Sometimes One Can Rage, Rage at the Dying of the Light…and Sometimes One Must Laugh: Mostly Outsourced McArdle edition
John Cole has done all that is necessary to demonstrate the lasting waste of perfectly good bytes that is Megan McArdle. He merely quotes her accurately, and then stands back and laughs.
There really isn’t anything more that needs to be said, except to note that it is by their behavior in extremis that you get a unique measure of someone’s quality. (See, e.g. Conrad, Joseph, weighing the effects of a mighty wind on the mettle of a man.)
But, as I while away the time until the various health care votes, a little mischievous fisking seems like a fun idea.
Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?
Thinking ahead to November 2,2010, that would be a “no.”
Ms. McArdle seems to have forgotten that (a) the House of Representatives is set up to respond to the will of the majority party (as the Senate, as we have learned so well lately, is not) and (b) that the check on that lower chamber is the frequency with which all of its members must face the electorate. In less than eight months, Ms. McArdle and all those who fear the dimming of American freedom at the hands of a conservative bill retaining the role of every stakeholder in the current public-private health care system, may have at it, and throw the bums out if they can.
Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill.
People often note that McArdle is a bad writer — sloppy in her diction, imprecise in thought and word, and unlovely in the execution (sic!…ed.) of her prose. This is a mere nibble at what such critics (like me–;) are talking about. McArdle means that Republicans, et al., persuaded the country that the country didn’t want the bill. What she said was that Republicans, et al., persuaded the country that Republicans (et al., I know) didn’t much care for this legislation.
And then of course, there is the more serious problem that, she is always wrong. Astonishingly, after a year of disinformation, lies, and truly disgraceful scare tactics (death panels, anyone?) the latest Gallup Poll shows the country almost evenly divided on the reform package being voted on tonight. That lots of people oppose this bill is true certainly. The “country,” whatever McArdle thinks she means by that word, does not display any unitary opinion on the matter.
And that mattered basically not at all.
Has she been paying attention these last twelve months and more? Scratch that — it’s a rhetorical question to which the answer can only be “of course not,” if by attention one means attempting to grasp the meaning of real events happening in determinable space-time coordinates. The bill majorities in the House and Senate sought included, among other things, a public option…itself a relatively mild reform, and one that would reduce the total cost of US medical care and government spending compared with the bill we are actually going to get.
The reason we are getting an inferior and more costly health care reform is precisely because the GOP et al. campaign of lies, misinformation and fear — in which Ms. McArdle took her own, honorable (sic? … ed.) part — along with the craven surrender by key Democratic senators to pressure and precisely weighted rewards (bribes?…ed.), managed to eliminate the public option from consideration. The efforts of the opponents of the bill did matter a great deal; sadly it was to make the final package, though still worth having, much less so than it should be.
If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances.
Let’s see. Lots of folks in John’s comment thread have already had their happy whacks at this one. (Careful. This is a family blog…ed.)
The short form is that we’ve had plenty of time to contemplate the disasters of unchecked majority rule over the eight years prior to January, 2009.
We know what the Republicans did with a much smaller mandate: wars based on false claims, to be paid for by our children and grandchildren; tax burdens shifted from the rich to the middle; the enshrinement of torture as official policy; assertion of the right to suspend the rule of law at the President’s whim; not to mention economic policy that left us with a decade of wage loss, financial collapse, accelerating dependence on foreign creditors and all the other ways in which American power and autonomy have been eroded..and so on, in a list whose length and consequences are too depressing to ponder.
If McArdle wants to argue that IOKIYAR to wreck the country, but not for Democrats to try to wrestle into some better path the enormous, shrieking tsunami of fail the GOP has left behind it, then that’s her right. But the point, of course, is that this administration, to the despair of those like me who wanted to take our real majorities out for a spin, attempted for a full year to engage Republicans in a real dialogue on health care. Instead, we found those across the aisle constantly working to bring us to our Waterloo. I think we’ve learned our lesson, (and, tonight, that contrary to the expectations of the GOP Elba-ists, it seems that President Obama more closely resembles the Duke of Wellington than the little Corsican.)*
Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare!
Uh. What can one say. As several noted in the above linked comment thread, Ms. McArdle certainly reads the GOP id correctly. This is what they want to do — as Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s latest Brightest Man In Congress™ has kindly made explicit. He has proposed the destruction of Social Security, and has proved a little less than pleased when that and the general fecklessness of his “plan” was pointed out. And Medicare too would fall to his knife as part of the GOP’s master plan to transfer yet more wealth from most of us to the wealthiest of us.
But it’s not news that the Republicans loathe the social safety net. But the striking sound you don’t hear is of the GOP leadership rushing to embrace the man who is not just their alleged best and brightest, but the ranking member on the House budget committee.
Why not? Well, here McArdle gets something sort of right:
The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected.
That’s right. People without independent means actually like not fearing a diet of dogfood in an untreated-illness and foreshortened old age. They are likely to vote against those who would wish such fates on them. Who’da thunk it?
But, of course, there is some internal compass within Ms. McArdle that makes sure that momentary glimpses of reality never last too long. Consider this:
If they didn’t—if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission—then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist.
So, let me get this straight.
Barack Obama campaigned on, and won a recent-historically notable victory, and Democratic candidates for the House and Senate achieved victory in dominant numbers while promising their potential voters major health care reform. They are delivering on that promise.
And what was the alternative?
Failure to do so would, as we have seen over the last few by-election examples, deeply dampen Democratic base voter interest in the political process. Yet passing the first major overhaul of US health care in a generation is a suicide mission? I’m not sure what world Ms. McArdle actually inhabits, but I begin to feel it must include a large number of people all of whom are convinced that they are the one true Napoleon (see below) while all those hand-in-coat flaneurs are imposters.
And on the other hand, it seems to me that if there is any party that has talked itself into a suicide pact, it would be the GOP.
Certainly, David Frum seems to think so, and though I think his analysis of the substance of the bill is a joke, his political point is pretty persuasive: Women who have survived breast cancer who come to realize that not losing health care because of a pre-existing condition is a good thing, or young voters for whom the option of remaining on their parents care is the difference between being able to risk some new venture or not, or seniors for whom drug prices fall under the new legislation are not going to rush to embrace a party that swears it will take all that away.
If the GOP really wants to declare that it is the party of repeal, of the withdrawal not just of goodies, but of provisions that are literally matters of life and death…then go for it, I say, and were they to do so, then I will agree with Ms. McArdle: the GOP will have proved itself willing to undertake a suicide mission.
Which is the point that Ms. McArdle seems to miss in just about everything she writes. That the GOP, and not the Democrats seems to be on the verge of a suicide run is because in the real world, as opposed to that landscape lit by the endless sunshine of a spotless, glibertarian mind, is that social problems are real. Attempts to solve them, however imperfect, resonate with voters in ways that attempts to deny their reality (“We have the best healthcare system in the world”), in the end, do not.
Signing off, +2, with 1 more to go with which to toast San Francisco’s favorite daughter, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Image: William-Adolphe Bougereau, “The Difficult Lesson,” 1884
*Under the circumstances I may hope to be forgiven if I take the opportunity to suggest that Speaker Pelosi’s role may thus be imperfectly mapped onto that of the Prussian commander, Blücher, whose forces assaulted Napoleon’s right flank in one of the decisive efforts to break the French position near the end of the battle. While passing over in mild wonder which Republican leader could be serve as the analogue to the perfectly named French Marshal Grouchy, commander of Napoleon’s right wing, I will take the obvious cheap shot, and offer this video to capture the GOP state of fear and loathing as the contemplate the victorious commander whose efforts have produced the wreck of their hopes: