YEAR OF THE SPECIES: That's where the money goes!


Part 3—Fifteen years later, a parody:
Our friends in China will soon begin their latest "year of the monkey."

According to various experts, it will start on February 19, soon after our Valentine's Day.

Here at this award-wining site, we've incomparably declared 2018 to be "the year of the species." If you want to follow us down this depressing but enlightening road, we'll suggest that you adopt two frameworks through which you view the world:
Year of the species: Two frameworks, lenses or paradigms

1) Outside the realm of technology, you should assume that Home sapiens is unable to reason at all.

2) In part for that reason, you should assume that news coverage will tilt quite heavily toward the interests of powerful groups.
If you adopt those lenses or frameworks, we think the world will make more sense. For starters, consider Tuesday's analysis piece in the New York Times.

The piece appeared on January 2. In the news business, that's the first day of our year. January 1 doesn't count.

The piece attempts to explain a state of affairs we've been writing about since 2005. Essentially, it attempts, or perhaps it pretends, to explain these astonishing data:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
Australia: $4420
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Italy: $3272
Spain: $3153
South Korea: $2488
Skillfully, we've omitted Germany, which spent $5267 per person that year. According to basic OECD data, all the rest of these developed nations spent less than half as much as we did on health care, per person, that year.

On their face, those are astonishing data. As compared to France, which has a highly-rated health care system, we spent an extra $5000 per person on health care that year!

Does that missing money matter? As economists occasionally try to point out, that's a huge amount of money which can't go into wage increases. Also this:

If you could wave a magic wand and make our per person cost equal that of France, our federal deficits would instantly disappear, along with our brain cell-destroying discussions of same.

On its face, that data set is astonishing. If our species was differently equipped, those data would generate a discussion built around an obvious question:

Where is all that money going? Why do we spend so much?

It's the world's most obvious question! But due to assumptions 1 and 2, this discussion doesn't exist within the major news orgs of our floundering species.

Those data are basically never produced. Those questions are never presented.

This brings us to the analysis piece from Tuesday morning's Times. In hard copy, the piece appeared on the first page of the Business section.

On line, the headline says this:
Why the U.S. Spends So Much More Than Other Nations on Health Care
Finally! Finally, the New York Times was going to tackle that question!

In fact, we'd have to say that no such thing actually happened. Indeed, we'd say that Tuesday's piece almost had a comical feel.

Why the heck do we spend so much more than everyone else? The answer came right at the start of the piece. You can ingest it below, hard-copy headline included:
FRAKT AND CARROLL (1/2/18): Where U.S. Health Care Stands Out: Price

The United States spends almost twice as much on health care, as a percentage of its economy, as other advanced industrialized countries
—totaling $3.3 trillion, or 17.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2016.

But a few decades ago American health care spending was much closer to that of peer nations.

What happened?

A large part of the answer can be found in the title of a 2003 paper in Health Affairs by the Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt: ''It's the prices, stupid.''

The study...found that people in the United States typically use about the same amount of health care as people in other wealthy countries do, but pay a lot more for it.
In case you're wondering, yes. This pieces reports that we spend more on health care because we get charged more than everyone else!

Prices are higher for health care here! The next paragraph makes this point even more clear:
FRAKT AND CARROLL (continuing directly): Ashish Jha, a physician with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, studies how health systems from various countries compare in terms of prices and health care use. ''What was true in 2003 remains so today,'' he said. ''The U.S. just isn't that different from other developed countries in how much health care we use. It is very different in how much we pay for it.''
We receive the same amount of health care. But we get charged more for it!

Briefly, let's be fair. Frakt and Carroll are thoroughly competent health care specialists. Beyond that, their analysis does provide a starting point for those who may be puzzled by our astoundingly high rate of health care spending, or even unhappy about it.

Why do we spend twice as much as everyone else? Basically, Frakt and Carroll eliminate one possible answer:

It isn't because we receive more treatment. Oversimplifying a bit, it's because we get charged twice as much!

In fairness, that constitutes real information. That said, in a rational world, it would quickly lead to a second, blindingly obvious question:

Why do we get charged twice as much? Where's all that money going?

Why do we get charged twice as much? Frakt and Carroll make no real attempt to answer, or even to articulate, that obvious question.

If you're a lover of unintentional humor, you'll also note that their report starts with a study from 2003. As such, the New York Times is getting around to providing to this information fifteen years later—and it leaves us hanging as the cause of the high prices which drain the nation's pocketbooks.

The prices are too damn high, we're told. But we aren't encouraged to wonder why!

As such, an unfriendly person could describe this piece as something like a parody of an actual news report. Readers of the New York Times may get the impression that an analysis has been provided. If so, they're basically being misled.

In this "year of the species," we'll suggest that you view such journalism through the frameworks suggested above:

If Times subscribers were able to reason, would they tolerate work of this type? We'll suggest the answer is no. Meanwhile, regarding the dominance of powerful interests, consider the way Frakt and Carroll end their humorous piece.

Times readers, we kid you not:
FRAKT AND CARROLL: Higher prices aren't all bad for consumers. They probably lead to some increased innovation, which confers benefits to patients globally. Though it's reasonable to push back on high health care prices, there may be a limit to how far we should.
You may want to push back against all that looting. But you shouldn't push back too hard!

Fifteen years later, the Times offers this. A more competent species would throw this shriveled fish back into the lake.

That's what a different species would do. According to various experts and scientists, our species is eager to flip ahead to piddlerich drivel like this, on page 1 of today's Thursday Styles.

Tomorrow: Breaking! Our question of the year!


  1. This upcoming year is the year of the dog in China.

    People do reason. They use heiristics that do not confirm to formal logic but instead are probabilistic. There is no evidence that people do not reason or are illogical.

    Somerby is back on an old rant in the new year. Do people have any choice but to pay whatever health care costs?

    CMike — you helped put Trump in office. You are the one who should go elsewhere.


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  2. "you should assume that Home sapiens is unable to reason at all"

    Nah. Homo sapiens are fine; now, lib-zombies are a different matter.

    But then what did you expect? After being professionally dumbed down, virtually lobotomized for generations, finally they had their heads explode in the morning of November 9, 2016. Poor bastards...

    I'm so happy you promised no more Novembers evah!

    1. Did you see the Trump voters hit the streets in protest to the Establishment giveaways in the Reform Bill?
      Me neither. And why should they? After all, it's not like the bill is giving black people a fair shake.

  3. As the commenter above points out, 2018 will be the year of the dog, not monkey, and it begins February 16, not 19. But what are a few trivial facts like these among fellow unreasoning "Home" sapiens? (And in that vein, what is the source for Somerby's health care spending numbers? A link would be appreciated. Incidentally, this list seems to be the sum total of The Howler's contribution to the health care debate since 2005.)
    Even if Somerby is right about the dearth of reporting on health care ( although I am not inclined to simply assume this), he makes no attempt to discuss the issue himself. It's the usual taunting from the sidelines.

    "Home sapiens is unable to reason at all."

    I don't get this. Somerby has stated at various times: man isn't the rational animal; humans are biologically programmed to defer to our alpha tribe members; and now, "home" (sic) sapiens can't all. So, why try? Or is Somerby alone (and his cadre of fans) able to reason, and only insofar as to look condescendingly upon the lesser "unreasoning" mortals and their abject stupidity, and not to an actual substantive discussion of the issue at hand? Don't these views of Somerby's ultimately undermine the entire project of progressivism, which is based on the improvability of human society and the belief that humans can overcome their baser instincts and reject fascist appeals to their "unreason?" Or is this just some self-satisfied world-weary pose that justifies a lack of input and that is distinctly unhelpful to those benighted mortals who might actually like to keep up the good fight?

    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerJanuary 4, 2018 at 1:53 PM

      As you point out, Bob is not an oracle of information. He doesn't pretend to be. His jokes may fall flat and his insults may grate, but I think he has a point. Our highly paid media stars should be asking these questions and we should be hounding them to do so. It is not Bob's job to come up with the answers or even to hound the media to address them. Are you defending our ability to reason based on the performance of our media stars when faced with truly life-or-death issues?

    2. I am defending it based on studies by cognitive psychologists, such as Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who won a Nobel prize for their studies of human reasoning. Just as Somerby was referring to humanity in general, so were these scientists generalizing their results to humanity.

  4. I think media stars should be asking why Congress has not funded CHIP. Somerby doesn't mention it either. He seems fixated on something he read 10 years ago.



  6. Sorry, that should have been LeroyimpCaesarAVG. My bad. : )

    1. That's better, but you're not there yet. Try one more time.

  7. It was an homage. I like my family. ; )


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