Ezra Klein on Healthcare; Arrogant and Ignorant

In his Washington Post article of Aug 11, with the extraordinarily humble title of; “It Is Democracy, Not Health-Care Reform, That Is Sick”, Ezra Klein makes some breathtakingly ignorant statements, which when added to an inherent arrogance, lead him to the conclusion that there is no problem with the Democrat health care proposal, in fact, public dissatisfaction with it merely shows that we have a problem with our democracy.

I suppose he feels that with so many well intentioned do-gooders doing for us in Washington, the least we little people can do is shut up and let them rule. In fact, his arrogant dismissal of the entire basis of the American government is based on considerable ignorance as to it’s nature.

I’ll let him speak for himself;

“As Josh Marshall says, we’ve reached a point in the health-care reform discussion where logic has fallen apart. Consider, for instance, Danielle Allen’s op-ed this morning. Discussing the insistence of some that health-care reform will result in rationing and death panels, Allen chides those who respond with an accurate description of the legislation. “One can’t answer them by saying: ‘These policies won’t ration; there will be no death panels,'” she writes. Instead, reformers must detail the “institutional checks that will prevent the emergence” of death panels and rationing.

“In other words, the questions reformers have to answer is not “when did you stop beating your wife?” It’s “what will prevent you from beating your wife?” Given that there is no such thing as a “death panel,” nor any policy provision that would establish such a thing, it is hard to explain the institutional checks that would prevent a “death panel” from coming into being. When you have to explain why your bill won’t create death panels, and what will make sure that it doesn’t, you’ve pretty much lost the argument.

So, to understand him properly, he feels that proponents of the (mostly unread) legislation can simply say that there will be no rationing, and will be no panels that restrict necessary care for cost reasons, and when asked to back up that statement with some structural proof from the proposed agency itself (aka; “institutional checks”), they do not need to have an answer. Generally speaking, if one does not want something to happen, yes, they do have to institute some kind of institutional check. This is like drug use. The Government does not want it to happen, so they institutionalize punishments if it does. Mr. Klein is totally insulted by that entire line of reasoning.

The fact that an idea as loony as death panels has found even the slightest purchase in the public consciousness shows how distant the minority feels from our democracy. Members of Congress are terrified of voter backlash and industry opposition. They are leaving virtually the entire health-care system untouched. They will scuttle the bill if a rural hospital in their district doesn’t receive sufficient reimbursement or if a local device manufacturer is harmed. Yet there is a certain portion of the country that believes that Max Baucus and Mike Ross are willing to vote for death panels and defend them before their constituents in the following election.

What we’re seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It’s distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

I love his blanket statement that there is no evidence for the claim that our government is capable of madness. Is Mr. Klein really that naive? Apparently so. Bureaucracies have always found ways to implement madness in the pursuit of The Rules.
Ezra appears to be incredibly ignorant. Firstly; the idea of a “death panel” is not even remotely “loony”. Australia, the UK, Canada, and many other countries all have panels that apply “the formula” to health care decisions. Many cases in the UK have famously made it into the news when so in so was refused expensive care and died. One such case was taken to their highest courts by the parents of the patient. It is common and not even considered all that controversial in these nations for some panel of experts to determine who is a productive enough citizen with enough years left of expected life and who is not; and apply expensive treatment accordingly. Also; these panels decide what drugs will and will not be available in these countries not only based on safety information (which they get largely from the US FDA anyway) but based on the cost of the drug. In cases where a more expensive drug works somewhat better than a less expensive drug, there are formulas for determining how much better it works, and in many cases, the government simply refuses to allow the more expensive drug to be part of the “health care basket” at all. Indeed, you often can’t even buy these drugs yourself with your own money if they are not part of the “health care basket” in many of these states.
Thus Ezra Klein seems to be ignorant of other government provided health care systems. Worse though, he is ignorant of his own nation’s founding documents.
This is probably the most ignorant and stupid sentence that can be uttered by any would be student of American politics;

“A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable.”

Oh yeah; it was so unthinkable that one side of the government versus people contract would abuse it’s power to beat or kill, that the founders of the United States explicitly built the entire structure of our government to be composed of exactly such institutional checks. The entire reason that responsibilities are split between Executive and Legislative, and between Federal and State, go back to a very healthy distrust of all power being centralized.
Wasn’t there an old saying; “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Maybe it isn’t totally true, but where does Klein get the gall to first ignore the entire basis for his own nation’s government (institutional checks against abuse) claiming that they are unnecessary, and then throwing away the very principle the entire country was based on (democratic representation) when it gets in the way of one of his pet policy ideas? What incredible Chutzpah, and what amazing ignorance! Truly, this article is breathtaking in both categories.

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~ by Jubal Biggs on August 11, 2009.

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