Over the weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) compared the death toll of the Republican health care bill to one of the greatest disasters in American history, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He actually suggested that more people would die from repealing Obamacare than died in that attack.
“Now, obviously nobody can predict exactly how many people will die if they lose their coverage,” Sanders admitted at a “Care Not Cuts” rally in Morgantown, W. Va. on Sunday. “But what experts at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate is that if 23 million Americans were to be thrown off the insurance they currently have — which is what the House bill would do — up to 28,000 Americans every single year could die.”
Here’s the kicker: “That is nine time more than the tragic losses we suffered on 9/11, every single year.”
Democrats have freaked out about the Republican health care bill for months. When the Republican House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May, Democrats jeered, acting as though the bill would consign Republicans to long-term electoral defeat.
But before that, they had warned that the AHCA would cost lives. Sanders himself predicted that “thousands” would perish, while Think Progress estimatedthat 36,000 Americans “could die every year, year after year.” Vox chimed in, saying Obamacare repeal is “a question of life and death.”
Liberals on twitter compared the health care bill to the misogynist dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, and one enterprising liberal actually set up a website where people can sign up — to send their remains to the GOP after they died. Planned Parenthood actually lamented that the health care bill would cause more babies to be born, rather than aborted.
But will the bill actually cost more lives than 9/11? There are many reasons to question the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report which estimated that 23 million people would lose coverage. But the CBO has a horrible track record on health care — and Obamacare specifically.
On Monday, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) attacked the CBO’s number as “wildly speculative.” He told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that it is “implausible” to assume that those on Medicaid would abandon the free benefits if they are no longer required to buy coverage through the individual mandate.
But Sanders’ remarks are problematic for another reason, as well. Last month, a Bernie Sanders supporter (James T. Hodgkinson) shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-S.C.) in a politically motivated attack, likely inspired by escalating political rhetoric. Sanders condemned Hodgkinson, but he hasn’t stopped his inciting political statements.
Sanders’ comparison between 9/11 and the Republican health care bill suggests that the senator has not learned from this tragic shooting. The subtext of his statement is clear: The Republican repeal and replace of Obamacare is akin to a terror attack on American soil. His remarks also came shortly after Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour called for a “jihad” against President Trump.
Perhaps Sanders merely aimed to distract from the fact that his wife Jane is under investigation by the FBI. If so, that would be a rather tragic excuse for such rhetoric.
In a time when civility is more important than ever, Sanders is doubling down on explosive rhetoric. If Vox is right to call him the 2020 Democrat frontrunner, America is in trouble indeed.