Aug 16, 2018

Centrist Liberals and Medicare for All

Off his usual beat of gravely intoning about how political correctness on elite college campuses is a philosophical threat to American democracy, Jonathan Chait noticed I took a brief swipe at him in today's column about Medicare. He was severely triggered, accusing me of being "deliberately dishonest," and whining about my supposed bad faith and lying on Twitter.

Fair warning: this is a pretty silly slap-fight, so people not interested in columnist beefs can feel free to skip. However I think it is an instructive event in some ways.

So let me rehearse the argument of the original article. The medical lobby is whipping up fear about Medicare for All by claiming it will cause people to lose their health insurance, and I quote a new lobbying group spokesman to that effect. I argue with a bevy of statistics that this claim is false as a factual matter, and to the extent people will be forced to switch, they will receive superior coverage than what they currently have. The intent is to try to convince people that this talking point is not just wrong, but actually backwards. Medicare for All will decrease the number of people losing their insurance.

In a parenthetical at the beginning, I note that both Chait and Paul Krugman have "made similar points." The intent of this sentence and putting it as an aside was to note that both of them have pointed to this same false point about losing coverage. But Chait interprets it as me saying he and Krugman are actually part of the medical lobby:
The number of words in Cooper’s column devoted to rebutting our actual case about the politics of single payer is zero. Cooper simply concludes “the medical lobby’s argument [is] mistaken,” and driven by “nothing more than greed.” Either Cooper has not bothered to read the columns he is claiming to rebut (they’re short!), or he cannot understand them (they’re quite simple!), or he is intentionally dishonest.
Chait is so laser-focused on his wounded vanity that he completely misread the quite obvious basic thrust of the article, which again is about confronting factual arguments, not political plausibility. The reference to Chait and Krugman is meant to be about how milquetoast liberals are enabling this false argument. I say the medical lobby's argument is driven by greed, which obviously includes neither of them (as they are not paid lobbyists).

I certainly could have worded that parenthetical better, but in context the meaning is clear. It's got nothing to do with politics qua politics at all.

Perhaps I was being unfair to these two gentlemen by not noting they claim to support Medicare for All in the abstract despite being against it in practice and constantly attacking any concrete proposal to put it into place. But the major argument of the article, again, is that Medicare for All would result in a large net decrease in the number of insurance loss events, and neither of them admit this in the articles I linked to. Chait: "First, most people who have employer-based coverage like it and don’t want to change." Krugman: "A far more important consideration is minimizing disruption to the 156 million people [note: this is about 5 years' worth of employer-based insurance loss events] who currently get insurance through their employers, and are largely satisfied with their coverage. Moving to single-payer would mean taking away this coverage ..."

Still, Chait now apparently admits this reality, so glad to see we've advanced the dialectic on this front.

I generally try not to make arguments about political plausibility (not always successfully). I am highly skeptical about anyone's knowledge of what is politically plausible, pundits more than most. We live under the presidency of Donald J. Trump, something almost all savvy politics insiders took for granted as absolutely impossible until he actually won. I much prefer to make straightforward arguments for or against particular ideas.

So when Chait says "If single-payer advocates can come up with a way to get around the political obstacles in the way of single payer, they should say what they are," that is exactly what I am trying to do here, by knocking down duplicitous medical lobby talking points. Maybe thinking people can be convinced in this way is naive. But it's certain to work better than constantly trumping up highly speculative political obstacles to Medicare for All, demanding the left get around them, and then attacking any arguments to that effect. One tends to wonder what the real goal of that behavior is.


  1. Regarding your writing on how we pay for National Improved Medicare for All, you have the question backwards.

    The reality is improved Medicare for all is more affordable than what the US pays right now. Even a biased Koch funded study found a savings of $2 trillion over ten years. Less biased researchers have found even higher savings. Why? Because one-third of the cost of US healthcare is the unnecessary middleman -- the insurance industry. They take their share, executive salaries, administrative staff, pay-outs to investors, advertising, big buildings (often the biggest in the city) and then on top of their costs they create administrative burdens for doctors, hospitals and other providers. The administrative costs and the insurance industry are one-third the cost of US healthcare. Rid ourselves of the dead weight and we are already paying for improved Medicare for all.

    The question of you pay for it is a phony issue. Look at the cost of healthcare and it is obvious. On top of the insurance industry HR 676 takes out the profit of providers by making them nonprofits and it includes negotiation of pharmaceutical pricing which is much higher in the US than any other country because we do not negotiate fair prices.

    The question really is how can we afford not to put in place National Improved Medicare for All?

    Everything in this comment is fact-based and easily found on the web. If you need citations write me at or check out our health campaign,

  2. lmao he blocks people who mock him in the same twitter chains where he goes "these chuds can't take the heat"

    i guess that's why they pay him the big bucks to write for the waiting-for-the-dentist magazine