PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care'
By Bill Adair, Angie Drobnic Holan / politifact.com

In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a "government takeover."

"Takeovers are like coups," Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. "They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom."

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the "public option" concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.

Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times' independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year's most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)

By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

4.3 · 2
You Might Like
Bill Moyers Essay to Obama on Health Care (2009)
5 min · Bill Moyers, the longtime and multi-award-winning American journalist expresses his contempt with the current health care debate's corruption by extremists, and President Obama's lack of gumption towards Republicans and the health care industry. Other videos featuring Bill...
Moyers & Company:  Politics' Effect on Science & Education
26 min · Astrophysicist and celebrity science advocate Neil deGrasse Tyson recently, and at great length, discussed the importance of scientific literacy with Bill Moyers. Moyers began by reminding viewers of a recent Gallup poll in which 46 percent of Americans espoused the belief...
Protect Insurance Companies PSA
2 min · In a satiric video from Funny or Die, Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, and other celebs band together to "protect" insurance company profits from the evils of health care reform. "People are saying a lot of mean things about health insurance companies and their...
US Soldier: "The Real Terrorist Was Me And The Real Terrorism Is This Occupation"
4 min · A powerful confession by US soldier Mike Prysner on his experience fighting in Iraq. "Our real enemies are not those living in a distant land whose names or policies we don’t understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable, the CEOs who lay us off...
Bill Moyers Journal on Single Payer Health Care (2009)
18 min · Bill Moyers talks to Donna Smith a legislative advocate for the California Nurses Association about the hardships of pushing the Single Payer system into the official debate on health care reform. Other videos featuring Bill Moyers include: Bill Moyers on Plutonomy (2010)...
Load Comments
Like us on Facebook?