What was billed as a “marketplace of ideas” at Kennesaw State University quickly devolved into a second hand store full of debunked Obamacare myths, unsubstantiated opinions, and crypto-racism. Presiding over this shopworn inventory was none other than Dr. Mel Fein, KSU’s favorite reactionary sociologist.
Fein was supposed to debate Obamacare with Dr. Kenneth White, an assistant professor of political science. After KSU President Dr. Dan Papp declared the ground rules, calling for civility and collegiality, Dr. White offered a well-reasoned and ably supported rationale for why Obamacare, once fully implemented, will curb the runaway cost of healthcare while insuring some 40 million Americans so the rest of us will no longer pay for their healthcare.
When it was his turn, Fein could barely contain his disdain for White. He proceeded to condescendingly pontificate on the evils of President Obama and his signature legislation repeatedly and annoyingly punctuating his fact-free presentation with an “oh, and by the way” rhetorical device that quickly became annoying.
Fein breezily dismissed White’s accurate healthcare data as “damned lies” before declaring that law suits against doctors represent 10 percent of the total cost of healthcare in the U.S. (the figure is actually about 2.5 percent).
When Dr. White explained that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecast Obamacare would be paid for in 10 years, Fein’s response was “garbage in, garbage out,” evidently unaware that CBO numbers are accepted as reliable by both parties on Capitol Hill.
It became painfully evident White had prepared for the debate. Fein didn’t bother. Instead, he opined that poor people are incapable of starting businesses and noted, contrary to the Declaration of Independence, all men are not created equal.
The few times Fein did cite data, it was wrong. He insisted Obamacare had driven employers to place employees on part-time status to avoid paying for healthcare, a popular anti-Obamacare myth. In fact, labor statistics show part-time employment has fallen by 681,000 jobs this year.
Dr. Papp sat directly in front of Fein, so I couldn’t see his face but his body language resembled that of a man on the receiving end of a boiling water enema.
Meantime, the evening’s special guest speaker, the estimable sociologist Dr. Jonathan Imber of Wellesley College, was intently studying his shoelaces while Fein mindlessly vented his spleen. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of the faculty lounge at Wellesley when Imber regales his colleagues with his account of Fein’s presentation.
This was clearly not the sort of august and dignified forum Papp or the Dean of KSU’s College of Humanities and Social Studies, Dr. Robert Dorff, had in mind for their Marketplace of Ideas. Billed as “The Great Debate I: Obamacare – Yes or No?” the event was reminiscent of those times you invite an obnoxious uncle to dinner and by the end of the evening, you wish you hadn’t.