25 Nov 2013

ObamaCare Is About Sticking Up for the Little Guy Against the Powerful State

Foreign Policy, Health Legislation, Krugman 17 Comments

This offhand remark by Krugman is really amazing:

Terrific piece in the WaPo on how Kentucky’s rural poor are being helped by Kynect, the state’s version of Obamacare, which has had a picture-perfect rollout.

This is why we need health reform.

To my misfortune, I accidentally read some of the comments, which which full of scorn verging on hatred for the “moochers” getting access to decent medical care for the first time. What can you say? I assume that these people root for President Snow against Katniss, too.

In case you don’t get it, he’s referring to the latest Hunger Games movie, which is simply phenomenal, by the way. (But, you need to have watched the first movie to appreciate it.)

Krugman’s attitude reminds me of a time when I was a professor at Hillsdale College and we had a “CCA” (Center for Constructive Alternatives) week devoted to “War on Film.” At some point, Michael Medved–who was one of the prominent visitors to the college for this event–said that the great thing about Star Wars was that it didn’t involve feelings of guilt or moral ambiguity; it was a simple story of heroic rebels fighting against an Evil Empire. I can’t remember his exact words, but he was contrasting this sort of feel-good illustration of what America stood for, as opposed to movies like Platoon that made us question whether we were really the good guys in the world.

(I was able to find thetext of Medved’s main speech. Unfortunately if you look at this, you’ll think I’m getting mixed up, because the only reference to Star Wars I can see is Oliver Stone making the opposite point. But I assure you, Medved at some point said words to the effect of what I described above, perhaps in a panel Q&A.)

At the end of the week, the faculty from Hillsdale who were assigned to that particular CCA gave summary talks, and that included me. I think I pulled it off in a way that was not too “shocking” given the context, but I had a train of thought where I mentioned that the US government almost spent as much on its military as the rest of planet Earth combined (right now it’s “only” 39% but it was higher back then), that it had military bases in x countries and occupation troops in y countries, that it had a vast intelligence network with which it was hunting down a ragtag group hiding from its obviously superior firepower, and concluded with, “So look, the analogy’s not great either way, but if you’re going to invoke Star Wars, then George W. Bush is the Emperor and Dick Cheney is Darth Vader.”

Anyway, my point with Krugman and with Medved isn’t to say that their policy prescriptions (Krugman regarding domestic health insurance, Medved regarding foreign policy) are good or bad. My modest point here is that it is simply inadmissible to point to popular movies where a plucky hero(ine) is standing up to an oppressive State, and to identify the US federal government in our day and age with the plucky hero(ine). That just doesn’t make any sense.

Last thing: I worked at Hillsdale for three years, and I still have colleagues there, so if you have negative opinions about their views on foreign policy please remain civil.

17 Responses to “ObamaCare Is About Sticking Up for the Little Guy Against the Powerful State”

  1. valueprax says:

    Subtle subtlety: the “moochers” are Katniss, and the people trying to prevent them from getting ObamaCare are President Snow.

  2. Anthony H says:

    It incredible that Krugman takes himself serious

  3. Major_Freedom says:

    Considering how he put “moochers” in scare quotes, does that mean he believes all these people are producing as much, or more than, they are putting in, such that they are not really moochers?

    And why stop the line at “basic” healthcare? Why not free “basic” automobiles, “basic” computers, ‘basic” clothes, and “basic” underwater basket-weaving tutorials?

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      This is why they always frame the discussion in the language of “rights” and why they’re so insistent that people have a “right” to health care and finally Obama has made that obvious “right” a legal right as well as a moral one.

      Nobody can be a “moocher” if they’re simply expressing their rights. And the poor rural Kentuckian has a RIGHT to health care. Meanwhile, big evil Republicans, by opposing Obamacare, are trying to take his rights away from him! That’s why they’re like the evil empire. Krugman would never dare paint a picture of Republicans fighting against a leviathan state, because it’s much more effective to paint a picture of Republicans fighting against a poor farmer in Kentucky whose only crime is wanting basic health care.

      And unfortunately, this type of rhetoric works very well, because it’s relateable. The average person watching the news thinks “Yeah, everyone SHOULD have health care. It IS wrong that those evil Repubs are trying to stop him from getting it. After all, they have it. And if they didn’t have it, they’d certainly want to have it, so what’s their problem anyway?”

      • Major_Freedom says:

        A progressive’s biggest problem is being able to take a particular desired goal, such as “Everyone has basic healthcare” (whatever that is supposed to mean), which is something I am sure most people would be supportive of in principle, but when it comes to the means they implement, rather than use their reason, they want to use guns. It’s really that simple. They lack the intellectual capability of solving complex social problems such as adequate healthcare, but instead of admitting they don’t know what to do, they believe they are helping “society” by calling for group A to point their guns at group B to coercively transfer existing wealth.

        They hope and pray that the exploited group can produce enough to enable continuous coercive wealth transfer, and typically guilt the wealthy into believing it’s their duty. It’s barbaric and degraded.

    • Martin says:

      Why does it matter how much those people “produce”? I think that is Krugman’s entire point. Moochers is derogatory and a terrible term to describe other human beings.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        Sure. Everyone should just be able to not produce and make others do it for them. Just like white people in the South used to!

      • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

        Indeed. “Moochers” is a much more polite term than what they really are… slavemasters.

    • hfish says:

      Why nor provide free automobiles? BC auto insurance is not the driver of costs that health care IS. Health insurance is in bed with Big Pharma who is in bed with the entire health care machinery.

      Healthcare could be your own damn cost if you smoke and get cancer which is your own damn fault. But we found out that having no fault auto insurance cost LESS in total than find where the fault lies kind.

      Healthcare is given in so many cases where it’s not your fault you got cancer or had a poor body. So NO FAULT HEALTH INSURANCE makes even more sense than having NO FAULT AUTO INSURANCE.

  4. Ken B says:

    ” the only reference to Star Wars I can see is Oliver Stone making the opposite point. But I assure you, Medved at some point said words to the effect”

    Well it doesn’t make any sense but I’m sure it’s the truth.

  5. Major_Freedom says:

    Well, Stalin and Kruschev believed that their massive state structures were the little guy against the overlord bourgeiosie.

    Maybe Krugman is that naive.

  6. Ken B says:

    Speaking of movies. Paul Krugman is working on an update to Mr Smith Goes To Washington. SPOILER ALERT: In the new version a corrupt Scout leader Jimmy Stewart goes to the senate and fights the virtuous Claude Raines over funding for a Bridge to Nowhere. Stewart crashes the world economy when work on the bridge stops and tax payers stuff their beds with banknotes.

  7. Matt Tanous says:

    Modern fascism. Just like Italian Fascism in the 1930s – all about the little guy, as represented by the all-powerful state.

  8. Innocent says:

    The problem with healthcare is that it costs money. The problem with money is not everyone has as much as they want and at times need. The problem with that is some people seem to.

  9. Tel says:

    Elsewhere I saw a summary of the Progressive approach: “Loves humanity, but hates each individual human.”

  10. Hamsterdam Economics says:

    As much difficulty as I have with Krugman’s views on anything, his health policy stuff is really poor. Wasn’t it Hayek who said of Keynes’ General Theory that what was good in it wasn’t original, and what was original wasn’t good? This just pops into my mind whenever I read something Krugman’s written on health care. He generally composes weak and ill-thought out analyses on his own, and lifts his criticisms of his ideological opponents from others. He has seems to have zero familiarity with any nuanced arguments against his position for single payer. A

    You really get the sense that he believes the only case against single payer is what Jonathan Cohn or Ezra Klein says Avik Roy says.

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