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Daily Howler: The ladies Dormady have heard from the right. From our side, not so much
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HOW WE STAY BAREFOOT AND PREGNANT! The ladies Dormady have heard from the right. From our side, not so much: // link // print // previous // next //

Plus ca climate change: David Fahrenthold’s 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 doesn’t mean he isn’t doing good work. Who could have imagined one of the things he reports in this morning’s paper:

FAHRENTHOLD (6/17/09): The hottest days could get hotter across much of the country: Parts of the South that experience about 60 days a year with temperatures higher than 90 degrees could experience 150 such days by 2100. The same warming could make Washington's summers even more uncomfortable.

Farenthold was too modest to say that he meant 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

At any rate: As global warming proceeds, Washington’s summers could get warmer? Who could have imagined that? As a matter of fact, Cass Peterson could. Here’s how she began a news report in that very same Washington Post—twenty-three years ago to the week:

PETERSON (6/11/86): By the middle of the next century, area residents can expect three months of daily temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 12 days of temperatures above 100 degrees and 19 nights when the temperature does not fall below 80 degrees, according to NASA research on the "greenhouse effect" created by pollutants.

In testimony yesterday before a Senate panel, Goddard Space Flight Center official James E. Hansen said that less drastic temperature increases will be evident much sooner and that within 15 years, global temperatures will rise "to a level which has not existed on Earth in the past 100,000 years.”

The warning came as a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee opened two days of hearings on the impact of manmade pollutants on the atmosphere.

Same idea, in June 1986! (Peterson used the word “Fahrenheit.”)

(No, these aren’t the famous first congressional hearings on warming conducted by Al Gore. Those hearings occurred earlier, in the House. Luckily, Gore didn’t 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, there’s nothing wrong with Fahrenthold’s report today—quite the opposite. He’s 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 Buffalo—and you can kiss your Vermont maple syrup good-bye! Fahrenthold even put in a call to Jimmy Buffet’s 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 couldn’t 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 haven’t 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 today’s 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: “Obama’s 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.”

There’s 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, we’re 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 can’t be found in today’s Post report. It can’t be found in today’s 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 Leonhardt’s “Economic Scene” column:

LEONHARDT (6/17/09): In Australia, 81 percent of primary care doctors have set up a way for their patients to get after-hours care, according to the Commonwealth Fund. In the United States, only 40 percent have. Over all, the survival rates for many diseases in this country are no better than they are in countries that spend far less on health care. People here are less likely to have long-term survival after colorectal cancer, childhood leukemia or a kidney transplant than they are in Canada—that bastion of rationing.

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 24—in a 26-paragraph column.

How does your country discuss major issues? Very, very poorly. You can’t 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 don’t understand that we’re already spending twice as much as other countries which get better outcomes and already have full coverage.

In part, they don’t understand this Giant Fact because it’s 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 don’t 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:

KING (6/14/09): So, we went to Junior's Diner. It's in Orlando, Florida. We sat down. Everyone at the table agreed on the urgency—the urgency—of doing something about health care. But getting them to agree on just what, that is a whole other matter.

KING (videotape): —with the way we do health care in this country now, if anything?

BLANCHE DORMADY: I think that depends on the person. I have—I don't like the insurance. The insurances decide what you're going to have and what you're not going to have. And I certainly don't want the, the government to have that ability. And I like it to be private.

KING: Well, are you, are you— Are you worried, though, that they will make it worse—the politicians will make it worse? BLANCHE DORMADY: It will make it worse. But I'm not a worrier.


MARGARET DORMADY: I'm against health—national health care. I personally don't have health insurance, because it is too expensive. But I want to get for myself what I need. I—I don't want to be told what I can have and when I can have it. And I sure as hell—excuse me—don't want—


MARGARET DORMADY: —the government having my medical records running throughout the U.S.

We’ll 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. They’re 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 don’t know their basic facts. (Surveys show that few of us do.) But like everyone else, they’ve 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 wasn’t Margaret Carlson?)

KING (continuing directly): One of the things in the proposal put forward by Senator Kennedy, and most likely in the House by the Democrats as well, would be a mandate that would require you to get health insurance. That's the way they do it in the state of Massachusetts now. And you would have to get health insurance. If you had a job, and you were able to afford it, you would be—you would have to get it, and you would be penalized if you didn't? Is that right?

MARGARET DORMADY: Just like the car insurance. I understand that. And I don't like that either.

EZZARD: I trust the government more than many people do. I'm a Democrat. And I think the Democratic Party, at heart, has the people's interests in mind. I'm somewhat skeptical of our ability, politically speaking, to reach a—maybe a conclusion at all.

KING: You don't want the government involved, but do you think they will pass something? The Democrats have big majorities.

MARGARET DORMADY: I'm a Democrat. I vote open ticket. And I'm afraid they will. And I just feel more power, control by the government, so that I no longer have ambition to be able to go out and strive and do what I want to do in life and have the life that I want. I have to be under someone's thumb.

KING: You think they will do something?

BLANCHE DORMADY: Oh, I hope not!


BLANCHE DORMADY: I'm sorry, but if they put it back in the hands of the doctors to do what the doctors want, maybe it will be done. But to have government getting involved—

MARGARET DORMADY: And I think that's a good point. Doctors need to be more involved in this, and not be pushed around.

KING: Well, do you think they're pushed around by—by the insurance companies?

MARGARET DORMADY: I think they're pushed around by insurance companies. I really do.

EZZARD: Yes, I think we are agreed on that.

It never got a whole lot better. “A fun discussion,” King said, signing off, “ and great oatmeal with raisins.”

In fairness, it’s 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 Facts—in 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? We’ll guess that they do not. They can’t read about this in newspapers. On CNN, they won’t hear it discussed.

Nor have they heard any liberal journal or interest group telling them this in a disciplined way—or 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 can’t 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.