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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The NYT Wants Debates Over Class to be Debates Over Culture

The NYT Wants Debates Over Class to be Debates Over Culture

Thursday, 08 July 2010 04:24

The NYT noted the split within the Democratic Party between those who want to see more stimulus and those who want the government to focus on deficit reduction. It then told readers:

"But in a more fundamental way, the argument over fiscal policy represents the churning of a cultural fault line that has defined and destabilized Democratic politics pretty much since the onset of the Great Society."

Umm, "cultural fault line?" I remember the 60s. There were student and anti-war types on one side and the Democratic Party establishment on the other side, a key bulwark of which were the unions. What does this split have to do with the current divide, which places anti-war types and unions on the same side against Wall Street and business oriented Democrats on the other side?

The focus on "culture" rather than economics leads to further confusion throughout the piece. The article argues the need to rein in entitlement spending. No one disputes the need to reduce the trend growth rate in spending on Medicare and Medicaid. The question is how this is accomplished.

The Wall Street Democrats want to cut spending by reducing benefits under these programs. The "traditional" Democrats want to reduce spending by making the U.S. health care system more efficient. If per person health care costs were the same as in the U.S. as any other wealthy country, then the United States would be looking at enormous surpluses in the long-term, not deficits. However, fixing the U.S. health care system would involve reducing the profits of the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and other powerful interest groups in the health care sector. The Wall Street Democrats do not want to hurt these interest groups while the traditional Democrats do.

The Wall Street Democrats also gratuitously attack Social Security even though it has not contributed to the deficit and is projected to be fully solvent long into the future. They misleadingly lump it into "entitlement" spending so that they can imply that the problems with Medicare and Medicaid are also problems with Social Security.

Traditional Democrats are more likely to note that the "explosion in government debt" was due to an economic collapse that wiped out the savings and home equity of workers near retirement. This means that it would be especially cruel for the Wall Street Democrats (who designed the policies that led to the collapse) to take away the Social Security benefits that workers have already paid for. 

The article also included the utterly bizarre observation that:

"What’s more, Mr. Obama has already succeeded in spending more of the government’s money than any other president in a generation, a record that includes the liberals’ long-sought goal of subsidizing health care for the poor. You might think that would give the president credibility when he argues that making government more responsible does not necessarily mean being less responsive to the poor."

It is not clear that anyone had spending government money as a goal. Furthermore, the reason for spending the money was the collapse of the economy. This is like noting that a city had used lots of water last week, without mentioning that the reason was there had been a huge fire. It would have been difficult to imagine any president, no matter how conservative, not increasing spending in response to the economic crisis caused by the collapse of the housing bubble.

Furthermore, liberals have been pressing for reform of the health care system, not "subsidizing health care for the poor." Most progressives understand that the system that President Obama put in place is not viable in the long-run, which is why they are not very happy with the outcome of the health care reform debate and you would not think that this would give President Obama the credibility that the NYT wants to give him.


Comments (12)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, July 08, 2010 7:22
The focus on "culture" rather than economics leads to further confusion throughout the piece.

Who is your nanny?

Glenn Beck's message is that the nanny state is taking over our freedom, but because of the cultural fault line, he makes $30M a year doing it while Dean Baker makes a pittance in comparison.

Glenn Beck's message is that the nanny state is driven by violent liberals who read the wrong books in the '60s and are carried on today by followers who desire nothing less than the demise of their enemies. Dean Baker says the nanny state is driven by rich conservatives who use it to enrich themselves. Who's correct?

Let the market decide, not cultural fault lines. Anyone who makes $30M a year can't be wrong.
mother teresa was religious, not cultured
written by frankenduf, July 08, 2010 8:12
i think it is a quandary for the issue of who pays for the poor- liberals want the wealthy to pay (socialism) while conservatives want no one to pay (free market)- dean presents a more rational approach in trying to reform health care so that it's cheaper for all, but this side steps the ethical point- jesus put it bluntly: if im sick, hungry and naked whatre u gonna do, take me in or turn your back?
The New York Times is an empty vessel mimeographing Neo-con points of view from inside its bunker.
written by Scott ffolliott, July 08, 2010 8:48
Neo-cons at the New York Times have followed in the footsteps of those like Ben J. Wattenberg who deserted the New Deal when the “unwashed” (new left, anti-war types and African Americans) became vocal in the Democratic party. The New York Times is an empty vessel mimeographing Neo-con points of view from inside its bunker.
written by fuller schmidt, July 08, 2010 9:15
Efficient markets drive out crony capitalism. It's shocking to see the establishment lining up for too-big-to-fail.
The median voter is your problem
written by floccina, July 08, 2010 9:30
If per person health care costs were the same as in the U.S. as any other wealthy country, then the United States would be looking at enormous surpluses in the long-term, not deficits.

Cutting health care spending is a laudable goal but the current proposals do little to achieve that. It is important to remember that health care spending in the USA has always been much higher than in the rest of the world even before they socialized medicine (some have even caught up a little since socializing). This puts the effectiveness of socialization in controlling health care spending in doubt.

If the median voter's whole target for health care reform was controlling cost then socialization could do wonders but it is not. They want every thing that their current plans provide and more. IMO over treatment is the biggest problem in health care today but few are talking about it.

Below is my health care proposal it would address the over treatment and encourage cost control while providing health care for all:


The state would provide insurance to all Americans but the annual deductible would be equal to the family’s trailing year adjusted income minus the poverty line income (say $25,000 for a family of 4) + $300. So a family of 4 with a trailing year adjusted income of $30,000 would have a deductible of $5,300. A family of 4 with a trailing year adjusted income of $80,000 would have a deductible of $55,300. Middle class and rich people could fill the gap with private supplemental insurance but this should be full taxed. This would encourage the middle class and rich, who are generally capable people, to demand prices from medical providers and might force down costs. They could opt to pay for most health-care out of pocket while the poor often less capable would be protected.
written by PeonInChief, July 08, 2010 12:51
It's not fair to expect the NYT to note that things change in 40 years. I wonder if they've noticed that the Dixiecrats have become Republicans yet?
written by PeonInChief, July 08, 2010 12:53
to floccina--

what would you expect people to live on after paying that deductible? One surgery and a short hospital stay would have these families in bankruptcy.
floccina's health care proposal
written by AndrewDover, July 08, 2010 2:18

floccina expects that higher income people would buy insurance which would either eliminate their deductible, or lower it to a few thousand dollars.

What "Entitlements"?
written by pragmatic realist, July 09, 2010 12:35
Since Mr Clinton, Mr. Moynahan and Dick Morris combined their charm and brain power and delivered "Welfare Reform" to us, I don't think that there are any entitlements any more.

Maybe Food Stamps which amount to a hill of beans and Medicaid, which is incredibly hard to qualify for unless you have children. TANF is available only to families with children and then only for 5 years.

Social Security is a pension fund with benefits prepaid during the beneficiary's working life. Medicare is a medical insurance policy with premiums deducted from the Social Security pension payments. Neither is an 'entitlement" that you get just for being a citizen of the USA. If you don't pay in, you don't get anything out.

If they are going to cut what I get out, I should be able to stop paying in. I could use the money now, and I will take my chances later. Personal choices and responsibility, right?
hey izzatzo
written by andy, July 09, 2010 1:30
george soros makes billions a year, as does warren buffett. both are on the liberal side. perhaps they are right about everything?
written by PeonInChief, July 09, 2010 12:43
Floccina's proposal does nothing for the large number of people who couldn't get private insurance at any price. People with any kind of pre-existing condition (childhood asthma, a broken bone etc.) have to have employer-based insurance, as the private individual market won't touch them.
pragmatic realist
written by Ethan, July 09, 2010 6:08
Entitlements -- Enshitlementst
If the people weren't smart enough / corrupt enough to pile up a bunch of dough during their working lifes, they deserve what they get / have. Right?
Thanks and Regards,
Your resident Libertarian.

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About Beat the Press

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.