Interlude 2—The late Debbie Reynolds and health care: We always knew that Catherine Rampell was likely to push back hard.
She does so in today's Washington Post. In her new column, Rampell says that Singin' in the Rain has always been her favorite film.
We've always found the film to be unwatchable. (In part, our gender politics are probably tougher than Rampell's.) As such, it's obvious that this column constitutes Rampell's response to our earlier post, in which we challenged her portrait of the racist stupidity of the white working class.
In the column we challenged, Rampell discussed Sarah Kliff's intriguing report about certain Trump voters. In the face of November's election debacle, Kliff's report has turned out to be an "inkblot test" for us upper-class liberals.
Live and direct from Corbin, Kentucky, Kliff's report for Vox appeared beneath these headlines:
Why Obamacare enrollees voted for TrumpWhy would Obamacare enrollees ever have voted for Donald J. Trump? Kliff was asking a very good question. We liberals have proven unwilling, or perhaps unable, to process the possible answer.
In Whitley County, Kentucky, the uninsured rate declined 60 percent under Obamacare. So why did 82 percent of voters there support Donald Trump?
Why would an Obamacare enrollee have voted for Donald J. Trump? Along the way, Kliff described the unfortunate situation of one woman in Corbin.
Again and again, then again and again, we liberals have failed to see that the following passage describes a serious problem. Because our liberal blindness has been so widespread, we post the relevant passage at some length:
KLIFF (12/13/16): [Health care worker Kathy] Oller renewed a 59-year-old woman’s coverage (who asked her personal information be left out of this story) just after lunchtime on a Tuesday. She and her husband received a monthly tax credit that would cover most of their premium. But they would still need to contribute $244 each month—and face a $6,000 deductible.In that passage, Kliff was describing a serious problem. That 59-year-old woman has insurance. She just doesn't have health care!
The deductible left [the woman] exasperated. “I am totally afraid to be sick,” she says. “I don’t have [that money] to pay upfront if I go to the hospital tomorrow.”
Her plan did offer free preventive care, an Obamacare mandate. But she skips mammograms and colonoscopies because she doesn’t think she’d have the money to pay for any follow-up care if the doctors did detect something.
The woman said she only buys insurance as financial protection—“to keep from losing my house if something major happened,” she says. “But I’m not using it to go to the doctor. I’ve not used anything.”
The woman was mad because her costs felt overwhelmingly expensive. These are some of the most common frustrations with the Affordable Care Act. Surveys show that high deductibles are the top complaint; 47 percent of enrollees told the Kaiser Family Foundation they were dissatisfied with their deductible.
A study from the Commonwealth Fund earlier this year found that four in 10 adults on Affordable Care Act plans didn’t think they could afford to go to the doctor if they got sick. Fewer than half said it was easy to find an affordable plan.
But her frustration isn’t just about the money she has to pay. She sees other people signing up for Medicaid, the health program for the poor that is arguably better coverage than she receives and almost free for enrollees. She is not eligible for Medicaid because her husband works and they are above the earnings threshold.
Medicaid is reserved for people who earn less than 138 percent of the poverty line—about $22,000 for a couple. This woman understood the Medicaid expansion is also part of Obamacare, and she doesn’t think the system is fair.
“They can go to the emergency room for a headache,” she says. “They’re going to the doctor for pills, and that’s what they’re on.”
She felt like this happened a lot to her: that she and her husband have worked most their lives but don’t seem to get nearly as much help as the poorer people she knows.
That said, Kliff didn't specifically describe this situation as a problem, and a raft of us upper-end liberals have turned out to be unable to see it as such.
Perhaps because we loathe Those People, we can't seem to see that it's a problem when a 59-year-old woman can't afford to go to the doctor. Instead, we start saying or implying that the woman is racist, even though "the poorer people she knows" are almost surely white.
(Increasingly, this seems to be the only thing we liberals know how to say or imply. We know this one play, nothing else.)
We love to loathe Those People! Indeed, Rampell was hardly alone in her unsympathetic reaction to this part of Kliff's report. A raft of liberals have cited Kliff's work, aparently without being able to see that a problem was being described in the passage we've cited.
That brings us back to Rampell's column about Singin' in the Rain. More precisely, the column concerns the late Debbie Reynolds, a person Rampell has always admired for the courage she showed when she was suddenly selected for stardom as a teen.
We're willing to go with that too! But we've long been intrigued by Reynolds' bio for a different reason—because she was one of the many stars of that general era who emerged from Los Angeles-area high schools, right in the shadow of Hollywood.
Reynolds was discovered while a student at Burbank High. (Four years later, Robert Redford graduated from Van Nuys High.) That said, she wasn't born into the Hollywood system (neither was Redford). According to the leading authority, her family background went something like this:
Mary Frances Reynolds was born on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Maxene "Minnie" (née Harman) and Raymond Francis "Ray" Reynolds, a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. She was of Scottish-Irish and English ancestry and was raised in a strict Nazarene church. She had a brother two years her senior, and Reynolds was a Girl Scout, once saying that she wanted to die as the world's oldest living Girl Scout. Her father was a ditchdigger and her mother took in laundry for income while they lived in a shack on Magnolia Street, in El Paso. "We may have been poor," she said, "but we always had something to eat, even if Dad had to go out on the desert and shoot jackrabbits."Was Reynolds' father a carpenter, or was he a ditchdigger? The leading authority has decided to let us decide.
[Quote from Reynolds]: "One of the advantages of having been poor is that you learn to appreciate good fortune and the value of a dollar, and poverty holds no fear for you because you know you've gone through it and you can do it again...But we were always a happy family and a religious one. And I'm trying to inculcate in my children the same sense of values, the same tone that my mother gave to me."
Her family moved to Burbank, California, in 1939. While a sixteen-year old high school student, she won the Miss Burbank beauty contest in 1948. Soon after, she had a contract with Warner Bros and acquired the nickname "Debbie" via Jack L. Warner.
One of her closest high school friends said that she rarely dated during her teenage years in Burbank. "They never found her attractive in school. She was cute, but sort of tomboyish, and her family never had any money to speak of. She never dressed well or drove a car."
Either way, she came from Those People, even including all the religion! Last week, Rampell joined a raft of ranking liberals in offering an unsympathetic, insulting reaction to another such person's plight.
Debbie Reynolds seems to have been a good person. In fairness, no one is ever as good as We are. But just last year, she received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, presumably for a lifetime of work on behalf of people with mental health problems.
That said, we're willing to guess that the woman in Corbin is a good person too. Had she only been selected for stardom, we liberals might like her more!
We've always been fascinated by the number of stars of that general era who emerged from Los Angeles high schools. As this year drew to an end, we became fascinated by something else—by the number of upper-class liberals who couldn't seem to see that a problem was being described in Sarah Kliff's report.
We thought Rampell was especially blind to this state of affairs, but she has had plenty of company. This morning, she has pushed back hard against our critique, as she of course should have done.
That said, the passage we've posted became a year(s)-end inkblot test for us upper-class liberals. For years, we've loved to loathe Those People, The Others. Along the way, our loathing has possibly made us blind to a wide range of problems, including the political problems which let Donald J. Trump slither through to the White House this year.
This year, the loathing hit the fan. Why didn't Those People, The Others, vote the way We told them to vote? Despite our tribe's admitted brilliance, we can't seem to figure it out!
The twice-told tale: We've long admired Robert Redford for a specific reason. On two occasions, despite his vast stardom, he devoted a year to making a film about a suffering (teen-aged) child.
Big huge gigantic Hollywood stars don't have to do that. We refer to Ordinary People (1980) and to The Horse Whisperer, which appeared eighteen years later. (Redford directed each film.)
The later film re-explores the earlier film's story line; in our view, it does so in remarkable detail. Most broadly, the suffering in the earlier film stems from the drowning death of a teen-aged boy's brother. The suffering in the later film stems from the horseback-riding death of a teen-aged girl's best friend.
(In the earlier film, the child is saved in part through the intercession of a psychiatrist. In the later film, which we prefer because it's less literal, the child is saved through the intercession of a person who's caring and wise.)
Why did Redford visit this story two separate times? We'd never found an explanation. Indeed, we'd never even seen a profile which described this as a twice-told tale.
Upon our return from the North Pole last night, we rechecked the facts about Debbie Reynold's Hollywood-area high school story; we rechecked Redford's as well. In this recent profile from The Daily Mirror, we thought we may have spotted the start(s) of an answer to the question we've never seen asked.
Whatever the answer may be, we admire Robert Redford. Big huge famous Hollywood stars don't have to make films like that.