Knowledge Counts Pt. 2

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April 22, 2011 8:58 am
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CJR Online has followed up with an analysis of Politifact’s epic Medicare fail using all the he said/she said false equivalence and special pleading of the original. As I said in the first case, knowing how Medicare works, its history and how its replacement would work is really key to be being able to do this kind of analysis. And the establishment, disinterested mode of deprecating definitive statements and trying to split every difference is really a liability in these cases, not an advantage.

Now, the CJR piece makes a number of arguments, not just the one I’m going to excerpt. But it does give you a taste of the style of reasoning …Did Republicans vote to ‘end Medicare’?

Err, not really. As already mentioned, Republicans did not, as the ad suggests, vote to end Medicare. Rather, they voted–in the lower house–for a plan that would change Medicare, were it to reach the president’s desk and be signed into law. Which it won’t. The ad mentions none of this, instead leaving its bold claim hanging like a piñata for PolitiFact’s batsmen.

‘End Medicare’ is the heart of the question. And as I’ve already repeatedly noted, ending a program that functions in one way (single-payer guaranteed medical insurance regardless of health status) with one that works in a fundamentally different manner (provide limited subsidies for private insurance which would quite possibly not exist for many seniors) and doesn’t provide anything like the same service by any definition counts as ‘ending’ the program regardless of whether you give the latter program the same label. But look at the reasoning in the excerpt. One of the reasons the claim isn’t ‘true’ apparently is because only the House voted for it so far, not the Senate. And the President would still have to sign it. And he probably won’t. So since it likely won’t become law in this Congress, House Republicans aren’t even really voting to do it.

By that standard, Bernie Sanders doesn’t really support single-payer because it’s never going to become law.

Now, obviously you can have a lot of snarky fun with this kind of nonsense. But it’s not an irrelevant point in as much as it illustrates the special-pleading focus on trivial or nonsensical issues at the expense of a fundamental policy question that actually matters a great deal.

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