How "Reality-Based" ARE Ezra Klein And Matt Yglesias?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 15, 2009

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Ezra Klein appears to be getting shelled from all sides for his comments on Joe Lieberman, including from a colleague at the Washington Post, Charles Lane:

Let me repeat: Klein essentially accuses Lieberman of mass murder because he disagrees with him on a policy issue about which there is considerable debate among people of good will across the political spectrum.

This is disgusting, and pretty illogical, too. Klein brandishes a study by the Urban Institute showing that the lack of health insurance contributed to the deaths of 137,000 people between 2000 and 2006. But last time I checked, Joe Lieberman does not oppose insuring everyone. Indeed, he is on record favoring “legislation that expands access to the millions who do not have coverage, improves quality and lowers costs while not impeding our economic recovery or increasing the debt.” He simply opposes the public option, as well as Harry Reid’s last-minute improvisation on Medicare. Klein’s outburst only makes sense if you assume that there is one conceivable way to expand health insurance coverage, and that Harry Reid has discovered it.

And, by the way, Lieberman is hardly alone in his skepticism, even among Democrats. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) pronounced Reid’s proposal a “non-starter.” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has voiced doubts. Ten Democratic senators — including such right-wingers as Al Franken of Minnesota and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin — signed a letter complaining that Reid’s idea would shortchange their states. Reports the Portland Oregonian: “While they did not directly say it, the senators implied that they might not vote for the bill unless the Medicare problems are addressed. That threat has some power, as Reid needs all 60 Democratic votes to pass the bill.”

Are these Senators guilty of risking mass death as well?

Well, they won’t be accused of that. But I guess that’s because the netroots are too busy training their fire solely and exclusively on Lieberman; Matt Yglesias went so far as to call Lieberman not just a dumb politician, but a dumb Jewish politician. I don’t know whom Yglesias thinks he is kidding with his poseur intellectualism; he has no right to hold himself out as a superior thinker when he botches a discussion of telecommunications policy as badly as he did, believes that Hugo Chavez was forced to praise Idi Amin because the Obama Administration is “defanging” the Venezuelan dictator (yeah, I don’t know what the one has to do with the other either, and for that matter, neither does Yglesias), screws up a discussion of political counterfactuals to astonishing degrees, fails completely to grok the Senate, can’t use Google to research “the black conservative tradition” before writing a post and exposing his ignorance on the matter, and shows that he doesn’t understand that governors and Senate Republican leaders play different roles in the political process, thereby making a comparison between Mitch Daniels and Mitch McConnell a silly one (for criticism of Yglesias’s “thoughts” on this, and related issues, see Glenn Reynolds, and Ed Morrissey, who properly rake Yglesias over the coals, and Yuval Levin, who eviscerates Steve Pearlstein–on whose arguments, Yglesias relies).

Oh, and of course, there is this. Be sure to read the comments about the “thinking” of the guy who boasts IQ points on Joe Lieberman, and who thinks that it is somehow pertinent to bring Lieberman’s Jewishness into a discussion of his smarts or his knowledge of health care policy. And bear in mind, of course, that if a right-of-center blogger brought Lieberman’s religious heritage into the debate, the accusations would fly fast and furious. (Prepare the countdown for Yglesias to claim that it’s okay for him to add the religious element to the debate because he himself is Jewish.)

Getting back to the issue of health care–now that we have disposed of Matt Yglesias’s strange fascination with Joe Lieberman’s Jewishness–Will Wilkinson snarks on a point that Klein and Yglesias seem to have missed:

. . . Health-care reform does not live or die with the particular legislative monstrosity currently under consideration in the Senate. Are there not alternative reforms that would save even more lives? I’m sure Ezra agrees there are. So if the Senate Democrats’ suboptimal proposal is made law, shall we therefore lay the foregone QALYs at the feet of its advocates? Surely decency demands it! I do hope the Senate bill fails, if only to save Ezra from the shame of dirty hands.

The sad thing is that the intended targets of Wilkinson’s joke probably just won’t get it.

  • lynnelevi15

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  • cr_aigm

    One problem with this analysis is that, as far as I know, the Senate not only doesn’t need 60 votes to pass this bill, it never needs 60 votes to pass *any* bill. What it does need 60 votes for is to stop debate (at various stages before a final vote occurs). A difference would appear to exist, then, between opposing a bill with which you disagree in various ways (which expresses substantive disagreement) and being willing to filibuster it (which puts up a procedural obstacle). The one course expresses disagreement, while the other effectively prevents action. It’s admittedly true that, even in the face of a filibuster, Congress could start all over, from scratch–for about the eighth time in the last 70-odd years; but why should we assume the new bill would both be better than this one and would achieve adequate consensus, all of a sudden?

    See, as I think about this issue, if a policy problem is important enough to make a legislative priority, and if lives really are on the line–as multiple studies, at least, assert (not to mention our economy)–then it’s arguably better to pass *imperfect* legislation (developed with considerable centrist and right-wing input and consultation) and work to improve it later–allowing currently uninsured and underinsured people now at risk to benefit, in the interim, from improved access–than to defer action entirely. (Crafting legislation along entirely conservative lines is not a feasible option, given that Democrats have been elected to majority status in both houses of Congress, so the alternative to passing an imperfect bill really does appear to be deferring action entirely.) If you do share its advocates’ sense of urgency and merely differ about details, then according to this analysis you ought not to support a filibuster, even if you aren’t happy enough with the bill to vote for it. For those who don’t share its advocates’ sense of urgency, then it’s understandable that the advocates would bring up the human stakes of the debate, so as to help encourage the urgency that to them seems warranted. So what do you think?

  • Brett_Bellmore

    You missed one: Yglesias has also complained about Bush having “frequently” vetoed Democratic legislation. That's right, the same Bush who *set a record for the fewest vetoes of any modern President*, who went six years into his time in office before his first veto, and only cast 12 vetoes in his entire time in office.

    Frequently must have a completely different meaning on his planet.

  • TomHolmes

    cr_aigm,

    You're using the same rhetorical technique that is often used by advocates of governmental control to offset plant food. I call it the “appeal to disaster” fallacy. If a cause (plant food) can be linked to an effect (longer growing season), however tenuously or dubiously, and said effect rises to a level of sufficient horribleness, then the tenuousness or dubiousness of the link becomes irrelevant. The using closing argument “if there is even a chance that this will happen, then it is worth it to “fix” the cause. It doesn't seem to matter what the fix is really, as long as it involves a breathtaking transfer of wealth from wealth creators to a central authority that then doles it out to the peasantry to keep them placated, but not before hanging on to a goodly sum for their troubles.

    The clue to these periodic man-makable, government-curable, impending disasters is that the fix is curiously never a dismantling of the massive engine of central control. If it ever is, I might be startled enough to look closely at the portents of doom that the prophets hawk. That would be rich. Then I could go about with a sign and a flow chart, scowling and calling people deniers (or mass murderers) whilst feeling refreshingly self righteous and basking in the positive press and generous research grants.

    So you want to grant insurance to a few millions who currently lack it? Bravo for you. If it is as useful as mine has become, with fifteen years in a good job at a large corporation mind you, then you'll have to fall into a woodchipper, perhaps twice, to make it pay out more than you have paid in. I have to pay $7,500 for my family before I meet my deductible, or $2500 for any one of us. Then the plan pays 80%. Perhaps for those in government service or in union jobs, the insurance is better, but for the rest of us, no poor person would bother to sign up for such a program. Destitution is less paper-work.

    It's a scam like the others, designed to take money from my wallet in order to maintain the bottomless hunger that is government, scattering enough about to retain power. It is false, a monstrous misdirection and slight of hand. And for opposing that, I am on par with a mass murderer. Ironically, I'm not even Jewish.

  • Pejman_Yousefzadeh

    Good grief. Got a link for that? That's just gobsmacking.

  • Brett_Bellmore

    Yeah. Blame Obama
    First<http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/12/blame-obama-first.php>Last
    paragraph. Best part? It was quoted, seriously, by Mark Kleiman at…
    “The Reality Based Community” blog. Fighting the last
    war<http://www.samefacts.com/2009/12/uncategorized/fighting-the-last-war/&gt;

  • Pejman_Yousefzadeh

    I guess it should come as no surprise that Kleiman would seriously and favorably quote that nonsense.

  • Brett_Bellmore

    Yeah. Blame Obama
    First<http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/12/blame-obama-first.php>Last
    paragraph. Best part? It was quoted, seriously, by Mark Kleiman at…
    “The Reality Based Community” blog. Fighting the last
    war<http://www.samefacts.com/2009/12/uncategorized/fighting-the-last-war/&gt;

  • Pejman_Yousefzadeh

    I guess it should come as no surprise that Kleiman would seriously and favorably quote that nonsense.

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