Verbotenprogressive horizons: Weve reported this story again and again. Again and again, were given reason to re-report it.
We refer to David Brooks column on health care in todays Times. We dont understand the minutia of health care well enough to judge every claim he makes. But as Brooks begins, he seems to be forming a brilliant frameworka framework for wider public understanding. He seems to be focusing on a truly ludicrous state of affairsthe massive level of wasted spending which virtually defines American health care:
BROOKS (7/10/09): Over the past few decades, health care inflation has exceeded the general rise in prices by about 2.5 percent a year. These inexorably rising costs are bankrupting the nation, walloping businesses and squeezing middle-class salaries.
The health care bills now winding their way through Congress would cover many of the uninsured. They would pay for most of the costs associated with that expanded coverage. But they would do little to change the fundamental incentives that drive health care inflation.
Health care providers would still largely rely on a fee-for-service system. They could still ignore cost-benefit analyses when deciding what treatments to provide.
...As my colleague David Leonhardt wrote in his column this week, The current health care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient, and health care economists dont see the current bills doing enough to fix that.
Good God! Complaining about the cost of American health care, Brooks makes (and quotes) some remarkable statements about current efforts at reform. (Typically, reporters agree to pretend that Obama has proposed an overhaul.) Good God! What amazing complaints! Health care providers would still rely on a fee-for-service system? The current health care system is hard-wired to be bloated and inefficient?
It sounded like Brooks was moving toward a powerful placea place where the rubber meets the road.
Predictably, he never arrived there. Even though Brooks was tearing his hair about the costs of American health care, he too obeyed the unwritten law which drives our manufactured consensus/consent. Brooks never tells his readers today that their nation is spending twice as much per person on health care as most other developed nations. Absent that truly remarkable knowledge, voters cant develop a progressive framework for understanding the lunacy of our current system. They cant understand the mountains of cash that are being drained off into corporate pockets. They cant build sensible anger against a lunatic systema system in which we spend twice as much as is required.
Health costs are bankrupting the nation, Brooks says. But he knows he mustnt state the obvious: Other nations spend half as much! By a manufactured consensus, the public is virtually never told that. And trust us: They dont know!
Other nations are spending half as much. Its stunning that a column could start in the way this one does, yet never cite that startling fact. But as we keep showing you: This manufactured consent/consensus is stunningly broad. Virtually everyone agrees not to go there. Telling the truth? Not allowed!
We cant explain how the group dynamic works. But until the public understands the sheer absurdity of current arrangements, the public will never get really angry. Your country will never develop the type of progressive horizon which could lead to actual reformlet alone to an actual overhaul.
Its too late to develop such public awareness for this years debate. We need to start developing such understanding now, in hope of achieving real reform at some later date. But Rachel Maddow refuses to help. She just keeps pimping the corporate blatherand cashing her very large checks.
Well assume shes acting in (mostly) good faith. But as we describe in the post below, the band just keeps playing on.
WAITING FOR CLARKE: John Ensigns parents dished 96 grand to his girl friend and her family. Yes, thats a real news story. But how big a news story should it be? Consider three separate news judgments:
Washington Post: In this mornings Post, it gets 576 words, a banner headline across the top of page A6 and a small photo. (Ensigns Parents Made Payments to Mistress, Her Family. Click here.)
New York Times: In this mornings Times, it gets 448 words at the bottom of page A15. (Senators Parents Gave Mistress Thousands. Click here.)
Thats how it played in the Post and the Times. And on last nights Rachel Maddow Show, it swallowed the whole first half-hour. The previous evening, Rachel read Ensigns love letter aloud.
Taking just a small step back, this helps explain why you (probably) wont get real health reform this year. This helps explain why corporate interests will be happyagainwith this years outcome.
Before we explain, lets share a couple of good solid laughs over Maddows demo-stalking. As her program spirals downward, she at least provides our analysts with their quota of low mordant laughs.
As Maddow began her program last night, she promised us that we would hear from a very smart personformer national security honcho Richard Clarke. But uh-oh! Wed have to wait, she said:
But we start tonight with new details and new admissions from Republican Senator John Ensign today about this sex and ethics scandal that appears to be starting to consume him, Maddow dramatically said. But wait a minute! This scandal appears to be consuming Ensign?
Look whos talking, one analyst said.
At 9:13, Maddow finished her first segment, about the solons ill-advised shtupping of his chief of staffs wife. Richard Clarke would be along in a few minutes, Maddow now promised.
But uh-oh! Soon, we were deep inside her second full segmentagain, about Ensigns wild conduct. This segment ended at 9:28. Clarke would be along in a few minutes, Maddow once again said!
The analysts moaned, and tore their hair. Some of them cursed their fate.
Long story short: Clarke finally appeared at 9:40, after a bit of wasted time concerning the pointless Roland Burris. Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of a few minutes is, one of the analysts said.
Clarke was smart and informative, as always. But he got five minutes.
In such ways, corporate interests have eaten your lunchand your shortsover the past several decades. Last nights nonsense helps explain how columns like Brooks can exist in such remarkable numbers. It helps explain how our current debate can operate inside such a lunatic framework. It helps explain how that powerful manufactured consensus can exist.
Most other developed nations deliver health care at half the cost! This remarkable framework is almost totally absent from your current debate. For the most part, Americans voters dont know about that; knowledge of that remarkable fact plays little role in the current discussion. Corporate interests will win againbecause theyve somehow arranged to keep you barefoot and clueless. Again.
Corporate interests will win againbecause, in place of real information, they keep handing you distractions. Sex toys.
When people like Maddow keep handing you sex, her corporate owners have won. In the past, it was known as bread and circuses; today, it takes a somewhat sillier form. But whatever! Serial distractions keep the public from understanding the facts of their lives.
How dumb are the public debates which operate inside this framework?
In the mid-1990s, the press corps clowned its way through a two-year pseudo-debate about Medicare. Among name players, only Al Franken was smart enough to explain the basic facts of that thoroughly bungled discussion. (In Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot.) The GOP really was proposing cutsbut no one in the press could quite explain it. They even began to call Clinton a liaralthough Clinton was telling the truth. (This debate played a large role in creating the notion that Clinton, then Gore, were big liars.)
Today, the corps is clowning its way through a similar oddball debate. Very few journos are willing to explain the absurdity of current health care arrangements. Maddow could be explaining these things. Instead, she keeps handing you sex.
Well take a guess about motive:
Maddow is woefully clueless about domestic politicsand a bit immature to boot. In all honesty, she belongs at the helm of a nightly news program in much the way your next-door neighbor should be running the space shuttle program. For that reason, well assume that most of her nonsense is done in good faithalthough her corporate owners (GE) are surely thrilled with the circus she pimps to us rubes.
But make no mistake: The absence of knowledge about health care has been produced in just this way over the past several decades. There is always some distraction at playsome useful circus with which to redirect the publics attention and focus. And highly-paid journalistsor career liberal strivershave always been willing to walk that walk. Theyve always been willing to play the fool, to play along with the mainstream consensus. Their pay-days, current or future, depend on such acts of consent.
Young career liberals didnt oppose those wars against Clinton and Gore. They arent rebelling against this crap now.
Might we explain how our politics works? The public tends to favor progressive positions, to the extent that they understand the real shape of our debates. For that reason, the corporate interest will almost always be served by a thrilling distraction. In this case, the public would be angry and deeply unimpressedif they understood the nature of our bloated health spending. If they understood what that disparity in spending meansthat massive amounts of health care dollars are being drained into corporate pockets.
The public would be upset about that. Maddow refuses to tell them.
But then, Maddow has become the consummate caddy, whether she understands it or not. For a bit of an analogy, see A. O. Scotts review of Bruno in todays New York Times. At the end of his review, Scott says this about the movies bad-faith humor:
But the joke is on you.
Regarding that new films humor, we plan to go and decide for ourselves. But the joke is very much on you when progressive TV stars, being paid millions, pimp you those sexy-time distractions. When they do that, youre being handed a modern-day circus. For decades, this is how the public has been kept from forming progressive horizons.
Well assume that Maddow is mainly clueless, not mainly devious. (On the other hand: Reading the profiles, it becomes clear that she knows from stalking the demo. Brian Stelter, New York Times: She has adopted the vocabulary quickly, praising Mr. Olbermann for a 931 in the demo last Tuesday. Elsewhere, perhaps a bit more carefully, Maddow has claimed that she doesnt even know which programs air against hers on other channels. Do you believe that? Its hard.)
Assess this hosts motives however you will. But watching her sell this weeks sexy-time tales, it was hard not to think of that famous old web site: Media Horsies On-Line.
Our emperors handed us breadand a circus. Today, our corporate owners distract us with sexy-time sex. You might win an occasional election that way. Youll never end up with real progress.