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Getting Grouchy

I guess I am getting a little more grouchy lately, whether from the simple cantankerousness of aging, or being driven to distraction by a world that seems to have lost its mind. I'm a self-confessed NewsWonk and my daily routine includes at least scanning a dozen or so news sources each day.   The problem is that lately, there's not a single "above the fold" news topic on which I agree with the mainstream media consensus opinion. Either I'm suffering the first humiliations of OldTimers, or things are getting pretty loopy out there.

Here's an example. The Republicans put forward a health care reform bill for consideration by the House of Representatives. It's about 200 pages long, and available online for anyone to read at: http://www.gop.gov/solutions/healthcare. That's newsworthy in and of itself considering that the Democrats have broken their promise to have their 2000+ page healthcare bill3 available for public viewing 72 hours before any vote.

More to the point though is that the GOP proposal seems, on the face of it, to make some very sensible and cost effective first steps in reforming American health care. The bi-partisan CBO2, estimated the ten year cost of the GOP bill at $61 billion, that's 97% less than the trillion dollar Democrat Bill that House leaders plan to bring to the floor as soon as this weekend. The CBO analysis also indicated the GOP bill would reduce the national debt and lower the cost of health care insurance for most Americans.

I understand that any really serious liberal voter really wants the whole enchilada, complete single payer universal government provided health care. I can accept that they believe that this would be a good thing, and we have some common ground. I'd really like to see health care dramatically improved, and the cost of it reduced and presumably even the most hard core ObamaCare supporter would agree with those goals. If we share the desire to move towards better quality, less expensive and more accessible health care it should be a good start towards agreeing on what should be done. Right?

But the reaction on the liberal left and in the "mainstream media" is a petty, inflammatory and dismissive rejection of every idea in the GOP plan. Apparently any health care proposal other than the nebulous monstrosities that the Democrats keep trying to ram through Congress is beneath contempt. Or at least beneath any serious analysis or discussion.

So I ask the question, how are we supposed to believe that ObamaCare is the proper course of action when we can't even seem to have an honest and objective conversation about it?

Journalistic Malpractice

To get very specific, let me address a news / analysis of the GOP plan that appeared on the National Public Radio website this week. In the 5 November NPR analysis of the Republican healthcare proposal, titled "House Republicans' Overhaul Would Insure 3 Million More People," the author Scott Hensley posits a rhetorical question:

"This is health overhaul?" Mr. Hensley demands, as though the answer were either utterly opaque to him, or simply preposterous to consider.

In a tragic display of journalistic malpractice, Mr. Hensley then proceeds to dance around some of the main points and benefits of the GOP proposal, helpfully elucidating each putative benefit with a corresponding evil.

To an informed reader, or anyone gifted with a modicum of common sense, the pathos is palpable because the more effort Hensley pours into disparaging the GOP Plan, the better it sounds.

Here are a few examples, but I'd encourage you to go read the whole piece at NPR.org.1  

This is health overhaul? --Well, yes Mr. Hensley, that's why the GOP is calling it the "House GOP Health Care Reform Bill" Unlike the Democrat drafts, this one is actually available for public review. That's newsworthy in and of itself. Here's a link in case you're having trouble finding it. http://www.gop.gov/solutions/healthcare

CBO figures about 3 million more people would have health coverage a decade from now. Hey, that doesn't sound like a bad thing, at least it's headed in the right direction.

the GOP proposal, by design, focuses more on cost and the deficit. Wow, what an arcane perspective. You mean it would actually try to REDUCE the national debt? Imagine that. Might of been useful to the reader if Hensley mentioned that the estimated cost of the GOP plan is $61 billion, 93% less than the $1 trillion estimate for the Democratic bill that House leaders are hoping to rush through as soon as this weekend.

Lots of people with insurance would pay less for it. That doesn't sound so terrible either. You mean people like me, actual middleclass taxpayers could have their insurance premiums go lower? Revolutionary concept.

the Republican's proposals to curb medical malpractice would cut health spending by $41 billion Uh Oh! You mean those pesty ambulance-chasing lawyers on the radio and television would have to find some other blood to suck? I guess we could live with that.

I could go on, but let's just say the myopic Mr. Hensley is sort of missing the point. To most Americans, a two hundred page bill that anyone can read online, which actually reduces our health care costs, lowers the national debt, makes coverage more portable and chases the lawyers out of our doctor's office sounds pretty damned good.

More importantly, Mr. Hensley makes it crystal clear that his only apparent goal for any health care reform is to immediately institute universal coverage for every warm body in the United States, regardless of the cost. If there were a way to do that magically, without cost or unintended consequences we'd all sign up, but there isn't.

Hensley sums it up this way, "the bill wouldn't cost much--or put much of a dent in the ranks of the uninsured." Fair enough Scotty, but most Americans are really scared of the high cost and governmental expansion components of ObamaCare. The GOP proposal sounds like a really good first step to us.

Allegorical Levity

I hate to end this on a sour note, so let's indulge in a little allegory to lighten the mood. Little Scotty Hensley enters the K Street Starbucks with his beloved Mum and his stern and unyielding Father. Scotty orders a mondo-gratissimo Kopi Luwak latte with free-range acai tincture and Himalayan goat creme frappe. The Barrista takes this in stride but informs Scotty that the bill for this will be one trillion dollars. Not to worry though Scotty, he's got a special today on the Grande Caffè Misto for only a buck and he'll throw in a dollop of whipped cream for free. Scotty's face congeals into a masque of blotchy anger, he stomps his feet, erupts in tears and threatens to burn the store down if he can't have exactly what he desires. Mum sees things his way as usual and immediately goes to the bank next door to see if she can get a trillion dollar loan, while Father rolls his eyes in the general direction of his errant son. The crowd rumbles malevolently at Father and someone calls Child Protective Services to report a hate crime in progress. On the evening news, Keith Olbermann looks grim and concerned as he relates the breaking story that Father is torturing children, and probably puppies too. President Obama expresses concern.


1  Hensley's NPR Article: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2009/11/house_republicans_overhaul_alt.html
2  CBO Report on the GOP Alternative:http://gopleader.gov/UploadedFiles/hr3962amendmentBoehner.pdf
3  Full Text of the Democrat Health Care Bill: http://www.defendyourhealthcare.us./congressionalbills.html
4  Analysis of the Democrat Health Care Bill: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704795604574519671055918380.html

FWIW, I know that emotions run high on this topic. I'm all about the ideas, not the people, and I'll apologize in advance if I've offended you.  There are already plenty of hard feelings out there. Anyway, don't be offended if I fail to engage in /msgs over this. If you disagree, research it and write it up for all of us to enjoy.  

Update, New York Times - 44 minutes ago Lawmakers in the House voted 220 to 215 on Saturday night to approve a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system4. Only one Republican voted for the bill, and 39 Democrats opposed it, including 24 members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats. A Republican alternative was rejected on a near party line vote of 258-176.

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