Death panels and baseball

In April 2008 I predicted rather brashly that the New York Yankees would win the World Series. I felt good about the team's chances -- sure, manager Joe Torre was gone, but the Yanks retained all their free agent stars and showcased a pitching staff that was anchored by some top-flight veterans and led by ace Chien-Ming Wang. And it would be the Yanks' final year playing in the old Yankee Stadium. It seemed like destiny. But the Yankees finished the season eight games out of first place and failed to even make the playoffs.

So I was wrong.

The 2009 Yankees, however, were a very different team -- the pitching staff was completely overhauled and they brought on big-name talent like first baseman Mark Teixeira. The 2009 Yankees finished the season with the best record in baseball and went on to win the World Series, for which they were begrudgingly congratulated earlier this week by President Obama, a Chicago White Sox fan.

So what in the world does this have to do with “death panels”? Let me explain.

On August 7 of last year (while the Yankees were beating the Red Sox 2-0), Sarah Palin birthed the “death panel” claim, writing on her Facebook page: “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide [...] whether they are worthy of health care.” Palin later clarified that she was referring specifically to the Advanced Care Planning Consultation provision of the House health care bill, HR3200. Palin's claim was, and is, false -- that provision allows for Medicare to pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling. It was such a whopper that PolitiFact dubbed it the “Lie of the Year” for 2009.

But as my colleague Brian Frederick pointed out, media conservatives are now trying to claim that Palin was actually right about “death panels,” pointing to a provision that originated in the Senate health bill -- the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board -- which they claim will institute rationing and thus amounts to a “death panel.” NewsBuster Lachlan Markay today pointed to that very provision to claim “Palin's 'death panel' comment may not be as off the mark as so many have claimed,” and attacked Politifact for “disregard[ing] Palin's concerns.” These claims, however, are also bunk -- the advisory board is specifically prohibited from making “any recommendations to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits.”

Palin's “death panel” claim was based specifically on one provision of the House health care bill, and she was wrong. Pointing to a different provision of a different bill doesn't change that fact, especially when that provision is no more a “death panel” than the original one.

It would be like me pointing to the Yankees' 2009 World Series championship as evidence that my 2008 prediction was right, even though they won with a different team, in a different year, and in a different stadium.

And for the record, I think the Yanks will win it all again this year.