Politics & Media
Jan 26, 2011, 05:06AM

Is the Governor of Arizona Evil?

A real life death panel.

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When the worst has been said about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s racist immigration law, her disgusting lies about illegal immigrants, and her state’s pathetically inadequate gun regulation, many often forget about Brewer’s most despicable policy—implementing death panels. Inexplicably, this story hasn’t caused mass uproar or received very much attention. But everyone must know exactly what’s taking place in our country. And there is no excusing Brewer’s evil policy and persistent obscurantism.

In early 2010 she and Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature slashed funding for certain Medicaid transplants. The cuts went into effect in October, denying 98 mortally sick patients, known as the Arizona 98, who were supposed to receive transplants. Two have already died. Francisco Felix, who has two years to live, was slated to receive a liver transplant from a friend, but because of Brewer’s actions that liver went to someone else, forcing Felix to search for $200,000 for the down payment on his operation.

The “explanation” is arguably as sinister as the policy itself. Although Brewer has habitually fled from inquisitive reporters, charging one such journalist of asking her an “unfair” question, and refused to grant interviews to anchors like Anderson Cooper, she defended herself on Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren show in December. As one might expect, she employed a massive dose of Fox News logic—a blend of outright lies, half-truths and staggering hypocrisy.

On the face of it you might presume Brewer enacted these draconian measures because she had no choice—as she has argued, Arizona’s budget hole is too huge to accommodate expensive surgeries. And you would be wrong. Rep. Steven Daglas, Republican from Illinois, sent the Governor a list of 26 different ways to come up with the mere $1 million plus, which, combined with federal matching funds, would pay for the transplants. Options include allotting a portion of the annual $8.5 million in Arizona’s unclaimed lottery prize winnings, allocating much of the more than $2 million settlement with AIG, and cutting Arizona State University’s unnecessary and bloated out-of-state travel appropriations.

For some reason, Brewer considers these resources more important than saving the lives of her citizens. Amazingly, she called the transplants “optional” procedures—a “Cadillac program” that other states do not provide. According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly every state does in fact cover these transplants, and one of the Arizona 98 is considering moving to Colorado to obtain a liver transplant. Brewer’s other favorite fabrication is that the procedures do not consistently save or significantly extend lives. In the Fox interview she claimed that bone marrow transplants are almost always unsuccessful, but in truth these procedures succeed 42 percent of the time according to the doctor of Mark Price, who needed such a transplant and died before he could get one.

More broadly, Brewer has justified her death panel by distorting the findings of various university studies, claiming they prove the transplants don’t work. The American Society of Transplantation, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the United Network for Organ Sharing all agree that this is nonsense, and the former sent Brewer a letter calling her policy an “actual death sentence.” Michael Abecassis, director of Northwestern University's comprehensive transplant center and president of the surgeons group, said Arizona “used data that were outdated or data that made no sense, or they misinterpreted or misrepresented what experts said.” Furthermore, Scott D. Ramsey, a co-author of a 1995 paper Brewer pointed to as evidence that lung transplants barely extend life, remarked that he is “horrified that they used a 15-year-old study to make this decision," and that "it's sort of like making a decision on whether to pay for 2010 AIDS drugs based on data from 1995 AIDS drugs."

But the cuts are really Obama’s fault, according to Brewer (and, implicitly, Wesley J. Smith of the conservative Weekly Standard, who shamelessly blames the problem on “a single-payer health care system crashing into a budgetary brick wall”). First, on Fox she argued that Obamacare forced her to slash spending because the new legislation provides no room for “flexibility,” even though she passed the cuts before health care reform became law. She has also refused to specify how she has allocated the $30 million Arizona received in stimulus money ($2 million of which is known to have been spent on opening a center to study algae as an alternative fuel); pushed for repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would pump more subsidies into her state; and audaciously implored critics to tell the federal government to supply funding for the transplants. Even more cowardly, she accused the media of “blowing this out of proportion,” falsely claimed on Van Susteren’s show that the late Mark Price probably would have eventually received state money for his bone marrow transplant had he lived longer and played the victim, portraying herself as the pitiful governor who’s been forced to make “tough choices.”

Recently, after refusing to allow the state legislature to even debate a proposal for fixing the problem, Brewer presented a “plan” to cover the transplants through a new uncompensated care pool of $150 million that would be paid for by forcing 280,000 Arizonans off of Medicaid, 5200 of whom suffer from serious mental illness. According to State Sen. David Schapira, this is nothing more or less than a vicious ploy to use the Arizona 98 as a political tool to pressure federal authorities to waive a law prohibiting states from changing Medicaid eligibility for two years by promoting the care pool as the only option to raise money for transplants. And no such money would really be raised because the policy would not go into effect until July, and the 280,000 kicked off Medicaid would presumably drain all the funding from the pool before the Arizona 98 could be saved. The real motive, it seems, is to make room for more corporate tax breaks.

What’s astonishing about this story is not the mere existence of a real life death panel but the blatant lies surrounding it and the public’s lack of outrage. This is a classic example of why America is in serious trouble, especially now that Keith Olbermann, who has tirelessly raised awareness by conducting gut-wrenching interviews with Brewer’s victims, is off the air. As a matter of principle, many conservatives/free market fundamentalists consider it acceptable to let citizens die because cutting taxes and entitlements is more important, though they love to argue that the most basic duty of “limited government” is to “keep us safe.”

Conservative disinformation-based propaganda has so thoroughly saturated our discourse that most Americans are blinded by false outrage and unaware of real-world tragedies. Far more people know about Sarah Palin’s fatuous death panel accusation than Arizona’s heinous program. Brewer’s policy is a death panel in every sense, as it incorporates all of Palin’s shamefully false characterizations of health care reform. It is because of Brewercare, not Obamacare, that, as Palin once fantasized, “they ration care” to cut costs and “bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they [patients] are worthy of health care." In this case the bureaucrat is governor and one’s worthiness is measured by income.

—Marc Adler blogs at thebloodycrossroads.com

  • I can't beleive that you have the balls to call this an actual "death panel" It is no more or less a death panel than already exists. The only difference is the amount of funding provided. I agree that this was a purely political move by Brewer who has succesfully raised her profile by making such stupid decisions. However, all legal organ recipients go through a panel to decide whether or not the individual qualifies for the limited resource. Is that a death panel? Is it evil? Have you ever been told that you can't get a liver transplant because an alcoholic pedophile took the last one? No, because we have panels to make sure that does not happen.

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  • Brett Somers hasn't aged well, has she?

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  • I wrote this article partly in response to your absurd comment on my Propaganda piece. At the time I presumed you're either ignorant or heartless. Now I know the answer... Yes. It is evil. What could be more despicable than killing your citizens by actively kicking the terminally ill off Medicaid, denying them funding they had previously been promised? And how could this be considered anything but a death panel? Is it not rationing care to cut costs? Is it not a system in which a bureaucrat determines who lives and who dies? I suggest that you watch Keith Olbermann's interviews [http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=arizona+death+panels&aq=f]and consider that Republican Steven Daglas was moved to find his 26 options for funding transplants by compassion for a 27 year old woman who will die unless Brewer cancels her wicked policy... "It is no more or less a death panel than already exists. The only difference is the amount of funding provided." Astonishing. Do you hear yourself? Even if this were true it would still be disgraceful, but it's not. Can you read? Did you not see the bit about the 26 options and how one of Brewer's victims is contemplating moving to Colorado to obtain the transplant and that, according to the Wall Street Journal, these procedures are covered in almost every state? And how dare you compare the Arizona 98 to alcoholic pedophiles! It is because of people like you that monsters like Brewer don't get kicked out of office and instead have their excuses made for them.

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  • 1. Take a deep breath. 2. Repeat step 1 until you calm the fuck down. 3. Climb out of KO's ass and re-read my comments. I disagree with Brewer's choices and that should be clear by my calling them stupid. Also, Life Panel is actually a more accurate description of such panels. They review dying patients files and choose who gets another chance at life. They do not determine who is going to die since that determination was already made by god or fate or whatever one believes. I objected to the absurd use of the Death Panel by the right and I object equally to it's use by the left. As for evil, what politician does not make decisions based in part on profile/electability? What non-local (mayor, state rep, etc.)politician has not voted to put U.S. lives at risk based upon a political decision? He/She may exist but is a rarity. Does this make all others evil? If so, seek help.

  • P.S. I assumed you were addressing me since I was the only one to comment on your last over-the-top article.

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  • The point of my article is that we should not calm down. Everyone should be disgusted by what's happening! If people speak out things might change. And yes, I did read your unlettered comment multiple times. Brewer’s policy is not “stupid.” If anything it is a clever, albeit extremely cynical, political tactic to force the federal government to waive a Medicaid policy so she can kick more people off the program. This is inhumane, disgraceful. And to excuse her decision as just another example of how politicians do undesirable things to get re-elected misses the point. Nobody, as far as I know, resorts to measures like this, and if they do it would be no less evil. She’s not merely putting “U.S. lives at risk.” She’s enacting a “death sentence,” in the words of the American Society of Transplantation. If this weren’t unusually evil, why would 3 transplant groups publicly condemn it? It is the height of irony that you'd call it a life panel, since 2 people have already needlessly died. Furthermore, the right’s use of the term death panel is disturbing only because it’s a lie. But if their accusations were true it would be an accurate description. As for your jab at the apparent unpopularity of my other "over the top article," it should be unnecessary to respond to this, but it's nonetheless worth mentioning that though you were the only one to comment, it ranked on top of the most viewed list for many days.

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  • P.S. You're a liar. You don't "disagree with Brewer's choices." In your comment on my propaganda piece you defended her death panel, saying "some people must die. Whenever their are limited resources, they must be doled out on a limited basis." You can't have it both ways. The only other explanation is that my article changed your mind by making you see how wrong you were. If so, you should have the decency to admit it.

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  • Anger has clearly clouded your judgement and logic. Perhaps you should be more concerned with Brewers suggestion to cut funding to mental services in order to reinstate the previous organ donation program levels.

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  • No, it has not. Your complacency has actually clouded your judgment and logic. And your hypocritically angry tone (“I can’t believe that you have the balls,” “calm the fuck down,” “Climb out of KO's ass,” “seek help”) undermines your argument. If we can't be angry about needless death sentences then we can't be angry about anything. Do you understand that people are dying for no reason and can easily be saved at no cost? Have you seen the Olbermann interviews in which Brewer’s victims literally plead for their lives? (I suspect you haven’t, since that would also destroy your claim that Keith is misrepresenting matters by running his death panel story. And if you have watched them and persist in denying that it’s a death panel, I urge you to seek help and learn to care about others). And I did express outrage about the cuts for mental illness, perhaps you missed it (if you’re just trying to be ironic, it’s easy to call your opponent crazy without referring to any specifics, and shame on you for not earnestly caring about the mentally ill)... In any case, you still haven't answered any of my questions. I repeat: If this weren’t evil, why would 3 transplant groups publicly condemn it (I suppose the author of the American Society of Transplantation’s letter to Brewer also has some balls and needs mental help for calling the program a death sentence)? Furthermore, how could you consider this anything but a death panel? Is it not rationing care to cut costs? Is it not a system in which a bureaucrat determines who lives and who dies? These are yes/no questions, and although your definition of what constitutes a death panel may differ from mine, my use of the term by design evokes Sarah Palin’s description to underscore her hypocrisy. And finally, how do you resolve your contradictory remarks? Do you still defend Brewer’s decision or consider it a stupid, or bad, idea? You’re obviously backtracking by focusing our debate on a different issue because you won’t admit that my article changed your opinion and that you’re wrong.

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  • 1. At no cost? really? you state "Do you understand that people are dying for no reason and can easily be saved at no cost?" but in the article you admit a cost " forcing Felix to search for $200,000 for the down payment on his operation." Where did the money come from when Arizona was covering the surgery? As for your questions 1. since when do 3 transplant groups determine what is evil. Of course they are against this, they get less business. Duh. Their disagreement with this policy is self-serving and therefore not objective. Point Texan 2. Rationing and death panel are not synonomous. If the Chilean miners had to ration food and one died from lack of nutrition, would the others be guilty of murder? Would they constitute a death panel? I think not. The fact that the supply of organs is less than the demand for organs does not make the individuals in charge of rationing killers. People die. If there is not enough money or organs to save them that is sad but not murder as your "death panel" suggests Point 2 Texan. 3. You clearly do not understand term "contradiction". I can disagree with both you and Brewer without contradicting myself. I believe Brewer made a stupid decision. I think your hyperbolic, non-logical argument entirely misses the point and is purely based on K.O.'s biased reporting. Both can be and are true statements. Therefore, they do not contradict. Point 3 and match Texan. The only thing I learned from your articles is that you are a big fan of K.O. and let him do all your critical thinking for you. What are you going to write about now he is off the air? How about the evil cafeteria who served Kucinich an olive with a pit in it. They are a tooth death panel those evil bastards!

  • The 26 different options, compiled by a Republican, are designed to find the funding at no cost: by this I mean that (as I explained in the article, which you apparently could not comprehend) if Brewer would distribute resources already in her possession differently, such as by allocating money for the transplants instead of Arizona State University’s travel plan, she could save lives without raising taxes or cutting spending. Tragically, Mr. Felix has had to try to raise an exorbitant sum of money that our government should have taken care of… As for your critique of the transplant groups, I suppose Brewer’s judgment about whether the transplants save or extend lives is more objective, and that we should ignore the doctors’ dire admonition. If we can’t trust the scientists and doctors who specialize in their field, whom can we trust? Do you question your dentist’s authenticity when he informs you that you need a filling or a crown because he stands to make money by performing the procedure? By the same logic you shouldn’t… Next, I never said “rationing and death panels are synonymous.” I said that rationing and having a beaurucrat determine who lives and dies on a whim is a death panel according to Sarah Palin’s definition (it seems you’re immune to irony too). And you still haven’t answered: is it rationing or not? Is it death by bureaucracy or not? Your analogy to the Chilean miners is flawed and despicable. They had no choice. Brewer has 26 choices. The “supply of organs” is not “less than the demand” in this case—as I pointed out in the article, Mr. Felix had a liver ready but was barred from getting it by Brewer. And there is “enough money.” Why do you keep denying that… You, sir do not understand what “contradictory” means: “Both can be and are true statements. Therefore, they do not contradict.” Your use of the word “therefore” illustrates how you assume what has to be proved. Calling me illogical and contradictory is not the same as explaining how I am being illogical or contradictory. And, once more, you’re lying and obfuscating— you did not initially think Brewer made a “stupid decision.” You defended her decision. Now you’ve apparently changed your mind. Why? Last, yes, I am a big fan of Keith, as I explained in the propaganda piece. I also took pains to describe why I changed my opinion about him after initially dismissing his program: it happened because of other research projects I had conducted about issues such as climate change, the sub-prime mortgage crisis and disinformation. I also noted that I disagree with him on some issues like the War in Afghanistan and the public option. Your objection is based on the assumption that I and Keith are distorting the truth about Brewer's policy. But now you've admitted you're wrong by conceding that you consider it "stupid," not wrong, but need to object to the death panel term to reinforce your debunked conviction about Countdown. Furthermore, Countdown constitutes only 2 of the 14 sources I include in the death panel piece, which relies heavily on a Wall Street Journal article. I suppose I let WSJ do my thinking for me also. You are free to believe that I merely regurgitate what Keith says if that makes life easier for you, but you’re wrong.

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  • I'll make this my last attempt to point out the errors of your arguments since you seem to be unable to have a civil debate based on logic. A trait you clearly picked up from your hero and god KO 1. Even by your strange definition of no cost, you have once again denied the obvious. If she is taking the money from one group, (Mental health services) and giving it to the organ group, I think the mental health services group would disagree with your argument of "no cost". Furthermore, how many lives would have been saved had Loughner gotten appropriate government funded treatment? Both in blood and money there is a real cost and illustrates one of my many points regarding the stupid phrase "death panels". Who is to say what will save more lives, mental health funds or organ funds. 2. If a surgeon recommends surgery, only a fool would not seek a second opinion. It is well known in the medical world that GP's seek non-surgical solutions and surgeons seek surgical solutions. So yes, bias is a factor, even with experts, in all sorts of medical decisions. My point to you was what makes 3 transplant groups the arbitors of evil? Time and time again you bring them up as if that supports your position. Their opinion has no weight vis-a-vis your point. They are biased towards transplants over mental health and other expenditures. The fact that 3 groups agree with you hardly means you are correct in labeling anyone evil or that your course of action is best. By your standards, Palin is always right since she has many groups agreeing with her.. 3. What is this lying crap? I think your arguments are simple-minded and flawed. I think Brewer is an idiot. Never did I defend Brewer, the person, as you choose to believe, what I did was point out many of the infinite flaws of your argument. Once again, this is a distinction you seem unable to comprehend. I find your ability to write a coherant argument lacking. My pointing that fact out has nothing to do with my opinions of Brewer. Now that KO is off the air, may I suggest you seek some mental health funds since your anger is both misplaced and irrational and quite frankly, scary.

  • Ok, you're clearly unreasonable since, among many things, you refuse to accept that the scientists and doctors know better than you and Brewer. So there's no reason to continue this argument.

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