The human monologues: As late as this very morning, we didn't know where to begin.
We'd returned, late Thursday night, to our sprawling campus in the heart of Maryland's 7th congressional district.
Mister Trump had made the district famous during the time we were gone. During that same period, we'd witnessed an endless parade of human dumbness, not all of it during CNN's Democratic "debates."
Even this morning, we'd still didn't know where to start! Finally, we decided we'd start with the first new thing we'd read.
The column in question appears in this morning's Washington Post. Hard-copy headline included, the column starts like this:
JAYAPAL (8/5/19): The facts about Medicare-for-allIn what follows, you're going to think that we're picking nits. In thinking that, you'll be wrong.
In the wake of the second Democratic presidential debate, it is clear that Medicare-for-all has become a defining issue of the 2020 election. Earlier this year, when I introduced our comprehensive, 120-page “Medicare for All Act of 2019,” I expected attacks from Big Pharma and for-profit insurance companies. But I did not expect misrepresentations from Democratic presidential candidates about what the bill is and is not.
Let’s be clear about the scale of this crisis. The United States currently spends an astronomical $3.6 trillion per year on health care—almost double what peer countries spend—and it is set to increase within 10 years to $6 trillion annually. Pharmaceuticals such as basic insulin cost up to 10 times less in Canada for the exact same drugs...
The column was written by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who represents the 7th congressional district in the state of Washington. Nancy Pelosi has described her as "a rising star in the Democratic caucus."
Jayapal is seen with increasing frequency on cable news programs. It seems quite clear that she would do well on an IQ test.
For that reason, we were struck by her description of this nation's health care costs. You'll think we're picking nits about this, but in fact we aren't.
In the statement we have highlighted, Jayapal says the U.S. "spends an astronomical $3.6 trillion per year on health care." She says this is "almost double what peer countries spend," seeming to cite Canada as one such country.
Why would anyone be surprised to hear that we spend twice as much on health care as Canada does? Most people will suspect—perhaps even know—that we have a much larger population than our frozen neighbor to the north.
We have way more people than they do! The numbers go something like this:
Estimated population, 2018/2019The United States has a much larger population than Canada! In terms of population, we're also substantially larger than other "peer countries" such as Germany, England, France.
United States: 327.2 million
Canada: 37.6 million
Given these facts, why would anyone be surprised to hear that we spend substantially more on health care than these smaller countries do? Why wouldn't Jayapal's statement disappear into the air?
"But that isn't what Jayapal meant," you will hotly exclaim. We'll of course agree with you—but that is what she said!
Alas! Watching Democrats discuss health care is a bit like watching the apocryphal fish as they try to ride those bicycles. The same is true of mainstream journalists, of course. These depressing facts became clear once again during last week's "debates."
Why did Jayapal actually mean by her fuzzily stated remark? Presumably, she meant to describe the state of affairs laid out in the data shown below—data the public will never see, or see discussed, in the Post or the New York Times:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018More detailed data are available from the OECD. But what difference does it make?
United States: $10,586
United Kingdom: $4070
(South) Korea: $3192
Presumably, Jayapal meant to say that we spend two to three times as much per person as comparable nations do. Answers to several major policy questions are lodged within that remarkable fact:
Why do we run such a large federal deficit? What keeps wages from growing? Why are so many people unable to afford health care at all?
Answers to all those questions are lodged within those remarkable data—remarkable data a rising star fails to describe with clarity in today's Washington Post.
The tribal impulse will urge you to think that we're just picking a nit. That tribal impulse will be wrong—but it's deeply bred in the bone, and it runs the world of human affairs.
It runs the part of the human world which acted in El Paso this weekend. It runs the part of the human world which determines the way this young Yazidi woman was treated after she was freed from slavery to ISIS.
(We strongly recommend that Washington Post news report.)
That tribal impulse also runs the part of the human world within which we liberals and progressives react to the others. For today, we'll only say this:
Subscribers to the Post and the Times never see the remarkable numbers we have posted above. For that reason, they're never exposed to a serious discussion of those remarkable numbers.
Where's all the extra money going in our health care spending? Members of our own self-impressed tribe rarely wonder about that. To all intents and purposes, the question is never raised for their perusal—not by major mainstream news orgs, not by rising political stars.
This isn't the only major topic where basic ignorance rules. Readers of the Post and the Times are never told about the size of the achievement gaps within our public schools. At the same time, they're never told about the large academic gains which have been recorded by all demographic groups.
When Flint became a major topic, our tribals were never shown the data about lead in the water of other American cities. We were never told about the gigantic blood lead levels which existed all over the country until recent years.
Our candidates recite all kinds of bullshit as they pretend to debate. Our major journalists don't utter a peep as they pretend to moderate these ersatz debates. But this is the basic human condition, as found in our own current world.
The fact is, we humans aren't wired to care about matters like these. We care about the tribal drives which tell us who to loathe.
The dumbness around you in the past ten days testifies to this fact about the human project. We'll be exploring that dumbness all week—a dumbness so ubiquitous in the past ten day that we didn't know where to begin as we rose this morning.
Jayapal's fuzzy characterization tells us something basic about ourselves, about our tribe, about the human project. So did those cattle call "debates." So does the truly pathetic New York magazine essay to which Maureen Dowd referred in yesterday's column.
As we watched the spreading darkness last week, we thought of the dying Kurtz, as quoted by Joseph Conrad:
"The horror! The horror!" the strange fellow said. Or at least, so we're told at the end of Conrad's famous report.
We're going to go with a different word—"incompetence." But it's all much the same in the end.
Tomorrow: To our eternal sorrow, we decided to click Dowd's link