Matthew Holt

Rant: THCB transforms the New York Times, makes offer!

6a00d8341c909d53ef0105371fd47b970b-320wi Just a few years ago The New York Times was on its last legs, printing Judy Miller’s re-mouthing of Cheney’s lies, holding back the wiretapping story until after the 2004 election, and generally spouting a lot of rubbish about health care.

Somehow the leadership there looked to THCB for inspiration.

Exhibit A. The NY Times swoops in and hires THCB alum Sarah Arnquist, whose article on shit in swimming pools is the 4th most emailed story in the Health section as of today.

Exhibit B. A few years back there was series of absolutely effing stupid articles in which various NY Times journalists, contributors and columnists said some unbelievably asinine things about the health care system—these included:

  1. that we got decent value for the money we spent on health care
  2. that spending said money was a conscious choice of the American people,
  3. that we could afford it, and
  4. that we should expect to spend even more and be happy about it

One of the worse offenders was the author of the NY Times Economix column David Leonhardt. This column may have been the most idiotic of the lot, although this one was pretty damn stupid too.

And so THCB went on a series of rants about a series of those dumb columns, culminating in one I called New York Times, dogs, pustilent sores, licking of.

On THCB this started a wide-ranging argument focusing on whether it was good for dogs to lick their sores.

I eventually proved conclusively that it wasn’t. I found this out because our dog Charley got a cut on his leg in a dog fight (no, not the Michael Vick type). He kept on licking it, and it got worse. I eventually wrapped his wound in duct tape (the greatest of all inventions!) which meant he couldn’t lick it, and it got better. Not, however, before my friend James Mathews from Sage had a good laugh about it when I brought Charley mit duct tape bandage to a meeting.

But over at The NY Times, a different conclusion was being drawn. Somehow they decided that they should stop talking bollocks. (Note: it’s possible that Peter Orszag shouting at them might have had something to do with this too)

Pretty soon Leonhardt was changing his tune, and calling Shannon Brownlee’s Overtreated book of the year—coincidentally just a few weeks after this long interview with Shannon on THCB. And now Leonhardt has gone completely sane, explaining that there’s no relationship between what we spend on health care and what we get and that all the talk about rationing is political bullshit.

Fabulous. I love a convert.

But this does leave me with one question. My sources (well The Daily Show) tall me that the NY Times is in a spot of financial bother. Apparently it’s losing money despite having annual revenue in excess of $2 billion.

Assuming that its health coverage is 17% of its total coverage, that means it’s spending over $340 million a year covering health care and can’t turn a profit.

Here’s my suggestion. The NY Times should fire all its health care reporters and Leonhardt, and redirect all its health traffic to THCB. After all, it’s just printing what we said a few years ago anyway. We’ll hire back Sarah Arnquist, tell next year’s news today, and we’ll do it for less than half of the $340 million the NY Times is spending now. Heck maybe even only a third. And they can keep the savings which will solve all their financial problems.

Janet, you know where to find us!

Categories: Matthew Holt

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2 replies »

  1. Re: Healthcare cost debate or “heist of the millennium”
    Dear Sir,
    It troubles me when I hear endless discussions about little things that don’t really matter that much while avoiding the most fundamental problem.
    Here is what I think it is:
    It is a well known fact that At 16+% of GDP or 2.2 trillion dollars per year American healthcare costs twice as much as healthcare in any other developed country, while the outcomes (morbidity and mortality) are worse and 15% of the population (45 million) is not covered. Unfortunately the debate at this point focuses only on the 45 million people that are not covered and how to find even more money to cover them. In addition an argument is frequently made that American healthcare is the best in the world, without any evidence to prove it, and thus needs to be preserved. At the end of the discussion a passing reference is usually made to the need to do something about the rising costs.
    What about the costs that are already there?
    Unfortunately, not a single person said this – by doing simple arithmetic, based on the above facts, one can easily arrive at the following – If this extra 8% of GDP isn’t producing any improvement in the health of this nation, then it is a WASTE?
    In other terms, more than 1 trillion dollars per year goes to the “Medical industrial complex” without producing any benefit for the country. Clearly this amounts to massive and systematic wealth transfer, comparable to the Wall Street deeds over the last few years. This astronomical amount of waste exceeds the GDP of the most countries in the world. And there is nothing to show for it.
    So this trillion dollars is either stolen or wasted every year and it is rising at the rate of 12-15%per year.
    Who pays for it? We, the taxpayers, through lower wages, higher taxes and insurance premiums.
    Some of this extra $1trillion/yr cost is illegal (like overbilling, etc), some is borderline, although should be illegal (like price fixing by the providers in the particular part of the country), some has to do with plain mismanagement, but most of it is probably legal and done “by commission or by omission”. In other words, it had to be intentionally designed into the system.
    This system is designed to “be best at being the most expensive”. One can only imagine the amount of influence the stakeholders on a receiving side can afford to buy with just 5 percent of this extra trillion dollars per year.
    One can also imagine that if this waste were to be eliminated, assuming that the government had the courage to do it (and no one else can even try to handle this task), the savings to the economy would be sufficient not only to cover the 45 million people (this would cost less than 100 billion dollars per year), but also, enough to rebuild the whole American industrial and transport infrastructure within just a few years.
    If so, then the whole different set of issues has to be discussed:
    1. Why is this 1 trillion dollars continues to be wasted? Why is this allowed to go on? How do we as a nation get our 1 trillion dollars/year back?
    2. Who are the main beneficiaries of this 1 trillion/yr of national wealth transfer and who allowed them to do this to us? Where specifically is all this money going, to whom?
    3. Why do the lawmakers, the law enforcement, federal and state governments allows this to go on? Who and why allowed this to happen?
    4. how do we get the healthcare cost down to 8% of GDP? How and when will this nation get its 1 trillion dollars/year back
    5. Who will be responsible to stop this “heist of the millennium”?
    Even Pres. Obama hinted in one of his earlier speeches that this problem is so bad that it might bring this country to bankruptcy (and as such is a matter of national security).
    Unless we address these issues, rather than talk around them, we don’t stand a chance as a nation.
    The Honest Doctor

  2. And that was her very first byline ever, proving that young writers don’t have to make stuff up to get ahead at the Times. Perhaps when the Times takes THCB up on its offer to provide syndicated healthcare coverage, the headline will read: “Times Reporter Who Resigned Follows Long Trail of Distinguished Reporting Back Home”.