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Daily Howler: Would that buy-in be a good deal? Don't ask! Gail Collins loves sex!
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GAIL COLLINS LOVES SEX! Would that buy-in be a good deal? Don’t ask! Gail Collins loves sex! // link // print // previous // next //

Digby’s question/Krugman’s answer: We’ll admit that we’ve been slightly puzzled by a certain high-level web colloquy. Digby raised the question in this post, asking (in her own later words) “why the global warming deniers are global warming deniers.” (“Why these people hate this climate science so much.”)

Many people have attempted to answer. For Paul Krugman’s response, just click here.

In some ways, this is a deeply important question. In other ways, we did find it puzzling.

First: Whose denials/hatreds/anger are we trying to explain? Are we talking about someone like Sean Hannity, who pumps the Standard Warming Denials out into the air in quite regular fashion? Or are we talking about some average shlub who watches or listens to Hannity’s programs and largely or wholly believes what he says? In our view, those are very different people. Whose beliefs, feelings and conduct are we trying to explain?

Or do “Those People” all look alike inside our tribal sweat lodge?

Second: We’re not quite sure why this question arises. In her original post, Digby said that this particular issue strikes her as different from many others, including evolution:

DIGBY (12/7/09): Can someone explain to me why these people hate this climate science so much? I mean, I get that they don't like gays and think women should stay barefoot and pregnant. I understand that they hate taxes that pay for things that help people they don't like. Evolution—yeah, that's obvious.

But global warming? Why? Is it all about their trucks or what? I just don't get where the passion comes from on this one.

Again, we don’t know exactly whose conduct and beliefs we’re trying to explain. But if we’re talking about regular people (not multi-millionaire dogmatists), we don’t know why this particular belief would seem different from so many others.

Simple fact: Large segments of the American public are very anti- or non-scientific. Digby mentioned evolution; periodically, surveys are done on that high-profile topic. This February, for example, Gallup reported that only 39 percent of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution.” (In that survey, 25 percent said they do not believe in the theory of evolution. 36 percent said they have no opinion.) Among citizens who never went to college at all, only 21 percent said they believe in the theory.

These types of surveys go on all the time. In 2003, for example, Nicholas Kristof cited a survey which showed that Americans “are three times as likely to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus (83 percent) as in evolution (28 percent).” Eventually, Kristof said this about that:

KRISTOF (8/15/03): I'm not denigrating anyone's beliefs. And I don't pretend to know why America is so much more infused with religious faith than the rest of the world. But I do think that we're in the middle of another religious Great Awakening, and that while this may bring spiritual comfort to many, it will also mean a growing polarization within our society.

Quite possibly true. Unfortunately, polarization—division and conquest—has long served the interests of Power.

A suggestion:

Liberals often seem to have a hard time processing this kind of information. Over the years, we keep failing to come to terms with the nature of the electorate. We keep being surprised by the things the American public believes—and we tend to react with expressions of ridicule. In our view, these expressions may tend to make our political problems worse.

Simple fact: Tens of millions of Americans voters are very “non-scientific.” They don’t believe in evolution; they don’t believe in global warming. They do tend to believe in a series of portraits about society’s sneering elites—the kinds of portraits they constantly hear advanced on programs like Hannity’s. But then, they have heard these portraits advanced, quite aggressively, over the past fifty years.

These people are your neighbors, your fellow citizens. It’s their country too. They vote—and they won’t be going away. Their beliefs are a fundamental part of American political culture, and will be for decades to come. If we want to effect certain types of “progressive” change, we have to work with those beliefs—for example, by trying to change them.

On our side, we constantly seem to be surprised by the things these voters believe. Fun is fun, and there’s nothing like scratching an itch. But aren’t we being a little bit clueless when we keep being surprised?

These people are your neighbors—your fellow voters—and no, they won’t be going away. One final note: If you want to know why someone thinks something, there is a traditional approach:

You sit down with that person. You ask.

Is this a person we can respect: On last night’s Larry King Live, the host played tape of a 911 call, conducted during a home invasion. (King played an edited version of a longer tape. Bill O’Reilly played a version which had been edited somewhat differently.)

On King’s program, the hearts of two pundits—one liberal, one not—went out to the 56-year-old woman who shot and killed a man as he broke into her home in the middle of the night:

KING (12/9/09): Earlier this month, an Oklahoma woman shot and killed an intruder who crashed through her back patio door. She was on the phone to a 911 operator when she did it. Here's part of that call.

HOME OWNER (tape of 911 call): You need to hurry. He is going to break this thing open. When he does, I'll have to kill him, ma'am. And I don't want to kill him.

911 OPERATOR: Can you understand what he is saying at all?

HOME OWNER: Boy, he is crazy!

911 OPERATOR: Ma'am?

HOME OWNER: Hurry! Dear god, hurry! I haven't shot yet. Hurry! Can you—oh, my god!

I shot him! I’m going out front! I think I hit him! Oh God help me! Oh, please, dear god, I think I’ve killed him! Please, father in heaven. Please, father in heaven. Oh, my god. [end of tape]

KING: What do you make of that, Ben [Stein]?

STEIN: It is an extremely touching and overwhelming—it's just overwhelming. I say it is overwhelming.

KING: Tanya, different age we live in?

TONYA ACKER: Absolutely. My god, just the fact that she had such conscience over killing somebody breaking into her house. My heart goes out to her.

Acker’s a liberal; Stein is not. Each was touched by this woman’s anguish—by her horror about what she’d done. We had the same reaction as we listened to the tape.

Our question:

This woman, a rural gun-owning Oklahoman, may not believe in evolution or in human-caused climate change. Is it possible that she’s a good person—a person we exalteds can respect?

Admittedly, we’re better than she is. Why, she probably isn’t a former Rhodes Scholar! That said: Even if she doesn’t believe in evolution, is this someone we libs can respect?

Polarization may grow, Kristof said. Throughout history, polarization—division and conquest—has typically served The Big Interests.

GAIL COLLINS LOVES SEX: Forgive us if we’re minor skeptics about the current health care hubbub. Could the thrilling new plans be gorilla dust, tossed up to distract us from the week’s major announcement: The public option is officially dead?

Are we being played this week? We have no idea; forgive us if we wonder. In the meantime, we continue to wonder about that possible Medicare buy-in. In this morning’s lede editorial, the New York Times describes the plan. Our question: Is this a good deal?

MEDICARE BUY-IN People ages 55 to 64 who are eligible to use the exchanges would be permitted to buy coverage from Medicare. Unlike older Americans, this younger group would have to pay the full premium themselves unless their incomes are low enough to qualify for subsidies. The premium could be in the neighborhood of $7,600 a year for single coverage.

Whether people would find Medicare attractive at this price is not clear. Expanding Medicare to cover even a few million people strikes us as promising. Medicare, which pays low rates to providers, might actually offer stiffer competition to private plans than the current weak version of the public option in the Senate bill.

Some people, aged 55-64, would be eligible to buy in to Medicare. The premiums would cost $7600. That would be for a single person, not for a family. That would only be the cost of the premiums, before out-of-pocket co-pays get added in.

Our question: Would that be a good deal? By world standards, that is! In their editorial, the editors don’t bat an eye at that price; they even say that, at these prices, the buy-in might offer stiff competition to insurers. But then, the New York Times has largely ignored the following data this whole live-long year:

Total spending on health care, per person, 2007
France $3601
United Kingdom: $2992
Italy: $2686
Spain: $2671
Japan: $2581 (2006)

Let’s be fair. Those are spending figures for the year 2007—not for the year when the buy-ins would start. Beyond that, the Medicare buy-ins would be for somewhat older people—people who need more health care than many others do. And that hypothetical figure ($7600 for premiums) may derive from an earlier estimate of the cost of a buy-in for people aged 62-64—a bunch of serious codgers.

That said, we’ll ask our question again: By the norms of the world’s developed nations, would American codgers be getting a good deal at the price which is being discussed? (The Post used the same figure yesterday.) In other developed nations, how much money gets spent, per year, on the health care of comparable people? Put another way:

By the norms and standards of the advanced world, would people taking that Medicare buy-in perhaps be getting ripped off?

It’s unlikely that we will see that question analyzed in our major newspapers. And here’s the main reason why we won’t: It’s because Gail Collins loves sex!

From 2001 through the end of 2006, the ravenous Collins was the editor of the Times editorial page. (At the start of 2007, she began to write her twice-weekly op-ed column, focusing mainly on Romney’s pet dog.) Within the world of the New York Times, Collins thus counts as a policy wonk. And what is she writing about today? What else! Gail Collins loves sex!

COLLINS (12/10/09): The Joys of Political Sex

It’s time for political sex scandals to reclaim their rightful place in our national discourse. The way things have been going lately, you’d think extramarital sex only happened to professional athletes.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Collins, who has good health care and the swag to maintain it, is, as always, in love with hot sex. Indeed, Collins is one of the people for whom Miss Lewinsky is still occasion for a good solid laugh:

COLLINS (continuing directly): Consider the case of Senator Max Baucus of Montana. We learned last week that the recently divorced Baucus had nominated his girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, to be a U.S. attorney without warning the White House that they were an item. You would expect this to create quite a buzz. Particularly since Baucus is a major player in the health care debate, which makes it possible to talk about his sex life while pretending to be discussing the prospects for a public option.

But, no, it’s been Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods. How much can you say about a guy who golfs? A politician with a compulsively wandering eye is not just a hound dog with a famous name. He’s a commentary about our judgment as voters, and the viability of our social standards. Plus, gossiping about him almost brings some useful information about the political process into the conversation. What would any of us know about how impeachment works if it hadn’t been for Monica Lewinsky?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! “Gossiping” about the person Baucus is boffing “makes it possible to talk about his sex life while pretending to be discussing the prospects for a public option!”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Unfortunately, Collins is only semi-joking. You’ve read virtually nothing about cost issues this year because this big loser sits at the top of an imperial “press corps”—a cohort which conducts itself in much the way she describes in this latest sad column.

They pretend to write about issues—while they think about parties and sex!

Why did your country spend $7300 per person on health care in 2007? While France, with perhaps the world’s top health system, was spending less than half that amount? You will never learn such things from Collins’ columns. This morning, Collins doesn’t make any attempt to help us through this week’s health care developments. Instead, she takes us through the sexy-time lives of five famous sex machines:

Max Baucus
Joe Bruno (for New York State peeping-toms only)
Jenny Sanford
John Ensign
Tiger Woods

This typifies the non-discussion found at the top of your upper-end “press corps.” But there’s an excellent reason for that: You see, Gail Collins loves sex!

On Tuesday, Gene Robinson played the shrink all through his column, analyzing the types of women Tiger Woods enjoys boffing. This morning, Collins limns a Gang of Five. We know how to “see” this kind of decadence when it’s described in ancient Rome. At any rate, here’s our question again:

By the norms of the world’s developed nations, would people taking that Medicare buy-in be getting a good or a horrible deal? It’s highly unlikely that the New York Times will ever bother attacking that question. You see, their culture has increasingly been formed by a simpering cabal—by the thoughts of the great Maureen Dowd (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/15/00):

JERVEY (6/99): "Maureen is very talented," observes Joe Klein of The New Yorker. "But she is ground zero of what the press has come to be about in the nineties... I remember having a discussion with her in which I said, 'Maureen, why don't you go out and report about something significant, go out and see poor people, do something real?' And she said, 'You mean I should write about welfare reform?'"

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ten years later, has anything changed?