two op-ed pieces on healthcare reform…Krauthammer and Kinsley

by reader Aunt Deb

On Friday, Aug. 28, the Washington Post printed two op-ed pieces on healthcare reform; “Obamacare: The Only Exit Strategy, by Charles Krauthammer and “Change We’d Rather Do Without” by Michael Kinsley. Neither piece discussed real details of either the existing funding and delivery system for health care or the possible ways this system might be changed to achieve better coverage and cost control. Mr. Krauthammer’s piece continued to promote himself as the neocon Cassandra, foreseeing no good end no matter what is done; seemingly, any reform undertaken will lead to “the liberals” givng “you end-of-life counseling.” This is silly stuff. The Post should be as ashamed of having printed it as Krauthammer should be of having written it.

As the presumably liberal or leftist counterpart to Mr. Krauthammer’s rightist neoconservative paranoia about all things Obama, Michael Kinsley lays the blame for resistance to health care reform on immature voters. Even as he points out that the rightwing claque (of which Mr. K is a proud member) will inevitably generate and promote falsehoods about any Democratic health care legislation, saying “there will always be a Betsy McCaughy”, he fails to describe these players’ role in killing the previous reform efforts. McCaughey lied then and she’s lying now. Kinsley does note that Republicans suffered no political repercussions from their successful smearing of the Clinton-Magaziner effort to reform health care, even though we find ourselves now in worse straits in terms of ever-increasing costs and decreasing coverage.

Mr. Kinsley is bemused by “the voters’ true feelings – misinformed, perhaps but sincere”; he’s puzzled that they voted for change but now they don’t want it. I’ve attended several healthcare forums in the past two months and I’m quite certain that those people who were there to oppose healthcare reform did not vote for Mr. Obama. I sat near the woman who stood up at Mike Castle’s town meeting and screamed “Obama is a Kenyon and I want my country back” while waving her birth certificate and American flag. This woman and the 150 or so teaparty coalition members who filled that meeting never wanted anything to do with the sort of change those who voted for Obama hoped for. And contrary to Mr. Kinsley’s claim, these are not people who feel patriotism is synonymous with pooh-poohing their country’s institutions. The people I’ve listened to and met at these events are intensely patriotic; they voice their pride in their flag, their military, their Constitution, their history, and the values they believe underwrote those institutions and should continue to sustain them.

By treating today’s attacks on healthcare reform as something new and unexpected, Mr. Kinsley shows how deeply he refuses to understand American political reality. Republican resistance to Democratic-initiated health care reform is a feature, not a bug. Limbaugh, Dobbs, Beck, the Fox News stable, oldies but never outies like Gingrich, Liddy, Rove, McCaughey, are always attacking “the liberals”, “lefties”, “feminazis”, “peaceniks”. How hard is it to fashion an attack on health care reform when the basic premise is that Democrats aka “the liberals” are elitists who sneer at the immature and misinformed voters who believe in the family values that made America great?

Republicans are now ostensibly out of power within the political structure. This gives their calls for bipartisan legislation the force of the underdog asking for fairness. Rightwing media magnifies the polarization between decent patriotic Americans—those who want to protect and sustain the status quo–and the indecent, unpatriotic Americans: those people who can see nothing wrong with ‘socialized medicine’ and ‘government control’. The premise of rightwing talkshows and media is simple: Everything that is wrong with the country is the fault of liberalism and liberals. Republican politicians can position themselves as the voices of moderation and they do so, over and over again, even while rightwing megaphones like McCaughey and Krauthammer pitch phony stories to their constituents about the details of the Democrats’ proposals for reform.

Mr. Kinsley says “we all thought that Hillary Clinton’s big mistake in the 1990’s was too much detail.” No, we all did not think that then, nor do we all now feel an abstract discontent with our healthcare system that quickly changes to acceptance of the status quo when asked to approve of even moderate but geniune change, as Kinsley tries to claim. The effects of our malfuntioning healthcare system are not abstract and, as Kinsley himself acknowledges, more and more Americans are suffering from them as a consequence of the previous failures to enact reform. Rising costs are a major danger to the system’s continuation, yet Kinsley gives no detail about total health care expenditures and the differences in rate of premium and out-of-pocket increases between private, employer-sponsored insurance and the federal Medicare system. There are huge problems facing all of us and the anguish and anger people are expressing at these problems and the proposals to fix them are not explained by caricature and dismissal.

In an essay ostensibly pondering why healthcare reform never seems to happen here, Mr. Kinsley presents no real reasons why it should. Indeed, although he raises the spectre of Betsy McCaughey’s objections to “promising sub-clauses”, he never bothers to refute them. Is it because these attacks were and are silly and misinformed, like the voters who believe them? Spending time and type describing voters as ignorant and in thrall to one-sided presentations without providing supporting details of that one-sidedness only perpetuates ignorance and hardens counterproductive stereotypes.

We may indeed by unable to enact much-needed healthcare reform once again. This will be, in my opinon, due in large part to the willful failure of public voices such as Mr. Kinsley’s who, while blithely admonishing voters for showing a distressing tendency to voice “their opinions on subjects they haven’t bothered to learn anything about” apparently feel no compunction about doing the same thing themselves.
by reader Aunt Deb