Health care: Listen, think, decide

Editor: You thought blogging was inherently overheated? This coolly reasoned piece asks for our best as deliberative citizens sifting for truth in the health care melee. Scott Starin is Boulder County Republican chairman, a former candidate for Congress, and an aerospace engineer.

The Art of Persuasion

In his book, “Rhetoric,” Aristotle describes three fundamental methods of persuasion. The first method is the reasoned approach. Through logic, reason and historical reference, the persuader builds his argument upon facts and acumen. The second approach is the establishment of expertise. The arguer`s reputation precedes her argument and people are persuaded by the stature of the person. The third approach to the art of persuasion is political rhetoric. Political rhetoric plays on people`s emotions and usually has little to do with logic and reason and more on stirring up passions. This method is, unfortunately, most common in today`s political discourse. In considering the arguments on the current health care debate, it is interesting to listen to those trying to persuade and to decide which of these methods they are employing.

Undoubtedly, there has been political rhetoric on both sides of the debate. Examples of political rhetoric include quoting misleading or exaggerated statistics as justification for radical reform. Often these arguments do not indicate how the current legislation will address systemic problems in the healthcare industry. When you hear about disturbing statistics without tangible solutions, that is political rhetoric. On the other side there have been melodramatic descriptions of death panels or forced inclusion into public options. While there are legitimate concerns about the intent and purpose of the wording of legislation and where the interpretation may lead, people have over-stated the consequences of many provisions. When you hear about extreme repercussions without citation of specific code provision, you are listening to political rhetoric.

I have viewed the seven Colorado House Representatives` and two Colorado Senators` Web sites with an eye toward the type of persuasion they use to present their positions. Congressman Jared Polis` overview on healthcare makes an impassioned plea, stating “… Americans have struggled (with) high costs, inferior care, or no care at all. We must not be a nation where helpless children cannot receive necessary medicine or visit their doctors for routine check-ups because it`s too expensive.” Can you feel the emotional tug here? Congressman Polis is a strong proponent of a single-payer system, citing reduced overhead rates as justification. Lacking in his argument, however, are examples of countries where the proposed reforms provide superior care and value compared to our current structure. To his credit, Congressman Polis` Web site does have the text of the bill as well as section-by-section analysis, as written by the majority committees. For completeness, minority summaries are highly recommended reading.

I believe that proponents of healthcare reform, as proposed in H.R. 3200, are losing support from the American people, not because of embellished claims of consequences (although that certainly is a component), but rather citizens are becoming more informed about the provisions of the legislation and the projected costs of these new entitlements. People realize that without massive governmental reforms these revolutionary changes to our healthcare system cannot be sustained in an economically viable fashion. Also, in my opinion, proponents of this healthcare reform are not providing adequate explanations of how this legislation will achieve the promises being made.

In today`s 24-hour media cycle, sound-bite society, it is difficult to present a reasoned argument to the American people on any subject, let alone one as complex and far-reaching as healthcare reform. Reasoned debate and critical thought are required to make meaningful decisions that lead to effective legislation. Those who argue that we must make these radical changes quickly do themselves and their constituents a great disservice. As the debate continues on, listen to those presenting their arguments. Without regard for your own preferences, decide whether the information presented is reasoned thought or political rhetoric.

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