CQ's Tricia Miller reports on the latest dust-up in the bitter race to replace Bart Stupak:

The National Republican Congressional Committee is circulating a video of state Rep. Gary McDowell, the Democratic nominee in the race to replace retiring Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak (D), showing McDowell discussing the cost of health care in the last three months of life. The event took place at Mancelona High School in the fall of 2009, months before McDowell declared he would run for Congress.

"We're not going to be able to provide for our children's education, we're not going to be able to provide all the other things in life that we need to do first as a society, because we are taking so much money for health care at the end of life and the reason is, because I've mentioned to you before, our whole health care system is based upon procedures, doing these things on real expensive gadgets and whistles and bells," McDowell said at a forum. [...]

"It seems that Gray McDowell supports pulling the plug on Grandma because her health care is too expensive," said NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson. "Where an ailing person may see a new lease on life, career politician McDowell sees a 'real expensive gadget' with too many 'whistles and bells'. If Michigan families are going to keep their loved ones safe, they need to keep McDowell and his extremist views far from Washington."

The McDowell campaign responds that McDowell didn't mean the government should make end of life decisions: "Gary clearly states that he believes the sometimes difficult decisions regarding health care should be made between an individual, their family and their health care providers."

But that defense doesn't make much sense. McDowell did hedge at the end of his comments and say these decisions should be made by individuals, but end of life decisions currently are up to individuals in consultation with their families and health care providers. McDowell repeatedly referred to the need for society to control costs: "We have to come together as a society. We only have so many resources out there. We only have so many resources available for health care, or education, or protecting our environment, or public safety. And we have to decide how we're going to allocate those resources." How would McDowell get society to change without the government's involvement?

A number of media figures have howled that Sarah Palin's "death panels" are a big lie, but the issue of health care rationing is a legitimate one. As Paul Ryan has said:

Obamacare wouldn't make Medicare solvent, but it attempts to restrain Medicare spending, Ryan says, through a "comparative effectiveness bureaucracy" and its "IMAB [Independent Medicare Advisory Board] on steroids--new Medicare bureaucracy that will put in all these formula changes bypassing Congress." Ryan calls this a "rationing system."

"The current path is not going to happen, it's not sustainable," Ryan says. "You literally cannot tax your way out of this. ... Medicare itself overcomes the entire size of government."

"So you either put the government more firmly in control the system and make it a government monopoly program--kill Medicare Advantage, kill HSAs,” and "deeply and systematically ration health care," or you can "break up the government monopoly, and bring in the power of the free markets."

"I would simply argue that the history of free market systems shows you more goods and services at lower prices, than closed centrally planned systems, which show you scarcity, rationing, and less innovation," says Ryan.

See also: Sarah Palin and Death Panels: A Brief History.

A recent GOP internal poll showed Benishek up 16 points; a McDowell internal poll showed Benishek up 3 points.

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