Part 2—Where’s the outrage: Like you, we can see the announcement already.
Next April, the judges will issue their happy statement, conferring a joy on the world:
PULITZER COMMITTEE (4/15/14): For a distinguished example of explanatory reporting that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation, using any available journalistic tool, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).The process is already under way! Starting on June 2, Rosenthal has published three lengthy front-page reports in her future award-winning series, PAYING TILL IT HURTS. But how odd! In the process of winning the Pulitzer Prize, Rosenthal’s series of front-page reports has produced exactly no public discussion.
For a distinguished example of investigative reporting, using any available journalistic tool, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times for her penetrating look into the high cost of medical care in the United States.
Last week, Rosenthal guested on Fresh Air. Aside from that, we find no sign that she has been mentioned by the national press corps at all.
Her series deals with the massive looting which characterizes American health care—and her series has been appearing on the front page of America’s most famous incompetent paper. And not only that! This massive looting helps explain a wide set of societal ills—stagnant wages; the lack of international competitiveness by some important American industries; the failure to achieve full health care coverage; the problems of federal deficits.
In the normal practice of American health care, massive, ginormous amounts of money disappear every year. At least in theory, Rosenthal’s series is exploring this remarkable problem.
And yet, even at The One Liberal Channel, her name has gone unmentioned as she has published her three lengthy front-page reports. The children employed by the corporate bosses have shown no interest in this high-platform series.
The channel’s relentlessly misused viewers haven’t been told that they’re being looted in this remarkable way. Instead, they get to hear that O’Reilly’s a racist and that Governor Ultrasound was given a watch by a somewhat kooky but marginal benefactor.
They get to hear a bunch of fake facts about the Zimmerman trial. They get to hear grandpa prove his street cred as he states his pointless view of the “Bulgah” trial.
They get their routine servings of weiner. They hear predictions of events three years hence, which they then see mocked by The Daily Show. But they don’t hear a word about this series, which (we predict, though perhaps incorrectly) is going to win a Pulitzer Prize next year.
So it goes as the various children of our various news orgs pretend to create a progressive and/or liberal politics. As they stuff money into their pants, they have extremely good health care and very large wages, just like the previous generation—folk like McGrory and Matthews and Collins and Weisberg—who refused to discuss the Gore-Bradley health care debate of 1999, preferring to focus on the color of the suit in which Gore was disturbingly clad.
And on the number of buttons on his suit jacket! Here’s how McGrory began her column about the first Gore-Bradley debate, which turned on the basic structure of American health care:
MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.All that is true. Also this: Maybe McGrory should have been fired, extremely rudely, the very next morning, quite early.
Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.
McGrory had received her Pulitzer Prize in 1975. Years later, she had easy work at very good pay—and she had excellent health care.
McGrory didn’t seem to care about those rubes who did not. As it turned out, neither did Sam or Cokie. When we watch Our Darling Rachel clowning each night about Ultrasound’s Rolex, we get the impression that this journalistic “gruesomest generation” is perhaps being reborn, packaged with a different politics concerning the “social issues.”
That different politics cons us rubes, as Darling Rachel, like those before her, lets us see how little she cares about the bread-and-butter issues which don’t affect her cohort. Or so it can sometimes seem!
(Did you see her making her chicken noises last night? It was just good solid fun, as the looting continued.)
The silence surrounding the Rosenthal series constitutes a remarkable primer in the workings of the modern plutocrat con. (Let them eat charges of racism!) That said, we’d have to say that Rosenthal has practically begged for this state of affairs, in which no one discusses her detailed series of high-profile front-page reports.
Rosenthal’s series concerns the high cost of our American health care. In each of her three reports, she has provided beaucoup details about the high cost of some particular medical procedure—colonoscopy, hip replacement, even childbirth itself.
In each report, she offers a blizzard of detail about how much such a procedure can cost over here as opposed to in (consult your gazette). In her first report, she even flirted with the idea of noting the overall size of the looting which is going on in this country as the seven-figure gang distracts us with tales about kooks.
Throughout that first report, Rosenthal discussed the Yapaleter family, which was struggling with the very high cost of a colonoscopy. At this point, she briefly flirted with the idea of blurting the overall truth:
ROSENTHAL (6/2/13): The more than $35,000 annually that Ms. Yapalater and her employer collectively pay in [health insurance] premiums—her share is $15,000—for her family's Oxford Freedom Plan would be more than sufficient to cover their medical needs in most other countries. She and her husband, Jeff, 63, a sales and marketing consultant, have three children in their 20s with good jobs. Everyone in the family exercises, and none has had a serious illness.In that passage, Rosenthal flirts with describing the massive scandal involved in her subject matter. She flirts with the idea of telling her readers about the massive looting involved in our health care arrangements—about the fact that Americans spend two to three times as much on health care, per person, as citizens of other developed nations, while receiving no improvement in health outcomes.
Like the Yapalaters, many other Americans have habits or traits that arguably could put the nation at the low end of the medical cost spectrum. Patients in the United States make fewer doctors' visits and have fewer hospital stays than citizens of many other developed countries, according to the Commonwealth Fund report. People in Japan get more CT scans. People in Germany, Switzerland and Britain have more frequent hip replacements. The American population is younger and has fewer smokers than those in most other developed countries. Pushing costs in the other direction, though, is that the United States has relatively high rates of obesity and limited access to routine care for the poor.
A major factor behind the high costs is that the United States, unique among industrialized nations, does not generally regulate or intervene in medical pricing, aside from setting payment rates for Medicare and Medicaid, the government programs for older people and the poor. Many other countries deliver health care on a private fee-for-service basis, as does much of the American health care system, but they set rates as if health care were a public utility or negotiate fees with providers and insurers nationwide, for example.
''In the U.S., we like to consider health care a free market,'' said Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund and a former adviser to President Obama. ''But it is a very weird market, riddled with market failures.''
The scandal, and the size of the looting, are remarkably easy to capture. They were already there, for all to see, in these basic data, which we won’t bother updating:
Total spending on health care, per person, 2007Those were astonishing data. They’ve always been amazingly easy to type, but major newspaper like the Times have just kept forgetting to do it, even in 2009, when they spent an entire year pretending to discuss this gigantic problem.
United States: $7290
United Kingdom: $2992
Japan: $2581 (2006)
By 2009 (click here), France and Germany were actually spending slightly more than half as much as we were. But in these figures, it’s easy to see the puzzle, and the obvious scandal, which lie at the heart of this outrageous national story.
Three to five thousand dollars, per person, were disappearing into the maw of our health care arrangements each year, as compared to the health care spending in other large developed nations. Multiply by five to determine the size of the looting being visited on the Yapalanters!
An obvious scandal is easily spotted in those remarkable data. But such basic data have never appeared in the blizzards of minutia which have been churned in Rosenthal’s detailed reports.
At times, Rosenthal almost seems to be trying to hide the size of this obvious problem. The Yapalanters’ $35,000 in annual premium payments “would be more than sufficient to cover their medical needs in most other countries?”
That's true, of course. But after Rosenthal gets her Pulitzer, let’s hope she’s honored by the people who distribute the Absurd Understatement Awards.
Those very basic data have been missing from the Rosenthal series. Missing too is the sense of anger and alarm such data might occasion. Rosenthal is discussing a gigantic problem, but she never sounds like a person who knows that. Nor does she quite sound like a person who wants her readers to know.
On Friday, we’ll show you how CNN sounds while discussing a much smaller scandal. Tomorrow, though, we’ll examine a puzzle in Rosenthal’s latest report.
On August 4, Rosenthal discussed the (mammoth) cost of a hip replacement. The procedure costs so much in this country, she says, that Michael Shopenn, 67, of Boulder, journeyed to Brussels for his.
As William Bennett used to say, “Where’s the f**king outrage?” Rosenthal seems to describe a truly astonishing state of affairs. But given her notable lack of affect, we’re still not sure if we understand what she actually said.
Tomorrow: Can that possibly be what she said?
Friday: This is how CNN sounds
You're right, it was that debate: You're right! The debate which McGrory so crassly blew off was in fact the same debate at which the press corps, crammed into a press room at Dartmouth, jeered and hissed “almost every time Al Gore said something,” for the full hour.
We got a phone call from Dartmouth that night describing the children's astonishing conduct. We described that astonishing conduct right smack dab from Day One.
Eventually, three major figures—Tapper, Pooley and Mortman—all described this astounding behavior. But in real time, and in the years since, it has almost never been mentioned. Meanwhile, people like McGrory and Collins got busy mocking Gore's performance, including his horrible wardrobe, of course. Health care got thrown down the stairs by these overpaid people, who had it.
Your favorite liberals didn't say boo about any of this. Why do you think that is?
By the way, did you see Our Darling Rachel making her chicken noises last night? As William Bennett used to say, same exact f**king idea!