The television commercial from pro Obama super PAC Priorities USA featuring Joe Soptic is catching a lot of attention. In the advertisement, Mr. Soptic tells how he worked as a steelworker for GST Steel when it was taken over by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Mr. Soptic was laid off and lost his health insurance. After that, his wife took ill. But since the Soptics didn’t have insurance coverage they made the choice not to see a doctor until her condition became so severe that a trip to the doctor was unavoidable. The doctor diagnosed Ms. Soptic with stage IV ovarian cancer. The woman died twenty two days later. Mr. Soptic went on to say that he doesn’t think that Mr. Romney cares about what impact his business decisions have on people.
The first glance implication is that Mr. Romney is the typical greedy venture capitalist with the sole focus on profit. The advertisement sent the Romney supporters into outrage mode. They accused the super PAC and the Obama campaign of accusing Mr. Romney of being an accomplice to the death of Ms. Soptic. There is nothing to connect the closure of GST Steel to the death of Ms. Soptic. It is unfortunate that the woman had developed cancer, but she would have developed cancer regardless.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, according to an investigation by CNN when Joe Soptic was laid off, Ms. Soptic didn’t have health insurance through GST Steel but through her own employer. She lost her own coverage when she was later laid off in 2002 or 2003. Ms. Soptic died five years after GST was shut down. There are some pretty big leaps of logic to conclude that Mr. Romney is in anyway responsible for the death of Ms. Soptic. At least that’s the way it looks at second glance.
When asked about the Soptic’s story, Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, made the statement that if the Soptics were not in Indiana but resided in Massachusetts where Mitt Romney introduced healthcare reform as Governor they would have had insurance coverage and Ms. Soptic would probably be alive today. And if the reaction of some prominent conservative pundits was any indication you would have sworn Ms. Saul had put the nails on the coffin that held Mr. Romney’s only chance to win the White House. One conservative commentator called her an idiot and demanded that she be fired. Another tweeted that she had given the presidency away. They said this because Ms. Saul spoke part of the truth.
The truth of the matter is that the American steel industry along with other parts of America’s manufacturing base has been in a steady state of erosion for decades. For years American steel producers had the industry to themselves. When foreign steel producers entered the American market, American manufacturers were either unwilling or unable to meet the challenge of new competition. And steel producers became vulnerable takeover targets, ripe for the picking from venture capitalist that saw great value in their takeover and destruction.
The truth is that if Joe Soptic had kept his job even when his wife lost hers, they would have had a fallback for healthcare coverage. If Mr. Soptic was able to keep his job when his wife lost hers at least they would have had a healthcare contingency. That option was lost because the management at Bain Capital was more focused on profits instead of what could happen to the people who were laid off. This doesn’t make anybody responsible for Ms. Soptic’s fatal condition. But it does mean that options that could have been available to the couple were lost.
The truth is that we live in a country with a healthcare system that rewards insurance companies for denying people coverage. Insurance companies make more money by denying people access to insurance coverage. One of the ways they do this is through a preexisting condition clause. If you get sick before you obtain insurance then the insurance company has an excuse not to cover the preexisting condition.
The truth is that as Governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney recognized that something had to be done to provide health coverage to people who couldn’t afford it on their own. He reformed Massachusetts healthcare and said that it should serve as a model for the nation. When developing a healthcare coverage plan for the nation, the Obama administration followed the path laid out by Mr. Romney. In essence it is the same plan as Massachusetts’ just on the national scale.
The truth is that now, Mitt Romney says that if he is fortunate enough to become President, he would repeal Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan because individual states should have the right to deny their citizens healthcare. What’s good for Massachusetts isn’t good for the nation because it would cover everybody in the nation, like the plan in Massachusetts would cover everybody in Massachusetts. If there is a future Joe Soptic in Indiana he wouldn’t have to move to Massachusetts because a program that would help his wife would be available on the national level. But only if Mr. Romney is denied an opportunity to repeal it.
When Ms. Saul said Mr. Romney introduced the model of healthcare reform in Massachusetts that was a true statement. When she said that if the Soptics lived in Massachusetts instead of Indiana they would have had the coverage needed to protect Ms. Soptic’s health that was also a true statement. When conservatives blame Ms. Saul for her true statements and want her fired, on what grounds? Thou shall not bear true witness against thy neighbor? It is unfortunate that right now Mr. Romney has taken a far right conservative position that we should deny healthcare for people who can’t afford it. But the truth of the matter is that back in the day, Mitt Romney was once moderate enough to see a need for his constituents and took the steps necessary to provide. If Mitt Romney doesn’t want that information coming out today, he shouldn’t have done it then.
Ms. Saul spoke the truth. If that truth cost Mr. Romney the election then that’s hardly Ms. Saul’s fault. It is far better that she speaks the truth and shows Mitt Romney not to be the best choice for to lead the country forward rather than speak a lie or to propagate a lie through admission in order to help Mr. Romney win. To say that Ms. Saul is the reason Mitt Romney might lose an election is a lot like saying Mr. Romney is the reason Ms. Soptic died of cancer. If truth is to be told the two situations are quite similar.