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Harry Reid's plan or nothing?

In his response to my blog post objecting to his overblown attacks on Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Ezra Klein asserts that this country suffers from a "sterile" policy debate. But I wonder if he actually believes it will be easier to achieve reform in an atmosphere where accusations of mass murder whizz about freely. Indeed, unless Klein favors a system that would mandate unlimited health-care spending for everyone, then he, too, favors some limitations on health-care consumption which, at the margin, would cost someone his or her life. Everyone's proposal includes tradeoffs. He also fails to address my main point: that it is nonsensical to suggest that our alternatives are either Harry Reid's proposal or death for hundreds of thousands of people.

I objected to Klein's piece about Lieberman for the same reason I objected to the right's scare talk about socialism and "death panels" -- or to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's ugly assertion, in the wake of 9/11, that civil libertarians were "aid[ing] terrorists" and "giv[ing] ammunition to America's enemies."

By Charles Lane  | December 15, 2009; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  Lane  | Tags:  Charles Lane  
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It's telling that while Lane never rebuts Klein's central assertion (that Lieberman has prioritized political points over human life), he can only produce a straw man version of Klein's argument. Klein simply never said that we have a choice between Reid's proposal and hundreds of thousands of deaths, and the fact that Lane can't seem to grasp what his "youthful" colleague actually said just illustrates the problem: it is because real lives are at stake that it is unacceptable to play political games with the process. Yet Lane both admits that lives are at stake and that Lieberman is behaving like a petty adolescent, right? Of course there are limitations to what can be done; but when people that *could* be insured are not insured out of spite and petty desire for payback, that looks quite a bit like murder, and the politicians we invest with our public trust bear the responsibility. But then, Klein never used the word murder, did he? It's Lane who wants to change the issue so he can defend the indefensible (while, as Klein pointed out, basically admitting the charge). But it says something about Lane that he's more upset about strong language (whose truth he doesn't even really try to rebut) than the lives of actual American human beings.

Posted by: zunguzungu | December 15, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Klein answered all your claims and rebutted you effectively. If you were smart, you would have left this alone. Any further engagement with Klein only exposes your failings as a journalist and a thinker. Trust me on this - he simply outclasses you. You can take heart that you aren't the only one.

Posted by: eRobin1 | December 15, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

What do you think the consequences of this bill passing would be, exactly?

Posted by: NedResnikoff | December 15, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

You sir and those just like you (see Will, Kristol, Krauthammer) are the reason why I cancelled my subscription.

Posted by: jlDC81 | December 15, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, you just need to drop this one. The subject of Klein's (justifiably angry) post was that Lieberman was negotiating in bad faith and playing political games with a bill that will save lives, which is undeniable. Now you retreat into mushy generalities like "everyone's proposal includes tradeoffs." You're embarrassing yourself at this point--time to drop it.

Posted by: steveandshelley | December 15, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"He also fails to address my main point: that it is nonsensical to suggest that our alternatives are either Harry Reid's proposal or death for hundreds of thousands of people."

See, it's best to buttress a 'point' using 'facts'. For example, after the sentence above would've been where you inserted your counter-evidence, perhaps some current, peer-reviewed study that showed that the Institute of Medicine's study was built incorrectly and the Urban Institute was incorrect to apply their methodology in a prospective manner.

That would've been what we call a 'counter-argument', or 'healthy' debate (and not 'sterile' policy debate).

And it is, you know, ok to be alarmist about things that are alarming. Death panels aren't proposed to exist, ergo, not alarming. Lack of insurance leads to death, ergo, alarming.

Posted by: ThomasEN | December 15, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Klein responded here:

"I appreciate Chuck Lane's response to my post yesterday, though I'm confused by his decision to ignore the entirety of its contents..."

Posted by: crust1 | December 15, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Er, some friendly advice, Mr. Lane: Mr. Klein is absolutely killing you (figuratively, I hasten to add) in this debate, using some interesting resources called "logic" and "facts".

You would do well to quit while you're merely way, way behind.

Posted by: sembtex | December 15, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Give it up, Charles. Ezra pwned you. Your sputtering now just makes me want to avert my eyes. Embarrassing.

Posted by: lgraham1 | December 15, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Why not address this part of Klein's rebuttal, Charles?

"Lane suggests there are other ways of covering the uninsured than those in Harry Reid's bill. That's true, of course. I doubt anyone in the country has written more about Wyden-Bennett, a bill that is far preferable to Reid's legislation, than I have. But the failure of Reid's process would not kickstart the construction of another process, just as the failures of Clinton, Nixon, and Truman did not lead to some alternative universal coverage scheme. Either this process reaches agreement or these people do not get health care. Those are the stakes. And that's why it's important to talk, at least occasionally, in terms of lives, rather than retreating to the safe sterility of policies."

Any answer for that?

(AO: Crickets chirping)

Posted by: lgraham1 | December 15, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Spoken like a man who has a lovely health insurance policy.

The option on the table is the one Lieberman rejects, for no particularly discernible reason other than a.) he doesn't like liberals anymore, they were mean to him and b.) he's expecting a nice health insurance lobbying gig after retirement.

So sure, in fantasyland, there are all these wonderful alternatives that could be employed instead of the one actually on the table, that Lieberman opposes. But in reality-land, where the rest of us have to live, our friends and families don't have health insurance NOW, and are suffering as a result.

But then again, this comes from a guy who just proposed that the best way to deal with a crippling economic crisis would be to cut the minimum wage, so the crappy job you do manage to find after fighting your way past the rest of the unemployed still fails to pay your bills. So deep thinking is obviously not his primary talent.

In short, Mr. Lane, I hope your useless paper succumbs to this crisis with all good speed, so you can enjoy the pleasures of no health insurance with the rest of us. I wonder how you would feel about the joys of those dreamy wondrous alternate future alternatives then?

Posted by: tracy2 | December 15, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Watching Lane try to keep up with Klein is too funny.

Posted by: jul1 | December 15, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

So now Ezra is just like John Ashcroft? Dude, you're embarrassing yourself and your family.

Posted by: john7 | December 15, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Wow. You are a gigantic tool. Do you not get tired of false equivalence?

The "death panels" knock was a complete lie, as opposed to the implications of not passing HCR, which is grounded in fact.

Also, in the real world, which is presumably what you pretend to "report" on, alternatives to legislation don't magically pop out of nowhere. The process is long and arduous. Either this gets done now or we take another stab as saving lives 10 years from now.

Posted by: crazymoloch | December 15, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

And Klein responds:

"At no point in our discussion has Lane disputed the contention that insurance reduces mortality, and for that matter, morbidity and bankruptcy. Similarly, he has agreed that Lieberman is acting partially out of residual anger at liberals, an argument Howard Fineman also made on Hardball last night. That is to say, the two premises on which my argument is built are both relatively non-controversial, even with Lane.

"To this, there seem to be two rejoinders in Lane's post. The first is that it is "an accusation of mass murder." It is not. It is a statement of consequences. One wag pointed out that many deaths are caused by automobile accidents, and I do not advocate banning automobiles. And he's right. I will make an argument that the benefits of automobile use outweigh the deaths caused by accidents. But I will not ignore the fact that deaths happen, or pretend it's illegitimate to point them out. And the same goes for Lane's assertion that I "would mandate unlimited health-care spending for everyone." I wouldn't, but in rejecting that proposal, I would show my work, and be clear about both its costs and its benefits"

Remember, this whole "politics" thingy is just an entertaining game, and we must never, ever talk about the consequences of policies.

Anyway, I agree with the previous poster: it's pretty entertaining to watch Klein use this limp rag Lane to polish his spectacles with.

Posted by: antontuffnell | December 15, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh, it also figures that this tut-tutting dill-whistle is a member of Fred Hiatt's Dissembling Clown-Show (aka the WaPo Editorial Board)...


Posted by: antontuffnell | December 15, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"I objected to Klein's piece about Lieberman for the same reason I objected to the right's scare talk about socialism and 'death panels'"

Uh no. The way I remember it, you semi-objected to Palin et al's talk about 'death panels' on the grounds that it was factually false. With Klein, you've tellingly not raised a single factual objection; your issue is one of rhetorical style. And with the 'death panels' bit, your angle was that while Palin's claims may be factually false, this is not such a big deal since in your (misguided) view they're essentially true. It's not a coincidence that Palin quoted you in her defense on death panels:

Posted by: crust1 | December 15, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Dude, he ate you up. Shut up now and stop the bleeding. Better still, yell "Uncle!" and ask for mercy.

Posted by: mrmoogie | December 15, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The thing that I found objectionable about "death panels" wasn't that it created an ugly climate by highlighting an unpleasant truth -- but rather that it perpetuated a falsehood.

The reality is that thousands of Americans die every year because politicians insist on protecting our patchwork private insurance system. They chose to protect this current system over alternatives, because the status quo is good for them. On the other side of the balance are the livelihoods and lives of their constituents. The reality is that we spend 18 percent of GDP to cover part of our population. And for people outside of Medicare, some will die, and many will be bankrupted simply because politicians like Lieberman directly benefit from perpetuating this particular system.

That may be an unpleasant truth, but it is the truth.

Posted by: JPRS | December 15, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, the score card:

Fred Hiatt's:

Lane 2 -- Klein 0.

Everyone else:

Klein 2 -- Lane 0.

Posted by: JPRS | December 15, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Lane: "it is nonsensical to suggest that our alternatives are either Harry Reid's proposal or death for hundreds of thousands of people."

Dude, those are the only items on the menu. What's nonsensical is to suggest that any other choices are any more than theoretical in nature.

Posted by: rt42 | December 15, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: Issa1 | December 15, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Please stop embarrasing yourself and showing the world what an intellectually bankrupt institution the Washington Post really is.

The only reason a lot of us even visit this website is because of Ezra Klein. If it weren't for him, you'd get a lot less clicks. Heck, we wouldn't even know your name.

Wait, what was your name again??? Oh yeah, who cares.

Posted by: JERiv | December 15, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh wait! I remembered your name: "TOOL"


Posted by: JERiv | December 15, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Oh please. Does Lane really think at this point that he is going to save himself here? Look Charles, I have an idea for you. How about sponsoring a contest called "When will the Post fire Klein?" For an entry fee, we all could all choose dates of last column. After what happened to Froomkin(a guy who had 3 of the most read columns out the 10 most read columns last year, but got fired because he didnt toe the Necon line)we know its going to happen. So lets bet on it. The Post could sure use the money. Hey make it even more interesting: say that some of the money raised can be used to hire 10 unemployed persons at the cut minimum wage rate you suggested! It can be a demonstration project: after those people survive for 6 months living out the carboard boxes in city parks on that wage, you can say it can be spread to the whole country!

I suppose in Lane's view I am making rational debate here more difficult here. On the other hand, maybe I can get compared to John Ascroft-that would be fun.

Posted by: Makewonder | December 15, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Chuck.... the prime reason for Joementum's behavior is revenge. No one does a 180 on such an important issue without an underlying, burning drive to stick it to the Dems for hating his guts. I refer to the rank and file Dems like myself, not the pathetic "leaders" who caved to this whinning traitor.
May Joe burn for eternity for what he has done to real health care reform. The average citizen out there despises Deputy Dog with a white hot passion, and will never forget what he has done to us.
Oh, yeah.... Ezra has forgotten more than you will ever know about this subject. Probably every other subject, too.
Hiatt's lackies are killing the Post.

Posted by: badgervan | December 15, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I love how the foolish liberals on this blog attempt to besmirch Lane while slobbering to kiss Klein’s ass in order to vainly validate EK’s logical fallacies.

(Hell, what am I saying? Liberals are inherently illogical ass-kissing vain fools. I must apply for a job at the Department of Redundancy Department).

Posted by: braunt | December 15, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

One other thing Charles. Apparantly your min wage columns have inspired Fox News to run a series of stories on the idea. Wow, being the father of a Fox theme! There is something to really be proud of. Congratulations. Hey, on the bright side, when the Post goes out of business maybe you can get a regular gig there. I bet though there health insurance isnt the best, though. Good strategic planning I must say.

Posted by: Makewonder | December 15, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

please end this tedious cat fight

Posted by: HuckFinn | December 15, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

"I objected to the right's scare talk about socialism and 'death panels'".

Charles Lane is a damn fool. Either he has an incredibly short memory (bordering on senility) of his own written work or he is a liar. See:

In that article, Lane essentially accepted Sarah Palin, Betsy McCaughey and the right-wing's central thesis that allowing end-of-life counseling to be covered under Medicare (the infamous Section 1233) would be tantamount to "pulling the plug on Grandma". He only abstained from using incendiary language like "death panels" which would have made his position transparent.

And how is a 5 or 6 year-old criticism of what a long since retired Attorney General once asserted in any way relevant to healthcare reform, Joe Lieberman, Ezra Klein (who was probably still in college at the time), or anything else even tangentially relevant to this discussion? Is Charles Lane trying to be relevant here; trying to rekindle his glory days of journalistic malfeasance whilst at the New Republic? Could it be that he is jealous of a young upstart like Ezra Klein who is the toast of the blogosphere and is frequently linked to on the blogs and websites of serious journalists, economists, and policy analysts?

Why the Editors are allowing this adolescent jousting to occur between two of their journalists on their website is beyond
me? Do journalistic grudge matches increase traffic to the site? Are those paltry pageviews worth more than the integrity of what was once one of the most respected newspapers in the country?

So many questions...

Posted by: atlasfugged | December 15, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

So, Chuck, why'd you delete my earlier comment? All I said was FAIL.

Posted by: lexalexander1 | December 15, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

"it is nonsensical to suggest that our alternatives are either Harry Reid's proposal or death for hundreds of thousands of people."

Why is this nonsensical exactly? If a Medicare buy in expands coverage and it has been shown that increased coverage saves lives, it makes sense to compare alternatives in number of lives saved. In fact, the terms of the argument are inherently going to be framed in this way since the core issue is about the health of individuals. There should be added scrutiny for people like Joe Lieberman who are blatantly playing political games with such an important bill.

Meanwhile, where is your post excoriating the factual inaccuracies of George Will and Charles Krauthammer that pepper your op-ed page every other day?

Posted by: feldy50 | December 15, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Lane:

This space is place for you to present ideas that further the public debate on public issues.

Don't waste my time furthering the public debate on the squabble between you and Mr. Klein.

Move on.

Posted by: amelia45 | December 16, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

You don't know when to quit, do you?

Posted by: jckdoors | December 16, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

(Hell, what am I saying? Liberals are inherently illogical ass-kissing vain fools. I must apply for a job at the Department of Redundancy Department).

Just as a sidebar and future reference for conservative commentators. As hilarious as you must find the "jokes" on right-wing radio to be, mindless transcribing them in all of your comments just makes you look like an idiot.

Posted by: jbanks979 | December 16, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Since the min. wage comments were closed, I'm here to offer that Washington Post fire Lane, and replace him with two writers, who it would pay just half as much. That way, Washington Post can participate in stimulating the economy and increasing employment. Lane with his skill set can go shovel drive ways in New England for a living.

Posted by: daenku32 | December 17, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

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