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Today From The Pain Caucus


Robert Samuelson gives away the show:

Obama’s behavior resembles a highly indebted family’s taking an expensive round-the-world trip because it claims to have found ways to pay for it. It’s self-indulgent and reckless.


“Self-indulgent” — what an interesting phrase. Let’s consider both words, starting with the end. It contains the assumption that some basic health insurance is an “indulgence,” rather than a necessity. I defy anybody to make a careful study of the actual conditions of people who lack health insurance — such as can be found in Jonathan Cohn’s book “Sick” — and come to this conclusion.

Next, there’s the word “self.” Self-indulgent is when you spend money to indulge yourself. The Bush tax cuts, which massively enriched George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, could be described as self-indulgent. Samuelson supported those, incidentally. President Obama and the Democrats who enacted health care reform all have insurance. Even if you consider providing basic medical care to people who lack it an “indulgence,” they are not indulging themselves. They are “indulging” others.


And before you think this is all about Samuelson, consider that Charles Krauthammer calls coverage “candy.” There’s an absence of empathy here that borders on a clinical disorder…We are a rich, decent society, or so we say. Extending health-care coverage to those who can’t afford it would be worth it even in the absence of cost controls. Health-care insurance is not candy, and it is not an indulgence.

One part of Ygelsias’s attempt to rank the very worst of the pathetic hacks who dominate Fred Hiatt’s crayon scribble page I agree with is that Samuelson is among the very worst. His substantive views are quite appalling, and are ladled out with a varnish of would-be sensible centrism that makes them even more unpalatable. As Chait notes, the alleged fiscal hawk who supported both rounds of Bush’s massive upper-class tax cuts (which, in a neat bit of bootstrapping, produced deficits that make subsidizing health coverage for poor people seem “unaffordable,” and by the way where’s the robust economy those tax cuts were supposed to produce?) isn’t even consistent about his silly Concord Coalition onanism. And he’s as lazy as Richard Cohen himself — he’s basically been recycling the same three columns for decades. In fact, I think he belongs above Will…

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