Why Seniors are willing to believe the Republicans’ “Kill Granny” Lie

When Republicans started saying the health insurance reform bill included a plan to kill senior citizens, it was such an insane, unhinged claim I was sure no one would take it seriously.

Then I spoke with a family member who is taking seriously. Being of a naturally inquisitive bent, I asked, “Why exactly would you believe something as supremely daft as that?”

The response went something like, “I got an email from a friend who got an email from a friend who heard from someone who had gotten an email and sent the information to me.”

There are three relevant issues here.

The first is that my relative – who is retired – is not being extraordinarily credulous but is choosing to trust the information they are getting from friends of friends. My relative is someone I would call a low-information voter; they don’t tend to delve into the issues and they tend to believe you can trust politicians to tell the truth (it’s not coincidental that this relative would never have considered or believed that the Bush administration was lying about everything in the run up to the invasion of Iraq). This relative – while not stupid – is not really savvy enough to know how to research the issue online and who tends to trust the information of persons deemed “more knowledgeable.” IOW, “My friend Sam keeps up on these things and Sam believes it, so it must be true.” If what Sam says corresponds to what is being said by a politician with whom my relative identifies, then my relative believes that politician. In this case, my relative identifies with Republicans because they espouse values my relative believes are laudable. As a result, when both “Sam” and Orrin Hatch claim that the health care bill includes a “kill Granny” clause, my relative believes it. Since my relative is an honest person, my relative is projecting their own honesty onto both Sam and Orrin Hatch.

The second issue is – bizarre when you think my relative trusts politicians – a deep distrust of the government. 40+ years of government bashing by conservatives have convinced my relative that the government cannot be trusted – it’s not just with actual functional things like running programs, but a deep-seated terror of anonymous government bureaucrats who are believed to hold vast amounts of unaccountable power. My relative remembers the “old days” when you could pollute and litter with alacrity. As odd as it sounds, my relative blames government bureaucrats for interfering with their right to throw trash out the car window as they drive down the highway (never mind that the family not bureaucrats has stopped such activities). In the same way, my relative believes that government bureaucrats not social opprobrium are responsible for making racial and ethnic jokes unacceptable. If it sounds eccentric, it is but it’s not unreasonable after hearing for 40 years how government bureaucrats are the enemies of freedom. So when a politician like Orrin Hatch or Jason Chaffetz (or yes, you, Jim Matheson) comes along and bashes government, it meshes with my relatives already held beliefs and creates a sense of deeper connection and identity. As weird as it sounds, my relative will vote against their own interests on the basis of a shared conservative identity.

Third is a profound reluctance to talk about and/or consider end of life issues arising from a profound inchoate almost disabling fear of death. I have a dear friend who is in her late 80s who commented to me a few years ago, “I recognize that I’m in the early stages of death and dying and I’m working to reconcile myself that I will die sooner rather than later.” Such grace concerning death is often absent in American culture; in fact, it’s strikingly rare to hear Americans acknowledge our own mortality. This profound denial of death makes it easy to see planning and managing end of life issues as wrong, as if a person is welcoming death in a morbid and unhealthy way. (I suspect there’s also some hidden class biases at work here – namely a middle class distrust of the dissolute ways of the wealthy in which wills and legal fights about inheritances are evidence of an unwillingness to work for and earn one’s own way in the world.) So when the bill included a proviso to pay for end of life counseling, it was disturbingly easy for my relative to see such counseling as government encouraging people to die rather than empowering us to manage our final exits from this mortal coil.

The “deather” lie that the reform bills will lead directly to euthanasia and government bureaucrats deciding how and when people die resonates with my family member for precisely the reason that my relative is unable to discuss or even consider their own death.

So when my relative hears Republican politicians declaring that health insurance reform will lead to the government killing old people, they believe it because, of course, conservative politicians wouldn’t lie about something like that since we all know government bureaucrats are the enemy. I suspect my relative is not alone after decades of rabid anti-government rhetoric by conservatives. That the “deather” lie has gained currency among so many senior citizens (who are also apparently incapable of realizing that Medicare is single-payer government run program) makes sense to me after talking with my relative. I’m not saying it’s a sensible outcome, but I understand how and why so many senior citizens have accepted the absurd “kill Granny” lie that Republicans have spread.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on August 5, 2009 - 1:57 pm

    Health Care for America NOW has an alert out:

    There is a nasty and misleading right-wing chain email going around. Some of you may have gotten it forwarded to you by family and friends.

    The email pretends to go through the “itemized contents of the Health Care Reform Bill,” pulling out outrageous claims like, “Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!”

    The insurance industry is funding these emails through hired shills and, of course, these claims are universally false.

    More info here:
    Please Cut the Crap! Deconstructing the Right Wing Lies on the Health Insurance Bill

  2. #2 by jdberger on August 6, 2009 - 10:44 am

    Soylent Green is People!

  3. #3 by Ken on August 6, 2009 - 2:20 pm

    The Obama administration is asking for your help. They want you to report anyone who posts anything online critical of health care reform.


    “These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”

    Lanny Davis and left wing groups also need your help. They want you to attend town hall meetings and take pictures and names of anyone who speaks out against health care reform so they can be investigated to make sure they are not members of right wing extremist groups.

    Michael Moore says that that President Obama has his permission to do what ever it takes to achieve his goals.

    Yes, of course we shouldn’t let that pesky Constitution written by a bunch of slave owners get in the way of the Messiah’s agenda.

    Maybe the Obama administration will send you a brown shirt as a reward for your patriotism in reporting dangerous bloggers and concerned citizens.

  4. #4 by Ken on August 6, 2009 - 4:41 pm

    This is to inform all writers and contributors to oneutah.org that you have been reported to flag@whitehouse.gov for your fishy activities.

    Does it make you feel happy inside that you are part of a permanent Whitehouse database?

    I thought you would.

    • #5 by Uncle Rico on August 6, 2009 - 4:59 pm

      Most of us have probably been part of a permanent White House/DOJ/FBI/CIA database for going on 8 or so years now. Welcome to the party Ken!

  5. #6 by Jack Young on August 6, 2009 - 5:03 pm

    This is the beauty of the web, no one can prove a thing, IP don’t mean shit, neither does a name.

    Well they may, but only to a Stalinist.

    In the mean time just send a copy of the health plan to the flag site, and name the people here of spreading disinformation. All of us.

    I mean shi* no one has even read it!! it isn’t even completed in any real sense! So whatever is being said for and against is absolute hearsay. Better known as disinformation. Obama is going to have his hands full, waste no time, send your snitch in!!

    “Snitches get stitches, and wind up in ditches”. Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels. He should know, having been shot and all for standing up for truth, justice, and the American Way.

  6. #7 by Jack Young on August 6, 2009 - 5:21 pm

    After having posts altered, names attributed to people that never made them, betrayal of anonymity, all the product of the darkest hearts, we remain unaltered, the waters are sufficiently muddied.

    The webmaster here has given us all reasonable doubt by his own bile that is regularly flowing over. This site has defined itself as an open site, but that is hardly true for anyone that has posted here from a conservative perspective.

    However, because of the progressive institutional weakness of argument, strides can be made. It is easy to funnel the true believer into the self destruction that is the commonality of belief, no matter the politics. It is the ego that is the weakness.

    Go for broke to defend the Constitution from the assault we are now confronted with. I have made my mind up, I’m following Patriot John Starks lead.

    “Live Free or Die”. Many do not know the second part of his statement which was integral to the first. John was asked this as an old man upon an anniversary of the American victory over tyranny.

    The 2nd part?

    “There are evils worse than death”.

    “All men die, but not all men truly live”. William Wallace.

    • #8 by James Farmer on August 6, 2009 - 5:24 pm

      Hmmm. Is that you, Glenn?

  7. #9 by cav on August 6, 2009 - 5:46 pm

    ‘no one has even read it!! it isn’t even completed in any real sense!’

    That being the case, let’s ramp up the schnizzle and lunge for the juggler, what say ya?

  8. #10 by Jack Young on August 6, 2009 - 6:10 pm

    The jugular is not worth it, the scum have learned how to protect it, keep kicking their legs out.

    We aren’t boxing, this battle is MMA, and let us all know, that the guys that know how to make people tap out and submit, as well as beat down, RULE!!

    It is the true wrestlers that crush people, and if you have other options in opponents weakness, then that comes into play. For those that play to win.

    Who is Glenn, James? Is that mud in your eye?

  9. #11 by cav on August 6, 2009 - 6:27 pm

    Mean spirited rioters do tend to RULE…for a while.

  10. #12 by Ken on August 6, 2009 - 6:35 pm

    The silence is deafening from all of you civil libertarians about Obama’s snitch site.

    Richard, what about all that outrage and articles you have written about domestic spying? So this doesn’t bother you that Obama has set up a special website to snitch on American citizens? If the same thing was done for domestic terrorists then I would hate to get between you and your computer as you rush to declare your outrage.

    I guess denying people their civil liberties is ok as long as your guy is doing it against your political opponents.

    Cliff, I am waiting to hear your condemnation of the African-Princes’ assault on free speech.

  11. #13 by cav on August 6, 2009 - 6:38 pm

    They all just want to be held in high esteem by their handlers.

    Just who are their handlers?

    That is the question.

  12. #14 by Jack Young on August 6, 2009 - 6:44 pm

    “Mean spirited rioters do tend to RULE…for a while”.

    Mean is word, uttered by Queens,
    that never foresaw, the power of liens
    that we f**kin’ FREE PEOPLE place on their POWER

    Yeah cav THEY”LL RULE alright, right before they establish FREE GREAT NATIONS!!!

    ..and ensconce the Nation People’s with CREATOR GRANTED INALIENABLE RIGHTS!!

    WE “AINT SKEERED, can’t wait to be on this list. GOD, I’m floating, I’M FUC*IN’ PISSED!!

  13. #15 by cav on August 6, 2009 - 7:06 pm

    I hope you find those meds bro’.

  14. #16 by cav on August 6, 2009 - 7:14 pm

    Wingtard: “When you point out why we’re fools, you’re the Gestapo. When we use mob violence and racism to silence you, that’s Americanism in action.”

  15. #17 by Jack Young on August 6, 2009 - 7:19 pm

    Dude, the meds were provided by Rousseau, Voltaire, and by the eternity of the promise provided by the permanence of Locke!! Amongst our own great pipe smokers and pint drinkers.

    It is you that need the prescription,
    in your current state, I know not description
    fear not my sick friend, we go there together
    the fact now of FREEDOM, is given FOREVER

    Never mind the gaps and delay,
    the blockers of FREEDOMS,
    their own selves do SLAY,

    For in any man, of permanent thought
    is true in himself, to do what he ought
    and that directed, by more or by evil
    and depend upon that, become Saint or weevil

    yes my man, let the buyer beware
    that he be himself, in others, not scare
    drink now I say, deep of the elixer
    that you too, become, my FREEDOM”S FIXER!!

  16. #18 by Jack Young on August 6, 2009 - 7:22 pm

    wintgard, who the F**k he he? Was he on Idol?

  17. #19 by Tyler on August 8, 2009 - 10:39 pm

    While I agree the claims are overstated, nations like Great Britain and Sweden both ration care according to age. Isn’t this a legitimate issue regarding health care?

    Under the current system, care is rationed by finances. Under a government system, it will have to be rationed somehow. From a logistical standpoint, it makes sense to deny extensive coverage to older Americans, but that is something we simply do not believe in as a people. Its also why we’re ticked by insurance companies and why government run care isn’t popular.

    • #20 by Glenden Brown on August 9, 2009 - 7:31 am

      That we will have to ration is obvious; that we can do a better job is equally obvious. For instance, some years ago I read a report that pointed out that many senior citizens are wildly overmedicated. I think our current system is so expensive because we fail at preventive care. If we have to ration, why not ration along the lines of what actually works. In some cases, the expensive treatments are better, but in many cases they are simply more expensive (for instance for many people who get migraines, midrin, which is something like 25 cents per pill works as well as imitrex which is $5 per pill; that certainly suggests we should start migraine treatments with midrin not imitrex).

      • #21 by Tyler on August 9, 2009 - 11:11 am

        I think the point is that our culture despises the idea of letting anyone else make rationing decisions. It may not be as efficient, but it preserves our individuality and our independence. That’s why these ideas have been successful in Europe and Canada, but they will never be as popular here. Its why we get frustrated with HMO’s, but its also why we don’t want a government run healthcare establishment.

        That is why we all (Republicans included) want reform. What we want is a bipartisan solution that includes tort reform, more transparency from insurance companies, and an expansion of Medicare. What we do not need is a plan designed to force insurance companies out of business and create a de facto single payer system.

        They system you are trying to create institutionalizes the part of our current healthcare system that people hate the most (rationing decisions made by someone other than themselves). Its why the town hall meetings have been near riots.

        I really hoped Obama would do what he campaigned to do (be bipartisan). Sadly, he’s been far less bipartisan than even Bush or Clinton (not the most bipartisan presidents). The result is a polarized electorate that will kill his healthcare bill and throw his party out of office. The innocent victims won’t get real change because failed ideologies are being trumpeted over actual change.

  18. #22 by Cliff Lyon on August 9, 2009 - 11:19 am


    I can show you far more evidence that Obama has tried to be bipartisan than you can evidence of any sort of rationing.

    And yes, we do need single payer eventually because it is the best system.

    btw: Americans could use a little rationing, a little less consumption, a little restraint, eh?

  19. #23 by Tyler on August 9, 2009 - 5:13 pm


    Where has Obama tried to be bipartisan? Name one piece of bipartisan legislation he has passed. By the way, bipartisanship is not demanding the other side agree to your beliefs. On major legislation, I believe 3 GOP Senators (now 2) have sided with him, only after being given extensive pork and other bribes.

    Here are a few links you should consider:

    Obama says his plan will lead to rationing.

    Finally, as much as you decry W, he was more bipartisan than Obama. Consider the Patriot Act (Senate Sponsor, Tom Daschle), No Child Left Behind (Senate Sponsor, Ted Kennedy), and the Immigration Bill that was supported by more Dems than Republicans.

    Through all that, Bush was a partisan president. By that standard, I don’t know how you come up with Obama being bipartisan unless you consider blue dogs and progressives 2 different parties.

  20. #24 by Cliff Lyon on August 9, 2009 - 5:42 pm


    Starting from your last comment; yes, I think Blue Dogs are closer to Republicans than to Progressives.

    2. Bush the Patriot act and all that crap is not relevant. The factor is the Republican party is in lock step.

    3. Are you kidding? Obama tried like crazy to get bi-partisan support for the stimulus bill. It was all over the news for weeks. The party of no didn’t offer anything but NO.

    You veil is seriously thick.

  21. #25 by Phil Carter on August 9, 2009 - 8:23 pm

    By your standard then Cliff, McCain is really a Democrat.

    Too bad there wasn’t more bi-partisan support to just say no to the stimulus. Now we are in debt up to our eyeballs. We will regret it.

    Pretty limber political gymnastics there, it is impressive, and if Tyler is wearing a veil, you are sporting a burka.

  22. #26 by jdberger on August 10, 2009 - 4:57 pm

    Nah…Granny’s got nothing to worry about…

    As long as she hasn’t read Dr. Ezekial Emanuel’s article, “Principles for Allocation of Scarce Medical Interventions,” published on January 31, 2009.

    “[system which]…considers prognosis, since its aim is to achieve complete lives. A young person with a poor prognosis has had a few life-years but lacks the potential to live a complete life. Considering prognosis forestalls the concern the disproportionately large amounts of resources will be directed to young people with poor prognoses. When the worst-off can benefit only slightly while better-off people could benefit greatly, allocating to the better-off is often justifiable….

    When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances that are attenuated.”

    Nope, Granny should be just fine. She’ll just “go home“.

  23. #27 by Cliff Lyon on August 10, 2009 - 5:39 pm


    Nice alarmist tactic. The Emanuel article is but part of a long running discussion about creating and intelligent balance in HC.

    95% of all medical costs go to people in the first year and the last year of life.

    This is a fact of life that needs to be discussed.

    • #28 by Richard Warnick on August 11, 2009 - 8:26 am


      You are right, we ought to be discussing facts and working on a sensible health care system. But the other side has foreclosed on that option. MSNBC carried Senator Arlen Arlen Specter’s town hall live this morning, and every questioner was hostile to health care reform. They all had lies and distortions of the truth on the tips of their tongues, well-rehearsed talking points about socialism, “death panels” and abortion.

      The Republicans and health insurance lobby have come up with a great strategy. It’s not normal to see congressional town halls on national TV, let alone live. And they are creating the false impression that a majority is against health care reform.

      This feeds into the next year’s election, which for both parties depends on a strong turnout of loyalists. The (small) right-wing Republican base is angry at Democratic politicians. If they stay angry, they will go to the polls. The (much larger) progressive Democratic base is angry at Democratic politicians too. If they stay angry, they’ll stay home.

  24. #29 by Oscar the Grouch on August 11, 2009 - 8:33 am

    We have discussed it, discussion over.

    We will provide for it, and the Emanuel brothers being Jews should be ashamed of themselves for such a position, considering what they talk about was a justification of the T4 program which led to the extermination of the “infirm”, moving on to “inferiors” of which their ancestors were considered a part in NAZI Germany.

    It is disgusting. Where do these disgusting people come from?

    “The Emanuel article is but part of a long running discussion about creating and intelligent balance in HC.
    95% of all medical costs go to people in the first year and the last year of life.
    This is a fact of life that needs to be discussed”.

    Geeze Cliff, you channeling Mengele today? Maybe if people like you weren’t outsourcing your jobs to China, and promoting illegal immigration there would be money for granny, instead you wish to keep your amoral profits and then shrift people based on your perception of the value of their lives.

    It is so disgusting I don’t know what to say, but I will say something.

    Who would make that decision YOU? I wouldn’t let you walk my dog.

    Check this out Cliff. Ex: I think you are totally worthless, your life not worth a dried pea, can we make that decision about next time you are sick? Now that because of what someone may think about your life’s value we can shrift you? Don’t you pay for private insurance Cliff, still under your brothers plan at Lyonco? Good idea, lest your sick beliefs become reality.

    Meanwhile in single payer Canada, no decisions about care will be considered if the type of care negatively affect patient outcomes at any age or situation.

    The emanuel discussions should be referred to as


    • #30 by Richard Warnick on August 11, 2009 - 10:19 am

      Nice smear job. If anyone is interested in the truth, read Alex Koppelman’s piece on Salon:

      Ezekiel Emanuel, who’s currently advising the administration on healthcare reform through a post at the White House Office of Management and Budget, is actually one of the country’s leading medical ethicists, a forceful defender of people approaching the end of their life. Indeed, he opposes even voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

  25. #31 by Oscar the Grouch on August 11, 2009 - 3:33 pm

    Whatever people say, like Obama, he cannot be trusted. We are going to have the government take over the decision making and the insurance companies intact in their methods. You figure it out.

    Nobody trusts them, and EZkill looks like like a skeleton. Probably the most important factor in no one trusting him.

    Salon stories? Really, who reads that, certainly not the bulk of the public, now if you get this story on CNN or Fox, you would be getting somewhere.

  26. #32 by Oscar the Grouch on August 11, 2009 - 4:20 pm

    Sorry, I meant he looks like Skeletor

  27. #33 by Oscar the Grouch on August 11, 2009 - 4:32 pm

    Why is there not a whisper about medical tort reform?

    answer: Because everyone that is going to give you free health care is a lawyer.

  28. #34 by Cliff Lyon on August 11, 2009 - 6:52 pm

    If you add up all the costs of malpratice lawsuits, won and lost, it amounts to what percentage of the total healthcare cost?

    I dont know what that number is, but whatever it is, it should determine whether or not we should care.

  29. #35 by Oscar the Grouch on August 12, 2009 - 8:56 am

    It is the reason private insurance costs for doctors is so high, malpractice insurance sets the price for all insurance costs down the line. Without tort reform we are going nowhere with this. It isn’t just about the awards, it is about the potential for one case ruining a doctor financially. They pay the insurance whether they get sued or not, and that cost is reflected in billing, which in turn is reflected in patient premiums.

    The paperwork trail begins with malpractice suits, and inspires the absolute need to know about pre exisiting conditions and absolute need to keep these patients away from you. They SUE when they don’t get better, and have a bunch of ambulance chasers on the contingency fee system. Most doctors have to settle even in innocence. Call that patient greed. Throw in insurance co. greed and Voila’ how do you like our system?

    I told you ALL, we are not they kind of people yet that can do this right, the immaturity and self interest of the bulk of the population is nothing compared to the value systems that have held up not for profit health care. I don’t give damn what party you say you belong to.

    If you cannot see the relationship, you are not qualified to walk my dog, though I will let you clean out my garbage can.

    It is so fundamental that to not be talking about it proves that

    1) Congress and Obama are a bunch of idiots.

    2)Congress and Obama are a bunch of lawyers.

    It is the first part of health care reform that must be tackled. Without it, we can see who is running the show. Lawyerized Congress, wouldn’t want to destroy the most valuable portion of the worthless (to us) tort industry now would we?

    There is not a socialized health care system or single payer insurance system that does not have caps on damages for every possible circumstance of screw up, and then independent review boards to define culpability.

    Congress is LiarLand, I would gladly donate my garbage can to place 99% of congressional incumbents in it, right after we pass a term limits bill.

    This “Reform” is a joke without first talking about this issue.

    All doctors visits should also require a 25 dollar fee no matter what, it would keep people with minor issues at home, and those that like to use the system because it is “free”. This is done in many places with not for profit care, for all but the utterly indigent. If you can’t come up with 25 dollars to take care of a health issue what is anyone supposed to do for you? In all cases but indigence or mental incompetence this should be followed. Not a whisper.

    Again, we have an incompetent government taxing us to pay insurers that leave their methodology intact, and no tort reform. You have got to be kidding.

    Obama looks like the ultimate shylock, shill for the insurance companies and his own stock and trade, the legal industry.

    This bill is going down in flames or down the toilet where it BELONGS!

  30. #36 by Oscar the Grouch on August 12, 2009 - 9:11 am

    An intelligent article from Camille Paglia

    She recommends that the incompetent Democrat leadership that spawned this turd stand down. They have done irreversible damage to the party. At least some Democrats don’t have their heads up their backsides, or rooting around in my garbage can scuttling around for health care savings.

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