Long-time readers will know I agree entirely with this:
So that’s the context in which to ask whether or not it makes sense to have a supermajority requirement for many Senate votes. I would say “no.” Even absent the filibuster, our system would still feature an unusually large number of veto points, especially when you take our unusually robust system of judicial review into account. The supermajority requirement is at odds with our basic democratic norms, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with an example of it ever actually being used to protect the interests of some kind of put-upon minority, and I see no empirical reason to think that our systematically larger number of veto points is producing systematically better results than you see elsewhere. On the other hand, there’s good reason to believe that the large number of veto points makes it easier for narrow interest groups to block public interest reforms.
In terms of Matt’s question about the originality of Tsebelis’s argumemts, I don’t mean it as a criticism of his excellent book to note that this point has been made convincingly by people working in the historical institutionalist tradition as well as rational choicers. Most relevant to the Obama administration is the analysis of scholars like Ellen Immergut and Sven Steinmo, which demonstrates how the chances of achieving major health care reform diminish greatly with additional veto points. Talk about how American doctors and insurance companies oppose health care reform doesn’t explain much in itself, because these groups pretty much always oppose comprehensive reforms everywhere. The difference is that the American system allows representatives of these interests to block even popular reforms much more easily.
For this reason, it’s good that Pelosi is taking away tools allowing for minority vetoes in the House of Representatives, and it’s black comedy for Congressional Republicans to claim that making it more difficult to quietly thwart majority-favored legislation without an up-or-down vote is a blow to “transparency” and “fairness.”
This abominable rule shouldn’t survive the first week of the Obama presidency; the fact that it will — because reversing it takes a good bit of time and squanders resources that could be devoted to other tasks — it’s precisely the sort of thing that puts the lie to the polite notion that we should “disagree without being disagreeable.”
The country is being managed for the time being by people who would be instantly tossed into the ocean if our democracy permitted such an entirely reasonable solution to be put to a national plebiscite. And yet here they are, providing legal cover for the tiny percentage of health professionals who would rather adhere to religious superstition than do their bloody jobs. Moreover, they did so in the face of overwhelming professional condemnation of the proposed rules during the public comment period, and they issued the final regulations late enough that they’ll take effect two days prior to the end of the Bush administration. Being “disagreeable” with the people who created and supported these changes is quite literally the least they deserve. These people don’t care about effectively running a government, and of course they never have. But now that the end is near, they’re ripping out the drywall and stripping the wires, fastening laser printers to their backs, and loading up the service elevators with everything that isn’t nailed down.
Family visitation and work commitments meant that I didn’t see any speeches at the GOP convention last night; I can’t say I was terribly disappointed. Nonetheless, I did look at some transcripts and clips. We could do this all day, but consider the density of lies and nonsense packed into this sentence:
[Obama's] plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat…
… where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.
There are a couple of obvious lies here: Obama’s plan specifically exempts small businesses from contribution requirements, and he’s not proposing British-style socialized medicine. But what really kills me is the idea that in the current American system no “bureaucrat” will stand between you and your health care. I hate to break this to McCain — whose immense wealth and government benefits mean he doesn’t have to deal with this — but private insurance companies all invest in large bureaucracies whose primary purpose is to stand between you and your doctor.
Further proof that the Bush administration thinks it is above the law, or that the law is just not worth following: according to the government accountability office (GAO) the administration’s push to restrict the use of S-CHIP funds to cover people above the poverty line was in violation of federal law.
The legal opinion, requested by a bipartisan pair of senators, lambasted the president for vetoing Congress’s twice-passed expansion of the SCHIP health care program, which provides health insurance for kids whose parents are too wealthy to get Medicaid but too poor to be able to afford private health insurance. Congress twice approved more money for SCHIP, and BUsh twice vetoed it, mongering fears about socialized medicine.
So there we have it. 70,000 fewer kids insured than would have been possible plus a violation of federal law for good measure.
If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to cuddle up on a drugged Glenn Beck’s chest while he gurgled cryptic aphorisms about health care and compassion, consider this vlog a belated holiday gift.
Between hits of oxy, Beck suggests that his surgery gave him the opportunity to reassess the nation’s health care system — thoughts he vows to share with his seven or eight viewers on Monday’s show. I won’t be watching, but I’d be surprised if Beck didn’t remind the world once again that Hillary Clinton’s health care proposals are worse than Hitler’s.
From the NYTarticle on the home edition of the Merck/Meriel manual, which sounds like Gray’s Anatomy meets DSM-IV meets Physician’s Desk Reference for the insane world of domesticated animals:
In its 1,345 pages, readers can find, among other things, the anatomy of a turtle; six signs of hyperparathyroidism in a dog; a list of 27 houseplants poisonous to pets; a description of lockjaw (an infection that leads baby birds to starve to death); instructions for what to do if your pet is shot with an arrow (don’t pull it out); seven causes of liver injuries in horses; the necessary components of a pet travel kit; 161 diseases that can be passed to humans from animals; and yes, a proper diagnosis for a sick gerbil. . . .
The sheer number of creatures found between the book’s covers is likely to distinguish it from other pet health guides, most of which focus on a single species or even a single breed. And the manual, written by 200 veterinarians, is likely to find an eager readership in an animal-crazed nation, where 68.7 million households include at least one pet and $24.5 billion a year is spent on veterinary care, according to a survey released this month by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
I’m wondering, though, if the book can explain why my 6-year-old Newfoundland yelps when I touch her about mid-spine, and why for the past few days she’s been reluctant to lie down. She’s symptomatic in exactly zero other ways, and (with no other sign of pain or discomfort) continues to take her walks, eat her food, play with her new stuffed goose, and run around chasing snowballs whenever she gets the chance. But since I’m a committed neurotic when it comes to my animals, I’m quite likely to blow several hundred dollars tomorrow at the vet’s office, where they will cheerfully take as many x-rays as the situation requires to assure me that my dog hasn’t somehow splintered a vertebrae.
I, on the other hand, have been ignoring a nagging shoulder injury since May 2006, when I forgot that a four-year absence from the game of tennis means your shoulder is four years older than it was the last time you tried to serve. I have no immediate plans to see a doctor about this, since the only time I think about it these days is when I’m throwing snowballs to you-know-who.
Bush vetoed S-Chip today. Again. As in, for the second time. Why? Well, here’s what White House Spokesperson Dana Perino had to say:
“This Congress failed to send the president legislation that puts children first, and instead they sent for a second time one that would allow adults onto the program, expand to higher incomes, and raise taxes.”
Right. Because a bill that expands to provide healthcare to more children doesn’t put children first? As a law school professor would say, that certainly doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Krugman body slams Giuliani (and the msm’s coverage of the candidate) today in his column. Feeling feisty, Krugman takes on Rudy’s claim that American men have much higher prostate cancer survival rates than the Brits because the Brits have socialized medicine. The claim is, of course, totally false. Where’d he get his data? The Manhattan Institute. A source of unbiased fact-based reporting if there ever was one. Here’s what Krugman has to say:
You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The details are technical, but the bottom line is that a man’s chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the same in Britain as it is in America.
So Mr. Giuliani’s supposed killer statistic about the defects of “socialized medicine” is entirely false. In fact, there’s very little evidence that Americans get better health care than the British, which is amazing given the fact that Britain spends only 41 percent as much on health care per person as we do.
Krugman takes care of the math. We take care of the eyerolling. WaPo’s Eugene Robinson gives us the numbers:
Okay, the math: Gratzer writes that his figures come from seven-year-old data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the numbers of men in various countries who are diagnosed with prostate cancer and, of those diagnosed, how many die from the disease. The latest official figures show a much smaller gap: Of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, about 98 percent survive five years in the United States vs. about 74 percent in Britain.
But even that is misleading, because — as even Gratzer acknowledges — a much higher percentage of American men than Britons are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the first place. The reason Americans are more likely to be diagnosed is that we are screened and tested much more often than our British counterparts. Doctors here are much more likely to diagnose, say, a slow-growing tumor in an elderly patient who will die of something else before the prostate cancer progresses to a serious state.
That’s why the more relevant comparison, experts say, is mortality rates — which are about equal.
That Giuliani is either dishonest or willfully blind is not a surprise to those of us who lived through his mayoralty. But Krugman is mad that the MSM is not doing its job to help the rest of the country realize that the GOP frontrunner just doesn’t care enough to check the facts. He’s more interested in using the scary specter of socialism to scare people into voting for him than in pretty much anything else. And news outlets let him; Krugman notes that there’s been some coverage of the Giuliani prostate lie, but that it pales in comparison to the amount lavished on Hillary’s hint of cleavage or John Edwards’s haircut. And, shockingly (not), Chris Matthews is giving air time to this crap. All while Giuliani tours with his ridiculous claim that the “liberal media” have redefined torture. At some point, we’re all going to have to stop being so serious and just laugh at it all.
Among the many, many disturbing moments in Sicko (and there were many), of the most enraging for me was among the least graphic: the moment when Moore indicates, with thought bubble-like images, how much money each of several elected officials has taken from the healthcare industry. The very same industry that profits from keeping people as far away from adequate health care as possible. The bottom line is that a lot of people have taken a lot of money, not the least of which is Hilary Clinton.
Which is why I was not at all surprised (though again, disappointed), to see in yesterday’s Times that Hilary is certainly not the only one in the Democratic presidential field to be taking money from the insurers and pharmaceutical companies with one hand while holding sick babies and promising universal single payer healthcare with the other, though she has amassed the most. According to the Times article (source of this graphic):
Mrs. Clinton received $2.7 million through the end of September, far more than Mitt Romney, the Republican who raised the most from the health care industry, with $1.6 million. The industry’s drift in contributions toward Democratic candidates mirrors wider trends among donors, but the donations from this sector are particularly notable because of the party’s focus on overhauling the health care system. … Among all the candidates in both political parties, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the health care industry, having raised about $2.2 million, according to campaign finance records.
I want to choose a democratic candidate and wholeheartedly throw my support behind her or him. But with figures like this, whose campaign promises of a healthier America can I take to the bank?
I finally saw it (no, I have not been watching the game. Sorry folks). And I have to hand it Michael Moore. I was impressed. Yes, there were stunts (Guantanamo, the feigned surprise at European systems). But the stunts were damn effective. Those who oppose national (I’ll say it – socialized) healthcare come off as callous, greedy, and flat out stupid. As the smirking chimp put it:
Thirty-five years ago, in the same week Watergate happened, a New Left radical said something I never forgot.
“Eventually the United States and the Soviet Union will become mirror images of each other,” he told a bunch of us college students. “They will get color TV, and we will get bugging, inefficiency and long lines.” That memory came back to me when Sicko showed how crowded hospitals bundle confused, disoriented and indigent patients into taxis and dump them out on Skid Row, in front of a mission. (A hospital administrator even defends this practice, on camera.)
Sure, the movie fails to expose some of the flaws (yes, there are some) of the systems in the UK, France, and Canada. But you know what? At this point, those flaws are peanuts. And our problems are growing by the day.