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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Brooks Brings You Analysis from Another Planet: Praises Representative Ryan

David Brooks Brings You Analysis from Another Planet: Praises Representative Ryan

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Friday, 08 April 2011 03:46

According to David Brooks, in the days following the release of Representative Ryan's plan to essentially end Medicare and Medicaid to help finance more tax breaks to the wealthy:

"the Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices."

I can't claim to have done a comprehensive survey, but all the Democrats I know think that they were handed the political gift of lifetime, as Representative Ryan has explicitly proposed doing exactly what Democrats have accused Republicans of wanting to do for decades: eliminate health care programs that are essential for middle class workers in order to give more money to their wealthy contributors.

Things may be different on Mr. Brooks' planet, but here in Washington there is no shortage of politicians willing to denounce a plan that would require most seniors to spend most of their income on health care, if they want an insurance package equivalent to the one provided by Medicare. The more obvious shortage is of Republicans who are openly willing to embrace the Ryan plan and say, "yes, we are the party that wants to eliminate Medicare and give more tax breaks to the richest people in the country."

Brooks again ignores the most obvious point that health care is not a sidebar in this story, it is the story. If the United States paid the same amount per person for its health care as do people in other wealthy countries, then we would be looking at huge budget surpluses not deficits.

He also tries to pass off to NYT readers nonsense from his Tea Party friends:

"The president’s health reform plan relies on a centralized board of technocrats to restrict choices. The Ryan plan relies on a premium support model that would allow individuals to exercise greater control over what sorts of procedures they would not be covered for."

Can we get out the extra large ridicule box for this one? There is nothing, as in zero, in President Obama's health care plan that prevents any individual from getting any health care procedure that he or she wants to pay for. The "centralized board of technocrats" he mentions would determine the procedures that Medicare would pay for, not the procedures that individuals could receive.

Obviously this will be a very serious restriction for people who cannot pay for expensive procedures on their own, but Ryan's plan does not change this situation one iota. It gives people a choice of insurance companies, each of which will rely on a board of technocrats to restrict choices.

Using the Tea Party terminology, if President Obama's plan is viewed as creating death panels, then Mr. Ryan's plan gives seniors a choice of death panels and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, we pay trillions more for this choice.

 

Addendum:

Some folks have asked me about the generational equity concerns raised by Brooks who tells readers that:

"two 56-years-olds with average earnings will pay about $140,000 in dedicated Medicare taxes over their lifetimes. They will receive about $430,000 in benefits. This is an immoral imposition on future generations."

There are two important points here. First, most of that $430,000 is over-payments to drug companies, hospitals, doctors and other health care providers. If these two 56-years-olds were buying their health care in Canada, Germany, or any other country with comparable health care outcomes, they would pay less than half as much for their care. Should my older brother feel that he has done me an injustice because the government gets overcharged for his health care? Maybe on Planet Brooks, but that's not an easy one to see here on Earth.

The other point that Brooks seems to have missed is that people are getting richer through time. The lifetime earnings for two average 26-year-olds will be more than $1.3 million greater on average than the average lifetime earnings for today's 56-year-olds. If the 26-year-old gets to pocket this much more cash, simply by virtue of being born later, is there any reason for the 56-year-old to feel they have committed an injustice because they got a better deal on their Medicare?

Now, there is a serious issue of inequality that must be considered. As a result of the fact that a larger share of income is being distributed to those at the top, most 26-year-olds may see little of this $1.3 million gain in earnings. But this is an issue of intra-generational inequality, not inter-generational inequality. On this dimension, Representative Ryan's plan is a huge leap in the wrong direction.

 

Comments (13)Add Comment
Brooks is not Moderate
written by Albert, April 08, 2011 5:41
This proves that Brooks in his old age has become a wingnut conservative.

Any thinking person who calls the Ryan plan "serious" or "brave" is out of touch with middle America.

It's a shame.
...
written by joe, April 08, 2011 6:53
They're really trying hard to convince suckers to get behind Ryan's roadmap to the poor house.

LMFAO @ "premium support model" Is he afraid to use the word subsidy? The policy costs 33K a year and the govt will pay 11k and a 70 year old on social security can pay 22K and hope the insurance company does not declare chemotherapy "experimental" and refuse to pay.
Saving Private Ryan From Public Death Panels
written by izzatzo, April 08, 2011 7:15
"The Ryan plan relies on a premium support model that would allow individuals to exercise greater control over what sorts of procedures they would not be covered for." ...

... Mr. Ryan's plan gives seniors a choice of death panels ...


Insurance models that converge onto the narrow range of high risks they claim to cover necessarily devolve instead into mere bill collector roles, or 'patient parasite pills' as it's known in the trade, since it provides no added value for huge useless transaction premiums collected by charlatans standing between the doctor and the patient.

Health care providers exploit the monopoly power of insurers and vice versa to ration health care based on relative scarcity of concentrated wealth, dividing huge economic rents collected under the guise of free choices made in free markets.

To break up the market power that forces seniors to choose among death panels, pro-choice free markets under the Private Ryan Plan would allow birther seniors in particular to abort selective risks with life-saving vouchers, and overcome the pro-life socialist choices under Medicare that forces collective risks on everyone by spreading them randomly.

Stupid liberals.
If I was running the New York Times Op-Ed page
written by Brett, April 08, 2011 7:27
And I saw the sentence Mr. Baker quoted above in one of my columnist's pieces, namely,

"The president’s health reform plan relies on a centralized board of technocrats to restrict choices. The Ryan plan relies on a premium support model that would allow individuals to exercise greater control over what sorts of procedures they would not be covered for."

I would immediately fire him and find a better column writer. I don't understand what the Times is trying to do with it's Op-Ed page -- that type of remark is clearly erroneous and designed to deceive. Or if it's not, it shows a total lack of understanding of the health insurance industry in the country. So either Brooks is lying or he's incompetent.

I understand the desire to present all viewpoints on the Op-Ed page, but when someone consistently gets things wrong like this, what good are they to the general public? There are plenty of conservative writers that could write Op-Eds that actually would spend the time to learn this stuff and understand it.

The fact that they also have Paul Krugman on staff writing detailed blog posts and Op-Eds about how this stuff works makes it inexcusable that Brooks can get it wrong so often.
David Brooks, Bobo in Extremis
written by Sherparick , April 08, 2011 9:21
Mr. Brooks, who started writing for Bill Buckley and the National Review, moved on to the Weekly Standard when Bill told him that being of the tribe of Abraham disqualifed him from being Editor of NRO, has always been a wing nut if this is defined as someone who hates the welfare state. And as a Conservative in good standing, he feels to compel to repeat the false memes about the Affordable Health Care Act (that we should all call "Romney care".

What I do find sinister and revealing in his column is his praising Ryan for now making the Simpson-Bowles plan the "respectable compromise." As Digby as speculated, Ryan's plan because it is so far to the right immediately appears to make Simpson-Boweles the "common sense" middle position.
...
written by Colin, April 08, 2011 9:45
So either Brooks is lying or he's incompetent.


Brooks seems to be serving as a microcosm of the entire right-wing. The goal of the Republicans in Congress, as they repeatedly trumpet, is to save the taxpayer money. I thought we paid taxes so that the government would allocate it to the appropriate cause, not so that the government would "save it for us." So either these men and women are incompetent, which is likely, or they are lying to us, which is more likely.
...
written by Roger B, April 08, 2011 10:39
Brooks has long been an abomination, as anyone who cares to google him can plainly see. It is a sign of our decline that a major newspaper and a major public affairs program could offer such dishonest commentary on a regular basis.
The bigger crime
written by Matt Heil, April 08, 2011 10:54
What about Brooks' writing? The first paragraph alone has several atrocities, "Think tankers"?, or "Liberals are on the warpath. Republicans are aroused. This is great." Is he sending his copy through Morse code? To solve the governments and nations problems we need ideas that extend beyond simple Subject-Verb-Object sentences.
...
written by Matt, April 08, 2011 1:06
"The president’s health reform plan relies on a centralized board of technocrats to restrict choices. The Ryan plan relies on a premium support model that would allow individuals to exercise greater control over what sorts of procedures they would not be covered for."

Translation from Bobo-ese: "It's terrible that the government might have to make decisions about who lives and who dies. Only people who profit from the deaths (via reduced costs) should be able to make that decision!"
Solving Medicare Problems, Low-rated comment [Show]
...
written by PeonInChief, April 08, 2011 6:44
Younger people should remember that the boomers pre-funded their Social Security by paying increased taxes, so that younger people would not face increased Social Security taxes.
Medicare and the debt
written by George Fulmore, April 08, 2011 10:23
Your point that "If the United States paid the same amount per person for its health care as do people in other wealthy countries, then we would be looking at huge budget surpluses not deficits," is nonsense. Health care has not been the reason for the federal debt. Most of it is because of the wars, the tax cuts, and the increased spending of the military, the military-industrial complex, Homeland Security, and the State Department under the George W. Bush administration. Our debt went from about $5.7 trillion when George took office to nearly triple that number now, mostly on account of the reasons given above.
Health care costs are very important to get under control over the long run, but let us not get confused about how we got our current federal debt and why it is increasing by more than $1.5 trillion per year.

...
written by Milton Arbogast, April 09, 2011 12:38
Matt Taibi is the go-to guy for Brooks.

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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