Ezra is losing Medicare too!


The way our team’s brightest child works: In yesterday’s hard-copy Post, Ezra Klein offered a long analysis of the first Obama-Romney debate. For an on-line near-version, click this.

At one point, he apologized for having to criticize Jim Lehrer:
KLEIN (10/14/12): In general, I don’t really know what it is that people wanted Jim Lehrer to do. His job is to structure a conversation between the two candidates. By and large, he did his job. I don’t see it as such a bad thing if they go over their time a bit, so long as both go over their time more or less equally. But in the Dodd-Frank section, Lehrer really fails as a moderator. Romney eloquently attacks Dodd-Frank for essentially designating some financial institutions as too-big-to-fail. The idea, of course, is that these actors are subject to much more stringent regulations and oversight so that they don’t fail. He says he disagrees with this approach, and that he’ll repeal-and-replace it. But neither Lehrer nor Obama ever force him to say what he would replace it with.
Poor Ezra! Before he could criticize Lehrer, he knew he had to criticize everyone else who had criticized Lehrer!

That said, what did people want Lehrer to do? In an earlier passage, Klein had registered this accurate, obvious complaint about that first debate:
KLEIN: A quick interlude here to just note that I am, at the moment, incredibly bored [as he reads through the transcript]. And I like this stuff. A debate about tax policy should be right up my alley. But Obama and Romney cover the same ground again and again and again. They don’t explain themselves very clearly or draw sharp contrasts. Obama, in particular, is terrible at bringing budget details down to earth. The cruel trade-offs required by the approximately $15 trillion or so in cuts and tax changes Romney envisions are implied, rather than explained. This exercise has me more convinced than ever that these debates are won on style as it’s almost impossible to follow the substance, even when you’re reading it, and even when you already know the underlying arguments and details.
Duh! In part, that lack of clarity stemmed from Lehrer’s failure to intercede! That earlier passage explains what people wanted Lehrer to do!

But Ezra was busy kissing ass. By law, he could only criticize the great guild god so much.

By the way, how does your side lose Medicare? Ezra has an ongoing blind spot when he discusses this program:
KLEIN: The structure of the Medicare conversation is interesting. Romney emphasizes that his plan won’t touch anyone over age 55, and then he spends some time attacking Obama for the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act. It falls on Obama to introduce Romney’s premium support plan into the conversation.
It’s incredible that our team’s brightest boy keeps using the term “Medicare cuts” in this cavalier fashion. In that passage, Klein reinforces Romney’s repeated attempt to tell the world that Obama is proposing very large “Medicare cuts.”

At least since the Medicare wars of the mid-1990s, it has been clear that there are at least two kinds of “Medicare cuts.” It’s very important to keep them distinct, unless you like losing elections:
Two different kinds of “Medicare cuts:”
There are reductions in Medicare spending.
There are reductions in Medicare services.
Obama has proposed the first type of “Medicare cut.” Theoretically, Obama’s cut in spending won’t lead to cuts in services.

But so what? Every time Ezra talks about “Medicare cuts” without voicing this distinction, many people will think he’s talking about the second kind of “Medicare cut.” It’s stunning to see that our team’s brightest boy still doesn’t grasp this basic fact. (At the Democratic convention, his Wonkblog site accused Bill Clinton of making inaccurate statements and double-counting RE Medicare. His Wonkblog site was disastrously wrong.)

By the way: Why did Ezra kiss Paul Ryan’s ass so lavishly in 2011? We asked that question on several occasions. In this recent post, Ezra finally answered:
KLEIN (10/11/12): What I learned debating Paul Ryan

In February 2010, I sat down to talk health-care policy with Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan wasn’t yet the lion of the right that he is today, but he had a reputation as an unusually wonkish legislator, and he didn’t disappoint. In the interview, he was clearly well-versed on the issues, fluent in both his ideas and the main critiques. He was also refreshingly willing to step off-message, as when he admitted that we’re always, constantly rationing health care—the question is simply how we ration health care.

In March, I interviewed Ryan again, this time about his criticisms of the Affordable Care Act. In July, we talked about his ideas for the economy.

Ryan was, for awhile, my favorite interview, as he was willing to do something most politicians weren’t: Have a free-ranging, substantive, on-the-record conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with him. As he rose through the ranks of the Republican Party, his press strategy changed, and he ended those interviews. Our most recent back-and-forth, which was over his Medicare plan, was conducted, at the insistence of his office, over the relative safety of e-mail.

The upshot is that, over the past few years, I’ve spent a good number of hours arguing policy with Ryan, and an even larger number of hours trying to understand his policies. So what have I learned?
In such ways, our most horrible climber children strive to feather their nests.

Last year, we speculated that Klein was kissing Ryan’s ass because he hoped to maintain some sort of access. In the wake of this braggadocious post, does anyone doubt that this self-dealing boy was kissing Ryan’s ass last year for that reason?

He can't criticize Lehrer—and he kissed Ryan's ass. Our team is led by terrible climber children. Because we’re just as gullible as the ditto-heads are, our lizard brains tend to keep us from grasping this miserable fact.


  1. You say say Clinton was right and Klein was wrong, therefore you have an unhealthy love of Clinton.

    The facts? They don't matter.

    Please don't say anything bad about Ezra Klein -- it confuses me: I need to think of you as the guy who only says bad things about Rachel Maddow.

    1. yes it is very confusing, but prepare yourself for my hypothesis that ezra klein is irish catholic...

  2. Some of the Medicare spending is for benefits, and some is not. The Obamacare cuts are cuts to reimbursements, but the benefit requirements remain the same. That being said, I'm trying to envision a world in which taking $716 billion out of a medical reimbursement system will have no effect whatsoever on benefits, or on the quality of services.

    1. Because you have a weak imagination. You are bamboozled by Oh So Large Numbers.

      Your cartoonish "there's no way to get costs down" spiel has been heard before -- it has no merits.

      Costs are insane. There are moneys throughout this system that are spent on *nothing*. "Taking $716 billion out" is peanuts.

      NAME the benefit that isn't available or is reduced, or go home with your tail between your legs.

  3. Good point about Klein adopting right wing framing of the issue by using the misleading phrase "Medicare cuts". Indeed, since he joined WaPo, such examples of pandering to right wing views have become increasingly frequent. Begs the question whether Klein is deliberately sucking up to his conservative editors and publisher, or if that's the result of the corrupting influence of being part of the "very serious people" culture. Anyway, it's sad. Quite a difference to the much more independent Ezra Klein of the early blogging years.