Supplemental: Krugman considers the Sanders health plan!


Which part of "no" don't we want to discuss:
We didn't watch last night's debate. Too pointless; also, potentially too depressing.

In some ways, the pointlessness concerns the growing semi-debate about Candidate Sanders' health care proposal. Paul Krugman considers that proposal in his New York Times column today.

(In today's hard-copy paper, the Times even tries to report the basic facts about the Sanders proposal! The attempt doesn't go well in all respects. Normally, the great newspaper doesn't attempt to report such tedious policy matters. When the Times does make such attempts, the rust perhaps possibly shows.)

What do we find pointless, perhaps depressing, about the budding health care debate between Candidates Clinton and Sanders? You're asking an excellent question!

On the one hand, we're depressed by a basic policy matter. We the liberals seem to assume that a "single-payer" system will automatically be much less expensive than the ginormous gong-show of health care over-spending our nation currently employs.

For the record, the New York Times almost never reports this gong-show of over-spending and looting. At any rate, it ain't necessarily so that single-payer would cure this particular disease! A single-payer system can massively overspend for health care services too.

Example: Our current Medicare system is a type of single-payer system, but it massively overpays for prescription drugs. That said, this is a fairly trivial point compared to a much larger political question:

What makes anyone think that a President Sanders, or a President Clinton, could actually pass a single-payer, "Medicare-for-all" health care system? Why do we think a proposal like that could ever get passed into law?

Over at the new Salon, the fiery youngsters fresh out of college are constantly praising the greatness of single-payer. It rarely seems to enter their heads to ask how such a system could get passed into law in this country.

Maybe there's an answer! But that's the question Krugman is asking in this morning's column.

According to Krugman, "a simple, straightforward single-payer system just isn’t going to happen." In the middle of his column, he even gives three reasons for this gloomy assessment.

Eventually, Krugman makes the statement shown below about the "awkward, clumsy" Affordable Care Act, as opposed to a possible single-payer successor. We're tempted to ask which part of Krugman's "no" we liberals don't understand:
KRUGMAN (1/18/16): [A]chieving this reform was a close-run thing: Democrats barely got it through during the brief period when they controlled Congress. Is there any realistic prospect that a drastic overhaul could be enacted any time soon—say, in the next eight years? No.
Single-payer could never pass, Krugman says. As he continues, he says that any such attempt would squander the energy which could be devoted to the pursuit of other progressive goals.

Krugman isn't necessarily right about this, of course. The fact that he has made this assessment doesn't mean it's so.

Still and all, will we the liberals allow these questions to enter our incipient health care debate? Or will we dream our way along with our ever-expanding journalistic battalion of fresh-out-of-college, extremely low-wage, wonderfully fiery kids?

In this morning's news report, the Times assigns a youngish reporter the task of explaining the Sanders proposal. This youngish reporter isn't a specialist in health care or budget matters. At various points in her report, we'd be inclined to say it shows.

Meanwhile, on today's front page, the New York Times is doing what it much prefers to do. On its front page, the Times offers its latest worthless personality profile, this time of Candidate Cruz's wife.

Inside the paper, that youngish scribe tries to explain the Sanders health care proposal. Meanwhile, some editor has eliminated the part of the original, on-line report in which the political plausibility of the proposal came into question (for that text, see below).

This editor didn't clean up the murk in the youngish reporter's attempt to explain the way marginal tax rates work. But so it goes at the New York Times, our legendarily smartest newspaper.

Columnist Krugman could be wrong in today's assessments. That said, the New York Times prefers campaign fluff to actual policy work—and our fiery new youngish liberal cadre may at times be a bit jejune.

For these reasons, a pseudo-debate will likely emerge about the best way to go on health care. Let's be candid—with our gatekeepers basically gone, we the human just aren't very good when it comes to playing this game.

Not present in hard copy: On line, the news report about Sanders' proposal is attributed to Alcindor and Rappeport. To read that report, click here.

The following part of their report is absent from our hard-copy paper, in which the report is attributed to Alcindor alone:
ALCINDOR AND RAPPEPORT (1/18/16): Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, estimated that the tax increase that Mr. Sanders is proposing would be the largest since World War II, increasing taxes by approximately $450 billion per year.

“It seems to be very, very large,” Mr. Williams said, noting that the highest earners would bear most of the pain.

Mr. Williams suggested that the cost estimates for that the Sanders campaign is using will require more scrutiny and that employers are likely to pass on the new payroll tax to consumers or employees in other ways. The political feasibility of imposing such a vast overhaul is also a concern.

“What he’s talking about is turning the government into the provider of health insurance,” Mr. Williams said, noting that the Obama administration would have been interested in a single-payer system if it could have passed Congress. “If you’re talking about replacing an entire industry with a federal government plan, that’s a big order.”
Williams is a go-to policy guru on matters like this. That doesn't mean his appraisals are correct. But in that passage, he expressed some of the same concerns which appear in Krugman's column.

Those reasonable concerns are reported on-line. They were removed from our hard-copy Times, in part to make space for the paper's latest waste-of-time front-page profile of the latest candidate spouse.

In truth, the Times is all about fluff in its "campaign coverage." Through long practice, the famous newspaper is skilled at disguising that fact.

Cats and dogs smile and laugh: In closing, we offer two more important points. In a front-page report about last night's debate, Healy and Chozick fearlessly tell us this:

"[Sanders] smiled a few times, but it felt awkward. Mrs. Clinton laughed a few times, but it felt forced."

That was good solid front-page reporting! Yesterday, Maureen Dowd provided even more information in her latest column.

"Since we cannot know if a woman is going to overcompensate on machismo—as Hillary did on the unjustified Iraq invasion—we may want to look at it a different way," Dowd thoughtfully said, playing her age-old Dem-women-are-really-men card. "It may be more relevant to ask if someone is a cat or a dog."

Dowd is the soul of the New York Times. The Times is an addled, upper-class gong-show which, through endless repetitive practice, is skillful at hiding that fact.


  1. "Or will we dream our way along with our ever-expanding journalistic battalion of fresh-out-of-college, extremely low-wage, wonderfully fiery kids?"

    In fairness, they do know everything. Don't you remember?

  2. If Somerby had watched the debate, he would know that Hillary Clinton stated the difficulty passing single-payer healthcare legislation as the reason for not reopening the health care debate. She talked about how hard it was to pass ACA and the repeated repeal efforts of the Republicans. She is not against single-payer but she is pragmatic and that was the heart of her disagreement with Sanders. In the meantime, she worried about abandoning all of the health care programs in order to start over with a new plan.

    This is the heart of the difference between Sanders and Clinton as candidates. Sanders has worked in the Senate to introduce legislation that is idealistic but never passes. He has wasted a lot of effort that way. His current proposals are mainly of that type. He isn't going to get total reform of campaign financing, total control of banking or free higher education. Those are all nice things but they aren't going to happen because he doesn't know how to accomplish them, he has no plan to make this happen. He is like Trump -- he will win because his heart is pure (or in Trump's case, because he knows how to negotiate and is a winner). Sanders has a poor track record of putting across any of his ambitious goals.

    Clinton represents compromise and incremental change and pragmatism. She represents working in reality to do what is possible and improve what can be changed. She and Sanders have the same goals, the same dreams, but a huge disagreement about how to accomplish them. Sanders calls for a Revolution, Clinton calls for hard work and compromise. Of course Sanders message is more popular, especially to young people, but what is achievable? That should be obvious.

    Somerby says this is not worth talking about. I think it is the main issue of the primaries.

    P.S. Was anyone else annoyed by the way Sanders kept interrupting and trying to talk over Clinton while she was making her statements? It made me wonder whether Sanders knows that kind of behavior is a gender issue -- it shows a kind of cluelessness about women's issues.

    1. "Was anyone else annoyed by the way Sanders kept interrupting..."

      Yes, absolutely, I was. It seemed every time she was getting to the culmination of her answer he was started shouting over her, sometimes with O'Malley joining in, till it just became a cacophony of noise and you couldn't understand what anyone was saying.

    2. Clinton IS pragmatic. It's why she pushes for the TPP behind the scenes instead of at the podium.

    3. Clinton has taken a stand against TPP.

    4. Obviously, the out to deceive Hillary Clinton was in her comfort zone when she was pulling that fast one by claiming, in 1:03 PM's words, that she, i.e. Sec. Clinton, was "worried about abandoning all of the health care programs" as if Bernie Sanders had any intention of calling for ObamaCare to be dismantled before his Medicare for All plan passed into law. But hey, that's what she's been reduced to.

    5. Going back to zero to get a new plan passed means abandoning the previous programs which would presumably be rolled into the new one. It is a Herculean effort with no guarantee the benefits of the separate plans would be maintained in the new one. It is dishonest of Sanders to pretend he can magically enact a replacement plan with everything these disparate programs provide. Sanders isn't operating in reality so he can imagine whatever he wants and call Clinton dishonest for worrying about what might actually happen. Blue sky and big rock candy mountain. Dream on.

    6. Vote for the status quo. Vote for Hillary Clinton.

    7. You forget that the status quo is that other guy you chose instead of Hillary in 2008. If you're unhappy with him, don't blame me. It would be stupid of any Democrat to distance themselves from the incumbant. ACA is a big accomplishment to 20 million previously uninsured people -- just not Bernie.

      Liberals waiting for a revolution are no better than conservatives waiting for an apocalypse.

    8. I "forget that the status quo is that other guy you chose instead of Hillary in 2008"? Not me, I planned on voting for Edwards but ended up strongly supporting Sen. Clinton, right to the bitter end. Since then I vowed I'd never vote for a Democrat in a primary or a general election who is not unequivocally committed to never reducing the Social Security benefits which are currently scheduled and after President Obama folded on the public option I vowed I'd never vote for a Democrat in a primary or a general election who isn't unequivocally in favor of single payer health care.

      I'm kinda surprised I have a Democrat to vote for this presidential election cycle, but I do.

    9. You try holding your breath until you turn blue? That ought to bring the whole world around to your brilliant way of thinking.

    10. irishguy,

      I take it then that you see yourself and your fellows in the "may I have another" crowd as being the serious citizen voters who keep the mainstream flowing in the same direction in this, the best of all possible worlds.

    11. Clinton helped craft the TPP, as Secretary of State. Now, with her nomination at risk, she waffles. Wonder where she would land finally, if in power...

  3. Maybe this is a quibble. The Times wrote, "Mr. Sanders would also impose an estate tax on the wealthiest Americans."

    Of course, there already is an estate tax on the wealthiest Americans. Perhaps the article should have said "would increase the estate tax" or "would impose an additional estate tax".

  4. "For the record, the New York Times almost never reports this gong-show of over-spending and looting."

    One exception being the comprehensive series by Elisabeth Rosenthal. Sources indicate she is now writing a book. I'd like to think both works will get a wider audience.

  5. Well, it's a bummer Bob didn't watch this debate because I thought it was pretty good. Best moment: Andrea Mitchell trying to get Bernie to discuss the behavior of Hillary's Husband. Of course a two ton Elephant strode into the room, named "Maybe we should talk about the behavior of YOUR Husband, Andrea."
    Maybe single payer is a non starter but sometimes things change fast. Gay rights, in recent years, being the obvious example, and the way the bogus legal troupe of "Speech is money" has been able to damage the country in so many ways. One tends to trust Krugman, of course, but Bob seems to think the rest of the paper should be about proving his take correct. Kevin Drum, we can note, thought Bernie was much less off base.
    Oh, and Mo Dowd printed a really stupid column. Here in the midwest, the sun came out.
    Actually, I thought this debate was pretty dramatic. Hillary's ties to Wall St. are a big part of what separates people who have an opinion in both parties. And She has an answer for them that are good, but not great. I would say the same about Sanders record on guns. And that other guy isn't doing too bad at this point either.
    If there was something depressing about the whole thing is was NBC desperately trying to degrade the candidates with warrior nonsense meant to appeal to those on the right who want a close election. We have two war parties, and the Defense Dept is not to be questioned. But on Defense Reporting, as I've pointed out often, if anyone "takes it", it's the Daily Howler.

    1. Wall Street is not the mafia. It is a business that needs regulation. All politicians get money from business interests because that is how campaigns are funded. Wall Street is the main industry in Clinton's state but not Bernie's. His constituents like guns, so that is his Achilles heel. It is silly to pretend he is pure because Wall St isn't in Vermont, as he does. There is no evidence Clinton has been compromised by anyone she has received campaign funds from. There is lotd to the contrary. It is hard to respect Sanders when he harps on this.

    2. "Wall Street is not the mafia."
      Really? Because it's easy to see how RICO laws could be used to prosecute them for crimes committed, which led to the 2008 economic crash.

  6. It is an absolute certainty we will never have single payer if we all give up before we try. Single payer will not lower costs unless enough people insist on it. If needed legislation cannot be passed, that's just more evidence that democracy is broken and the system must be forced to change.

    1. Yes, the suffragettes should have used their energy on something more realistic. Maybe they should have tried to lobby for an afternoon off from housework every week?
      Because there was no realistic hope that they would get the vote anytime soon, say within the next 8 years...