Friday, September 29, 2017

The Freezing Point of the Human Intellect

This article is about something I usually do not delve into, but I cannot let this one fly. I have seen Catherine Rampell's "opinion columns" in the Casper Star Tribune for a while, and they are always of such poor quality that it has not seemed worth the while to discuss them. But after having considered a subscription to the paper, I decided to take a closer look at Rampell's rants.

After doing so, I decided against a subscription. Why? Glad you asked.

Rampell is a so-called "syndicated opinion columnist" which means that she:

a) has a degree from an Ivy League school (Princeton),
b) has worked for a major, liberal infotainment outlet (Washington Post), and
c) gets paid to push the mud-and-gutter boundaries for what passes as publishable content.

This past week, Rampell did just that: in a column of such poor quality that it would have been refused by our high-school journal back in 1983, she tries desperately to kick new life into the dead horse known as the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign. So long as liberals can keep it alive, they can still tell themselves that Trump really is not the president.

Ladies and gentlemen - Catherine Rampell:
President Trump clearly has no clue what’s happening on health care, taxes or really any other major policy front. He has also made abundantly clear that he has no interest in getting up to speed.
Rampell knows that this is so because she knows that this is so. And since she knows that this is so, she has the authority to tell us that this is so.
Unfortunately, Trump’s unseriousness has become so grotesque, so all-consuming, that it has distracted us from dozens of other dilettantes and demagogues in Washington — far too many of them other members of Trump’s own political party.
You see, when you attack President Trump and you have worked for the Washington Post, you don't have to offer a shred of evidence for anything you write. This is why it was such a smooth transition for Rampell from "journalist" to "opinion columnist".

The only redeeming factor in Rampell's writings is that she can use a lot of words. Otherwise, this would get boring rather quickly. Attribute her vocabulary to her four years at Princeton as a legacy student. Had she gone to her local community college, she would probably have had to cut her rant down by two thirds.
Trump may be a toddler, we keep telling ourselves,
So now it is considered fair and decent to call the president a "toddler". What's next? Since Rampell has now, in her late teens, pushed the limits of what passes for acceptable to this point, where does she expect to be when she is 50?
but at least some (comparative) grown-ups on Capitol Hill are thinking things through. Maybe we don’t agree with them all the time; maybe they have a different vision for the role of government than many of us do. Still, at least a few thoughtful, moderate, principled, solutions-oriented people in the legislature are working to offset the White House’s abdication of policy leadership.
It would be interesting to hear what Rampell thinks government should do. Based on her argumentative capacity, as expressed in her "opinion columns", I doubt that she has either the analytical skills or the command of the English language needed to explain the social, cultural and economic involvement that she wants government to have in our lives. But as a thought experiment, it would be interesting to actually hear a coherent policy opinion from her, as opposed to an endless stream of Trump-hating consciousness.

Anyway. After having made a token gesture of "bipartisanship", Rampell goes all-out against anyone who would have anything negative to say about Obamacare:
The flaming turd that is Cassidy-Graham should disabuse us all of that notion. What’s been threatening the health-care coverage of tens of millions of Americans isn’t Trump. It’s the entire Republican Party. This garbage bill, currently looking dead but with a few days left to revive itself, should teach us two things: Republicans don’t care about process, and they don’t care about policy.
I know that the following couple of sentences will fly straight over Rampell's head, but here goes anyway: For every person who got coverage through Obamacare, another person lost coverage. The balance is made up by Medicaid expansion, which was thrown into the Obamacare mix (mess) to give the reform at least the illusion of expanding health care coverage.

Since Rampell's rants are generously passed out by the Casper Star Tribune, it is perhaps good to at least mention that thanks to Obamacare, our state has gone from a functioning health insurance market to a de facto monopoly. Furthermore, practically every person who got health insurance through Obamacare did so thanks to tax subsidies, a fact worth considering since liberals are now increasingly demanding an Obamacare Part 2 (a.k.a., single payer).

I don't know how much Rampell pays in taxes - and I don't care either - but I am pretty sure that once she is presented with the true tax cost of the socialization efforts that Obamacare was part of, she will cry foul and head for the hills in some state without an income tax. That is usually what liberals do when they have voted and demagogued their policies to complete victory.

Then, when Rampell has driven herself halfway to sleep beating her Trump pinata, she builds a straw man to give herself a few more column inches to rant:
You could be forgiven for also concluding, as they’ve increasingly suggested this week, that they don’t care about regular Americans, either. For years we’ve been told that the original sin of the Affordable Care Act was that it was procedurally flawed. It was passed in the dead of night, constructed in smoke-filled backrooms and only passed thanks to partisan budget gimmicks. These critiques were mostly nonsense, of course. Obamacare went through a painfully slow, yearlong process. It was considered at lots and lots of hearings. It received multiple assessments from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and attracted a supermajority of Senate votes. Contrary to popular misconception, the bill was not even passed using the budget reconciliation process.
Does she really think that nobody remembers how the Obama administration purchased support for the bill in the Senate? Are all her friends so ignorant that she really thinks nobody remembers the Obamacare vote as one of the most bipartisan to date?

Has she been eating so many fried eggs left-side-up that she does not think anyone still recollects the phony numbers the CBO used to give Obamacare a thumbs up?

Perhaps she is that delusional. But what is even more tragic is that if Rampell even tried, she could not for all the opinion columns in the world piece together a coherent defense for why premiums have increased, not decreased, under Obamacare.

She knows this. After all, she worked for the Washington Post. That is why she builds pinatas and straw men. It gets her through another couple of hundred words without having to actually discuss substance.

Then Rampell does what almost every liberal does when engaged in some sort of "conversation" (using the word generously) about health insurance and health care: she confuses the two. Back bashing Graham-Cassidy, she thinks:
On major questions of policy, legislators punted to the states, giving them two years to build new health-care systems from scratch — even though state legislators have little expertise in the matter and few of the resources available to Congress. This alone would be sure to destabilize insurance markets.
State governments do not build health care systems. At least not yet. Government builds health care system in single-payer countries, like the one I grew up in. Here in the United States, it is about as stupid to talk about government building a "health care system" as it is to say that government builds a system of gyms or physical therapy clinics. Private entrepreneurs build health clinics and hospitals; non-profits build health clinics and hospitals; and government does so, too. But there is no central planning, no universal CON laws that dictate the way every physician can practice his profession.

That said, I understand Rampell's confusion. Like so many other self-important intellectuals in the Western world, she has an aggrandized image of government as the most sophisticated invention, and force for good, the world has ever seen. In her circles, this uneducated opinion was elevated to liturgy under the Obama presidency; the fact that millions of people move to the United States from countries with authoritarian governments, is a fact that Rampell and her cronies quickly sweep under the carpet.

The fact that they themselves continue to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that free-market capitalism - not government - has built here in America, is yet another fact they try to ignore as best they can.

The dangerous image of government as an all-encompassing force for good comes to its climax in any conversation about health care. The only thing that arouses a liberal more than high taxes is single-payer health care. Carefully turning a blind eye to the terrible suffering under government-run health care, Rampell and her buddies reinforce their own fantasies at parkettfähige dinner conversations, far far away from the government-run Veterans' Administration hospitals that for years have been insulting our bravest men and women with empty promises of health care.

Out of those reference circles, where statism and arrogance are mixed into an intoxicating verbal drug over a politically correct French dish, comes the idea that government not only should, but can, will and must, build health care in this country. After enough time in those social circles, it is not surprising that someone like Catherine Rampell actually thinks that government builds health care systems.

We are not there yet. Thank God.

And now for Catherine's final punch. Attacking the repeal-and-replace efforts without the slightest connection to reality, she believes:
Now layer on severe funding cuts, ultimately punishing every state; the removal of the individual mandate, which makes sure risk pools aren’t dominated by the most expensive patients; and the unwinding of federal regulations designed to protect those with pre-existing conditions and to make sure the insurance plans that consumers buy actually cover anything. Chaos, premium spikes for the sick and the poor, and the hemorrhaging of tens of millions of Americans from insurance rolls are all foreseeable consequences. In other words: It’s what happens when an entire party decides to abandon policy experts.
Starting from the end, given her pledge to mudslinging and gutter punditry, it is pretty obvious that Rampell could not tell a policy expert from a Klingon, no matter how hard she tried. But more importantly, she probably does not even know that the "risk pools" she is talking about, are running an enormous deficit of the one demographic that Obamacare relied on: the young, healthy and rather well-paid who would balance up the chronically ill. This imbalance is one of the reasons why premiums have been rising so destructively. In fact, the risk pool balance was a critical element behind Obama's promise of declining premiums and CBO's budget scoring of the bill.

When those who were going to save Obamacare decided not to save it, the entire house of cards began crumbling. But you can't see that if you are sitting in a house that only has windows on the left wall.

I was considering a subscription to Casper Star Tribune from now on through the legislative session, but I think I'll pass. After all, if I did, some of my money would go toward feeding the mouth that fuels Rampell's raging rants. I have more important things to spend my money on.

At least, I learned one thing from reading Catherine Rampell. I thought I had found the freezing point of the human intellect. She taught me that I had to look yet a bit further away in the outer rim of the rhetorical trash yard. But there I found it. Thanks, Cathy!

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