Charles Krauthammer’s columns in the Washington Post are like the Wall Street Journal editorial page, must-reading for anyone who wants to keep up with the illogical fulminations and small-minded cruelties of what passes for intellectual discourse on the right. The intellectual bankruptcy of today’s offering shows not only why health care reform should pass, but why it will.
After scolding President Obama for continuing to push for reform despite “electoral rebukes” in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, he complains that the cost-savings in the bill are “ridiculously insignificant.” Dismissing the popular support of the insurance industry reforms that would protect most Americans from the worst predations of the health care insurance marketplace, he goes on to describe the 30 million Americans who would get health coverage as unworthy recipients of taxpayer largesse. The half trillion dollars in Medicare “cuts,” he writes, are “not to keep Medicare solvent but to pay for the ice cream, steak and flowers.”
He concludes by citing Warren Buffett as calling on the president to “start over and get it right” with a bill that focuses exclusively on cutting health care costs.
The man who ran as a post-partisan is determined to remake a sixth of the U.S. economy despite the absence of support from a single Republican in either house.”
Actually, one Louisiana Republican did vote for the bill. But that little untruth isn’t the real problem with his formulation. How can a bill whose cost-cutting is insigificant “remake a sixth of the U.S. economy”?
It can’t, and it doesn’t. Whether the bill will actually bend the upward trajectory of health care costs by a trillion dollars in its second decade, as administration officials Peter Orszag and Nancy-Ann DeParle argue in a separate op-ed in today’s Post, will be determined in large part by the success of the payment reforms that are contained in the legislation. There is a serious likelihood that the bundled payments and accountable care organizations cited by Orszag and DeParle will fail because of the monopolistic powers that hospitals and physicians have in the health care economy, and the powerful hold they have as special interests over majorities in both political parties on Capitol Hill to keep it that way (for more on that, see “Unchecked Provider Clout in California Foreshadows Challenges to Health Care Reform” by Robert Berenson of the Urban Institute and Paul Ginsburg and Nicole Kemper of the Center for Studying Health System Change on the Health Affairs website).
But challenging “Obamacare” on those serious concerns — a worthy exercise — is something that Krauthammer can’t be bothered with. That would require knowing something about or at least thinking logically about the nation’s complex health care system and how its powerful special interests interact. Instead, what we get from the troglodytes on the right are ad nominem attacks mixed with slapdash cruelty for the less fortunate (health insurance as steak and ice cream, indeed).
The Post op-ed page is badly in need of a house-cleaning.