Part 1—Those same old disappeared data: We're going to start this week's report with those same old disappeared data.
They constitute the most eye-catching data set of which we are aware. But alas! Despite the remarkable nature of these data, you will almost never see them, or even hear them described, within our "public discourse."
For reasons at which we're forced to guess, these remarkable data don't seem fit for human consumption within the rules of modern political culture.
Who knows? Maybe data have been judged to be too boring in general. Perhaps it's been judged that we news consumers wouldn't be sufficiently entertained by data of this type.
We can't explain the wholesale disappearance of these remarkable data. But these data, while quite amazing, will rarely intrude on your gaze.
We've cited them a million times. You'll see them nowhere else!
Per capita spending, health care, 2015Those data come from the OECD; we'll provide the links below. In accord with our theme for the week, they're hard to find on one's own.
United States: $9451
United Kingdom: $4003
South Korea: $2488
What makes those data so remarkable? Formally, you rarely see a set of data in which one number stands out so glaringly from all the rest.
(We refer to the spending figure for the U.S., not to the spending figure for South Korea.)
Formally, those data simply look odd. Substantively, they account for two of the biggest political problems of our time.
Those data explain why this country has had so much trouble achieving full health care coverage. Obviously, it's much harder to provide health care at $9451 a head than at France's much more manageable number.
Those data explain a second problem which is endlessly pseudo-discussed. As economist Dean Baker has often noted, those data, in and of themselves, account for the annual federal deficits we constantly pretend to discuss.
A large portion of health care spending is done by the federal government. If you could wave a magic wand and bring our health care spending down to the level of spending in France, our annual deficits would be gone. Big problem disappeared!
Those remarkable data are amazing in all those ways. Despite this fact, they're virtually never presented, let alone discussed, within the American press corps.
Americans almost never see those data. As if by some widespread group agreement, those data are disappeared.
With that in mind, we'll focus, in the next three days, on a recent Charlie Rose broadcast. The broadcast occurred last Thursday night. It included a discussion of health care costs, a discussion we found quite amazing.
In a 21-minute segment, Rose discussed health care policy with Ezra Klein, "editor in chief of Vox," and Peter Orszag, "vice chairman of Investment Banking and global co-head of health care at Lazard, another investment banking house."
In an earlier life, Orszag was director of the CBO under George W. Bush, and director of the OMB under Barack Obama. He focused on health care spending during his tenure at each of these posts.
Programming note: it's safe to say that Orszag and Klein both know what they're talking about. Such situations almost never occur, let's say, in "cable news" discussions.
Rose spent the last nine minutes of Thursday night's segment with discussing health care spending. The discussion was remarkable for at least three reasons:
First, Klein and Orszag agreed on the general reason for the remarkable size of American health care spending. Despite Rose's incessant interruptions, their analysis, while rudimentary, was quite clear.
In that sense, Klein and Orszag explained the reason for those remarkable data! That said, something else which occurred that night which struck us as remarkable too.
You see, Klein and Orszag agreed on something else. They agreed that Americans will always spend much more for health care than people in comparable nations. They even agreed on the reason for this unfortunate state of affairs.
Amazingly, they seemed to feel this point was so obvious that it wasn't even worth debating. The situation will ever be thus!
Might we note a third key point about last Thursday's discussion? We think this may be the most remarkable fact of them all:
At no point did Charlie Rose present those disappeared data! Millions of people were watching his show, but at no point were they allowed to see the remarkable size of the problem Rose and his guests were discussing.
Those data, which come from the OECD, are astounding and also quite basic. That said, a group agreement seems to exist:
We, the pathetic American proles, must never see those data.
For ourselves, we'd posted those data that very same Thursday, reacting to a puzzling post by Kevin Drum in which they failed to appear. That night, those data failed to appear again in the course of Rose's discussion. Hence our current report.
For the next few days, we're going to show you what Klein and Orszag said last Thursday night. Spoiler alert:
They seemed to agree. You will always pay much more for health care then do people in France.
During the course of this striking discussion, no one made any effort to define the size of the disproportion which was being discussed. At one point, Klein even offered a standard figure—a standard figure which, alas, massively seems to understate the size of the disproportion.
At no point in Rose's program did those remarkable data appear. Krugman discussed them in a series of columns way back in 2005. Ever since then, in almost all settings, those data get disappeared.
(For his part, Krugman had moved on to a new jihad, in which he batters working-class "whites" for their failure to understand everything he understands, and for failing to frog-march in to say he was right all along. He doesn't batter the lofty elites who keep our discourse data-free, thus keeping us barefoot and clueless.)
Last Thursday's discussion was fascinating. As has been decreed by the gods, those key data never appeared!
Tomorrow: "You could almost not do it worse than we do it. I will start there."
In search of those disappeared data: Those data come from the OECD. To peruse them, just click here.
To peruse them in a simplified fashion, you can just click this.
To watch Rose's discussion with Klein and Orszag, you can just click here. The first twelve minutes of the segment largely concern the current GOP health care bill. From the 12-minute mark to the end of the tape, Klein and Orszag discuss health care spending.
That instructive discussion runs nine minutes. As has been decreed by the gods, those data never appear.