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Posted at 2:45 PM ET, 01/10/2011

A good time to turn down the temperature

By Ezra Klein

At this point, there's no evidence that any statement from any politician sent Jared Loughner over the edge. But I don't think, as some are arguing, that we can just exhale and ignore the ugly and violent rhetoric that's creeping into our politics.

Many of us have known people who, after watching a loved one die of an awful disease, have begun taking better care of their own health. It's not that they were at risk of whatever killed their relative. But the awful experience focused attention on how they were living their own life. That's how I view the situation we're now in. Did the talk of "Second Amendment remedies" and "armed and dangerous" resistance lead anyone to pick up a gun and start shooting? It didn't. But seeing what an unbalanced person might do if convinced of the need for a violent remedy has been sobering.

In some ways, though, I'm actually less concerned about the violent imagery than I am about the steady escalation of the stakes. In a post on Friday, I talked a bit about the way nationally respected Republicans had ratcheted up the pressure on the health-care reform bill by ratcheting up the rhetorical stakes. Sen. Jon Kyl called it "a stunning threat to liberty." Sen. Chuck Grassley said it raised the specter of a government program that "determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma." Speaker John Boehner called it "a monstrosity." All this for a bill that was virtually identical to the legislation Mitt Romney signed in Massachusetts, and Bob Dole co-sponsored in 1993.

But the easiest thing to do here may be to use myself as an example. I thought the stakes during health-care reform very, very high. At a particularly heated moment in the legislative battle, I expressed that too clearly, saying that Joe Lieberman was willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands to settle an old electoral score. The math was impeccable: Over time, the Affordable Care Act would easily save hundreds of thousands of lives. And Lieberman's opposition to policies he supported months before, and his willingness to filibuster the bill if he didn't get his way, seemed lacking in both principle and caution.

But with time and distance, I've come to agree with Ross Douthat, who argued that saying someone is willing to let people die -- or, worse, cause their deaths -- is very different than saying the bill will save many lives. "The two may be factually similar, but only the latter waves the bloody shirt. And the bloody shirt is the enemy of both reasonable debate and good lawmaking."

Politics is high stakes. And even when it isn't, it often feels like it is. There's a natural tendency, then, to wave the bloody shirt -- to make the strongest and most maximalist argument possible in service of your case. And those arguments are often empirically accurate. Indeed, they may actually be understating the effects of the policy. But there's also a cost in letting too much pressure and too much fear build up within our politics. And though libertarians like Jack Shafer may lament this sort of self-policing, the reality is that a violent act that could be clearly traced to the rhetoric of certain leaders or groups would lead to much more damaging and coercive restrictions on political speech than anything people are considering now. Having this conversation when no one has blood on their hands is far preferable to having it when someone does. And though political assassinations are rare in American politics, they are by no means unheard-of.

By Ezra Klein  | January 10, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
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I think it's worth mentioning that while I don't give the American people credit for much,

Kudos to us for not killing our elected officials more often. This is a real problem in a lot of the world, where in America I doubt fear for personal safety has affected politician's policy votes to any significant degree in the last quarter century.

Posted by: eggnogfool | January 10, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, have you ever thought about how you appear on Keith Olbermann? Surely one of the highest temperature guys out there.

Posted by: pemlewis | January 10, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

As I posted in the other thread, George Tiller is a very odd choice of a political assassination given the death of President McKinley and the man who killed him.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 10, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Sen. Jon Kyl called it "a stunning threat to liberty." Sen. Chuck Grassley said it raised the specter of a government program that "determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma." Speaker John Boehner called it "a monstrosity."

maybe we could see more statesmen and stateswomen, again, in congress.
people who lead by example.
with dignity. and with honor, regardless of the personal and ideological differences, which have always existed.
we did used to have some great leaders in congress, who were true statesmen,and stateswomen... people of dignity, honor and great intellectual acumen....

they should take a pledge to.....

1. stop raising the emotional temperature in the country with hateful and mocking rhetoric.
2. stop using hyperbole that they hope will compensate for intellectual acumen.
3. start having some restraint over their emotional outbursts and fits of weeping.
4. show respect for the office of the presidency of the united states, and for the president of the united states, whether they disagree with him, or not.
5. have the moral courage to speak out against those who exercise their right of free speech, in a way that is dangerous to the safety and well-being of fellow americans, and all of our elected officials.
6. show self-restraint and self-control in the face of disagreement.

Posted by: jkaren | January 10, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I think Ezra's mea culpa goes a bit too far. His comments were actually backed up by empirical accuracy, while the statements and actions of lots of political actors are not. I'm sure this happens on both sides of the aisle, though I do believe that in the last several years it's leaned more heavily toward the conservative/Republican side. Still, if Ezra has come to feel that he used the wrong rhetoric and wants to walk back a marginal phrase, more power too him. Rather than constantly doubling down on our rhetoric we should be willing to say, "Yeah, that might have been a tad too much, and I'll try to watch for that."

Posted by: MosBen | January 10, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Both Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy have both outlined how Senator Kennedy stopped President Carters comprehensive health care legislation for political reasons. The math is irrefutable that Ted Kennedy caused more deaths than Pol Pot. The statement is empirically accurate, but a liberal partisan like Klein would never make it.Instead he will only manipulate statistics to distort the motives of his political opponents.

Posted by: cummije5 | January 10, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Pretty amusing...Ezra joins the growing ranks of left-wing pundits furiously backpeddling over wanting to scrutinize the political views of this more and more information is unearthed showing he shared as many left-wing views as any that could be painted as right-wing (meaning, the guy was a fringe lunatic with no tie to any established political entity).

So, as the day has progressed the tone is for more and more of the discourse in our left-wing media to shift to lack of gun control as opposed to 'hate speech' as the supposed cause of this tragedy.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 10, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

"All this for a bill that was virtually identical to the legislation Mitt Romney signed in Massachusetts..."

Once again, I invite Ezra to study the definitions of "state" and "country". Just because you support something at the state level doesn't equal hypocrisy if you don't support it as federal law.

Our founders understood this most basic of principles. Read the 10th Amendment. One can only wonder why Ezra and other left-wingers have such a problem understanding the difference.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 10, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I was suprised to see such a tepid mea culpa concerning the comments you made about Lieberman. The comments were off the charts disturbing...not only for the reasons you mentioned but because they went beyond the pale of decent discourse and were never true. The math was not impeccable because, as exasperating as Joe's behavior was during that time period, he never waivered from his agreement to support a bill that covered the uninsured (through taxpayer subsidies for private insurance and expansion of medicaid).

Posted by: wswest | January 10, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"Over time, the Affordable Care Act would easily save hundreds of thousands of lives."

And, once again, Ezra trots out a myth of the left-wing. Not a single person will get health care under the ACA who couldn't get it before. Not one.

The ACA makes large changes to the funding structure and ultimate control of the health INSURANCE industry. This is why Democrats took great pains to re-define it as "health INSURANCE reform" after it proved unpopular...even early make people think they were trying to undertake "health CARE reform". So to be sure it makes large (and, I believe, long-term damaging) changes to the health care industry, but not one single person will receive care once the ACA is in effect who would not have been able to receive care before.

But Ezra continues to perpetuate these myths he and other progressives lobbed out in the midst of the original debate...and I along with others will continue to be here exposing their falsehoods.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 10, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. Excellent one Ezra.


Posted by: chrisgaun | January 10, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"In the YouTube profile, the account holder, identified as Loughner, lists "The Communist Manifesto" and "Mein Kampf" among his favorite books." - ABC News

Well, dag'nabbit....why do facts have to keep getting in the way of the anti-Tea Party/Sarah Palin narrative we were hoping to spin out of this tragedy.

Ezra and the left-wing media

Posted by: dbw1 | January 10, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I have to disagree with you here. I think you're right that this guy was a whackadoodle motivated by nothing resembling politics, yet this is a good time for us to all check ourselves. But I think you're wrong on the whole "we need to lower the temperature and never say someone could die if we don't pass a law."

Because really, that's not true. A lot of the problems we face actually DO kill people. And they tend to be powerless and poor. If we can't talk about them dying, it's not really clear to me why anyone would want to change the status quo.

So, I don't think it's fair to argue that Democrats are not allowed to call attention to the fact that uninsured people really, truly are more likely to suffer and die because the flip side of that is Republicans making up lies about death panels. I mean, I get the issues of confounded data and "wouldn't fixing inequality have a better impact on health than spending more on health care" and all that stuff. There's uncertainty in all public policy pronouncements, especially something as complex as healthcare.

But no, you really can't compare a statement like "more affordable insurance means many people will suffer and die less" to "this apparently moderate bill will actually lead to death panels."

I think the most important lesson for politicians is a much more basic one: don't lie.

The Republicans were lying about what this law would do. They were lying a lot. In the most maximal and hysterical terms, and about things like abortion where we have seen again and again people are willing to kill.

I really think we have a problem when a center-right health care policy that simply cannot be honestly characterized as extreme, radical or socialist is regularly claimed to be such by people who are mainstream, and it's impossible to refute it, much less punish them for such blatant and obvious lying. In fact, they are rewarded as individuals and as a party!

Getting rid of the filibuster--and the ability of the minority to regain power by nuking the country--would be a really solid start on fixing this. It's ludicrous to premise your government's success on the hope that Senators will behave irrationally and work together when they could get power back by obstructing.

And yeah, you did go too far on Lieberman, but it wasn't about policy. He was indulging himself in a hissyfit, and it was offensive to see a person with such a powerful office abuse it so blatantly on an issue you cared so much about. I think this is a very bad example of when rhetoric goes too far. You didn't pull the same crap on Coburn who, for all his whackadoodleness, does appear to have a sense of public obligation. You disagree with Coburn on the best way to serve the body politic, but fought fair with him. You reserved hitting below the belt for Lieberman who wasn't espousing a policy preference, but being a shonda.

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 10, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

dbw1, with all due respect, I think both of your comments are overstatements.

1) Re: Ezra joining of the ranks of "furiously backpedalling" liberals. First, Ezra was consistently fair all weekend and all this morning in stating that we didn't know what motivated Jared Loughner. He also had an excellent post today about how better access to mental health services might have made more of a difference than closing any single gun loop hole. You may well be right that there are left-leaning sources who jumped to conclusions too soon. But in fairness to the media on this one (a fairness not always due), we have (a) a mass shooting including of a politician and the killing of a federal judge (b) the Congresswoman and judge had received numerous death threats relating to their politics and (c) in an environment that's been highly politically charged over illegal immigration and health care politics. The question of a political motive was not baseless, though it was speculative. Much of the straight reporting from the "traditional media" was pretty fair that Loughner's views and motives were still unknown. I'd ask that you not generalize about a liberal punditocracy (or at least not include Ezra among them on this one), for the same reasons you presumably wouldn't want people lumping all conservative punditocracy together as inciting violence.

2)Re: your 10th Amendment and "state" versus "country" point. Two obvious rejoinders are the "commerce clause" and the "necessary and proper clause," but I'm pretty sure we could debate that 'til both of us turn blue in the face. More to the point, even assuming it's not inconsistent for someone like Mitt Romney to pitch and support health care reform on the state level while bashing it at the federal level, Ezra's point still stands: Why does it necessitate "waving the bloody" shirt at any level? It's health care policy. Sure, stakes are high, and we can disagree on how to reform the system. And, like it or hate it, many of the ideas implemented *do* have conservative roots from 1993/94 and Massachusetts. Why do we have to run to the barricades and take up "Second Amendment remedies"?

Posted by: pbasso_khan | January 10, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

dbw1, your third point is also an overstatement.

You say, "And, once again, Ezra trots out a myth of the left-wing. Not a single person will get health care under the ACA who couldn't get it before. Not one."

You're right. It mandates health insurance for all and subsidizes insurance for those who cannot afford it. Thus, the ACA makes it easier to get insurance and more likely that people won't either game the system or choose not to see a doctor b/c they fear they can't afford it. And the latter, my friend, is where the "saves lives" comes in. We don't want people to have to choose between paying for health care and paying for other necessities. If you're uninsured you're more likely to be making such choices. Also, the ACA prevents insurers from dropping coverage if you get sick or for preexisting conditions. That will also help people get the care they need and hopefully "save lives."

You're right, they started calling it health INSURANCE reform. I disagree (and we can agree to disagree) that it's because the ACA was proving unpopular. It's because the only aspects of the ACA that they could pass the U.S. Senate related to insurance; they couldn't agree on a public option or a single-payer system, which would have been health CARE. Presumably, you think that's a good thing. I was sad to see that cut from the bill.

BUT, if you've been reading Ezra's blog all these months, you'd see that he's been one of few who has been pretty clear on the nuance between health care and health insurance reform. He's been the one shedding some sunlight on an otherwise obscure debate. Going back to your original point that "anyone could get health care" before the ACA. Again, you're right: But not everyone could afford to pay for health care w/out insurance. Are you saying that "anyone could walk down to the local ER" and that's health care? What if they need a specialist? What if they would benefit from continuity of care? ER-as-primary-care facility does not a health care system make.

Posted by: pbasso_khan | January 10, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Trial lawyers say, "When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the table."

Same goes for politics, and always has.

But that doesn't mean political, media, intellectual, civic, and religious leaders shouldn't use this moment to do as Ezra urges: dial it down. That won't last, of course, but we all need a respite right now.

Posted by: fredbrack | January 10, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Great posts pbasso_khan. Well written with good points. It sounds like you've been reading the blog for at least a little while, but here's to hoping you post more often. We can always use more thoughtful posters.

Posted by: MosBen | January 10, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Agree with MosBen: Stick around!

Posted by: Ezra Klein | January 10, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

We all wake up in the morning and walk out the front door expecting a rational world to greet us. The worse we expect is a maybe a cranky cabbie or an obtuse boss. We go for long periods this way.

But the more we hear of the "steady escalation" of the stakes and the rhetoric that it engenders, the more doubt creeps into our expectations.

Then the madness happens in a state that's partial to the inflammatory rhetoric — and we begin to wonder. Are the two related? Why is there more irrationality, especially in politics? Just how safe are we if we disagree verbally with something or someone?

Then it's a long wait until we can think of the world as rational again.

Posted by: tomcammarata | January 10, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Your selection of example people and what they said that you feel constitutes unacceptable discourse are inadvertent, but stunning disclosures of the "slippery slope" that the country would be on if there were limitations on freedom of speech anywhere, specially in politics.

Identification of a Libertarian as someone who does not believe in "self policing of political discourse", is ironic. If left-leaning politicians were to successfully police themselves, they would be caught without words. Also, your complaining about Senator Kyle's harsh rhetoric when he described the medical bill as a "stunning threat to liberty" is nonsensical. Take a look at the vitriolic comments made by the very liberal Senator Menendez who referred to republicans as terrorists.

You should try living in the real world for a while, before advising the rest of us about how to comport ourselves.

Posted by: mlieber507 | January 10, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

--*just exhale and ignore the ugly and violent rhetoric that's creeping into our politics.*--

There's nothing uglier than your spew, Klein, trying to shove your half-baked ideas, whether they're wanted or not, down everyone's throats, with the full violent force of the government behind them.

The saddest part of your Lieberman hundred thousand lives attack is your ongoing vapidity in never considering that your figures might be wrong, that deaths under socialist health care might actually rise despite the cherry picked computer model or study you based the claim on.

I mean, what if you are wrong, Klein? What if your socialist health care actually does stifle innovation, like your critics claim it will? What if the massive tax increases and undo regulation drive providers and pill mfgs and medical device makers out of business? What if health care costs continue to outpace inflation, which is very likely with the unrelenting subsidization involved, to the point that, not only is there no money to fund the safety net for those who truly need it, but there's not enough money to pay for care for those who could have squeaked by under a free market system? What guarantee do you have that centrally planned health care won't gradually descend toward the same mediocrity and inefficiency as exists in the average Department of Motor Vehicles, or Post Office, or Amtrak?

Until you can authoritatively answer those questions, your rhetoric in support of forcing your fellows into an ill-conceived government driven health care regime is nothing but ugly and violent, to me.

Posted by: msoja | January 10, 2011 8:57 PM | Report abuse

"...ugly and violent rhetoric.."

Like: "If they bring a knife, we'll bring a gun." Like that? violent and ugly like that?

Posted by: truck1 | January 10, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Further, every day, Klein & Co. are out on the front lines telling the American people that they aren't smart enough, or moral enough, or capable enough, to manage their own affairs, and that the government has to step in and do it for them.

And, frankly, a lot of people disagree, and deeply resent the implications, and, in fact, regard *that* attitude as more than a little "hateful", along with being several shades of just plain wrong.

Who, I would ask, is being more disrespectful and belligerent? The person or persons *insisting* via government edict on imposing their values on others? Or the persons resisting having someone else's values imposed on them?

And, if the former: If one holds his fellows in such low regard that he feels he must continually petition the crown with various stratagems to keep the rabble in check, then why put up the big pretense of "Democracy" at all? Right, Klein? These immoral, unscrupulous louts, filled with hate (ginned up by greedheads like Palin and Limbaugh), should be forced to "turn down the temperature", and then be quietly neutralized, to insure a more docile flock, all for the collective good.

But let's not call that hate. It's just being practical, innit?

Posted by: msoja | January 11, 2011 12:32 AM | Report abuse


I remember your Lieberman post. I generally agree with you on policy and am grateful for your knowledge, diligence and explanatory skills. But I think that post was the first time that you actually understood what is at stake in Washington.

And now you want to retreat. Here's what you need to understand: every day, tens of millions of people are affected by what happens in Washington DC. And for more than 30 years, the effect has been negative. Monstrously so. From the 300,000 killed in Central America with the assistance of Reagan's White House, to the 9 million workers who now are part time not by choice, to the 2 million homeless in Iraq, and yes, to the 100,000 plus people in the US who die needlessly every year because our health care system is so screwed up, literally hundreds of millions of people are affected by decisions made in Washington DC.

The problem is not a lack of civility. The problem is that people, even people like you, do not really grasp what is at stake. And you want to have a good life, and you want freedom from want and fear for you and your future family, and so you don't want to make too many enemies.

So with Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, and the Koch Brothers funding and orchestrating campaigns of disinformation and hatred, and hate mail coming in your inbox every day, it's damned hard to be a take-no-prisoners advocate of a fair and just future for all Americans.

But if you won't do it, get out of the way. I'm sorry. We need people who are not afraid to say clearly just what Joe Lieberman is - a cynical narcissist who only cares about his personal status, Israel and his friends on Wall Street, in that order, and who doesn't care how destructive his concerns are to the majority of Americans.

You had it right that one day. Don't back down now. You chose your path. If you can't keep it going, give your megaphone to Matt Taibbi. We need people who will stand up to the military industrial complex, the Koch Brothers, and Wall Street. Stay with us and don't back down. Millions of powerless people depend on you.

Posted by: Dollared | January 11, 2011 2:46 AM | Report abuse

If you currently have pre-existing conditions like me that have prevented you from being able to qualify for health insurance for at least six months you will have coverage options under new health care. Check "Wise Health Insurance" to find how to get quality insurance for dollars.

Posted by: terryjobe | January 11, 2011 3:22 AM | Report abuse


Three examples behind my point that the ACA does nothing to provide more care that what existed before:
1) I have a relative who left private practice to open an inner-city health clinic. If you are uninsured, you can show up at their door and be seen by a rotation of doctors. Your care will be paid for by the clinics donors. Based on my attendance of their fundraisers, these donors are mostly rich evangelical conservatives who are routinely libeled as 'heartless and cruel' for not supporting progressive ideology to turn over our health care system to federal government beaurocrats.

2) my wife is a mid-level practicioner who volunteers as needed at a local clinic in our town where private-practice doctors spend their off-days seeing uninsured folks.

3) if you walk in the door of one of the country's largest hospitals in my state, you will see a sign that directs you to the business office to see if you qualify for free care (if below the poverty line) or subsidized care (up to 200% of the poverty line). This is using existing state and private subsidies that existed before the ACA came along.

The point isn't to brag about involvement in the treatment of folks who Obama and liberals think they will be providing care to for the first time. The point is to illustrate that care already exists for these people, and the ACA was simply an attempt to take control from the local level and move it to the federal level. The ACA will merely take replace these voluntary donations and state funds, and replace them with federally mandated taxes and fines to provide the same care.

See, progressives don't like it when they can't control it. That's what the ACA was all about. Control.

"BUT, if you've been reading Ezra's blog all these months..."

Trust me, if you scroll back through Ezra's blog you will know that, unfortunately for Ezra, I have been reading for quite some time. We know Ezra reads the comment boards, but he refuses to address some of the obvious flaws in his math and logic that I try to play my small part in helping to expose. If you are looking for 'sunlight', you will be sorely disappointed in Ezra since he refuses to recognize the validity of things like 'math' and 'economics', and instead he continues to lean on outdated CBO reports to insist the ACA will reduce the deficit. But what else can you expect from a poly-sci major who is more interested in being a partisan than actually having honest debate?

Posted by: dbw1 | January 11, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

--*[I]t's damned hard to be a take-no-prisoners advocate*--

That's a perfect example of the sort of ignorant commie eliminationist rhetoric that responding to brands one as an extremist righty.

Posted by: msoja | January 11, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Well said, Ezra! EVERYONE (in whatever position, political or in other contexts) should think before speaking or writing about the impression his or her words will make.

Seriously, if rational people were more cautious about making extreme statements, maybe we could all be more alert to extreme, irrational signals from people out of mental control.

Posted by: CherieOK | January 11, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

--*Millions of powerless people depend on you.*--

Such is the rank perversion of the American dream, inveigling propagandists in one's cause of rallying government force to supply one's faction with goodies stolen from other factions.

Posted by: msoja | January 11, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

On the other hand, "lone wolf" warnings, Byron Williams, etc. There is now blood already. Just admit it.

Posted by: JF11 | January 11, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Msoja, liberals didn't pervert the American dream. Two generations ago, the millions had their labor unions to protect their jobs, their dignity and their right to healthcare. Right wingers broke those unions and made tens millions of people poor, often with the complicity of conservative Democrats.

We are talking about honest, hardworking folks with children to raise and educate, who can't get health care at their jobs. And you think it is your mission in life to make it harder, rather than easier, for them to get through life.

Time to go look in the mirror, buddy. Or get yourself to a truly Christian church.

Posted by: Dollared | January 11, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

msoja: "I mean, what if you are wrong, Klein? What if your socialist health care actually does stifle innovation, like your critics claim it will?"

Then we can vote different people in to change it.

"What if the massive tax increases and undo regulation drive providers and pill mfgs and medical device makers out of business?"

Then we can vote different people in to change it.

"What if health care costs continue to outpace inflation, which is very likely with the unrelenting subsidization involved, to the point that, not only is there no money to fund the safety net for those who truly need it, but there's not enough money to pay for care for those who could have squeaked by under a free market system?"

Then we can vote to change it.

"What guarantee do you have that centrally planned health care won't gradually descend toward the same mediocrity and inefficiency as exists in the average Department of Motor Vehicles, or Post Office, or Amtrak?"

There is no guarantee, but Medicare seems to be far more efficient than private insurance. If it turns out wrong, we can vote to change it.

Really, the same objections can be brought on almost any question. What if the "free market" continues to drive up health care cost far faster than government-led reform would do? What if, what if what if... what guarantees do you have?

Plus we're not operating in an evidentiary vacuum. There is ample evidence from other countries that cover everyone, get as good or better health outcomes as we do, while spending a third less to half as much. If something is shown not to work, then one would think there would be political pressure to change the system. That's what democracies are supposed to do. But speculation and worst-case scenarios, especially speculation that flies in the face of available evidence, is not a sound basis for concluding that something shouldn't even be tried.

I'll take evidence over ideology. I think the evidence shows that we don't consume health care like we do other "free market" goods. (If colonoscopies are "free," am I going to stock up on them?) If the evidence shows me wrong, then I'll change my mind. But I'm not going to endorse (or reject) markets just because they're markets, just as I wouldn't endorse (or reject) government just because it's government.

Posted by: dasimon | January 11, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

--*[L]iberals didn't pervert the American dream. Two generations ago, the millions had their labor unions to protect their jobs, their dignity and their right to healthcare.*--

Two generations ago is when the perversion really got under way.

And it wasn't the "labor unions" that protected jobs, it was the special dispensations coded into federal law that granted privileges above and beyond those to which non-union, ordinary people enjoy. It was a perversion of justice in service to a new constituency, a perversion that continues to pay dividends for statists and crooks and panderers.

And there is no wholesale right to a job, or dignity, or health care. The American compact guarantees the right to seek such things, but does not, because it cannot, guarantee that anyone is entitled to them. Believing in such things is like believing in Santa Claus, or the tooth fairy, and wanting Congress to create them with legislation. You do not have a right to something out of someone else's pocket. You can't force people to give you a job. You can't force people to respect you. You don't get to abuse yourself and then demand that others fix you up. To claim that you have such rights, and then to hire the force of government to deliver them to you is ugly and violent. Get it?

Posted by: msoja | January 11, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

--*Then we can vote different people in to change it.*--

LOL. It doesn't work in practice. A sufficiently large segment of the population is now intent on bleeding the rest of everyone dry (aided by ignorant useful tools like Klein) and there is insufficient wherewithal to turn the country around.

Posted by: msoja | January 11, 2011 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Modern-day scientists have enough trouble proving things. One study shows that Drug X helps prevent heart attacks, another study says that it doesn't. In the social sciences, convincing proof of cause and effect is even sketchier. Asking for proof positive that Jared Loughner was driven to kill six people and wound others by any one bit of political rhetoric is foolish. Even without such "evidence," however, I think common sense tells us that an atmosphere of over-the-top demonization of liberals and their points of view--such as we've witnessed lately--is going to make some of the imbalanced people living among us even more disturbed. William Manchester, in "Death of a President," writes about how much hatred was being directed at JFK in Dallas at the time of his murder there. Things were so bad that a high school teacher felt entitled to bad-mouth the president to his school's students. Many of President Kennedy's advisers warned him not to go to Dallas. Do you hear an echo of this in Representative Giffords publicly discussing her worries about being depicted caught in the "cross hairs" on a website? I do. Ezra Klein is right, of course, to urge public figures to tone down their messages. On the other hand, the GOP, the Tea Party and their followers are the new Beastie Boys, defending their "right" to inflame people (including the mentally ill) with as much weapon-related imagery as they like. You know: You've gotta fight for your right to party.

Posted by: bizzvanwa | January 11, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

--*Things were so bad that a high school teacher felt entitled to bad-mouth the president to his school's students.*--

You think that didn't happen repeatedly while Dubya was Prez?

And haven't you heard? Your: "Even without such 'evidence,' however" clause is the designated signifier of the newest in ugly and violent rhetoric. It reveals the hate for that which you don't understand. It shows you have no respect for due process, or a hundred other things in between basic logic and simple decency.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: msoja | January 11, 2011 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh, *now* it's time to tone the rhetoric, eh, Klein?

You were just musing dreamily when you Tweeted [cleaned up for WaPo comments] that you wanted to:

"f*** tim russert. f*** him with a spiky acid-tipped d***"

Those were the days, weren't they, Klein?

Posted by: msoja | January 13, 2011 1:51 AM | Report abuse

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