Friday, May 27, 2011


I suppose I should be grateful that David Brooks actually acknowledges ordinary Americans' anxiety about Medicare, though it apparently took a special election in upstate New York to get him to grasp the fact that real people fear taking another big hit:

... Republicans need to reconnect with the working class, the sort of people who live in upstate New York Congressional districts.... these families have seen the pillars of their world dissolve -- jobs, family structure, neighborhood cohesion. They understandably reject any new proposals that introduce even more risk and uncertainty into their lives.

You know what? I'm glad he said that.

Now, think about the people he's referring to. Think about a 54-year-old guy from upstate New York -- unemployed 15 months, no job prospects, frequently skipping blood pressure medicine in order to keep food on the table.

What do you think that guy wants? What do you think you could promise that guy in order to reconnect with him?

This is what David Brooks thinks would do the trick:

Republicans need to be the party of order, stability and steady growth.

They need to lay out the facts showing that Medicare is unstable and on a path to collapse, as Representative Paul Ryan is doing. But they also need to enmesh Medicare reform within an agenda to build solid communities: more money for community colleges and technical schools, an infrastructure bank, a values agenda to shore up marriage and family cohesion, tax holidays to help the unemployed start businesses, tax reform to limit special interest power.

Yeah, right -- that's what the unemployed guy is crying out for: a values agenda to shore up marriage and family cohesion.

And, yes, community colleges and technical schools and infrastructure banks are wonderful, but our 54-year-old soon-to-be-cardiac-case needs a job and health care now. He doesn't need a tax holiday so he can start a small business -- what the hell is wrong with right-wingers that they think everyone in America desperately wants to be an entrepreneur? Or should want to be an entrepreneur? Why do right-wingers seem to think it's somehow dishonorable to want to go to work every day, do your job, punch out, and get a paycheck? And aren't we already one of the most entrepreneurial countries on the planet? How's that working out for us these days?

And, sure, it would be lovely to have some "tax reform to limit special interest power" -- from Republicans. Sorry, I'm having trouble finishing this paragraph. I'm laughing too hard.


After this past Tuesday's election, Peggy Noonan also -- all of a sudden -- understands ordinary people's anxiety:

...normal people don't wear green eyeshades. Republicans think people will say, when presented with new options for coverage, "Oh good, another way to express my freedom! I can study health insurance now and get a policy that will benefit not only me but our long-term solvency!" But normal people are more likely to sit slouched at the kitchen table with their head in their hands. "Oh no, another big decision, another headache, 50 calls to an insurance company, another go-round with the passive-aggressive phone answerer who, even though she's never met me, calls me Freddy as she puts me on hold."

But she thinks Republicans just have to message harder, dammit!

Supporters of Mr. Ryan's Medicare plan must talk very specifically about how this would all work, and why it would make your life better, not worse.

You know what? I'd actually like that. I really would like Republicans to try to "talk very specifically about how this would all work." Tell me how the Ryan plan will give everyone good coverage while cutting costs.

Because I know what the answer will be: "Well, the magic of the free market will lower costs." "Yeah, but how?" "Well, by eliminating inefficiencies." "Yeah, but in what way?"

At key points in the history of American capitalism, I'm sure people like Henry Ford, Ray Kroc, and Sam Walton could explain precisely how their business practices would lower costs while giving the public what it wanted. Some of those business practices weren't very nice, but at least retail purchasers were happy. Would any of the Ryanettes be able to venture a guess as to what specific innovations might be introduced under Ryancare to increase efficiency while still delivering coverage of satisfactory quality? Apart from, y'know, offering patients the chance to do some comparison-shopping while waiting for the ambulance to arrive after a heart attack?

Yeah, please, Republicans -- talk very specifically about how this will work. Go on. I'm waiting.

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