The gloves came off in the health care wars last week as a conservative group called Generation America released a pair of ads against the Affordable Care Act, depicting Uncle Sam as an evil puppet gynocologist in one and an evil puppet proctologist in the other. I know, right? Maybe we should have said the gloves came on, since a key element in the ads seems to be a veiled reference to medical gloves.
Nevermind that the ads come across as a creepily hilarious warning to keep Chucky-like Uncle Sam puppets away from your private parts, which kind of buries the whole public health policy message. The real question is what precipitated Uncle Sam’s fall from his career-making role as the iconic recruiter for the U.S. Army, to the tawdry, leering, figure on YouTube today? For an answer, let’s turn to the industrialist Koch brothers, who have become familiar figures in the climate change denial field and are now making their mark on health care.
Creepy Uncle Sam and the Affordable Care Act
Aside from fanning our fear of stringless puppets, the apparent intention of the ads is to persuade uninsured young people not to get an affordable health care plan; in other words, not to participate in the new health care “Marketplace” that starts on October 1 under the Affordable Care Act. The ads are the first part of a broader campaign aimed at healthy young people, reportedly set to roll out at 20 college campuses this fall.
So, why would anyone think they’d succeed in convincing educated young college students, who are just starting off in life, that it’s a smart thing to roll the dice on their financial future rather than taking a first-of-its kind opportunity to get affordable health coverage?
The answer is evident when you follow the money. Generation America is funded by the Koch brothers, who are also behind the lobbying organization ALEC, which has become notorious for stalling action on climate change as well as pushing anti-voting rights legislation and other sketchy public policies such as the “stand your ground” laws.
By dint of their industrial and fossil fuel holdings, the Koch brothers have a direct financial interest in promoting disinformation about climate change and pollution issues, a strategy that relies on breaking down support for public action on those same issues.
For that reason, we’re taking an educated guess that the Koch brothers’ involvement in the anti-ACA campaign is another opportunity to help break down public trust in the role of Congress as caretaker of the general welfare (hey, isn’t that in the Constitution somewhere?).
It’s also worth noting that the Koch brothers are behind the somewhat oxymoronic campaign to convince the U.S. public that formaldehyde is safe.
Going to the well once too often?
Now let’s go back and look at that college campaign again. On the surface, that looks like a shot in the dark. Many students already get “free” health insurance through their parents’ plans (thanks to ACA, up to age 26) or they get low-cost insurance through their college. Many won’t even have to think about the Marketplace until after they graduate or age out of their parents’ plans, and they may not need the Marketplace at all if they get a job with health coverage.
So, what does Generation America hope to accomplish with their college campaign? We’ll take another educated guess and predict that this is the first act in a long-term strategy to position Generation America as a grassroots group that speaks for smart, ambitious, hard-working, healthy young people. In other words, the campaign is an elaborate photo op.
After all, the Koch brothers are also behind Americans for Prosperity, which propelled the supposed grassroots Tea Party from an object of derision into an effective monkey-wrencher of good governance, partly by staging rallies and bum-rushing legislators’ town hall events that were lavishly promoted and covered by Fox News.
On the other hand, we’re guessing that a newly media-savvy generation of college students is well prepared to meet fire with fire, whenever this Koch campaign shows up on campus. Stay tuned.
[Image: Class Uncle Sam recruiting poster, photo (cropped) by donkeyhotey]