A few weeks ago, The Post and Courier published yet another confounding column by Frank Wooten, this time under the headline “More Medicaid Equals More Medicaid Fraud.” Although some City Paper staffers have openly wondered if Wooten is actually a performance artist posing as a columnist, his Medicaid column is no laughing matter. In fact, it’s a perfect example of the poorly constructed arguments that many conservatives use to justify their beliefs.

Wooten’s column begins by reminding us that South Carolina was the victim of $30 million in Medicaid fraud in 2010. But what the P&C‘s assistant editor doesn’t bother to tell us is that South Carolina’s annual budget for Medicaid that year was over $5 billion — or 0.6 percent of the overall budget. After that, he begins throwing out random facts in an effort to confuse readers into believing that expanding Medicaid in South Carolina is a horrible idea — and not just a horrible writer who left out a vital piece of information for the sole purpose of fooling the reader.

To achieve this bit of subterfuge, Wooten cites a statistic about Medicare fraud in South Carolina, noting that in “2012 the cost of Medicare fraud ranged from $75 billion to $250 billion.” Of course, it doesn’t seem to matter to him that Medicare and Medicaid are different programs or that the subject of his nonsensical rant is Medicaid, not Medicare. And it doesn’t matter to Wooten that he’s sloppily confusing a quote from the FBI about the total amount of healthcare fraud in 2012 with the amount of fraud in Medicare alone.

After those two errors, Wooten then goes on to bemoan the “growing poor” who take from the “ever-shrinking share of the populace with jobs,” while ignoring the fact that the national unemployment rate is at its lowest rate since October 2008 when the Great Recession began. He then feels compelled to point out that the number of people on food stamps has increased under the Obama administration, but once again, he ignores the economic collapse of 2008 that occurred well before our current president was in office.

And in an even weirder move, Wooten manages to contradict himself by stating that South Carolina’s “employment numbers are at an all-time high.” So which is it, Mr. Wooten? Is the number of people with jobs “shrinking,” or is it increasing?

As a whole, Wooten fails to examine all of the factors that have led to an increased need for services like Medicaid or food stamps. To do so, he, and conservatives like him, would have to acknowledge the utter failure of American capitalism to live up to its promises of making life better for everyone — not just for the people at the top.

Perhaps good conservatives like Frank Wooten simply believe that no one pays attention to the details of what they are saying, to the very words they write. Or it could be that they are just too lazy to get those details right because to get them right would require, you know, work.

While both of those are possible, I’m more inclined to believe that Wooten and his Republican brethren are well aware that they don’t have an actual, legitimate argument to make against the things they oppose — whether it’s the Medicaid expansion, food stamps, or free lunches for needy children — and so they just piece together a nearly random laundry list of misrepresented statistics, made-up “facts,” and contradictory information in order to create the appearance that their thoughts are governed by reason and not an irrational fear that the nation is moving forward, and they’re the ones being left behind.

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