The Disingenuous "Policy Guy"

(Update - by way of contrast, let me tip a non-disingenuous "policy guy" who disagrees with a lot of us on the value of the "reform" provisions but does not pretend to be the font of the "revealed" policy truth) -- Once more I must call Ezra Klein on his disingenuous arguments about the health care bill. In his latest bit of disingenuous sophistry, Ezra writes:

I'm a policy guy, arguably to the point of myopia. The public option compromises that are on the table at this point aren't really compromises worth having. It's my job to say that, I think. Pointing this out has led a lot of longtime readers to give up on me as some sort of establishment dupe, and I see where they're coming from. Here's where I'm coming from.

[. . .] The achievement of this bill is $900 billion to help people purchase health-care coverage, a new market that begins to equalize the conditions of the unemployed and the employed, and a regulatory structure in which this country can build, for the first time, a universal health-care system. Thousands and thousands of lives will be saved by this bill.

This is disingenuous clap trap. Ezra Klein KNOWS that the 900 billion dollars to help people purchase health insurance is entirely unrelated to the the "reform" provisions of the bill he is championing. It is less than honest to pretend that the health assistance portions of the bill are inextricably intertwined to the pet projects that Ezra holds dear. They are not. Reconciliation does NOT threaten the health assistance portions of the bill. Ezra knows this and is less than honest about it day after day after day. More . . .

Ezra believes in the Exchange. Even though there is not a scintilla of evidence that indicates that it can be a successful or workable reform. Ezra is less than honest when he ignores the meagerness of the reform initiatives he favors while consistently attacking the public option as "meaningless" (all the while going on Keith Olberman and being less than honest in presenting himself as a staunch public option defender.)

Those of us who disagree with Ezra ON THE POLICY do not believe in the magic pixie dust of "regulatory reform." Ezra does. That is a honest difference on POLICY that Ezra portrays as -- Ezra the "honest policy man" versus the crazy activist DFHs. It is another instance where Ezra is less than honest. This is not about a symbol. (Digby's extremely weak post on the subject, not surprisingly, has been seized upon by Ezra and his ilk. Just as they seized on Chris Bowers' ill advised piece on the public option. It is the nature of operatives, particularly Village operatives, to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.)

Here's Ezra's dirty little secret - a lot of people think Ezra is just plain wrong on the policy. He is not the holder of the keys of wonk wisdom. Indeed, his continued disingenuousness and lack of honesty on the subject makes him someone NOT to be trusted on the policy.

There was a point where even though I might disagree with Ezra, I thought I could trust him not to fudge the facts. After this experience, I do not trust anything he writes. He has adopted wholesale the Village technique of adopting as true those "facts" that fit what he wants to believe.

In the end, Ezra could very well be right on the policy and the reforms he is championing. And it seems likely that his views will get the real life test. But that, to me, is not what I will remember. Instead I will remember Ezra's wholesale adoption of the disingenuous and dishonest techniques of the Village. It is one of the most disappointing blogosphere developments of 2009.

I have no official role in the public debate on any issue. Ezra says his role is tell hard truths no matter his political preferences. If that is so, he has failed. Because he has made a mockery of the truth. He's just another Beltway Hack now. He should have been so much more.

Speaking for me only

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    Regarding your update (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by andgarden on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:30:48 PM EST
    Suppose Arlen Specter gets Lieberman back on board for the Public Option. Would that be something or what?

    That would make (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by CST on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:34:02 PM EST
    Arlen Specter the most effective Dem in the senate on this issue.

    So weird.

    Also encouraging about the original link - sounds like Stupak might be D.O.A. in the senate.


    sorry (none / 0) (#5)
    by CST on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:34:50 PM EST
    updated link

    Yup, it probably is (none / 0) (#6)
    by andgarden on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:35:10 PM EST
    I don't know what Ben Nelson is thinking: it's almost as if he's trying to force reconciliation.

    BTD, I think the best thing ... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Robot Porter on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 03:23:02 PM EST
    you've done in this debate is to continually point out that this hodgepodge bill is just that ... a hodgepodge.  And that the pieces aren't inextricably linked to the whole.

    It's a fact that's obvious on its face.  But over and over again gets lost by most of the "policy guys".

    A hodgepodge isn't necessarily bad ... (none / 0) (#11)
    by s5 on Sat Dec 05, 2009 at 02:18:36 PM EST
    as long as part of the hodgepodge is a public option. Because if we get a public plan, then people lost in the other parts of the hodgepodge will demand more access to a better public plan. The end result of that process is single payer.

    It's funny, right wingers and "centrists" argue that the public option is a trojan horse for single payer. My response, "that would be great! let's hope it ends up that way!"


    In the end (none / 0) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:02:24 PM EST
    Ezra may be just as harmful to the idea of "reform" as any of the elected Dems with the drivel he keeps writing.

    IMO (none / 0) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 02:07:45 PM EST
    Ezra is worth reading because I think he gives a lot of clues to what is going on in the WH and other parlors in Washington. Obviously, there isn't going to be a public option is what I'm getting from what he's saying.

    He really has no idea about insurance adn I'm shocked that the Wa Po (not really since they did hire the box turtle guy too) would hire him. He blogged on this stuff but he doesnt seem to really understand insurance or the nature of the biz.

    Well I am with you entirely (none / 0) (#8)
    by lilburro on Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 05:07:42 PM EST
    the biggest example thus far is his comparison of the bill w/o a PO (mandates, subsidies, regulatory reform, and a SMALL EXCHANGE) as the same as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  What difference does he have from Tom Friedman saying that we should go into Iraq in order to tell the ME to "suck on this"?  The point of the healthcare bill is to "change the culture" now?  That is such an utter failure.  And he is not anyway an indifferent observer - he is an activist, just that he agitates for anything getting passed.  He will never say we shouldn't pass the bill as it stands (if the PO is removed), which should be said at this point, and which I do think you (BTD) are saying by proposing a subsidies bill in its place.  OY.

    Oh geez (none / 0) (#10)
    by s5 on Sat Dec 05, 2009 at 02:13:51 PM EST
    Did he really compare a health insurance assistance bill to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? That's plainly ridiculous. The bill that launched Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid created new, long-lasting programs. Ezra's bill does not create a single social program.

    Ezra's bill would be a limited success purely from a medium-term viewpoint. Yes, it would benefit people who are currently suffering. Subsidies are good like that.

    But it wouldn't create anything new of any significance. We would constantly be tweaking subsidy levels and regulations to respond to each new crisis build-up. It's a purely reactive strategy.

    Ezra might argue that the Exchange is a social program, but it's not. It's a container for the private insurance market. And that container can only ever be as good as the private insurance companies can make it.


    Well I think you're both right, in a way. (none / 0) (#9)
    by s5 on Sat Dec 05, 2009 at 02:06:19 PM EST
    You say that the regulatory reforms aren't worth a thing, and that the Exchange is pointless. I think that's an exaggeration. Together, they'll add fairness and cost efficiencies to a brutal and messy market for health instance. On their own, they are not reform, but they are beneficial.

    BUT! If we don't get a public option, then you are right. Regulations are only as good as the regulators (which is to say, they will start off with the wind at their backs and end up corrupted and useless), but the mere existence of a public option will raise the bar and effectively force compliance.

    Without a public option, enforcement of the regulations will continue to weaken, and we'll be back where we started in 10 years from now. That's why a health insurance assistance bill ("Ezra's bill") isn't reform. If you have to revisit reform every 10 years, then it means you didn't change anything.