At yesterday's health care summit, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28) related this story from one of her constituents:
I even have one constituent -- you will not believe this, and I know you won't, it's true. Her sister died, this poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit. Do you believe that in America that that's where we would be?
What was the reaction from leading members of the conservative media?
- On Twitter, Michelle Malkin wrote: "We need trillion-$ Demcare cuz someone had to wear their sister's dentures! O: "Terrific conversation""
- On his radio program, Glenn Beck stated, "I've read the Constitution ... I didn't see that you had a right to teeth."
- Author and radio host Laura Ingraham told Bill O'Reilly that Slaughter's tale was "ridiculous" and a "sob story."
- Fox Nation, the website maintained by the Fox News Channel, labeled Slaughter's comments "Summit Insanity."
- Tara Lynn Thompson, a commentator for the conservative website, Rightpundits.com, suggested that if Americans had fewer teeth, they would eat less, and hence would meet Michelle Obama's anti-obesity goals:
What Michelle Obama has overlooked, thus far, is the potential of poorly fitted teeth. Children, as well as adults, could benefit greatly by a few extra teeth pulled, fillings that fall out, or dentures from the dead.
- Rush Limbaugh went out of his way to mock the story. "If you don't have any teeth, so what?" he said. "What's applesauce for?" Like Ingraham, he also referred to it as the "sob story of the day."
When criticized for such comments, media conservatives always claim they were joking and chastise their detractors for lacking a sense of humor. But they aren't kidding. Leading conservatives, especially those in the media, don't believe that the United States faces a health care crisis. And in one sense, they are right: their America doesn't.
Conservative media leaders have made fortunes peddling such blatant callousness. Consider the fact that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck have all vehemently denied the urgent need for health care reform. Unsurprisingly, all three are inordinately rich and can afford the best health care money can buy.
And so, when Rush had a heart scare in Hawaii, he simply paid his emergency room bills out-of-pocket. As to the cost, he wasn't phased, describing it casually as less than half the "average SUV" of the "average American family."
He then shuts his eyes to the uninsured and under-insured Americans driven to bankruptcy by illness and injury. And he closes his ears to the estimated 45,000 Americans who die needlessly each year because they can't afford access to reliable care. After all, this is not the America that people like Limbaugh, Ingraham, Beck, and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes live in. Limbaugh makes an estimated $50 million per year. Beck made $23 million in 2009.
Politics aside, the real question is this: Why do ordinary Americans continue to listen to conservatives who don't even pretend to care about the senseless indignities and horrors experienced by countless citizens of this country?