Everyone’s talking about this exchange from last night’s CNN/Tea Party Express debate (I assume the CNN/MoveOn debate is next week), where the crowd cheers the prospect of allowing an uninsured man to die. And I’ll get to that in a moment. But perhaps just as rotten was when the crowd booed Ron Paul, who’s supposed to be a kind of Tea Party godfather, for daring to suggest that not every Muslim is responsible for 9-11. Beyond the crassness of this incident, it should definitively end the speculation that the Tea Party is anything other than an outgrowth of the Republican Party. Their alleged hero was booed for one of the few areas where he strays from Republican orthodoxy. And the boos were specifically because of a stand against bigotry. Remember that Tea Party types are extremely sensitive to charges of racism. Yeah, I can’t imagine where anyone gets that idea.

Ben Adler has a good rundown of the Tea Party economics on display at the debate, which was dominated by fealty to ideological belief over, well, numbers:

Every Republican wants to cut taxes and yet somehow prices to reduce the deficit. So they were asked, as they should be, what exactly they would cut. You might think it would be bad if one of them offered, say, food stamps, for the chopping block, but at least that would contain a proposal for progressives to engage. Instead they were even more mendacious by refusing to give an honest answer. Newt Gingrich ludicrously stated that there is enough waste, fraud and abuse to balance the budget without actually cutting any of the funding that finds its way to legitimate beneficiaries. Rick Santorum and Rick Perry both refused to say they would undo the massive Medicare prescription drug benefit enacted under President Bush, which Santorum voted for. In other words, they are all lying. Either they will increase the deficit or they will propose devastating spending cuts they were afraid to campaign on, or both.

“This country needs to wean itself from its heroin-like addiction to foreign oil,” said Jon Huntsman, when asked how he would lead economic growth as president. Huntsman opposes the sort of measures that would actually wean our addiction to oil by taxing its consumption. Increasing domestic production, which the Republicans all favor, does not actually eliminate our dependence on oil, “foreign” or otherwise. And that’s only partially because we don’t actually have as much oil on US territory as we consume. It’s because oil is a fungible commodity, and Exxon Mobil isn’t going to give away the oil it drills in Alaska to Americans for free. It’s a global market, and increased demand in China and India or an interruption in supply from Venezuela or Saudia Arabia will increase the global price that we pay for oil, wherever it happens to have been drilled.

This definitely extended to health care, where practically every candidate was asked what they would do about 45 million uninsured Americans, and they collectively answered “tort reform,” “health savings accounts” and “end Obamacare.” Paul called for a healthy uninsured man who suffered a medical catastrophe to “assume responsibility” for their lack of insurance, when the implication of the answer is that he should die for making that mistake of failing to get coverage. This is what the crowd cheered on. Paul then argued that churches would come riding to the rescue of the uninsured.

Robert Hendin dares to add some facts to the discussion:

The reason why people who don’t have health insurance can go to the hospital for emergency care and not be turned away, and therefore, have the cost of their care covered by the system, is simply because the federal government requires it.

But this is not a new thing arising from Mr. Obama’s health care law – or even Romney’s. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires nearly every hospital to cover emergency care for those Americans who can’t afford it and says not to turn away the sick simply because they can’t pay for the care.

That is the premise of the question tonight: A healthy young American who doesn’t have health insurance suddenly needs emergency care. Federal law requires that that care is paid for. That law was passed in 1986, which means it was signed into law by not by Mr. Obama or even Bill Clinton, but by Ronald Reagan.

While many in the Tea Party favor more limited government and more personal responsibility, as was evidenced from the crowd’s reaction to Paul’s answer, it was in fact the president most beloved by the movement who signed the law that firmly put government behind this part of the health care cost equation.

Not to mention that the personal responsibility position, which would also cost the federal government less, is to mandate everyone inside the risk pool. After all, single payer health insurance is a mandate.

The debate showed that the Republican health care plan really is don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.

David Dayen

David Dayen