Saturday, November 16, 2013


You probably assumed that if I wrote about Batkid I'd write a snarly and curmudgeonly post, and, well, I'm not going to disappoint you. But I'm not curmudgeonly about Batkid, the five-year-old with leukemia in remission who got to play Batman in San Francisco, with the help of the city government and a large number of volunteers, whose efforts help make the kid's fantasy amazingly elaborate. I'm curmudgeonly about a country that does things like this, and becomes captivated by things like this, at the same time it grumbles and moans about a certain percentage of Americans having to pay somewhat more for health insurance in order that other five-year-olds, some of whom have or may soon have equally dire medical conditions, can be guaranteed insurance coverage themselves.

Now, I realize that volunteering to help Batkid live out his dream was an act of generosity. I realize that a lot of people who clicked Batkid links on their computers at work also make donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and other charities for sick kids and cancer sufferers. I see that 12-12-12, a film of last year's Hurricane Sandy charity concert, is opening this weekend, and I know that a lot of people gave a lot of money during the original broadcast of that concert.

So we're generous and compassionate and empathetic when we get entertainment value in return. Well, how about having a little empathy when no one is putting on a show for our amusement? Can we manage that?

I'm thinking about an email Josh Marshall posted yesterday -- just about when the Batkid story was unfolding. It was from a reader who's been buying insurance in the individual market, and who's probably going to have to pay more under Obamacare, which, he's been told, makes him an Obamacare "loser," a la recent complainants such as Dylan Ratigan and Lori Gottlieb:
... Having insurance, even crappy insurance, in the individual market means we are almost by definition, healthy and relatively young. If we were not, we wouldn't be able to get coverage of any kind in the non-group market. If our ACA-compliant replacement policy costs us more, it's likely because we’re too affluent to qualify for subsidies.

It takes a remarkable degree of self-absorption and sense of self-entitlement to be healthy, young(ish) and affluent—and yet consider oneself a "loser." ...

I live in Louisiana where 400,000 working poor people will continue to go without health care because one man, Gov. Bobby Jindal, decided letting them have Medicaid wouldn't be good for his future ambitions. Those 400,000 are the losers. And while my application has been stuck for a month now at the "View Eligibility Results" stage, where instead of my results I see a blank screen when I click the button, I know I will get better health insurance than the bare-bones individual policy I have now, even if I end up having to pick up the phone, or heaven forbid, send in paper. I will pay significantly more, but after years of being one serious illness from financial ruin, I will finally have security. And not only that; every time I pay my new premium, I am paying into a system that makes it possible for my fellow Americans who have not been as lucky as me --people who really have been losers pre-ACA -- to finally get affordable health care....
Even when the Obamacare site is fixed, it's not going to provide free entertainment -- no Batkid, no Bon Jovi. Sorry if that's inadequate for you, if you've been a "winner" in the inividual market up till now. Sorry if just being part of a process by which America takes care of its own isn't enough for you.


Ten Bears said...

Curmudgeon away. Personally, I thought it was the biggest crock of shit I'd seen or heard all day.

No fear.

Danp said...

At least it was slightly different from the usual kid running a football through a field of players that were told to stand aside.

Greg said...

Well, how about having a little empathy when no one is putting on a show for our amusement? Can we manage that?

That's a really good question, an important one. I personally think that people often respond to charities putting on a show, when they don't otherwise, because they link entertainment quality & passion with a stamp of general legitimacy. People like being empathetic, but are quite wary of being ripped off. Government programs generally don't inspire the gut trust level that showbiz does, and that's not only an American phenomenon, it may be seen in the future as THE American phenomenon: a level of Bread and Circuses that would make the average Roman citizen blush.

Victor said...

GREAT post, Steve!

Spot on, as the folks across the pond, say!

Donna said...

thank you.

Joseph Nobles said...

By the way, I got the blank screen thing, too. All I had to do was delete cookies. Someone should tell that guy.

Kathy said...

Well said.

mzrad said...

Hi there.
Could you help me figure out how to get a site running that I don't have time to produce myself? Daily Political Graphic (or whatever). I don't do Tumblr with my site so I'm not well versed, but it seems this might be the best format? Like the very first 99% Tumblr where anyone could submit but the responsible site owners monitored the content we all saw?

If we have time for all this work to make BatKid's dreams come true (yay!) and have the time to make LEGO recreations of Eddie Izzard skits about Darth Vader (love Eddie!), then surely some progressive has the time execute this idea. Please advise.

Daily Political Graphic would feature black background, with very politically illustrative graphics and footnotes with links back to the original study/article/source. Be as circumspect as Michael Moore when he makes his movies so people can't dismiss the info out of hand. Apparently we have no time to absorb much so effective graphics—infographics, if you will—can really help to get the point across. Our brains are changing with technology: we need to adapt. Me gusta our president but the ol' constitutional scholar doesn't seem to have spent much time in the marketing department/business schools of his respective academic institutions. You got a message? Ok, sell it to me.

Remember these? My favorite graphics to seed this Tumblr:
- the image from Nancy Pelosi's office with the blue and red lines showing info about the rate of job loss between end of Bush and start of Obama admins
- the one about the budgets proposed by the Dems and Repubs with blue and gray circles that illustrated the relative size of the various tiers of tax cuts; obviously, the Repubs cut to the highest income bracket is the takeaway here
- so many more that make the point about the Democratic party project

Does any progressive reading this comment have time to help/do this type of project ?

Ten Bears said...

Sure. Hundred bucks an hour. Unlike CGI Federal, the low bid private sector contractor who rolled out the ACA website, I Guarantee my work.

No fear.