Sunday, March 29, 2009

Truth in advertising: Republicans are focused "on the harm health care reform might bring to private health insurers"

Pretty damn good article here by Slate's Timothy Noah, one of the few decent journos at Slate, in J's opinion. One might almost go so far as to call him a J-fave, but that would be stretching it perhaps. Or at least, giving credit on a sliding curve; he's not as left as I am, despite that seeming to be the logical conclusion from many of his articles (from my point of view, of course), but he's at least pretty consistently in the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party" to crib from Howard Dean.*

Anyway. Noah analyzes how the Republicans aren't even pretending to be for the average American anymore, instead fretting about private health insurers' profits. Noah:
Eschewing any pretense that their primary concern is for medical consumers and taxpayers, they focus on the harm health care reform might bring to private health insurers... The reasoning was (and remains) that holding the line on government spending is socialism. Letting the government pay in excess of the market price is capitalism. Surrendering to such Alice in Wonderland reasoning is insanity.

This follows a pretty good earlier column by Slater Christopher Beam -- who's somewhere below Noah but higher than average as far as Slaters in J's esteem -- about how Republicans are trying to use the language of "universal health care" to rebrand their same brand of "gee, if you have money, you can get access to it -- what's not universal about that?" Indeed, they refuse to define what universal even means to them, but Beam gives us a hint:
Under a [traditional] Republican plan, "universal access" means anyone can buy insurance if they want it, but they don't have to. The problem is, "access" is a slippery concept. George W. Bush famously said that "people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room." By that definition, "universal access" already exists.

It's worth noting that Noah also points out that Obama is not really seeming geared up to provide universal health care, in the article linked above, as well as in a month-old column here (first installment of Obama Soft-on-Health-care-watch here.

In news of something more completely different, Fire Mickey Kaus takes a brief jaunt from its primary, and quite laudable, goal (of firing Mickey Kaus), to ask WTF is up with Slate's XX Factor, a nominally female-perspective blog of various Slatesters. Suffice it to say, FMK is about as impressed with XX Factor as we here at Anekantavada are. (To be clear, that level of impressedness == not very. The best thing I can say about their average quality is that it allowed me to use the wonderful word "gormless" in context for the first time.

*To be clear, you don't have to be as Left as J to be a J-Fave, but left-liberal authors like Noah who are clearly smart enough to see the world as it is and who make trenchant criticisms of both parties yet still pretend that either party is an honest broker... I guess what I'm trying to say is, you have to be intellectually consistent, and Noah's points are so insightful and indicting of the current system sometimes, that I feel like it's a total cop-out for him to still back much of the mainstream system. Perhaps he's afraid to go farther within his own mind, for the sake of his job, or he really doesn't see what I perceive to be the gaping chasm between his analysis of US Politics and anything like even qualified support of the status quo, but, yeah... I feel like something's holding him back from truly revolutionary writing, as opposed to someone who really is completely consistent and logical within their own worldview. But that's just me, mayhaps.


Trail Blazer said...

I'm curious. Am I:
A) as left as you?
B) intellectually corrupt because I can be critical of the system and still defend it?

I'm trying to grasp your POV a lot of the time, and while you have clearly thought about those topics in depth, I have only begun to think of, for example, reasons why a 3+ party system is preferable.

So, I'm wondering why I get to be J-fav D. Or do internet g'friends get preferential treatment? =p

J said...


I doubt, in the way I mean it, that you're as left as I am. I mean, it's not a contest where lefter is necessarily better, but yes, politically, my guess is you're a bit more centrist than I am, though part of that is also you have greater hope that the system can be changed with less upheaval than I do. (For example, I give it only 50/50 at best that we make changes for sustainability and equality *before* it's too late, and climate change and other problems cause much more death among the poor in the US and abroad. I doubt the US will make a significant change for the better before it implodes -- like all civilizations do, or at least, all have up 'till now.)

Having dated a revolutionary anarchist, I've moved a bit left from her influence (and others). You haven't felt stupidly centrist until you've tried arguing something centrist with a quite brilliant child of Puerto Rico, where we've done some pretty despicable things and keep it as a territory -- along with Guam, US Virgin Islands, and a couple more -- for *no* justifiable reason, other than it would cost too much in political & financial capital to make it either a state, or an independent nation (to which we'd owe reparations/aid under the UN charter, or so I've been told -- when you let a territory you've dominated free, you're supposed to help it get on its feet, which we don't want to do, and I suppose US assets would be in jeopardy). But neither's likely to happen -- which was unimaginable to many Puerto Ricans of a generation or less ago.

Anyway. I'm REALLY wondering here.

As far as b), to be clear, one's not intellectually corrupt just by both criticizing and defending the system. I'm not absolutist -- it's that Noah's writings, in my opinion, betray such an intense knowledge of the huge amount of rot in the center of the US system that it seems to me somewhat indefensible to know what he knows, and believe what he believes, and yet still, essentially, not be a revolutionary. I don't hold everyone to that standard for a number of reasons -- for one thing, taking the step to be revolutionary, at least in your writing and attitude, is not something that's easy to do. I guess it would be crazy hard for Noah, upper-middle-class mainstream journalist single father that he is, but as a public figure, I set the bar higher for him. His example has a far greater capacity to impact people than, frankly, you or I's. So you get a deferral on not being a public figure, at least not at the national level =], and also because as you yourself say you're coming at these things relatively recently. Even if I think you *should* be where I am, I can't expect you to blindly follow me there -- that goes against what I believe in. And some people also don't believe what I believe -- things like, having a poor underclass is NOT inevitable, that humans aren't inherently selfish, that we can cooperate at large and unprecedented scales -- and so they can be intellectually consistent, say, even if they do think that the poor SHOULD be helped, but that it can't realistically be done in a way that will permanently change things.

And lastly, I only know Noah through his writings. (Though I sent him a note when his wife died, and he sent me a very nice note back thanking me for my sentiments.) If I knew him personally, I suspect he'd get a pass because I would have more to go on -- in terms of how he lived his everyday life, and perhaps more in-depth understanding of where he comes from. But you, you're a fundamentally good person, or so it seems, and fundamentally good people get extra points. And hell, there are some fundamentally good people who I disagree with a LOT, and think are misguided -- since you're good, AND *not* misguided (imho), and, you're my internet g'friend and hottie intellectual, well... yeah, you pass as J-fav. =]