Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

When Steve Pearlstein Stops Being Polite and Starts Getting Real

My traditionally mild-mannered colleague has had enough:

As a columnist who regularly dishes out sharp criticism, I try not to question the motives of people with whom I don't agree. Today, I'm going to step over that line.

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

Under any plan likely to emerge from Congress, the vast majority of Americans who are not old or poor will continue to buy health insurance from private companies, continue to get their health care from doctors in private practice and continue to be treated at privately owned hospitals.

The rest of the column is an uncommonly clear description of the modest plan under consideration and a brutal demolition of the smears and lies being told about it. Pearlstein's final paragraph, however, deserves to be quoted in full:

Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society -- whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off. Republican leaders are eager to see us fail that test. We need to show them that no matter how many lies they tell or how many scare tactics they concoct, Americans will come together and get this done.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 7, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Can There Be a Good Compromise on Health-Care Reform?
Next: In Praise of Matt Taibbi

Comments

Great stuff. Righteous indignation in action. I have duly sent it around and posted it to facebook.

Posted by: Castorp1 | August 7, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

"whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off"

"Everyone" gives up something, but "everyone" benefits. Very funny, that. I think I'll skip the rest of the column.

Posted by: ostap666 | August 7, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

It's great to see there are adults around in the conversation. Are there any left in the GOP? They seem to have become captive of the Glen Beck crazies.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | August 7, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

glenn beck did a skit that is now on the huffington post that is pure evil. there is no other way to describe it. he makes a number of very cruel jokes about nancy pelosi, but then pretends to have put poison in her glass of wine.
this so oversteps the bounds of decency.
especially representing a demographic group that prides themselves on asking, "what would Jesus do?
this is the link to this video.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/06/glenn-beck-jokes-about-pu_n_253448.html
i am glad that a number of commercial sponsors have pulled support from his show.
and the other night, sean hannity had frank luntz as a guest, who said that angry mobs to shouting down speakers in town halls was disrespectful, but hannity tried to incite and defend these actions.
oftentimes, in the name of religion and the values they profess, they knowingly are fanning the flames of hatred and violence. it is a horrible thing.
these commentators and the politicians and accomplices who encourage them tacitly, have crossed the line.
if something happens, the blood will be on their hands.

Posted by: jkaren | August 7, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Democrats are getting paranoid and accusing everyone that speaks out against government Republican.

They are people that live in these areas, and they don't usually get involved. This is their lives you are blithely affecting, taking away their choices, and trying to shut down their voice.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/08/a-first-hand-view-of-a-raucous-town-hall-meeting.html

There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school’s auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats’ health care reform plans is “manufactured.”

“I went to school in this school,” a man named Bob told me. “I don't see anyone in this room that isn't from Mardela Springs right now.”

Posted by: win1 | August 7, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

You left out the "Waterloo" line. That was like the cherry on top.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | August 7, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, when the freaking business columnist is saying things like this, you know your political discourse has become completely unhinged.

What I find flatly bizarre is that the media reports on the Republicans--who are screaming about euthanasia--as though their opposition reflects what a credible and sane opponent of this bill might say.

It's an indisuptable fact that the actual plan put out by Democrats is moderate by any rational definition of the term. You can make good-faith arguments against various parts of it, but making euthanasia, rationing, and deficit-ballooning the core of your argument is simply a sophisticated form of lying. Yet Democrats are forced to explain why it the plans in Congress aren't a socialist plot to bankrupt the government while killing grandma.

And, of course, as the media asks the Democrats why they support government-run healthcare, while they have blanket coverage of those who oppose government-run healthcare (including Medicare), they are ignoring the people who actually DO support government-run healthcare, because it's "never going to happen."

And I write this not as someone who would like to see Medicare for all, but as someone who actually thinks the proposed plan is better health policy than single-payer/Medicare for all.

It's simply demented. I don't know who's worse--the people who are opposing things that don't exist, or the people who are treating these critiques like they're reality-based.

Posted by: theorajones1 | August 7, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

``"Everyone" gives up something, but "everyone" benefits. Very funny, that. I think I'll skip the rest of the column.''

Well you already know how to give up things, but unfortunately giving up thinking doesn't help the rest of us (or yourself) that much.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | August 7, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I have an idea. Let's just exclude any districts or states that don't want to be affected by the reform bill from its effects. That way they don't have to worry about creeping socialism, while the rest of us who gladly embrace creeping socialism can have ours. It's a win-win situation. Next best thing to secession, I say.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | August 7, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society." I agree...but...most everyone I know in the 40-65 age bracket believes "government isn't the solution; it's the problem." That quote has become part of the irrefutable myths of a generation.

Posted by: glewiss | August 7, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Hey win1:

"Protestor" actually a GOP operative:
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/08/grassroots-protester-actually-gop-official.php?ref=fpa

Posted by: fishermansblues | August 7, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Wow! Somebody wrote another mindless Paul Krugman imitation. How enlightening!

Will the public option cover the Hack virus that seems to be spreading through the liberal blogosphere?

I know you all can't grasp the logical consequences of your policy preferences but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Claiming the other side is just playing politics is a cheap dodge.

How do you like my Krugmanesque tone?

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | August 7, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"Democrats are getting paranoid and accusing everyone that speaks out against government Republican."

i dont think democrats are getting paranoid and accusing everyone that speaks out. i think any normal person would be paranoid when you have an angry mob showing fists and drowning out a woman like catherine sebelius at close range.
when you have an influential talk show host pretending to sprinkle poison in nancy pelosi's cup of wine.
another talk show host, like sean hannity, encouraging, condoning and defending the behavior of edgy, angry mobs to the point where there can no longer be any civil discourse at all.
the bar was greatly lowered with sarah palin, and i think her candidacy had something to do with all of this. she enjoyed and also encouraged this kind of behavior.
and it started to look "acceptable."

these are the kinds of behaviors that should make any law-abiding citizen nervous and paranoid, not just republicans.
we are losing the right to speak out, when speakers are fearful and drowned out by angry, scary mobs.
there are ways to fruitfully express anger.
when you wink and encourage potentially dangerous situations, and fan the flames of violence and hatred, you take away everyone's freedom with fear and bullying.
the republican party is in moral shambles right now.
not one person in that party is willing to speak out against these inciters of hatred. they stand by and watch.
moral cowardice.

Posted by: jkaren | August 7, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm not going to engage your arguments. I'm just going to insult your intelligence and pretend that I'm the most sophiticated person EVER!!!! Pardon me while I drive off in my hybrid car to eat some tofu and smell the sweet scent of my own farts.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | August 7, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Angry mobs want other people's things. Righteous mobs want to protect their freedoms. This is a debate about economic freedom. Any legitimate healthcare reform would increase economic freedom. The Democratic proposals are a threat to economic freedom so it should not be surprising that people are rising up against them.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | August 7, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

"There is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. "

I, myself do not view the current health plans as outright takeovers, but as the thin edge of a wedge. Both the President and other leading Democrats have said that their ultimate aim is to attain what amounts to single-payer by creaping incrementalism. IMO, it is they who are being disingenous about their aims.

As Mr. Pearlstein says, there are many legitimate reasons one might oppose the Democratic plans. Most of the opponents of the plans are not the crazed birthers and astroturf he and Mr. Krugman imagine them to be. IMO, it is shameful of them to try dimiss opponents as such. Some of the anger on display no doubt emerges from exasperation such condescension.

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

"This is a debate about economic freedom."

your comment doesnt apply
because
this can no longer be a debate when people are drowned out and intimidated and cant engage in any discourse.

a talk show doesnt become a place for debate, when the talk show host encourages mobs to angry and potentially violent behaviors, where an opposing view is drowned out.

a tv show no longer becomes a place for the debate and flow of ideas when the host makes jokes about poisoning one our highest government officials.

and when not one person in that political party speaks out against this, it is shameful. moral cowardice.

and at least, righteous mobs stay quiet.
angry mobs, no matter what their political or religious stripe are just plain scary and dangerous.

Posted by: jkaren | August 7, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Let's remember that last year, Pearlstein was screaming that the economy was going to collapse unless the Treasury immediately bought up $700 million of troubled assets, and similarly impugning anyone who disagreed with him. Well, Treasury got the $700 million but decided not to buy up troubled assets with it, and the economy did not collapse. Pearlstein has pretended he never took that position and refuses to revisit it, let alone apologize to those whose motives he trashed. For me, that's killed his credibility for attacks like today's.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 7, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Pearlstein should talk to Barney Frank, John Edwards, Jacob Hacker and the many other liberals who have said they want the government plan to lead to a single-payer system.

What a load of crap that column was, and of course Ezra Klein is intellectually dishonest enough to stand by and cheer.

Posted by: FreeMas | August 7, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I'd vote (if I were a congressperson) to allow any person - like fallsmeadjc - to opt out for their remaining lifetime from any government healthcare laws (including Medicare/Medicaid).

Let them have their economic freedom, if that's what it is. I'd also create a national database of these people so no hospital ER would ever have to provide them care at no cost. Money up front, or no care.

As to the GOP and wingnut media-ists support for angry mobs: when the Brown Shirts come, followed by the SS stormtroopers, they maybe wish that they hadn't unleased that genie from the bottle.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | August 7, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, interesting. Maybe if we let the tea-baggers opt out of social security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, social security disability, Medicaid coverage for nursing home care, and all other safety net benefits for American citizens, they will be happy. And if they hate government all together, they can move to Somalia.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | August 7, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"Claiming the other side is just playing politics is a cheap dodge."

fallsmeadjc: paid troll FAIL.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 7, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

", myself do not view the current health plans as outright takeovers, but as the thin edge of a wedge. Both the President and other leading Democrats have said that their ultimate aim is to attain what amounts to single-payer by creaping incrementalism. IMO, it is they who are being disingenous about their aims."

(1) Obama has never said that.

(2) The CBO estimates that the public option in the House Plan would cover 9-10 million people by 2019. Out a population of over 300 million people. That's a damn small wedge to lead to a government takeover of the health care system.

Posted by: PeterH1 | August 7, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

PeterH1 -

(1) Obama has never said that.

"But I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There's going to be some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out."

Sen. Barak Obama
Speaking at an SEIU Health Care Forum
March 24, 2007

Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-bY92mcOdk

PeterH1 -

(2) The CBO estimates..

Hence the modifier "thin".

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Tbass1,

You've left out the context of Obama's quote. As Factcheck writes:

"The full transcript from the event shows that Obama was talking about setting up an insurance exchange, much like the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, through which federal employees buy coverage. (The FEHBP site shows that several private insurance companies offer coverage to federal employees; a media representative for the Office of Personnel Management told us there are 269 health plans offered in total – about 10 national Fee-For-Service plans plus HMOs that vary by state.) His eliminating "employer coverage" – not "private" coverage – comment is about people buying insurance through this exchange or "pool" rather than through their jobs so insurance would be portable."

http://m.factcheck.org/2009/08/white-house-fact-checking/

Posted by: PeterH1 | August 7, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company