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David Sirota
David Sirota
25 Sep 2015
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Selective Deficit Disorder


Watching the health care debate unfold these days is a little like watching scenes from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" — the ones showing a collage of strung-out, deranged or otherwise incapacitated patients rotting away in a squalid psychiatric ward.

As the insurance industry's Nurse Ratched lurks in the background, congressional Democrats cower in the corner, fearing the phantom menace of their own shadows. Standing next to the window, suicidal Republican leaders rant about "death panels" and threaten to splatter their electoral prospects onto the pavement below. Nearby, White House officials struggle with multiple-personality ailments as they mumble contradictory statements about the public option. Meanwhile, tea party protesters lie on the floor in a fetal position, soiling their hospital diapers as they throw incoherent tantrums about everything from socialism to communism to czarism to Nazism. And, not surprisingly, Washington reporters just stare off into the distance, having been long ago lobotomized in the wake of their Watergate heyday.

Clearly, the inmates in America's political sanitarium are each struggling with different maladies. However, they are all suffering from Selective Deficit Disorder — an illness whose symptoms can be particularly difficult to detect.

When we see tea party activists bemoan deficit spending or watch rank-and-file senators like Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., say, "I'm not going to vote for a (health care) bill that's not deficit-neutral," it is easy to think these poor souls are perfectly healthy. When President Obama promises to "not sign a (health) plan that adds one dime to our deficit" and then New York Times writers such as David Brooks praise this "dime standard" as the epitome of "pragmatism" and "fiscal sanity," these victims seem absolutely sane.

Yet, Selective Deficit Disorder is a sickness of omission.

Attacking the neural synapses that maintain rudimentary logic, it presents itself not in what its carriers say and do, but in what they refuse to say and do.

Where, for instance, were conservative organizations marching on Washington when President Bush vastly expanded the deficit with his massive tax cuts for the wealthy? Where was Senator Lincoln's concern for "deficit neutrality" when she voted to give $700 billion to the thieves on Wall Street? Where was Obama's "dime standard" when he proposed a budget that spends far more on maintaining bloated Pentagon budgets than on any universal health care proposal being considered in Congress? Where were demands for “fiscal sanity” by Brooks and other right-wing pundits when they cheered on the budget-busting war in Iraq? Where were any calls for raising taxes from these supposed “deficit hawks” when they backed all this profligate spending? And where were the journalists asking such painfully simple questions?

They were nowhere, because those plagued by Selective Deficit Disorder (as the name suggests) are only selectively worried about deficits.

When it comes to spending on priorities like health care reform that would help ordinary Americans, the illness's victims scream about deficits and overspending. But when it comes to handing over trillions of dollars to financial firms, defense contractors and other corporate interests, deficits suddenly don't matter to the disease-addled politicians, protestors and journalists underwritten by those interests.

Luckily, while almost every significant voice in politics is stricken with Selective Deficit Disorder, the majority of the country's citizens are not. That doesn't mean Americans love unbalanced budgets, of course. It just means we know there is something very wrong with those who decry deficit spending on health care for millions of people, but ignore far bigger deficit expenditures on giveaways to a tiny handful of fat cats.

Now, all we have to do is stop flying over the cuckoo's nest and start breaking into the asylum...

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at



4 Comments | Post Comment
David has hit the nail on the head with this article. It is time WE the PEOPLE demand an accounting of WHO is getting our NATIONAL WEALTH and excatly where the money is going. The money is there to have a true NATIONAL HEALTHCARE plan that forces our POLITICIANS to participate. It is past time to force accoutability and pull in the reigns of special interests,corruption and mismanagement of our National Wealth. Lets look after LEGAL AMERICANS first and the World second.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Charles Kidd
Fri Sep 18, 2009 7:42 AM
Thank you, David, for making all this craziness meaningful. You do have a real knack for cutting through the meaningless prattle and coming up with a clearer picture.
Comment: #2
Posted by: TC Brown
Fri Sep 18, 2009 8:55 AM
Thanks, you have a way of cutting through the BS this government seems to thrive on. I don't know if you have brought this idea up before but I heard Taibbi say it on MSNBC. That is the notion that Obama never wanted a Universal Health Care bill to pass to begin with, in spite of what he said during the campaign. He doesn't look like the man we elected anyway.
I was 16 years old when they elected Nixon the first time and have shunned the whole process since. In 2008 I put an Obama sign on my lawn and went knocking on doors because I felt if we had another Republican regime we would not have anything left that was recognizable as the United States.
Taibbi's comment explains a lot to me.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Bob Bergen
Sat Sep 19, 2009 9:04 AM
David, thank you for calling it like it is! I just wish someone would ask all these insane people who are screaming to
keep their health care insurance: "What does your insurance company do for you?" After all, all of these companies just take in our money, and remitt our money, while doing clerical, accounting work and for this grandious sounding title of administrator, CEOs are getting million dollar salaries! Our government administers Medicare, S-Chip, Medicaid, and the VA, for 3 1/2 % insurance companies are charging 30 to 50%! My primary doctor just had to close his practice, as did my last primary doctor, because the insurance comanies were talking 50% of everything he grossed and by the time he paid his staff and covered his overhead he had not been able to pay himself for two years! Do these people realize that while they belittle the public option, they are actually endorsing wholesale robbery by insurance companies that may soon raise their rates so high, it won't be long before some of these very people who are demonstrating, find themselves without coverage!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Sandie Griffin
Sun Sep 20, 2009 12:11 PM
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