Tea Party Crowd Cheers Voluntary Health Charity

According to a YouTube video by Talking Points Memo about the GOP debate of September 12, the “Tea Party Crowd Cheers Letting Uninsured Die.”

Here’s how Curtis Hubbard, the editorial page editor of the Denver Post, describes the scene: “Cheering for people without insurance to die? Unbelievable.” [Note: Please see the update below.]

Mike Littwin, a member of the Denver Post‘s editorial board, writes:

I don’t want to say the crowd was rough, but when Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul whether a doctor should refuse to treat a 30-year-old man in a coma who had failed to buy his own health insurance, some in the crowd shouted, “Yes, yes.”

I’m serious. I’m a little shocked, but I’m deadly serious.

If “half the truth is a great lie,” then Talking Points Memo, Hubbard, and Littwin are great liars. [December 1 Update: See my post, Belated Apology to Littwin regarding this line.]

So let’s back up and look at the entire sequence.

Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul (whose candidacy I do NOT support):

Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that? … He doesn’t have [health insurance], and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

Paul answers, “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody…”

At this point, as the video makes clear, the audience interrupts with applause.

Blitzer cuts in, “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?”

At that point, at least three idiots in the audience scream, “Yea!” Is this the “Tea Party Crowd?” No. Littwin at least gets that point right. The few chanting “Yea” are not representative of the crowd or of the Tea Party movement. (They are not even known to be self-identified Tea Partiers, though I suspect they are.)

Obviously every large crowd has its idiots. This is true of Tea Party crowds, leftist crowds, union crowds, etc. Notice that those leftists who wish to demonize the entire Tea Party movement based on the idiocy of a tiny minority at the fringe of that movement do not similarly wish to condemn the entire left when a few leftists call for (or enact) violence, racism, or other variants of destructive stupidity (even though such things are much more prevalent on the left). So how about some intellectual honesty here?

Notably, the Talking Points Memo video dishonestly cuts off at this point. But the transcript proceeds:

PAUL: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.


PAUL: And we’ve given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that’s the reason the cost is so high.

The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.

There’s no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.


This combination of free-market policy reforms in conjunction with voluntary charity is more typical of Tea Party beliefs, and it is what I advocate. (I would also favor the hospital sending this man “who makes a good living” the bill once he recovers.) For Talking Points Memo, Hubbard, and Littwin to mention the moronic tiny few chanting “Yea” to the “let him die” line, then to ignore Paul’s substantive answer and the general audience approval of that, is, as I suggested, less than fully honest.

But, hey, they’re talking about the Tea Party, so any smear goes, right?

September 14 Update: After I posted this material, Hubbard added on Twitter, “You infer my comment was directed at entire audience instead of at those who cheered. But you have your defending to do…” Apparently, then, he is claiming that his original comment was not“directed at the entire audience,” but only “at those who cheered.” Fine. Fair enough.

But, as should be obvious, I am not “defending” those who cheered the “let him die” line; I thought calling them “idiots” and “morons” adequately conveyed my attitude. As for Paul’s actual remarks on this issue, and the actual crowd’s response to them (as opposed to the earlier response by the few idiots), those do not need defending, which was the point of the post.

I did hesitate to include Hubbard’s remark with the other two. Talking Points Memo clearly smears Tea Partiers; Littwin ties the few idiots to the Tea Party, leaving to implication that they are representative. Hubbard, on the other hand, merely says that it is “unbelievable” that there was “cheering for people without insurance to die.” He was right to make the criticism.

The problem, and it is a minor one, is that Hubbard neglected the broader context, which is that the overwhelming majority of the audience supported Paul in taking the opposite stand of the few idiots. I read Hubbard’s subsequent Tweets, and he uttered not a word about that key fact, though he did manage to post numerous updates about a football game. I think if the first part of the story merits attention, then so does the second part, particularly as the second part reveals attitudes much more representative of the crowd.

1 thought on “Tea Party Crowd Cheers Voluntary Health Charity”

  1. Comment by Dean Barnett September 13, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    Paul’s “substantive answer” was to reminisce about the way things were in a small Texas town 40 years ago. Those days are gone, and the modern charities dedicated to providing healthcare to the uninsured are straining to provide services to a growing population of impoverished citizens.
    Paul’s answer was not substantive, it was simply irrelevant.

    Comment by mtnrunner2 September 13, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    Littwin uses the phrase “whether a doctor should refuse”.

    But that’s precisely the point: advocates of freedom aren’t advocatingany particular decision (except for the crazies that always seem to catch the liberal’s attention). They are saying the doctor, and those who would fund services, should have the right to decide.

    If asked to help voluntarily, probably most of them would help out. I probably would.

    But since some like Littwin can’t seem to envision a world where people aren’t forced to implement the decisions of social commentators, they equate every decision with a moral right over others’ lives.


    Comment by Ari September 13, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Dean, You don’t think Paul’s answer was substantive simply because you don’t understand what it is. The rapidly expanding costs of health care and health insurance are the consequence of decades of political meddling in those industries. As for the “growing population of impoverished citizens,” the oppressive web of federal economic controls and forced wealth transfers have stalled the economy and thrown millions out of work. Of course these are complex issues, and nobody can offer an encyclopedic answer in a few sentences. -Ari

    Comment by Anonymous September 16, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Not to mention that the cost of medicine began its abrupt rise with the passage of Medicare under LBJ.

    It’s purely anecdotal but my parents noted that two babies, born a year apart without complications and with the same 5 day hospital stay for mother and child were significantly different in price. One cost $300.00 dollars. The later one cost over $1000.00. The difference was that Johnson’s program had been enacted in the interim.

    Similar impacts on pricing can be seen in the education “market” with the advent of generally available (ie., non-GI Bill) government assistance from the early 1980’s onward.

    And the current trend of independent or small affiliated GP offices consolidating or being bought by existing health care conglomerates is a direct response to Obama care. Those practices, were, in many cases, the GP’s retirement plans. The advent of Obama care will make them worthless so they’re getting out while the getting is good. Any bets, that even if Obama care is repealed that some future Ted Kennedy Look-alike will rail against the paucity of GP’s as a market failure? I mean, after all, Teddy boy did that for HMO’s and nobody seemed to recall that he supported the legislation that created them 15 years prior.

    c. andrew

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