HOW WE STAY BAREFOOT AND PREGNANT! The ladies Dormady have heard from the right. From our side, not so much: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17, 2009
Plus ca climate change: David Fahrentholds last name is in the ball park with Fahrenheit. Perhaps for that reason, editorial wags at the Washington Post have assigned him the climate change beat.
That doesnt mean he isnt doing good work. Who could have imagined one of the things he reports in this mornings paper:
Farenthold was too modest to say that he meant 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
At any rate: As global warming proceeds, Washingtons summers could get warmer? Who could have imagined that? As a matter of fact, Cass Peterson could. Heres how she began a news report in that very same Washington Posttwenty-three years ago to the week:
Same idea, in June 1986! (Peterson used the word Fahrenheit.)
(No, these arent the famous first congressional hearings on warming conducted by Al Gore. Those hearings occurred earlier, in the House. Luckily, Gore didnt mention them to Wolf Blitzer in 1999, in that first interview as a candidate. If he had, the entire country would know by now that they never occurred.)
At any rate, theres nothing wrong with Fahrentholds report todayquite the opposite. Hes reporting a new study on climate change, one which projects possible effects of warming in different parts of the country. Lake effect snow may get worse in Buffaloand you can kiss your Vermont maple syrup good-bye! Fahrenthold even put in a call to Jimmy Buffets bar, Margaritaville, seeking comment on the idea that the place will soon be under water. (Maureen Dowd would have made her editors fly her down for three nights.)
We couldnt help recalling that earlier report on this very same topic. On that very day in 1986, we vowed to buy property in Newfoundland, the Nantucket of the next century. Frankly, it was a darn good idea. We havent quite done it yet.
HOW WE STAY BAREFOOT AND PREGNANT: How does your nation discuss major issues?
Very, very poorly. Consider two more reports about health cares costs, found in todays Post and Times.
The Post assembled a trio of scribes to compile its report. They spoke about mammoth possible costs involved in reaching full coverage. (Hard-copy headline: Obamas Health Plan Needs Spending Control, CBO Says.)
How much might it cost to expand health care to the uninsured? It might cost quite a bit, the trio of scribes report. Aides said [Max] Baucus is trying to keep the 10-year cost of his reform package under $1 trillion, they write at one point. Later: Senate aides said Baucus had been looking at options that could push the price past $1.6 trillion over 10 years. Meanwhile, a panel of former majority leaders (including Tom Daschle) have waded into the same debate. The three advocate a mix of tax increases, spending cuts and new mandates guaranteed to annoy nearly every major player in the health-care debate.
Theres nothing wrong or inaccurate about this news report. But in accord with established Hard Pundit Law, this report omits the most significant Big Giant Fact about our health-care system: On a per capita basis, were already spending twice as much as comparable nations which get better health outcomes and already have full coverage!
Surely, any sane person can see the enormous big-picture relevance of that Big Fact. But this Huge Giant Fact simply never appears in our discussions of health-care overhaul. It cant be found in todays Post report. It cant be found in todays report on this same topic in the New York Times. (Democrats Work to Pare Cost of Health Care Bill. Just click here.)
Are Americans ever allowed to hear this very basic fact? Occasionally, this is permitted. Paul Krugman discussed this matter in great detail in a series of column a few years back. This very morning, you get a glimmer of this fact in the New York Times, in David Leonhardts Economic Scene column:
From that single highlighted sentence, a reader might get a tiny hint of that Big Remarkable Fact. But that single sentence is lodged inside that longer paragraph. In our hard-copy New York Times, that is paragraph 24in a 26-paragraph column.
How does your country discuss major issues? Very, very poorly. You cant achieve an intelligent outcome if you start a discussion by agreeing to censor a Giant Highly Relevant Fact. Very few citizens understand the larger context surrounding our current debate. They dont understand that were already spending twice as much as other countries which get better outcomes and already have full coverage.
In part, they dont understand this Giant Fact because its never said.
But many other things do get said. And citizens take in such statements. Consider the groaning discussion on CNN which Digby recently highlighted. (Cover your eyes, then click here.)
In this segment, John King sat down with three Florida residents to kick around health care ideas. Two of these people seem to be sisters. There surely was nothing scientific about the way this sample was selected.
That said, the sheer stupidity of this discussion strikes us as highly instructive. Big news orgs dont like to discuss it, but information surveys constantly show that we voters are ill-informed about everything. Facts take up little space in our heads. Dog-eared old slogans do:
Well take a guess: The ladies Dormady have never heard that we already spend twice as much as countries which get better outcomes. They have heard, and they repeated, key bits of Conventional Wisdom. According to King, they agreed on the urgency of doing something about health care. But this highly conventional view coexists with highly familiar bits of pseudo-conservative buzz. Theyre sure the politicians will just make it worse. The government wants to tell them what health care they can have. And the government will somehow have their medical records running throughout the U.S.
Again, the ladies probably dont know their basic facts. (Surveys show that few of us do.) But like everyone else, theyve heard a lot of buzz and spin and it kept popping out in the conversation. A third participant, Stafford Ezzard, soon piped up for a brief while. But then, it was back to Margaret Dormady and her utterly standard outlooks. (Are we sure this wasnt Margaret Carlson?)
It never got a whole lot better. A fun discussion, King said, signing off, and great oatmeal with raisins.
In fairness, its always possible that the politicians may make health care worse. But we would suggest that this discussion illustrates a basic problem found in all our major discussions. Voters rarely know Basic Factsin part, because no one ever states them. But they do know lots of buzz and spin. Interested parties have been pushing these bits of buzz and spin for all the years of their lives.
Do the ladies Dormady know that the politicians in many countries have created better health care systems? Well guess that they do not. They cant read about this in newspapers. On CNN, they wont hear it discussed.
Nor have they heard any liberal journal or interest group telling them this in a disciplined wayor much of anything else, for that matter. It has now been sixteen years since Bill Clinton tried to tackle this problem. Go ahead! Name the liberal journal which has made a major point of putting that Big Giant Heath-Care Fact in front of American voters. For ourselves, we cant really name one. But what liberal journal has actively framed any discussion in the past sixteen years?
Our big career liberals tend to slumber and doze. By contrast, pseudo-con think tanks and Republican pols aggressively push anti-government spins. The ladies Dormady have heard from the right. From our side? Perhaps not so much.