Bill Keller breaks all the guild rules!


Why isn’t this on the front page: Did we ever mention that we and Bill Keller share the old home town tie?

In 1965, we graduated from San Mateo’s Aragon High. One mile down the Alameda, Keller was warehoused at Serra.

We mention this because Keller got something very right in his op-ed column in yesterday’s New York Times. This makes us think we must have influenced him somehow back in the home town days.

Good lord! Next thing you know, Keller will be spilling the beans about the nation’s rapidly improving NAEP scores! Right from his opening paragraph, Keller discussed a verboten topic, cited verboten facts:
KELLER (1/28/13): With its ambitious proposal to pay doctors in public hospitals based on the quality of their work—not the number of tests they order, pills they prescribe or procedures they perform—New York City has hopped aboard the biggest bandwagon in health care. Pay for performance, or P4P in the jargon, is embraced by right and left. It has long been the favorite egghead prescription for our absurdly overpriced, underperforming health care system.


The first problem with P4P is that it does not address the biggest problem. Americans spend more than twice as much per capita as other developed countries on health care—a crippling 18 percent of the country’s economic output, and growing.
Good grief! Keller didn’t even say that we spend twice as much per person as other developed countries. Correctly, he said it’s worse than that—we spend more than twice as much!

(That’s one of our pet peeves.)

In fact, this is a giant societal problem. But journalists almost never report, discuss or attempt to explain it. To judge from the way they husband these facts, you’d almost think there was some sort of guild agreement that these facts must not be broadcast.

Keller shattered that peculiar pact, then proceeded to discuss a possible way to reduce this massive spending.

We can’t really judge Keller's assessments. We did have these reactions:

First, a question: Why isn’t that highlighted information on this paper’s front page? Why hasn’t the Times ever done a Pulitzer-seeking front-page series about this astonishing state of affairs? Very few people understand the way this massive overspending affects our federal budget problems, the problems which seem to highlight all our political worrying.

Why hasn’t the New York Times ever treated this topic as major front-page news?

We offer that as our first reaction. In our second reaction, we will ask you why major liberal journalists don’t pursue and highlight this question. Dean Baker howls at the moon in his cave, explaining the way this massive over-spending figures into our budget problems. But we know of no major liberal pundit or journal which has ever really tackled this general question, aside from Paul Krugman’s series of columns about this matter back in 2005.

We also hail Michael Moore’s brilliant introductory film, Sicko.

Moore was ridiculed for his film; serious journalists agreed that the film had been made by someone who was too fat. Have you seen any other major liberal or org attempt to raise this question?

We liberals get fed a steady diet of attacks on Sarah Palin (and her “knocked-up” teen-age daughter). The New York Times always keeps us posted on racist behavior by white people in Georgia in the 1880s, especially if their behavior concerned such products as Pepsi and Coke.

But very few people have ever tried to raise the question Keller raised. Look over there, they keep saying.

Jay Mathews was another mile down the road from from Serra, languishing at Hillsdale High. Maybe he can explain the way our liberal and mainstream news orgs keep walking away from this topic—the topic Bill Keller, with our past help, has now so surprisingly raised.

Then too, there’s always Bazell: Then too, there’s Bob Bazell, who was with us at Aragon, though he was much, much older. Today, our fellow Don is NBC’s science reporter!

Here at THE HOWLER, we love Bob Bazell. When will Bob Bazell act?


  1. (That’s one of our pet peeves.)

    "Pet" peeves? Son, you got yourself a whole menagerie.

    1. THAT's your contribution today, Anonymous douchebag?

  2. Americans spend more than twice as much per capita as other developed countries on health care—a crippling 18 percent of the country’s economic output, and growing.

    1. Health care costs of 18% shouldn't cripple America. After all, 82% of economic output is available for other than health. We're a rich country. Compare the amount available for other than health care with other countries. 82% of US GNP is more than 91% of GNP for almost every other country on earth.

    2. One way our health care differs from the rest of the world is our malpractice system. American medical malpractice costs typically ten to thirty times as much as other countries! Also, our system forces doctors and hospitals to practice defensive medicine, which may add more costs than the actual malpractice settlements and awards. However, plaintiffs' attorneys donate a lot of Democrats. Democrats won't reform medical malpractice. Quite the reverse. Hidden within Obama's health care reform is a provision making it more difficult for states to reform their medical malpractice systems.

    3. American gives exceptional care to very premature infants and to dying seniors. An easy way to save money would be stop making extraordinary efforts to keep these two groups alive. Are we willing to change medical care in this way?

  3. If you can't see the fallacy in your #1, you need to stop referring to yourself as a former actuary, immediately, please -- it's an embarrassment.

    That we are bigger than other countries is irrelevant to judging whether the proportion of our expense that is spent on healthcare is excessive.