budget authority (mandatory and discretionary) for FY2015 was $163.5 billion. (These numbers are from the VA budget request for 2016, page 9, which includes the enacted 2015 numbers.) So, without being too quick to judge…this guy is all pissed off, so much he looks ready to blow a gasket, all about some numbers that don’t check out.
Up next, the woman who says she’s mad because we can’t convince doctors to treat patients, our military is not being supported, and our borders are open. Yikes. We can’t convince doctors to treat patients? According to the Henry Kaiser Foundation, there are currently 905,061 professionally active physicians in the United States. Almost a million practicing physicians, all of whom must have patients or they wouldn’t have an income…so I’m left wondering what the hell is she talking about. The number of medical school applications was the highest in 2013 (after Obamacare, by the way) than it had been in 1996. Our military is not being supported? Again, what fact is this based on? The Department of Defense budget for FY2016 is $522 billion, not including $8 billion in relief for overseas contingency operations. There is no other portion of our government that receives nearly that much funding. The entire NIH, all 27 separate institutes, have a FY2016 budget of just under $31 billion. In other words, you could fund almost 17 complete NIHs for the budget of the Department of Defense. The Department of Homeland Security budget is about $40 billion; one thirteenth the size of the Department of Defense. Where oh where does she get the idea that our military is not supported? What fact would make her say that? Our borders are open? Because we don’t have a wall? Is she serious? Our immigration laws are more stringent, and less welcoming than we used to be.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Not anymore. Open borders my ass.
Who’s next? A guy who claims he lost his job because of Obamacare and is complaining that he has to buy healthcare now. First of all, I’m a bit hesitant to believe that anything is because of Obamacare just because some guy says it is. Sure, it’s possible, but I remember the woman at our kids’ daycare saying that she couldn’t give me contact information of parents from our son’s class because of HIPAA (which is a law about health insurance, not day care facilities) or the Patriot Act (huh?). For some people, everything is because of Obamacare, but even if we take his word for it, we have to balance the good and the bad, which even Luntz (a pretty loyal FoxNews right-wing guy) recognizes. And what does he mean it’s not fair that he has to buy health insurance? Is it fair that my medical expenses are higher because people like him don’t feel the need to be insured, but still get treated if they have an emergency?
Then we get to my favorite part (sarcastic font still badly needed), what is really wrong: “What bothers me the most in this country is that you can’t even speak the truth anymore or else you’ll be called a racist or a bigot or any other thing…[interrupted by applause].” Then it’s followed by the woman who says, “I have a right to my opinion without being labeled something..” No, actually, you don’t. You do, of course, have a right to your opinion, but who says you have a right to not be labeled or judged based on that opinion? The first amendment says that the government shall not restrict your free speech, but that doesn’t mean that your employer (as long as it’s not the government), friends, family, neighbors, or anybody else can’t judge you, fire you, defriend you, stop talking to you, or hate you for your opinions. You don’t have a right to say or think whatever you want free of all consequences. No, you don’t have that.
Then it gets even better when the follow up says that it’s reverse discrimination because anyone who says anything today has to watch everything they say, and you can’t label a spade a spade. Again, what is she talking about? Sure, if you’re a racist bigot, you’re probably going to get in trouble for spewing racist bigoted ideas, but that’s not because free speech isn’t tolerated, it’s because we’ve moved, as a society, farther away from our racist bigoted past, and we don’t accept those kinds of false generalizations anymore. Frankly, I think that’s a good thing. What she seems to be saying is that she’s angry because she can’t be a racist anymore without somebody making her feel bad about it…well, good.
Then we hit the nail on the head with the next woman who tells us that it all boils down to the cultural change. A change that she says happened over eight years. How we treat our veterans (did that change in the last eight years?), how we treat our elderly (did that change in the last eight years?), how we’re educating our children (ok, so that changed a bit, but her idea that it’s a huge shift is a bit overstated). What she didn’t say, but what might be part of it, is that men can marry men, and men who love men can openly love men and still die for their country. Again, if you have a problem with that, you’re welcome to express it, but don’t be surprised if people correctly judge you to be bigoted, because it’s the definition of bigotry.
Then the discussion takes a turn that I find particularly interesting, the people in this group, self-described republicans, who have been getting more and more angry because of the distortions and misinformation they’ve been fed by republicans, turn against the republicans. Frankenstein created many monsters, and they’re all coming for him now. Even Luntz can’t seem to grasp this lunacy. “You would impeach Obama, seriously? Oh come on?”
If you’ve lost Frank Luntz, who is a die-hard republican, and who has done this many many times, you might be overdue for a gut check. Wow. That’s all I got, wow.