Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another reason to love Krugman

And another reason to love "close reading," or paying attention to the words coming out of their mouths...

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Another oldie but goodie: when Jon Stewart recognized that Bush's problem is that he not only sees emergency rooms as the answer to being uninsured, but also is so stuck in his own bubble of privilege that he thinks "poor people *have* family doctors."

And on the day of the veto, Mr. Bush dismissed the whole issue of uninsured children as a media myth. Referring to Medicaid spending — which fails to reach many children — he declared that “when they say, well, poor children aren’t being covered in America, if that’s what you’re hearing on your TV screens, I’m telling you there’s $35.5 billion worth of reasons not to believe that.”


Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.


Anonymous said...

1) I think you would be hard-pressed to find people in America who are actually starving. My Indian grandfather pointed this out actually. Something along the lines of "in America even the homeless are fat." It's true. You don't lack for food in this country. There are plenty of social services that provide that.

2) The S-CHIP fight is the biggest load of crap I have ever seen. Liberals have completely distorted what this issue is all about. S-CHIP from its very conception was meant to help children without insurance. That was its purpose. These are children whose parents are unable to pay for insurance. The Democrats in their infinite socialist wisdom (note extreme sarcasm) have decided that it would be an excellent idea to move people off private insurance and onto public insurance. THIS is a bad idea. Moving people from private policies to a publicly funded health insurance plan is not only expensive to every tax payer in the US (oh and lets pour on more tax on cigarettes why don't we?) but it's also incredibly inefficient. Logically, if these people can pay for private insurance, they should be encouraged to do so. You want to see public healthcare in action, check out the VA. It is absolutely ridiculous that Nancy Pelosi and her stupid goons are making this into a conversation about the President wanting the "poor impovrished children" TO DIE. Pathetic. Talk about playing politics with the lives of kids who are ACTUALLY impoverished and whose parents ACTUALLY can't afford health insurance. They are left with nothing now because the Democrats have decided to be socialist enforcers.

Honestly, I am part of the conservative movement, and I fully identify with the downtrodden. But as someone who appreciates economic liberty and you know...efficiency, I shun the government as the proper way to solve problems. More help actually gets to the people who need it when we utilize private mechanisms.


Becky said...

As to people starving in America:

The problem is not necessarily that people are outright starving in their homes. The problem is exactly what Abby notes: the poor can't afford real food. The idea that the poor are "fat"? Look at neighborhoods where the cheapest thing to eat is McDonald's, and there isn't a decent market in sight. The fastest, easiest, cheapest way to eat? WILL have a tendency to make you incredibly unhealthy. Good, fresh produce, lean healthy proteins, and whole grain, natural products are expensive. So I actually read your post as proving my point.

And I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but from what I've read, the S-chip extension wouldn't take anyone off private insurance. Hence, when Krugman says: "providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage." (side note: As if everyone technically "insured" is completely taken care of, as if they don't have incredibly high deductibles and copays.)

And finally: the government isn't always the wrong answer. Why roads and schools, but not a social safety net? The government tends to break things when it is itself broken. (e.g., the current administration.)

Anonymous said...

Poor Krugman, he used to be an economist until he decided his entire job was to rip on Bush. I used to actually respect the man. Oh well.

Here's a little diversity in the intelectual playing field with regards to S-CHIP. Maybe I didn't do a very good job of explaining the argument.


Becky said...

I wasn't sure which link to follow from that page, but did read their coverage of the S-Chip program, and that the cut-off would be at 62,000 for a family of four. Which is middle class, of course, but considering the cost of health insurance, isn't *that* well off (not to mention if your child has a chronic illness and/or you can't get private insurance in the first place). From my understanding, S-Chip was never intended to take anyone off of private insurance, but rather to fill the gaps where children aren't insured, or are only insufficiently insured.

Also pertinent to this post: The recent shameful right-wing attack of the Frost family.

Anonymous said...

Yah, I personally find the whole Frost family thing hillarious. Here the Democrats hand pick a "poster child" who just so happens to be symbolic of all that is wrong with the SCHIP program. It's great. Gotta love it when people manipulate little children.

Alright, the question, in economic terms, is DOES THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE INCENTIVES FOR PEOPLE TO GIVE UP PRIVATE HEALTHCARE? And the answer to that is yes. If the government is going to GIVE your children healthcare, what is the incentive for you to utilize private healthcare. And frankly, if you are a family of four, making $65,000 a year, you are middle class enough where you can buy private health care.

If the democrats what to talk about universal healthcare, then why don't they actually talk about it instead of trying to sneak it through with the SCHIP program? Well, the reason they don't want to talk about it is because they know that at the end of the day, in today's political environment, discussing universal health care FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS would be political sucicide.

Honestly, our healthcare system is broken. But the answer, once again, is not government. It's to change the way we do things in this country with regards to curative and preventitive care, and with regards to the costs in the healthcare industry. Adding government bureaucracy to this mess DOES NOT DECREASE COST. It only makes thinks worse.


Becky said...

How is the Frost family an example of everything that's "wrong" with Schip? They make under $50,000 a year. That private school the right wing pundits jumped all over? The child goes there on *scholarship.* The sister sustained injuries bad enough to place her in a school to address disability issues.

Also, have you happened to glance at current health care rates for a family of four? You might then rethink your theory of where the cut off should be. My family pays ridiculous amounts for insurance, for really scanty coverage.

I think the tide is turning. People in this country want health care, and they aren't getting it right now. The health insurance industry needs to be radically overhauled (ie, people before profits), or we need to implement some sort of wider safety net system. And until one of the above happens, why should children go without health insurance?

I'd rather see the uninsured children in this country get coverage, even if it means a small minority of them could technically afford some sort of private insurance. I think that's better than everyone going without.