The American public is organizing and getting involved! Are we happy now?

Please help me make sense of this.  After writing a few dozen posts about the need for the citizens of America to become more active, it looks like success at last!  Should I be happy?

The good news:  more citizen involvement!  Excerpts from these appear at the end of this post.

  1. Remember when protest was patriotic?“, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, op-ed in the Washington Examiner, 8 August 2009
  2. ‘You Are Terrifying Us’“, Peggy Noonan, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 8 August 2009

The bad news:  we’re often ignorant — or indulge in willful self-deception — about so many aspects of our government.  As seen in this question:

Surely the oddest thing about the town hall protests is the number of elderly screaming at the top of their lungs about euthanasia, eugenics–by far the largest contingent. These folks have single-payer health care paid for by the government, and have had it for decades. It’s called Medicare. Yet somehow, they vehemently want to deny it to everyone under 65. What’s up with that?
— From Andrew Sullivan’s blog

Don’t forget Tricare and the Veteran’s Health Administration, which along with Medicare are 3 of the 4 major governmen-run medical programs (plus Medicaid).

In other pockets of the state, the reaction to Democratic proposals has been strong, too. At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

“I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’ ” Inglis recalled. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”
Washington Post

And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare. (Laughter.) And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that’s what Medicare is, is it’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with.
— (TPM transcript— President Obama speaking at an AARP “town hall” meeting about health care, 28 July 2009)

Of course, citizen ignorance is a feature (not a bug) of our system — cultivated our ruling elites.  See economist Arthur Laffer work spreading propaganda.

LAFFER: I mean, if you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait until you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.
— Quote from CNN’s Newsroom, 4 August 2009, source ThinkProgress

For more on this, see “The Medicare-Isn’t-Government Meme“, Timothy Noah, Slate, 5 August 2009.  Key excerpt:

The big lie that Medicare isn’t, nor ever should be, financed and regulated by the government, is a nice illustration of Slate founder Michael Kinsley’s hypothesis, articulated in his 1995 book Big Babies, that infantile denial lies at the heart of much contemporary political disaffection. The American people, Kinsley wrote, “make flagrantly incompatible demands—cut my taxes, preserve my benefits, balance the budget—then explode in self-righteous outrage when the politicians fail to deliver.”


We will be back on track when we see middle-class Americans demanding that their taxes be raised and benefits cut to balance the budget (over a full economic cycle, of course). When we see people laugh at politicos promising free benefits from the government.

(1)  Remember when protest was patriotic?“, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, op-ed in the Washington Examiner, 8 August 2009 — Excerpt:

“Protest is patriotic!” “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism!”

These battle-cries were heard often, in a simpler America of long ago — that is, before last November. Back then, protests — even if they were organized by the usual leftist apparatchik-groups like ANSWER or ACORN — were seen – at least in the media – as proof of popular discontent.

When handfuls of Code Pink ladies disrupted congressional hearings or speeches by Bush administration officials, it was taken as evidence that the administration’s policies were unpopular, and that the thinking parts of the populace were rising up in true democratic fashion.

Even disruptive tactics aimed at blocking President Bush’s Social Security reform program were merely seen as evidence of boisterous high spirits and robust, wide-open debate.

… This was just good, boisterous politics: “Robust, wide-open debate.” But when it happens to Democrats, it’s something different: A threat to democracy, a sign of incipient fascism, and an opportunity to set up a (possibly illegal) White House “snitch line” where people are encouraged to report “fishy” statements to the authorities.

… As someone who’s been following the Tea Party campaign since the beginning, it seems to me to be the most genuine outbreak of grassroots popular involvement in my lifetime. People have been turning out, in the tens of thousands at times, because they feel that Obama pulled a bait-and-switch and is moving the country much farther to the left than he promised during the campaign.

More significantly, most of these people are turning out to protest for the first time in their lives, and they’re planning for future political involvement in years to come. Perhaps that’s what’s got the critics worried.

It’s true, of course, that conservative and libertarian organizations — ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions to FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity — are getting involved and providing advice and support, just as numerous lefty groups have always done with left-leaning movements.

But, as I noted in an April 15 column in The Wall Street Journal, those groups were playing catch-up to a movement that was already rolling on its own.

The truth is that for my adult lifetime, “protest” has been a kind of Kabuki engaged in by organized groups on the Left with help from the press — as in the recent bus tour of AIG executives that was organized and paid for by an ACORN affiliate and in which the protesters were heavily outnumbered by the media, who nonetheless generally treated it as an “authentic” expression of populist discontent.

(2)  ‘You Are Terrifying Us’“, Peggy Noonan, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 8 August 2009

In his first five months in office, Mr. Obama had racked up big wins—the stimulus, children’s health insurance, House approval of cap-and-trade. But he stayed too long at the hot table. All the Democrats in Washington did. They overinterpreted the meaning of the 2008 election, and didn’t fully take into account how the great recession changed the national mood and atmosphere.

And so the shock on the faces of Congressmen who’ve faced the grillings back home. And really, their shock is the first thing you see in the videos. They had no idea how people were feeling. Their 2008 win left them thinking an election that had been shaped by anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and pro-change feeling was really a mandate without context; they thought that in the middle of a historic recession featuring horrific deficits, they could assume support for the invention of a huge new entitlement carrying huge new costs.

The passions of the protesters, on the other hand, are not a surprise.

… What has been most unsettling is not the congressmen’s surprise but a hard new tone that emerged this week. The leftosphere and the liberal commentariat charged that the town-hall meetings weren’t authentic, the crowds were ginned up by insurance companies, lobbyists and the Republican National Committee. But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.

People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.

What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.” (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a “no” slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.

Then came the Democratic Party charge that the people at the meetings were suspiciously well-dressed, in jackets and ties from Brooks Brothers. They must be Republican rent-a-mobs. Sen. Barbara Boxer said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that people are “storming these town-hall meetings,” that they were “well dressed,” that “this is all organized,” “all planned,” to “hurt our president.” Here she was projecting. For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama.

The Democratic National Committee chimed in with an incendiary Web video whose script reads, “The right wing extremist Republican base is back.” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse issued a statement that said the Republicans “are inciting angry mobs of . . . right wing extremists” who are “not reflective of where the American people are.”

But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to The White House said it was merely trying to fight “intentionally misleading” information.

… All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter.


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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts on the FM site about America’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop):

  1. What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008
  2. The housing crisis allows America to look in the mirror. What do we see?, 8 March 2009
  3. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
  4. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
  5. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009
  6. The decay of our government, visible for all to see, 3 June 2009
  7. A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
  8. Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009

26 thoughts on “The American public is organizing and getting involved! Are we happy now?”

  1. The very short answer is yes. But it will have really begun when the debate and the involvement begins to transform the agenda from what the government is considering to how do we get rid of these people and remake ourselves. Given the amounts of money involved, I would be shocked if there were not special interests involved — as if SEIU is not a “special” interest — but it is fascinating how quickly Pelosi and the other garbage heads who work for her were attacking the questioners’ credibility and honesty.

  2. “LAFFER: I mean, if you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait until you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.”

    Or a war in Iraq done by the government. Laffer failed to mention that one.

  3. Marcus Aurelius

    the problem is that no one trust the administration or the congress, and rightfully so. Why can’t we deal with health care rationally, propose changes, tell everyone what they really are, and then give time for discussion. You don’t have to be a genius to understand what is currently being promised is impossible to reconcile. The seniors have a concern, it has been suggested by the administration is that they are going to cut Medicare by 400 million, by efficiencies, over the lifetime of medicare efficiencies have never worked well, why should they now. This should be part of the debate. I was predisposed to support Obama, but now I think he is jollying me along…
    Fabius Maximus replies: Turn the question around. Why were so many other western nations able to institute some form of national health care? I believe the key factor is time. In the 1970’s the institution of the nation-state was at its peak of respect — and love by peoples of the west. As in Nixon’s health care bill, more ambitious than HillaryCare or anything Obama proposes (the Democrats foolishly shot it down, hoping to get even more ambitious plans approved). Now we’re well into the age of the State’s decline. Mistrust has replaced love, and extentions of the State’s power and reach are difficult.

  4. What did you expect? The right wing is well organized, very well funded, and has access to major media assets that are willing to give them as much air time as they can afford.

    There’s a fairly large percentage of the US population that can be easily stampeded when you blast them with enough fearful images and the right-wingers have been experimenting with these images for the last 6 years or so. The Swift boat debacle during the 2004 election was just the first large operation in an undeclared media war that the Democrats don’t appear to have recognized.

    If the Democrats want healthcare to be passed they are going to have to fight fear with fear. Perhaps they should casually mention that insuring the average family of four now costs $10,800 per year and at the current rate of growth will cost over $21,000 by 2018. By the way, the average household earns $52,000 a year before taxes right now and that isn’t expected to keep pace with the growth in healthcare costs.

    Companies are increasingly dropping healthcare coverage for their employees because it is too expensive. Healthcare currently consumes over 16% of the national GDP and will exceed 33% of the GDP by 2019 at the current rate of growth.

    If the Democrats really wanted to cause some strong emotions they could even mention that the finance sector and the healthcare sector of the economy are now at almost 40% of the economy and are virtually the only two sectors to show consistent growth over the last 10 years. In ten more years we may well see that number climb to over 50% of the economy if we don’t fall into another financial crisis.

    But I doubt the Democrats are up to the challenge and Obama’s healthcare plan (which really isn’t that good but is at least a start) will be shelved when Congress reconvenes this fall.

    This is why I expect the Republicans to regain the House in the 2010 elections if they can get some fresh, reasonably charismatic nominees who can keep their programmed answers straight.

  5. Well Fabius we have the largest and newest state and its operators want to keep making it bigger. We need to be creative and firm in helping them build it down, distribute power down the chain toward us, reduce the taxing system and encouraging cooperation at all levels in society. We need to protect Obama from himself. What he did with the banks and the automobile industry is enough for one presidency.

  6. Three Thoughts:

    First, the elderly paid into this system since medicare was enacted in the late 60’s, so they have a right to coverage from the government. This is a coerced system, they had no choice. Same for the military. Therefore the political bent of the recipient mattereth not. Is it illegitimate to say that I disagree with this system in principle but I have no viable alternative?

    Second, while government programs have arguable improved the lot of the poor and the elderly, would it be churlish to point at the avalanche of debt these programs have incurred? They cannot be counted as unqualified successes.

    Finally, it can’t be bad that Americans are regaining interest in the constitution and our founding fathers. Had we always cherished such knowledge we would have saved ourselves much heartbreak and treasure by wisely avoiding chimeric adventures, both foreign and domestic.

    You are the most intelligent anti-war person I have heard. Ironically, the case you lay out is one a true, traditional conservative would make as well.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The magic language of “rights”! You have the right to life, liberty, and happiness — and a pony.

    Your point #1 — You confuse a promise with a right. Promises were made, but they were neither funded nor collateralized. When they cannot be paid, they will be re-negotiated. Welcome to Earth. God will listen to your complaints, but probably not act upon them.

    #2 — Are there any “unqualified successes” in the real world? Other than the birth of a healthy child…

    #3 — What evidence do you have that “Americans are regaining interest in the Consitution”. I would love to see it.

    “Ironically, the case you lay out is one a true, traditional conservative would make as well.”

    I believe these distinction, as conventually drawn, no longer have any utility. Like attempting to define US politics (after 1783) in terms of allegiance to Crown and Church. For more on this, see Politics of the FM site: radical leftist reformer or right-wing iconoclast?

  7. I’ve watched the health care debate for some time now. I’d like to share a few thoughts on the subject:

    1) I know very smart people in the States who are working jobs that are well beneath their talents just for the health benefits. Yet I rarely hear anyone talking about how liberating universal health care would be for these people. Someone who wants to start their own business, or change jobs, or pursue adult education doesn’t have to worry about loosing everything to medical bills in the event of a serious illness when there’s a public option for care.

    2) The opponents of health care seem far more comfortable with scaremongering, innuendo and flat out lying than their opponents. It’s not like it isn’t easy to make scaremongering pro universal health care propaganda. See Michael Moore’s Sicko for a great example.

    3) The people arguing against a public option for health care, or any government intervention in health care reform from the perspective of ‘we can’t afford it’ seem to me to be making a disingenuous argument. If cost is your concern, you have to be pro reform of some sort. America can’t afford the system it has now. Ignoring the human costs, the public heath issues, the economic costs, ethics, the simple fact is that the US pays more than any other country in the world for health care, 16% of the GDP and rising.

    4) The ability of the American left (or what passes for it) to take what should be a winning argument, popular mandate and favorable legislative environment and fail utterly to translate it into action is breathtaking. Never have so few done so little with so much for so many.

    “Socialism if necessary, not necessarily socialism. Capitalism if necessary, not necessarily capitalism”

    -WAC “Wacky” Bennett

  8. FM reply to comment #3: “Turn the question around. Why were so many other western nations able to institute some form of national health care?

    Part of the reason Western European nations were able to offer comprehensive government-sponsored medical care is at least due in part to having much of their defense against the USSR and Warsaw Pact subsidized by the United States. The savings were utilized in part to fund generous social benefits packages including medical care. A second reason is the unique post-WWII economic regime, which – as you have noted repeatedly – is coming to close. The long post-war arc of peace and prosperity enjoyed by Western Europe allowed such generous benefits. Isn’t it an open question whether Europeans themselves can afford that level of generosity given their shifting demographics, smaller follow-on generations and smaller tax bases? Of course, if my analysis is correct, this begs the question: Would the USA now be using universal healthcare if we had not spent so heavily to defend other nations during the Cold War? Obviously now it is water under the proverbial bridge.

    As long as I am being politically-incorrect, why not ask about the vast sums of money spent on social services and medical care for illegal aliens that could have been otherwise used to defray healthcare costs for American citizens? But that’s a story for another day, I suppose.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree. Still, the economic logic impelling change to our current crazy system of health care is at least as strong as that of western European nations in the decades following WWII. What’s changed, I believe, is the social climate, making consensus on large-scale social policy more difficult to build.

    As you note, these economic forces are just as strong in Europe as the US. A few posts are scheduled in the next few weeks discussing this.

  9. The Baby Boomers have always been the “Black Hole” of American politics; absorbing all rational heat and light while inducing a profound distortion in our political discourse. When we were 18, we didn’t like the draft, so we cut and ran from Vietnam, good move, terrible execution. In the 80’s, we started, rationalized, and loved the false prosperity of the debt super cycle we and our children are having to pay for now. Bummer man. And now we are getting old, and cranky. Maintaining continuity of a civilization is a drag, man. Providing for the orderly transfer of knowledge, resources, control, and responsibility to our young is going to crimp our style, and cost a lot of bread we don’t seem to have. Like, what are we supposed to do? Retire later than planned? Take our lumps for too much borrowing, and funding stupid wars?
    Or, as Keynes advised, “Euthanize the rentiers.”. Me. Me. Mine. Mine.

  10. The options are rather clear cut. You either have a health service that is there “from cradle to the grave” for all citizens regardless of background or how deep their pockets are. Or you can have a system that will only treat those that can pay. Or you can have a system that is flat out busted were half of your population has no access to healthcare and has to rely on charity. And those that can are being increasingly squeezed to maintain profit margins of insurance companies.

    Sadly the NHS were I live is being slowly destroyed by Conservative and New Labour policies have allowed private companies in the backdoor. These companies are paid tax payer money to provide frontline delivery of health services, but do so at an increased cost to us. The money is largely taken from NHS budgets that reducing their capacity and ability to function properly. But I would add that the scare stories being used by republicans are just that scare stories. Most of the claims I have read, apart from being repugnant are completely false. The others concerning failures of the system are largely in part due to “policy guidelines” from government. They also tend to be the exception to the rule, which is why they become big news.

    The french system is far superior but is a hybrid. But the french are prepared to pay for it because it works. The norwegian system is entirely state run this is in part because of the high taxation on income, but the money is ploughed back into society. There is a strong sense of community and of being part of something bigger than you self in these two countries. It used to be the same in the UK. Maybe thats whats missing?

    As for the arguments against Obamas plan, I see a lot of scare tactics, misinformation and ignorance at work. But no solutions being offered up. The system is nto working to the benefit of the nations citizens, so it must be reformed…it cannot simply be allowed to continue because of vested interests, that is simply madness.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Why don’t we just adopt the German system, or one of the other better-functioning systems in Europe? Why bother to throw together some Rube Goldberg-like mess on our own?

  11. The laughable ineptness of the Democrats on this issue aside, what really gets me about this debate is the logical inconsistency on the right with regards to “big government”. I fail to see how government cannot be trusted to provide healthcare or other social services, yet is absolutely trusted to provide national security through the military. It would seem that the same arguments against gov’t-run health care should apply to national defense.

    The most disturbing comment I’ve heard so far was from one of the Town Hall protesters who outlined her fear that socialized healthcare was making the US into the USSR. Yet that same fear was not expressed when it came to ramping up the military budget, creating the Department of Homeland Security, and virtually eliminating the oversight on government wiretaps of US citizens, all of which were much more “soviet” than healthcare.

  12. Burke G Sheppard

    Fabius asks an interesting question. Why were other countries able to institute national health care. (He’s right that the Dmeocrats, if they wanted such were foolsh to reject Nixon’s proposal)

    I don’t know if the state is in decline in general, or state’s finances certainly are, and the inability to pay for a scheme like this is certainly hampering the Administration’s ambitions. Another reason may be that America has never had a parliamentary system. It’s a lot harder in general for an American President to get his way than, say, a British Prime Minister. Citizen opposition perhaps counts for less in a parliamentary system. I’ve heard it said that Britain doesn’t elect a chief executive the way we do, they elect a dictator for four years. (That was probably said at a time when the Presidency was less powerful than it is now, so take it for what it’s worth)

  13. A stake for the heart of the federal vampire: The Bill of Federalism — Resolution for Congress to Convene a Convention.
    Fabius Maximus replies: IMO one of the dumbest and most dangerous ideas floating about. God only knows what would result from a Constitutional Convention — the equivalent of open-heart surgery on the Republic. It stems from the bizarre belief that our problems result from structural problem that can be fixed by new laws. Another example of the 21st century American mantra “It’s not our fault!”

  14. Personally, I find the protesters at the townhalls to be frightening. They seem eager to yell and threaten, and uninterested in substantive debate about the actual issues. Their purpose appears to be to shut down these townhall meetings with the public, thus isolating the congresspeople from their constituents (Link: Huffington Post, “Fists Pounding on Glass, Right-Wing Violence Stops Tampa Town Hall”, Jeffery Feldman). Also, the fear and chaos that these “Tea Bagger” protesters are creating appears to be entirely planned. Here is a leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website “Tea Party Patriots”, which explains in detail how to disrupt the townhall meetings.
    Fabius Maximus replies: What goes around, comes around. The Left has used such measures with great success for 20 years. Conservative speakers have been shut-down routinely at many universities around the nation. Protesters like Moveon and Act-up were lionized by the media. That was your opportunity to get frightened. Now these methods are in the American toolbox.

  15. The anger and frustration are real. I think Camille Paglia has it pretty much correct in “Obama’s healthcare horror“, Salon, 12 August 2009:

    “You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you’re happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really?…And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.”

    Why the anger? (often ignorant anger, but justifiable anger nonetheless):

    “…Both major parties have become a rats’ nest of hypocrisy and incompetence. That, combined with our stratospheric, near-criminal indebtedness to China (which could destroy the dollar overnight), should raise signal flags. Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?”

    “…But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration’s outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable “casual conversations” to the White House.

    “…If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately.” denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.”

    Fabius Maximus replies: We have elections every two years. If that tool is not sufficient, then a Constitutional Convention would likely prove disasterous. We’d come out with less freedom then we went in.

  17. From Noonan’s Op-Ed

    But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to The White House said it was merely trying to fight “intentionally misleading” information.

    Noonan really needs to take off her tinfoil helmet. Obama’s administration is doing that for a commonsensical reason… they need to know how they are being smeared so they can fight back against the smears.

  18. OK, Good points. I agree with you on rights. My point, however, is that it is an idiotic trope to call a hypocrite anyone receiving government program healthcare who disagrees with what the Dems are proposing. If out government were in the black, or at least not creating more debt, I would be more confident in their schemes. As it stands, there’s not much to recommend confidence.

    I hear people at the town hall meetings shouting about the constitution. It’s anecdotal, but you don’t hear that everyday.

  19. the so-called European system is not working- look at their economic growth & job creation data for the last 20 years. Rather than France let’s look at the Swiss- market based system with gov’t subsidy for the poor. The Democrat’s proposal being cobbled together is a nightmare & will lead to a single payer system & rationing. For example- illegal immigrants are covered, so everyone with a sneeze in Mexico will run to California. Community rating is a disaster- it is used in 3 US states- not coincidentally the 3 states with the highest insurance rates. Mandated coverage for preexisting conditions needs to be modified- see state of Mass system- the rate of claims for 1st year insured has tripled- b/c people do not buy insurance until they are sick (fine for uninsured is about a third of cost of coverage- so many go without until sick- than buy it). Read the op ed piece in WSJ by CEO of Whole Foods for better ideas for reform, which should be incremental- no need for total reconfiguration of system by Congress- most of whose members never ran anything. As far as townhalls are concerned- they have always been political theatre- Dems just shocked that the Repubs have learned to play.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Europes’s economic growth has been broadly similar to ours over the past 20 years (they calculate it more conservatively than we do). The US has had zero employment growth over the past 10 years; the private sector lost over a million jobs. I doubt Europe has done worse.

    In any case, I doubt Europe’s health care system is a major factor in their overall economic performance –although our’s might be (due to its far larger cost, and private financing).

  20. ” The bad news: we’re often ignorant — or indulge in willful self-deception — about so many aspects of our government. ”

    Electronic chain-mail is responsible for a huge quantity of misinformation and ignorance regarding a whole slew of political and social issues. The degree to which this has undermined peoples’ ability or inclination to seek quality information and perspective is staggering, especially among those who are not technologically-savvy (i.e. the elderly). Vast swaths of false ideologically-charged political memes in the past few years, on both the Right and Left, can be attributed to chain-mail.

    The implications for the American public’s capacity to reason, and thus make sound democratic decisions, is deeply concerning. Further, pervasive distrust of authoritative sources and ideological insularity (lack of engagement with opposing viewpoints) speak volumes about the strained social fabric and decline of the nation-state. All of this does not bode well for collectively solving any of our myriad of problems. While the drive to become involved with political issues is preferable to apathy, if people are operating from positions of pervasive insularity, distrust, and misinformation, the possibility for fanatic reactionism becomes dangerously real.

  21. Fab’s got a broken ooda loop. Ask Dick Armey, how real those health care protests are. How many of you faux gravitas fucking cunts, get health care through fake ontario health cards?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you have any evidence that these protests about health care are not real? While the propaganda spurring them is largely false, the public response appears real. In fact it’s the Democrat/labor counter-demonstrations that appear to reply on paid staff and political activists.

    Beneficiaries of government money are usually very vocal about any attempts to reduce it, whether real or imagined. The Democrats have skillfully played this card for decades. the only surprise is that it has taken so long for the Republicans to learn this game.

    For a good analysis of this see “Medical Mosh Pits – Understanding the clashes at the health care ‘town halls’“, Jesse Walker (editor), Reason magazine, 13 August 2009.

  22. @michael mac

    Sorry, but I have to question the logic of your post:

    1) There is not a European model, as you state different European countries have different models (Sitzerland is part of Europe:).

    2) If you check the better European health care systems, then they provide services of (usually) higher quality for 70% of the costs in percent of GDP compared to the US. The Swiss health care system plays in the first legue but is usually not considered not the best in Europe.

    3) If you propose the Swiss economic model then you should carefully analyse which parts of it only work because larger neighbour countries, esp. Germany, provide essentiual contribution to the “workforce”, e.g. the Swiss health care system would be in real trouble, when you remove all the German physicans and pharmacists, that were trained/educated in Germany (German taxpayers have paid) and fill slots in the Swiss economy. So would such a system be useful for the USA?

  23. My Mom was an Army Nurse 1st Lt in WWII, serving in the Phillipines. She spent the last 18 months of her life in the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg, MO. She had excellent care from the Dr who had the VA contract in Warrensburg’s local hospital. I get teary eyed when I think about the excellent care she received at the Veteran’s home. Several observations on this:
    1. The cost of nursing home care was reduced by about $90,000 from what I would have paid on the open market. Consequently, I inherited about $90,001 from Mom when she passed. I appreciate the kind gift from the taxpayers of the US, but I would be fine without it.
    2. Because Mom received VA care, Medicare did not pay for her care in the hospital. I wonder how much of medicare costs for the WWII and Korea generations, where service was much more common than it is today, is being shifted to the VA.
    3. End of life counseling is a good thing. Four months before Mom passed, she was in a coma. I literally had a minute to make a decision about pneumonia, antibiotics, Mom’s dementia, and course of treatment. In spite of year’s of discussions with my RN Mom, I felt overwhelmed. I think I did the right thing, but….
    4. Politically, I’m a Pat Roberts/John Ashcroft Republican. But, I think the US could come up with a health safety net better than what we have. I haven’t seen any evidence from the current President that he is serious about engaging folks like me, who are sympathetic to coming up with a public/private synthetic solution, in coming up with a solution.

  24. European model is a common term for a heavily statist model- ala obamacare. The healthcare in europe is not superior- just cheaper. Do not quote life expectancy- first that is lifestyle not healthcare- secondly, once you control for homicides & motor vehicle accident related deaths (hard to blame your doctor for being run over or shot) the US is first in the OECD nations in life expectancy- but you do not hear that enough in the media. Our healthcare data has many positives- better survival rates in many cancers & declining mortality in many serious diseases- better than the UK and Germany in most instances (look up prostate & breast cancer data at the lancet). We have problems, but in truth quality is not a major issue- Canada & the UK have worse problems with care than we do- and Canada uses the US a a relief valve. Much of the so-called savings in healthcare in Europe relies on the US to provide innovation & shifts the cost of care to other entities (providers) as well as systematic underinvestment- leading to gradual worsening of the system overtime.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The outcomes for western european healthcare systems is broadly similar to ours, as you state, and far cheaper. When we’re talking about several percent of GDP, that’s real money — which gives a basis for saying its better.

    Going down into the weeks, looking at survival rates for different illnesses, tells us little because of the different lifestyles and cultural patterns — which make these micro comparisions of little utility when comparing systems. For other links on this subject see this comment.

    ‘Much of the so-called savings in healthcare in Europe relies on the US to provide innovation”

    Can you cite anything to support this? It seems unlikely to me, although I’m no expert in this field.

  25. @michal mac
    The better cancer treatment is undisputed. However, the car incident is tricky as you have to compare different speed limits, different cars types etc. which affect the mortality rate after an accident, here the European “life style” or better driving manners may be a crucial difference.

    A few years ago there was a Swiss study that dives more deeply into the assesment of quality, they checked the quality of certain types of surgery etc. and they came to the conclusion that the quality in some European contries like France was indeed better. In addition, Quality of a health care system include not only survival rates of cancer patients but also other aspects.

    UK health is not the reference in Europe. Austria (here quite different data on percent of GDP for health care exist) may be a better candidate for relative cheap but still very good.

    The general life style problem can not be seperated from health care, as prevention is the most economic way for low costs and therefore some of the insurance companies work hard to install prevention programs, this can indeed mean to run cooking courses or fitness programs for their customers.

    Do you have hard data that the the US did indeed pay for us Euros :-)

    Or could it be that most of the European insurance companies are simply better in making deals with hospitals and pharmacies than their US conterparts, how much does the different legal system (compensation for damages)in the US contributes to high costs? If you check the contribution of drugs to the costs in Europe (<30%), then the drugs must be many times more expensive in the US than Europe to explain the much higher costs of the US system. I know that there are price differences for the same product drug but why do the US insurance companies pay the higher price? Why don't they use the same methoda as the European insurace companies to cap/reduce the prices?

  26. FM,

    I am extremely unhappy about the idea of any extension of the already massive U.S. socialized medicine system. I worked at a high level of the U.S. Government for a decade as a DOD Civilian. The waste, fraud and abuse I saw there was unbelievable. What I learned irrefutably was that government does little well, and absolutely nothing efficiently. Anything the government gets involved in that can be done by private enterprise will be, by comparison, more expensive and less effective, if only because government workers do not have the concern with financial viability that private businesses must always remember. Anything that Obama does that expands Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA will be far more expensive than it has to be.

    Your references to Mr. Arias’ articles on immigration are very pertinent to this healthcare issue. First, it was very clear that the fifty Congressmen he dealt with held their constituents in deep disdain. That’s a problem with our entire political class which appears to be worsening. Second, they are pertinent because Milton Friedman once said that you can have a welfare state or open immigration, but you can’t have both. Under what I’ve seen of this current plan, we’ll be making it incredibly easy for both legal and illegal aliens to get health care on the taxpayers’ dime. As an example, if Congress strictly limited a bare-bones plan to natural-born Americans only (a much smaller group of the citizenry), the cost would still do incredible damage to our exchequer, which is already on life support. Add in the naturalized Americans, plus all the legal and illegal aliens, and it simply can’t be done. Thomas Sowell just said government wouldn’t reduce the cost of care, they would just refuse to pay it. He nailed it exactly. Result: higher taxes and a lower standard of care as medical professionals retire early or leave the profession.

    Last, if any legislator was REALLY serious about this issue, they would have started with tort reform that addressed the incredible cost of medical malpractice insurance. However, expecting a legislative body full of lawyers to enact a bill that limits lawyers’ earning opportunities is delusional. I suspect the high cost of defensive medicine, more than anything else, is what makes the U.S. health system more expensive than the good Euro systems.

    What we have now with private care is bad; what Obama intends to do will be much worse. If if doesn’t pass this time, it won’t pass. The rapidly approaching means-testing of Social Security is going to absolutely infuriate every person in America who has paid into that system under the promise that they would receive benefits no matter what their economic situation. The unavoidable breaking of that promise will exponentially increase the contemptuous disgust Americans have for government. I would like to think that default might make the citizenry wake up and realize that our means are limited and we should take care of our own people first. I wouldn’t bet money on it, however.

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