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The Broken Brakes of Civil Discourse

Joe Klein reports from Arkansas:

I was at a Blanche Lincoln town hall meeting in Russellville, Arkansas, yesterday -- and the number of people who believe that the President has larded the government with communists (!) was astonishing. One woman said there were four known communists in the government and that she'd researched it on the internet. When I asked her afterwards, she said environmental adviser Van Jones, legal advisor Cass Sunstein (who was last spotted being excoriated by the left for supporting the FISA revisions), someone named Lloyd and she didn't remember the fourth. And wasn't it suspicious that Obama had all these czars working for him -- that was a Russkie commie term, wasn't it? When I asked, the woman admitted that, among other things, she occasionally listened to William Bennett's conservative radio show. I pointed out that Bennett had once been the Drug Czar, appointed by Ronald Reagan. Life sure can be complicated sometimes. ...

Could I just say that the intensity of this getting pretty scary...and dangerous? We are heading toward a cliff and the usual brakes of civil discourse are not working. Indeed, the Republicans have the pedal to the metal -- rushing us toward a tragedy far greater than the California health care forum finger-biting Karen describes below. I'm usually not one to panic or be overly worried about the state of our country -- even when we do awful things like invade Iraq and torture people, we usually right our course before long -- but I have a sinking feeling about where we're headed now.

The first comment beneath Joe's post reads, "Yes. We should all strive for the civility demonstrated by Klein and Soviet KGB collaborator Ted Kennedy." I don't get the sense it's a joke.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 11:37 AM ET
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Next: The Partisan Path to Bipartisanship


The fourth Communist is Kumar.

Posted by: bdballard | September 4, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

yes, but check out this civil discourse w/ ... al franken.

that sorta thing makes me hopeful.

Posted by: Chris_ | September 4, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The first comment to Joe Klein's Swampland post is from something called "textee" who is the Swampland resident troll.

Posted by: bdballard | September 4, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

glenn beck is a kook of the highest degree. he's where this idiocy starts from and that comes from a staunch conservative. His shock ratings are Howard Stern like and I'm all for freedom of speech but he should just shut up.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 4, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

It's been amusing to watch both coastal Kleins wake up to crazy magical thinking of Red-state conservatives (that, and the fact that there are tens of millions of them). I wonder, too, if either Klein has ever attended a few evangelical church services. They'd learn a thing or two about their fellow Americans.

Hawaii-bred kumbaya won't deliver change; the only thing these bullies understand is another bully. The Clintons "got" it but I have no sense that Obama (or Rahm or Axlerod) do. The administration should have foreseen these ginned-up controversies coming down the pike -- instead we read reports that they were caught off-guard by teabaggers, guns at townhalls, Kenyan birthers, schoolchildren being kept home from school so as not to watch a non-partisan Presidential video about the virtues of diligence and hard work.

Posted by: scarlota | September 4, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Recall your post of just yesterday, Ezra:

"One of the questions a lot of people asked amid the hysterics of August was why, if these town halls were astroturfed shout-fests, were members holding them at all? The answer appears to be simple: They largely weren't astroturfed shout-fests. But the ones the media covered were."

IMO, Joe Klein - and others in the liberal commentariat to include E.J. Dione, Paul Krugman and Ezra - have lavished attention on the kook-fringers in an attempt to discredit the legitimate opposition ot the Dem. bills and play to the prejudices of the Democratic base.

Posted by: tbass1 | September 4, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I get the sense that the right wing loons are trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they can only act irrationally enough and bring enough firearms to presidential appearances, someone will eventually suggest that something be done about them, at which point the Great Conservative Revolution begins.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | September 4, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

@tbass1: "have lavished attention on the kook-fringers in an attempt to discredit the legitimate opposition ot the Dem. bills"

The kooks are hardly on the fringe, unless you consider elected GOP officials like Grassley part of the fringe.

Both sides have always had kooks on the fringe and they've traditionally been rightfully ignored. This is different. They're front-and-center and it's not because of the "liberal commentariat". The GOP could reign these people in if they felt it was hurting their cause. But they don't, because the kooks aren't - they're useful idiots.

As for legitimate opposition, where is it? Being against government intervention is fine, but the arguments have centered around it being too costly - an illegitimate concern coming from those who opposed every cost-cutting measure suggested.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | September 4, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

If a young and weak republic like India can survive 'burning people alive and vandalizing temples and mosque' for years under the pretext of partisan aggression; I am not worried why would this republic not withstand this kind of craziness. It will wither away these attacks. I doubt those were absent any time in America's political history.

People will soon realize that such a craziness is in the end bad for them. Remember Kansas School Board? Those fools forced 'creationism' in schools and soon public started to realize that with this their children are going nowhere. In next election despite Bush victory at national level those bums were thrown out at local level.

Having said that, what both Klein's are doing is the precise thing we need as a society - keep highlighting this foolish. In a way job for Media is not just point / watch out wrong actions our politicians undertake which have negative impacts on us; but also point / watch out 'foolish' choices Public endorses at the cost of their own future.

Politicians by definition are slaves of voters. They are never going to say what is wrong with Public (except once in a while spark of genius like Rep. Barney Franks). Again and again that is why it is important for Media to do that.

Public or People's Will is not sacrosanct. Public can and does make foolish and stupid choices which are detrimental to it's own benefits. We need constant report card of this foolishness.

For example, it will be useful (in the analytical style of Nat Silver) to report exactly how many Town Hall meetings took place in August, how many were actually covered in media, in how many of those public created drama and in how many of the remaining were good exercise in 'representative - public' communication.

Posted by: umesh409 | September 4, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I presume the point of all the nuttiness is to create an atmosphere which leads some unhinged right winger to assassinate Obama. What I don't get is why they think the next 3 people in line of succession (Biden, Pelosi, and Clinton) would have policies that are markedly different than Obama's. I guess it's just a racist thing where they can't abide having a black President.

Posted by: redwards95 | September 4, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Oh, those Czar-loving communists!

Posted by: bluegrass1 | September 4, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

*I wonder, too, if either Klein has ever attended a few evangelical church services. *

I think it's time for a fact-finding trip to McLean Bible Church! (seriously, as Ezra ever been to a megachurch? would he get any of the jokes at ?)

In any case, the point of this nuttiness is to move the national dialog to irrational things. Once the dialog becomes about different methods of "bending the cost curve" and "ensuring access to drugs," then the Republicans have already lost. If you make it all about death panels and inevitable communist takeover, you've cut off the reformists at the knees.

Posted by: constans | September 4, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

so instead of a big tent party the GOP is a big fringe party!

Posted by: bdballard | September 4, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, fourteen minutes before Ezra Klein made the current post, under the title "The Money Problem", Klein continued his exploration of how to extract from each according to his ability in order redistribute it elsewhere according to the needs Klein qualifies.

The funny part about Joe Klein's "article" is that the woman in it believes that there are only four commies in Obama's immediate circle. In fact, it's tough to find anyone in government who isn't tainted by commie inclinations.

Personally, I'm slowly gravitating to the word "collectivist", as it seems to be less argumentative (for some reason), and because it nicely fits as a counter to "individualist". Framed that way, it's easy to see that there are no proponents of individualism and personal responsibility in ObamaWorld. Ergo, they's commies, boys.

And both Kleins are disingenous or stupid.

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse


"Both sides have always had kooks on the fringe and they've traditionally been rightfully ignored."


"This is different."

While I think there are kook-fringers in the mix but I have always believed, as apparently E.J. and Ezra now do, that the vast majority of the opponents are civil and reasonable. In addition, I believe they mostly oppose the Dem. bills for largely fiscal and/or idealogical grounds, not because they fear death panels and the like.

"The GOP could reign these people in if they felt it was hurting their cause."

I personally doubt whether the GOP can claim the allegiance of most of these people.

Do you beleive that those among the the rougly 20% of the electorate which call themselves indepenents - a majority of whom have swung in opposition to the Dem reform bills in recent months - are largely dupes or shills?

"As for legitimate opposition, where is it?"

Why just this morning, in his post titled "The Money Problem", Ezra himself conceded that the current bills do not include much in the way or either cost controls or funding mechanisms and would, consequently, be budget busters in the out-years. Taken against the backdrop of exploding government deficits and debt there would seem to be room for principled opposition to these bills. This is essentially what I have been saying on this site since I showed up and there are plenty of other people who have been saying the same thing elsewhere for months.

"Being against government intervention is fine, but the arguments have centered around it being too costly - an illegitimate concern coming from those who opposed every cost-cutting measure suggested."

I'm sorry, I can't agree. The high cost of the programs is a reasonable objection. And, anyway, I support the taxation of health benefits so presumably I am excluded from your blanket dismissal.

Posted by: tbass1 | September 4, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

tbass1: when you have Charles Grassley, Sen. Inhofe, and Sarah Palin basically driving or echoing the death-panel/socialism talking points of the fringe, you have to start to assume that this is what the Republicans have hitched their wagons to. I think it's unfair to claim that the Republicans are not working hand-in-glove with the fringe on this one. And it's to their benefit: by ensuring that the talking points are driven by a group of unhinged fringed beliefs, you kneecap those who were trying to push a reform plan that was negotiated policy-by-policy through Congress.

Posted by: constans | September 4, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure she's talking about Ari's assistant on Entourage. That's the only Lloyd who comes to mind.

Posted by: MisterSavannah | September 4, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

wow i wish i could read minds too.

negotiated by who? Pelosi, Reid and Waxman?

That's like saying Bush and Cheney negotiated the war with Tom Delay.

please don't try and say it was bipartisan because that's ridiculous. Anytime anything smelled of anti-union, anti immigrant, anti trial-lawyer it was snuffed out by the democratic majority.

Bipartisan my ash. I know 90% of the people in here reading this are liberals or progressives but please at least be honest with yourself. It was rammed through in an attempt to get it done BEFORE the August recess.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 4, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, you're lying. You just posted a lying dishonest screed, symptomatic precisely of what Ezra is talking about. You're a liar who revels in the collective insanity of the the right's violent and dishonest rhetoric.

Posted by: constans | September 4, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse


lying about what? The Republicans asked for tort reform and to tax employee benefits and to ensure legal citizenship AFTER care was delivered? Is it in there and I missed it?

its easy to CALL someone a liar, its much more difficult to prove it but by then the damage is done.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 4, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

One big reason we hear so much about what those on the right believe is because of the constant messaging they get from right wing radio and even conservative politicians.

One big reason we hear so little about those on the left is due to what Bob Somerby talks about in his blog today

The GOP has effective messaging. The Dems do not. What are my talking/yelling points about why we need health care reform now? I believe we do and understand the issues and can talk intelligently about it. But where is my bumper sticker? What are our code words and catch phrases.

We don't have any.

Posted by: susanjb | September 4, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

constans: "When you have Charles Grassley, Sen. Inhofe, and Sarah Palin basically driving or echoing the death-panel/socialism talking points of the fringe, you have to start to assume that this is what the Republicans have hitched their wagons to."

I think there are useful distinctions to be made between Republican "leaders" (congressmen and public figures like Palin or Limbaugh), rank-and-file Republicans, townhall protesters (of which kook-fringe are a subset), and Dem. bill opponents. These groups' interests and motivations are not homogeneous.

"I think it's unfair to claim that the Republicans are not working hand-in-glove with the fringe on this one."

I would agree that the Republican leaders you cite have been happy to see popular support for the reform bills and President Obama fall but not that they are the primary cause of it. Far more important causes, IMO, include: ironically for Obama, incohate anxiety about change, as most people (to include Medicare beneficiaries) are already covered by insurance and happy with it; opposition to tax increases; concern about the cost of the plans - especially given our nations rising indebtedness; idealogical opposition to expanding government involvement in the economy.

Posted by: tbass1 | September 4, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

tbass1, the "high cost" of programs is only a legitimate objection insofar as the person doing the objecting has a track record of being concerned about the "high cost" of programs.

who in the republican congressional delegation fits that description? which republicans can you point out to me who felt that the war in iraq should be funded with tax dollars and not borrowed money? which republicans can you point out to me who offered any concerns about the size of the 2001 tax cut? i'd love to see who these paragons of republican resonsibility are.

because otherwise, i'm not interested in their jive remarks about concern about the deficit and they are not making a legitimate argument.

instead, they are making a variation of the argument this numbskull msoja made up above. msoja doesn't even know what a communist is, much less whether there are any in the obama administration, but feels free to spew idiotic invective nonetheless.

really, tbass1, which republican member, on a principled basis, has had anything useful to say about health-care reform? the clowns who say keep the government out of medicare? the jerks who talk about "death panels?" the morons who claim that stephen hawking and ted kennedy wouldn't have received treatment under reform, and instead would have been put to death?

the first indicator of serious, principled opposition on the part of the republicans will be the first member to call for the abolition of medicare. let me know when you spot that lone warrior, wouldja please?

Posted by: howard16 | September 4, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Howard16. At least I know what it is when people take that which doesn't belong to them, to spend on schemes that won't work, to hand out to their favored political constituencies and their favored well-connected pals. Maybe that activity doesn't fit your particular favorite definition of communism or marxism or even socialism, but to my way of thinking the particular, peculiar, narrowly defined ism doesn't matter because they're all variations on the same stupid theme, said theme being anti-freedom, anti-personal responsibility, pro-corruption, pro-bureaucratic incompetence, pro-politicization of everything (look at the gibbering fools under Klein's posts with a thousand different schemes to further a thousand small-minded whims), pro-higher costs on everything and less production of same, less choice, more laws, etc., etc., etc. You want to prattle 'round and 'round the Correct Webster's Definition Tree, you feel free, but you're not fooling anybody with your hand on their wallets and their freedom slipping away by the minute.

And by the way, as I blogged three weeks ago, according to an online biography of the man, Stephen Hawking was denied care by the NHS back in 1985. The experience, in his then wife's word, left the Hawking family "bitter" about having been dunned all their working careers to support the NHS. Private American entities ponied up for Hawking's care. Investor's Business Daily followed up with that info, but of course, Ezra failed to follow up likewise. See my blog on the Hawking matter at:

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Let me understand this.

Judge Alito was almost crucified about a possible subscription to a "suspect" magazine.

SCHUMER: OK. So you don't remember renewing membership, writing out a check at a certain time, getting a magazine -- this Prospect magazine --once a month, once a quarter, once a year? You have no recollection of any of that?
ALITO: I don't.

Van Jones was a signer of "9/11 Truthers "declarations. I went to their site and it is about equivalent to believing in "the Mother Ship".

I have listened to Van Jones recorded statements mocking Republicans and Whites.

He should not be in charge of cleaning up after Obama's dog, Bo.

Yet Van Jones is still a Green Czar.

Good ... let's keep him and let Obama acolytes defend him.


By their friends shall ye know Them.

And, if you think, the pressure now is tough, wait until the run-up to the next election in about 1 1/2 years.

Go Van, Go Van

Posted by: jgfox39 | September 4, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

msoja, perhaps you aren't familiar with the preamble to the constitution. it defines, you know, why we have this country:

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

they wouldn't recognize your cramped little notion of what america is supposed to be about.

one could go on, but why bother?

PS. oh yes, i suppose one should bother this much. when one of the moron right-wingers claimed that the NHS would have caused Hawking to be put to death, he felt called upon to tell the telegraph (the telegraph, for crissake! the conservative daily!) "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS," he said. "I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

I'm sure you had a point about hawking, but it must be like your point about communism, your all-purpose term for a believer in the constitution: it's kind of hard for the non-acolyte to discern in the midst of the foolishness. perhaps you could restate it?

Posted by: howard16 | September 4, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

And which part of the Constitution deals with forcing gainfully employed and hard working people to provide food, shelter, education, transportation ("Cash for Clunkers", what a laff), health care, and pensions to those less successful, enterprising, or able? None of those things were a feature of American life until the rise of collectivism and Marxism from the mid-1800s, and now, here we are overrun with the nonsense of them, with otherwise sensible people running around sniveling that it's the only way, and besides, it's in the Constitution (which it ain't.)

Forcing people, rich or otherwise, to serve others is directly contrary to the notions of justice and freedom espoused in the founding documents.

Health care is not a right. It's a commodity that would become a lot cheaper and more abundant if the government would get out of the health care business. The reason that there is a health care crisis is a direct result of the overwhelming interference by government in an otherwise superbly functioning marketplace. Inviting more government involvement, no matter how you package it, or what you call it, is only going to distort the market further, continuing to drive up prices, and further restricting access to doctors and their services. And once the government is fully involved, the fair citizens of the country will have no recourse when the system is found to be failing. None. And the politicians will stonewall and point their fingers, and gibbering morons like Ezra Klein will carry their water for them.

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

msoja, what a fascinating mind you have. the constitution, my good man, is all about collectivism: that's what the preamble tells us. we're establishing justice, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare: that's why the country was established.

and taxation is a duly constitutional part of this country, and the choice of how to spend money is constitutionally identified (the house, initially), and anyone with standing who thinks that money is being spent unconstitutionally can go argue same in front of roberts, thomas, scalia, and alito and maybe they'll listen - who knows?

but until then, yes, all those things you outlined are absolutely, positively, and completely within our constitution.

as for health and markets, jeez, it's amazing how many right-wingers don't even understand markets. health is not a good that fits the definition of a free market.

we don't have multiple sellers of comparable goods and services, particularly under emergency conditions but even under the rule of everyday life (i don't have the time to collect 3 bids each time i want a checkup).

we don't have knowledgable buyers (do you know how to interpret an x-ray? can you understand blood work? are you on top of the latest medications?)

we have extremely high barriers to entry.

there are situations where markets don't work and the provision of health care is one of them.

even as conservative and free-market-oriented a thinker as hayek understood that public provision of health insurance was a good idea (in his mind, because it minimized barriers to responding to the market's signals). that, admittedly, is a rather subtle thought for the likes of you.

Posted by: howard16 | September 4, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

ps. You should read the Stephen Hawking biography to which pointed earlier. It tells how let down he was when his disease grew worse, and before he was famous.

Of course, Hawking is still, apparently, a good little socialist, still somehow supporting the NHS. But economics, politics, and philosophy are not exactly what he's known for, eh?

Additionally, the bio tells how Hawking has worked for years to raise private funds for UK residents who have debilitating diseases similar to the one he has, but who are not fully cared for by the rotten NHS, which he also spends much time exhorting to do more. Apparently, Hawking, like Ezra, believes that a little more political grit from the UK "leaders" is all that's needed to kick start the aging, corrupt, inefficient, and quite often down-right deadly NHS into fulfilling its charter. Good luck with that.

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

in other words, msoja, when stephen hawking, of his own free will, defends the NHS, doesn't know what he's talking about?

what an impressive human being you are.

Posted by: howard16 | September 4, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

The Constitution established a minimum government, not the gargantuan beast that is threatening to swallow all, now.

When Franklin said, "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it," he was cautioning against the exact tyranny of the majority that you cite as Constitutional above. Yes, you can do it, you can vote whatever you want, according to the Constitution, but should you? Plainly, the answer is no.

I mean, do you want Sarah Palin running your health care? Or whoever the dimbulb Republicans drag out of the muck of politics in the next couple of decades, or beyond? Barry ain't gonna serve forever, and then there's nothing between you and your health care but a nameless, faceless bureaucrat in a building they won't give the location to on account of national security. That what you want?

--"health is not a good that fits the definition of a free market."--

The join a co-op and shut up, but leave me free to make up my own mind, spend my own time shopping, and to deal with the consequences of my own choices. Mind yer own business, in other words, and leave me to mind mine. If you have notions of charity, act on them, but it isn't charitable to point a gun to my head and tell me I have to give. That's NOT one of the founding principles, and yet, that's what you clowns are running around selling.

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

--"in other words, msoja, when stephen hawking, of his own free will, defends the NHS, doesn't know what he's talking about?"--

A lot of people defend the NHS, so? A lot of people defended slavery. People are trying to rehabilitate Stalin in the former USSR. Hitler still has his adherents. People can be awfully stupid.

That said, it's easier to like what you have, and to fear what it is you don't.

And, like I said, Hawking might be able to visualize what goes on in a black hole, but that doesn't make him an expert on markets, politics, or governmental intrusions into markets.

Also, as Bastiat pointed out long ago, it's easy to focus on the seen, i.e., the people that the NHS successfully treats, and the services they do manage to perform, and much harder to see that which is unseen: the health care system that would have flourished in the U.K. in a market free of government involvement. It's hard to imagine that anything worse than the current system could have evolved there. One can watch its deterioration over the years, just as one can watch the ever increasing U.S. government involvement in this country slowly dragging health care down. Medicare was supposed to be an itsy bitsy program, and now it's killing everything. Every new regulation and mandate on the insurance industry drives up the cost, and drives out the providers. Doctors are getting harder to find, and waits are increasing. And the bloody fools in Washington are intent on making it worse, pitting the looters against those who manage to provide for themselves. It's a recipe for disaster, this mindless collectivism of yours.

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

msoja, i wrote a long answer, but it got ate, so i'll live with a short one.

your first comment is remarkable: having conceded that the constitution allows all manner of things that you find reprehensible, now you simply want me to decide i no longer believe in my (and america's) core values.

second, i'm not afraid of nameless, faceless bureaucrats getting between me and my health care: they are already there, in the form of my insurance provider. (and hell, even under reagan, an avowed enemy of medicare, service continued uninterrupted)

third, i might find you diatribe more persuasive if you could actually demonstrate to me why it is that you think the provision of health-care is viable for a free market. what's your response to my specifics? do you even have one?

and finally, i humored you long enough. you called on stephen hawking as a witness for the prosecution. i pointed out that's not one, and suddenly he's a mindless pro-slavery socialist moron.

but the serious point here is: no one is proposing an NHS collectivization of american health-care delivery. i could speak more about the NHS but in the interests of shortness, your comments are meaningless in terms of the american health care system and its proposed reform. the most extreme reform that is likely to pass is going to provide a public insurance option; the likelier route to passage is entirely through individual mandates and subsidies. neither of these is the NHS, and it doesn't speak well for your analytic abilities that you don't even seem able to notice.

Posted by: howard16 | September 4, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

PS. if medicare were really "killing everything," then the republicans would call for its abolition. seniors wouldn't like it. but these aren't true. it is a wonderful fantasy, though: it appears to give you the spirit to get through the day.

Posted by: howard16 | September 4, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

--"if medicare were really "killing everything," then the republicans would call for its abolition."--

You're daft if you don't know why politicians can't kill large (or even small) entitlement programs.

It has to do with human nature, and how politicians reflect the lowest order of it.

And I know that the freight train to disaster that this country is on can't be stopped, or even really slowed down, because the only people being looked to to do it are politicians, and I'd be surprised if there is a man among them. But there will come a reckoning, and it won't be pretty. It's already not pretty.

You think there's a recovery on the way?

Hoo ha.

Posted by: msoja | September 4, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse


everyone knows medicare is "too good" as far as underpricing its costs to hospitals. Hospitals working on razor thin margins have already said they couldn't survive on medicare alone. I was listening to c-span the other day when there was a hospital administrator and he admitted what we all know. that medicare pays 80% of what private insurers pay (are charged). Hosptials CAN'T negoitate with medicare as its a captive market. If they even tried it they'd lose every single over 65 person and medicare disabled person and they'd lose too much of their money coming in. They'd also lose their paitents at a time when they are most financially beneficial to a hospital (IE their costs are highest and a high cost to a patient is revenue to a hosptial). Thus depending on the percentage of medicare to private insurance patients, private insurance needs to pay well over 100% of their normal costs which is one reason why private insurance is so high. So no republicans could never get rid of it (and the Democrats made it purposefully this way).

Heck if you get Medicare Part A, B, D and a supplement you can pay as little as $200-$250 a month on a plan that basically pays all your bills.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 4, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Howard, I made an answer, but it went to some moderation queue. If Ezra doesn't let it through (and there's no noble reason not to), I can be reached via the link I posted earlier.

Posted by: msoja | September 5, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

msoja, i take it this means that, lacking a good argument as to why the provision of health care can be best handled via the free market, you're trying to change the subject. hoo ha indeed.

as to the msoja/visonbrkr notion that you can't get rid of medicare: sure you can. just vote it out. no one stopped reagan from doing that. no one stopped bush from doing that. no one stopped bush 43 from doing that. they didn't even try because they didn't think they could make the case to do so. (for that matter, msoja, even thatcher didn't try to get rid of the NHS, and that would have been a far easier matter to achieve.) somehow, capitalism continues on its merry way in both countries, and somehow it's still possible to distinguish between america and great britain on the one hand and totalitarian countries on the other.

visonbrkr, i'm still waiting for you to explain what makes the health-care system suitable for free markets (i posed this to you several days ago), but i'm not going to be diverted into a lengthy discussion of the ins-and-outs of medicare financing, since it's neither here nor there to the core point.

i will note, in passing, that as a self-employed person forced to buy insurance for my family in what passes for the insurance market, you'll understand if i shed no tears for your poor private insurers and medicare: employees at major corporations get access to features (and pay prices) much better than i get access to. it didn't require a governmental role at all: just a bigger customer than me.

Posted by: howard16 | September 5, 2009 12:47 AM | Report abuse

ah, msoja, i see that you purport to have an answer to my challenge (it was probably too long, as my earlier answer was), so i withdraw my first sentence at 12:47.

Posted by: howard16 | September 5, 2009 12:50 AM | Report abuse

Joe Klein: "I'm usually not one to panic or be overly worried about the state of our country"

Of course we're still waiting for the riots Joe predicted Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" would cause twenty years ago...

Posted by: bbebop | September 5, 2009 4:11 AM | Report abuse

i knew bill bennet. i worked with bill bennet. and, sir, van jones is no bill bennet.

yep. reagans 5 czars equate to obama's 37. yep. same thing. no difference. none at all. yep. makes sense. pretty logical. yep. yep. nice try ezra. too funny.

howard: there wont be a vote to repeal medicare; it will die of natural causes my good man. do the math. unless you can repeal simple math. funny man.

Posted by: fred1962 | September 5, 2009 6:22 AM | Report abuse

dear constans, please refer to:

also,Democrats defeated eleven reasonable amendments to HR3200 that would have

1-allowed Americans to keep their current private health insurance
2-prevented Members of Congress from exempting themselves from the plan
3-made rationing of health care less likely
4-prevented rationing by delay under the plan
5-eliminated tax increases for employers
limited the government plan to states with “reasonable medical liability regulations”
6-prevented illegal aliens from receiving taxpayer-subsidized health care under the plan
7-prohibited “requiring health insurance plans to cover abortions”
8-required the government to “maintain reserves and other margins in amounts consistent with insurance standards that apply to private plans”
9-prevented the government from “forcing providers to participate” in the plan
10-repealed “the prohibition on new enrollees in private individual market plans”

i am sorry to add another crazy screed. but ya know, thats how i roll. peace my dear.

Posted by: fred1962 | September 5, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

joe kelin, you got a sinking feeling? relax dear boy. your just wathcing BHO's poll numbers. and hang on. they will go lower......

Posted by: fred1962 | September 5, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

fred1962, we can safely ignore most of your trivial remarks, but as far as medicare goes, the general fund contribution to medicare isn't close to big enough to cause it to die of "natural causes" (by which you presumably mean something along the lines of "eventually the burden of medicare on the general fund will be such that it will be impossible to contribute further to it, and once that natural cap is reached, medicare will become smaller and more trivial until it disappears" or something along those lines) for quite some time, even if nothing else changes.

i will say, following your analysis, that defense spending will die of natural causes much, much sooner. do the simple math.

in the meantime, it's nice of you to concede that until that magic moment you are waiting for, the US will survive the collectivist horrors of medicare.

Posted by: howard16 | September 5, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Howard, it seems that Ezra doesn't want to approve my comment. In anticipation of such, I shot the same comment to my blog last night. See kayak2u dot come slash blog, under "Klein Bloggling".

Buh bye.

Posted by: msoja | September 5, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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