THE PROBLEM INCLUDES US: The mother of all data sets!


Part 3—Sadly, we liberals don't care:
Should Professor Lilla, 60 years old, care about Name Withheld?

We're going to say that he should! That said, his recent rhetoric, which may have been misleading, gave the impression that he doesn't—and that he doesn't think liberals should care about people like her.

Quickly, let's visit Name Withheld one more time. For background on what Lilla said, see yesterday's report.

Name Withheld lives in Corbin, Kentucky. Her situation was described by Sarah Kliff in a recent report for Vox.

Name Withheld, who's 59, can't afford to go to the doctor! Once again, this was Kliff's basic outline of the situation:
KLIFF (12/13/16): [A health care worker] renewed a 59-year-old woman’s coverage (who asked her personal information be left out of this story)...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.


The deductible left her 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.
This woman can't afford medical care. Should Professor Lilla, one year her senior, possibly "care about" her? Once again using his language, should he "want to protect" her?

Professor Lilla's recent rhetoric made it sound like he pretty much doesn't. You see, this woman may not belong to the groups Lilla says we liberals "care about" and "want to protect."

Given the professor's taxonomy, this woman's husband is definitely out in the cold. As a woman, she may make it into the tent, despite her apparently disfavored "race." But as a white working-class cis-gender male, her husband lies outside the circle of Professor Lilla's apparent approval.

We'll assume that Professor Lilla didn't actually mean what he seems to have said in his interview with Vox. That said, we liberals are constantly making unpleasant statements in which we consign disfavored groups to the lower rungs of Hell.

In a recent column, the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell was especially unsympathetic in her assessment of people like those on whom Kliff reported. (Name Withheld was mentioned.) But we saw no liberal who was able to notice an obvious fact about Kliff's report—namely, that Kliff was describing a serious problem with this woman's health care.

(An editorial suggestion: Knowing how dense we liberals are, Kliff should have stated this obvious fact in a more explicit fashion.)

At this point, we're going to take a guess. Professor Lilla receives excellent health care through his employment at Columbia. Presumably, Rampell has excellent health care through the Post.

Professor Lilla spent last year in Europe. Presumably, he would have been able to get excellent health care there. Persistently, though, the lordly types who define our liberal discourse seem to find it hard to sympathize with people like Name Withheld.

Reviewing the dumbness of Name Withheld, some liberals have introduced racism into the story, though nothing in Kliff's report pointed in that direction. Increasingly, this is the one play we upper-class liberals know, and we know it extremely well.

We liberals! We aren't very nice and we aren't very smart, except when you let us describes ourselves. For decades, we've been trashing Those People, then puzzling about the way They refuse to vote in the ways we prefer.

Our presidential candidate calls them deplorable and irredeemable; we aren't real skilled at seeing the problem with this kind of thing. Back in 2009, Rachel dropped dick jokes on their heads for two weeks. This made us love Rachel more.

This may explain why We aren't very nice, but why do we say that We aren't very smart? Consider that same old set of statistics, the set of statistics you'll never encounter while watching MSNBC.

The statistics come from the OECD. They constitute the most striking data set in the known world.

These data are simply astounding. Our professors and journalists don't care:
Per person health care spending, 2015
United States: $9451
Germany: $5267
Canada: $4608
Australia: $4420
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Finland: $3983
Italy: $3272
Spain: $3153
South Korea: $2488
Good God, that first number is large! Somewhat paradoxically, it helps explain why Name Withheld, age 59, can't afford to go to the doctor. It explains why she has health insurance, but isn't receiving health care.

Good lord, that number is large! Just think of it—among comparable developed nations, only one nation, Germany, spends even half as much, on a per person basis, as the United States does.

All the other nations spend less than half what we spend! Let's simplify that chart a bit. Let's include just the U.S. and France:
Per person health care spending, 2015
United States: $9451
France: $4407
Good lord! France provides universal health care while spending less than half what we spend! We spend more than twice what France spends, but we still have millions who are uninsured—and we have others, like Name Withheld, who are technically insured but don't receive health care.

Should Professor Lilla, 60, feel sorry for Name Withheld, 59? As a progressive, he actually should, for a reason which is blindingly obvious, except to losers like Us:

Duh! On a per person basis, $5000 disappears each year into the maws of our "health care" "system." In a somewhat paradoxical way, that missing money helps explain why everyone in France receives health care, but Name Withheld and millions more do not.

(That missing money also explains our federal deficits. As Dean Baker has frequently noted, our annual deficit would disappear if our per capita health care spending suddenly matched that in France.)

Five thousand dollars per person, per year, disappears in our health care system! Here's a quick point for professors to ponder:

That missing money isn't being siphoned off to the needy. That missing money is being looted by a wide range of corporate entities and demographic elites. Working class people of various "races" have to go without health care because a range of corporate interests are taking their cuts off the top.

The data we've posted are simply astounding. You rarely see such a remarkable set of statistics.

That said, so what? Those data are never mentioned by our major news orgs or by our liberal elites. We liberals prefer to drop our tribal bombs and take our sabbaticals in France.

We're not very nice and we're not very smart. We have a limited number of scripts, which we recite in our sleep.

On a political basis, we're easy to beat. We proved that again this past year.

As Paul Krugman noted this Monday, our political systems have been imploding for at least the past twenty-five years. We'll make our suggestion once again:

This problem, which should be very troubling, has always and does involve Us.

Tomorrow: Picnic and Baby Doll, plus Sicko. Also, this new piece by Drew Altman

On the inclusion of Finland: In the data from the OECD, we included Finland. We did so for a reason.

Finland is a much smaller nation than the others on that list. For that reason, it doesn't exactly fit in that data set.

We included Finland for this reason. Our big news orgs constantly tell us too marvel at Finland's transplendent test scores (which sometimes aren't real transplendent). They never ask us to wonder about its low level of health care spending.

Simply put, our big newspapers avoid today's astounding data like the plague. But so does Rachel and a wide range of fiery liberals.

They sell us attacks on Name Withheld. It's one of the ways we all lose.


  1. A technical point - name withheld is a woman, so according to Lilla, liberals should care about her. But a larger point, I think the liberals' ever increasing emphasis of identity politics, has gotten out of hand, and was one of the contributing factors in the dems doing as badly as they did in the recent election. (There were certainly lots of other factors). It shouldn't be an either/or. Elections are about getting elected so you have to do what it takes to get elected, which is what Lilla says. Presumably, the dems could come up with a strategy to appeal to white male working class voters without abandoning the various minority groups,and by not calling everybody racists at the drop of a hat and not placing so much emphasis on identity politics.

    1. What Percentage of Dems TodayJanuary 5, 2017 at 12:50 PM

      "Not placing so much emphasis on identity politics?"

      You racist scum.

    2. ASCMA: small point: Bob makes your first point in his piece.

    3. Marxism considers identity to be a divisive factor that prevents workers from uniting in common cause against their oppressors. Bernie is toeing the old Marxist line when he asserts that class is more important than civil rights.

      The Bernie supporters are increasing the divisiveness within the Democratic party. I believe they are being encouraged in this by conservatives and Russia, both of whom wish to see them defeated (not just in the past election but in 2018). Tired Marxist theory is thus serving a political end that is being concealed from the young and naïve who follow Sanders.

      Now I hear this stuff being parroted by Somerby. That distresses me because he is old enough to know better. We need a coherent Democratic party mobilized to increase seats in the House and Senate. It is time to stop being led down the wrong path by these distracting in-fights. This needs to stop NOW.

    4. "Sanders asserts that class is more important than civil rights"

      Love it you apologist "liberals" just make shit up. Makes you easy to spot. You do really go off the rails after this, but this is the giveaway.

      GO AWAY, LIAR.

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  2. I think the whole "caring about" the white working class is a strawman and not really germane to Lilla's argument. Let's get to the money quote:

    'But when it comes to seizing power, that [identity politics] will not win you a single election. It will not pass through the spam filter of Fox News. Appealing to principle is our best chance of passing through the right-wing media filter.'

    Now, assuming Lilla is being serious here, I would be forced to say he's speaking nonsense of the first order. "Appealing to principle"! Boy, what a concept. And make sure to drink your Ovaltine.

  3. Somerby dislikes identity politics and suggests instead that we find a way to appeal to white working class voters. So does Lilla. I don't see why Somerby is attacking Lilla when they are advocating the same thing.

    Identity politics = civil rights. When you hear someone refer to identity politics, you know they are coming from the right. These days Sanders supporters are borrowing lots of conservative talking points. It is dismaying to see young and idealistic people duped by Roger Stone and Sanders himself for their own political gain. Hopefully they'll wake up soon.

    1. I felt the same about Somerby and Lilla. Aside from a couple of expressions Somerby finds odorous, Lilla might be a Somerbot.
      Occasionally, Bob's parsing of minutiae just verges on the silly and inconsequential. I suppose it's typical of the left that we just have to keep slaving away at the correct terminology in the re-education camp. Because, yeah, if someone like Lilla will only speak the speech that Bob writes for him, the white working class will slap their foreheads and cry, What were we thinking?!
      Dream on, Bob.

    2. In the interview Lilla seemed to say something different. Somerby's point seems to be NOT that "we should find a way to appeal to white working class voters" but the more radical idea that we should first of all, actually care about white working class voters.

      Lilla seems to be more Machiavellian. Saying more that we should do a better job of pretending to care about white males in order to get power so we can help the people we really do care about.

      Yes, it is nice if you can put people in boxes. Right wing or Bern victims, or whatever.

      To me "identity politics" is proclaiming "we do not care about straight white males." Their identity in this frame is to be privileged racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic transphobes. Unless, of course, they put on a safety pin that says "I will keep you safe" and also "I will shut up when you are talking." (and presumably only ever say 'I hear and obey' after you finish talking. 'You' of course, being one of those poor, oppressed classes.) (Of course, I exaggerate for effect.)

    3. Perhaps, Dr. T, I'm just a bit more cynical than you are. If Somerby is suggesting, as you assert, that we must become better humans to regain the attention of "straight white males" it seems a fool's errand.
      When in the history of humankind and civilization has that ever worked out?
      We've had our lunch eaten by conservatives who've engaged in a decades long campaign to convince Kansans to vote against their own interests. And that supremely Machiavellian campaign worked pretty damn well.
      I'd suggest that libs need become MORE manipulative not less. Because I don't believe that love is the answer in politics.

  4. "Kliff was describing a serious problem with this woman's health care."

    I may be dense but Obamacare includes a lot of free services which the woman was afraid to use because of a high 6000 dollar deductible for two people.

    Well this is nuts. If they discover a serious condition then cure her, maybe save her life, the deductible isn't worth it?

    Yes, in an ideal world there should be no deductibles, but NOW she voted for Trump who will deprive her of all medical care, and if something serious happens it won't be a deductible bill that will haunt her, but losing her house.

    Obviously there are better health car delivery systems, but the American people clearly don't care, or we would never have a GOP president.

    1. One problem that no one mentions is the on going deductible, that starts in January, what kind of system is this?

  5. Somerby ignores all the polling and statistics measuring satisfaction with ACA and its premiums and instead picks out one anecdote about an unfortunate woman who claims she can't afford her premiums and has been forced onto a high deductible plan. We don't know whether that is true or not. Somerby claims none of us care about this woman because she is white. No evidence for that statement either.

    When did we start using anecotes (aka stories) as evidence when discussing issues? Why does Somerby thinks this single, perhaps apocryphal case, means anything about Obamacare, liberals, identity politics or anything else?

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