The Buffalo News Op-Ed Page Goes Full-Boehner Republican

13 Mar
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The Buffalo News is vilified as a pinko outfit by conservatives, and condemned as a right-wing rag by liberals. Usually, that would be evidence of evenhandedness and equal-opportunity advocacy.

On Friday, it wrote something that was quite literally a parroting of right-wing talking points. If that editorial wasn’t ghost-written by someone like Andy Rudnick, Bob Wilmers, or some other wealthy and well-connected plutocrat, then I’m shocked. Every single bitchy little disingenuous Republican complaint about health care reform was in there.

Luckily for us, Paul Krugman disembowelled each one in the Times that same day.

The crux of the op-ed piece is that costs aren’t brought down by health care reform.

Instead, he has thrown his weight behind an expensive collection of entitlements, mandates and regulations that will only raise the deficit again. And he has turned away from some obvious steps that would reduce costs.

Increased competition between health insurance companies, by allowing them to sell nationwide, is the traditional American way to bring costs down. Medical malpractice reform must be addressed with reasonable caps on damages, so that doctors and hospitals will make costly diagnostic and care decisions based less on fears over lawsuits.

And as the debates rage despite the Democrats’ intent simply to push through the plan they want, it remains puzzling that so little attention is being paid to the health reform plan — as opposed to the health reform rhetoric — advanced by Republicans. The Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act has a lot of the things that the public is asking for and could lower costs as well.

Included in that plan are items worthy of actual debate instead of political posturing. Among them are provisions that would allow children to stay on their parents’ policies longer, guarantee that people with pre-existing health problems will be able to get insurance and not allow insurance companies to drop people if they get sick

Wow, that Republican plan seems great! Why won’t the Democrats include those things?

While those provisions also are in the Democrats’ plan, so are a slew of others — all costing a lot of dollars, which the Democrats say would be covered by an unlikely combination of scenarios including future congressional cuts in popular programs. The Republican proposal is contained in 219 pages. There are 2,000 pages in the Democrats’ bill.

In an editorial where the Buffalo News decries Democratic “posturing” on health insurance reform, it’s downright shocking to see it take up the dumbest anti-intellectual meme the Republicans have – how many pages a bill has.

Where was this editorial when massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans were passed through reconciliation during George W. Bush’s administration? Tax cuts that exponentially grew the deficit, and which still make up the vast bulk of it today.

Buffalo News:

With health care already tied to a sixth of the American economy and heading higher, that cost control is essential. The difference essentially is that the Republicans first want to control costs and Democrats first want to expand entitlements. In this case, expansion should follow cost control — not undermine it.


Well, if having the government regulate and subsidize health insurance is a “takeover,” that takeover happened long ago. Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs already pay for almost half of American health care, while private insurance pays for barely more than a third (the rest is mostly out-of-pocket expenses). And the great bulk of that private insurance is provided via employee plans, which are both subsidized with tax exemptions and tightly regulated.

The only part of health care in which there isn’t already a lot of federal intervention is the market in which individuals who can’t get employment-based coverage buy their own insurance. And that market, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a disaster — no coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, coverage dropped when you get sick, and huge premium increases in the middle of an economic crisis. It’s this sector, plus the plight of Americans with no insurance at all, that reform aims to fix. What’s wrong with that?

Buffalo News:

It is unclear whether the president is willing to get to the heart of the matter. Already, he has consumed 13 months on aggressively pushing health care as a top priority when the public, during a difficult recession, is concerned first about jobs. This is neither good political thinking nor good decision making.

Economies bounce back. Health insurance is still beyond the reach of 40+ million Americans – a number that grows each year, and is made worse by recessions.

Buffalo News:

If the sound economic approach in a time of huge federal debts and deficits demands health care cost control, do that first. And do it without saddling a new bill with a thousand pages that crushes real reform by expanding entitlements without really figuring out how to pay for them.

Finally, there is a difference between health insurance and health care. The latter is important not only from a cost standpoint, but also from the standpoint of quality delivery of medical care in this country. The president loves to talk about how excellent the care is and how low-cost the price is at the Cleveland Clinic and other such superior medical facilities. If that is the future he aspires to, where is the action to get there?

This obviously is no simple task, but if the president and the Congress would accomplish this improvement along with cost reduction, they will have advanced the public’s well being far beyond what has been presented so far.


The second myth is that the proposed reform does nothing to control costs. To support this claim, critics point to reports by the Medicare actuary, who predicts that total national health spending would be slightly higher in 2019 with reform than without it.

Even if this prediction were correct, it points to a pretty good bargain. The actuary’s assessment of the Senate bill, for example, finds that it would raise total health care spending by less than 1 percent, while extending coverage to 34 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured. That’s a large expansion in coverage at an essentially trivial cost.

And it gets better as we go further into the future: the Congressional Budget Office has just concluded, in a new report, that the arithmetic of reform will look better in its second decade than it did in its first.

Furthermore, there’s good reason to believe that all such estimates are too pessimistic. There are many cost-saving efforts in the proposed reform, but nobody knows how well any one of these efforts will work. And as a result, official estimates don’t give the plan much credit for any of them. What the actuary and the budget office do is a bit like looking at an oil company’s prospecting efforts, concluding that any individual test hole it drills will probably come up dry, and predicting as a consequence that the company won’t find any oil at all — when the odds are, in fact, that some of the test holes will pan out, and produce big payoffs. Realistically, health reform is likely to do much better at controlling costs than any of the official projections suggest.

And to the Buffalo News’ general Republican talking point that the whole thing is fiscally irresponsible, Krugman:

How can people say this given Congressional Budget Office predictions — which, as I’ve already argued, are probably too pessimistic — that reform would actually reduce the deficit? Critics argue that we should ignore what’s actually in the legislation; when cost control actually starts to bite on Medicare, they insist, Congress will back down.

But this isn’t an argument against Obamacare, it’s a declaration that we can’t control Medicare costs no matter what. And it also flies in the face of history: contrary to legend, past efforts to limit Medicare spending have in fact “stuck,” rather than being withdrawn in the face of political pressure.

So what’s the reality of the proposed reform? Compared with the Platonic ideal of reform, Obamacare comes up short. If the votes were there, I would much prefer to see Medicare for all.

For a real piece of passable legislation, however, it looks very good. It wouldn’t transform our health care system; in fact, Americans whose jobs come with health coverage would see little effect. But it would make a huge difference to the less fortunate among us, even as it would do more to control costs than anything we’ve done before.

I don’t mind the Buffalo News taking a political stand that differs from mine. I do mind the Buffalo News acting as stenographer for FreedomWorks and the Republican National Committee, repeating half-truths and outright lies about a reasonable bill that probably doesn’t go far enough to expand insurance coverage to all Americans.

Maybe Stan Lipsey and the union guys who write editorials at the News don’t have to worry about how their medical care gets paid for. But a lot of working poor and middle-class people in Buffalo do. For the city’s only paper to advocate against insuring them based on make-believe concern trolling is sickening.

31 Responses to “The Buffalo News Op-Ed Page Goes Full-Boehner Republican”

  1. AL March 13, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Maybe we can chalk this up to extinction behavior. Unwanted behaviors generally escalate and become worse before disappearing all together (ie when the bill passes).

  2. Mike In WNY March 13, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Krugman is talking out of his ass as usual. He has a history of supporting government actions which have led to the precarious state of our economy. His claim that the insurance market for individuals without employment based insurance, or government insurance, is unregulated is typical Krugman bullshit. Anyone purchasing insurance is limited to a few providers at best. All insurance has myriad mandates for required coverages. Linking insurance to employment has been a very costly mistake. The proliferation of 3rd party payer plans is directly related to federal legislation and responsible for much of the escalation of health care costs.

    Anyone believing Krugman “disemboweled” the News editorial is acting like one of the rats following the Pied Piper.

  3. Mike March 13, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    Maybe the Dems should use Krugman more instead of 11 year olds…

    And it gets better as we go further into the future” of course it does…. when we are at war with Oceania.
    211 and counting… still courting the denture caucus

  4. Karl March 13, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    @AL – too bad that extinction behavior thing isn’t working on the mikes. (I bet they aren’t housebroken either)

  5. Hapklein March 13, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Very well done editing. I think Krugman is about as astute about economics and the impacts of social programs and the role (or lack of) government at critical junctures of recent history. HIs recent questioning of the ignorance of the economists to miss the vast causes and consequences of the financial crisis is astounding.

    As a sufferer of the same since GW highly developed the category I have been studying the Unintended Consequences of ignoring reform along with the usual debates (or lack of) for the past year. I am convinced along with many that we are at a frightening juncture with reality if we take no action.

    The overall costs of healthcare are no longer merely going to double each decade. We are at the precipice of exponential growth of the costs in every aspect of healthcare. I have excellent coverage that has been a reasonable cost for the forty years I have been in the plan. It is a so-called Cadillac type policy but covers a healthy type American, with healthy life styles. My coverage rose 30% last year and I am sure this rise foretells the future.

    Similar insurance available to me have seen double digit cost rises for about five years. I can just imagine what the health costs for uninsured will rise to in the next twelve months.

    All the problems we are experiencing is because we are not systemic in our healthcare. We have allowed ideology to replace practicality and the market is responding to this lack of any control system.

    Profit is our sole arbiter currently and may doom us to a terrible edifice to ruin if we do not take the steps and put some sort of control in place of our chaos.

    • Mike In WNY March 13, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      Nice try, but health care is just about the most highly regulated segment of our economy. Trying to assess blame on the “market” is like saying Chairman Mao (no Hitler here) illuminated the failures of capitalism.

      • ReginaldQMerriweatherIV March 14, 2010 at 11:29 am #

        There is no market for insurance.  There can never be a ‘market’ for health insurance.

        Please read Akerlof’s 1970 article “The Market for ‘Lemons’.”  His critique of market failure in the face of informational asymmetry is enlightening.  

    • Mike March 13, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

      reform for reform’s sake is an epic fail… Liberals would rather drag out an 11 year old boy to make us feel guilty about “reform” efforts rather than muster the courage to be honest about what is in this doomed bill… November 3rd commeth quickly.

  6. Ward March 13, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Wow — when the Snooze abandons Lefty policy you know you folks are looking at “extinction”. And Paul Krugman — all wrong all the time.
    But keep it up — big grins for us on November 3!

  7. Peter A Reese March 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Health care reform doesn’t even begin w/o a public option.
    Good read: Good watch:

  8. AL March 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Nice newsweek link, Peter. Now how to convince people that less is actually more?

    • Peter A Reese March 13, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

      AL: I am not sure you can convince people that less is more as long as the corporate media practice mind control and elected officials are afraid to fight them. One thing is clear, the “Free Market” doesn’t work in health care and it never will. The things reported in Newsweek are just the tip of the iceberg. Anyone who thinks the present US health business is the “best in the world” or focused on providing necessary patient medical care has never been sick or worked for the company. The Austrian School is for naive school boys who have never been out to reality to see what is actually going on.

      However, the wacky Arizona Congressman also has a good point: How can you have a mandate to buy crappy, overpriced insurance from a bunch of gangsters w/o some hope of competition? (BTW he would never vote for a public option while he was still breathing.) Medicare for All makes one hell of a lot more sense.

  9. Eric Saldanha March 13, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    Here’s the most sensible public option I’ve heard – Rep. Alan Grayson’s Public Option Act.

    A simple, four-page bill that simply lets any American buy into Medicare at cost. No individual mandate, no “socialized takeover of health care,” no deficit-ballooning (single-payer). I defy any of our conservative/libertarian friends here to issue a cogent argument against this solution, other than “but think of the poor insurance companies! Waaaa…this is unfair to Big Managed Care!” Or “the status quo is fine as is….we have the best healthcare in the world!!!1111!!”

    • Peter A Reese March 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

      I am on Medicare. It is fabulous. No games and no surprises. What you see is what you get.

      Alan Grayson is my new hero. His bill is right on the money and it will pass when I am ice skating in Hell.

    • Mike March 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

      Grayson… sensible… you just outed yourself.

      • Eric Saldanha March 13, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

        Bzzt…sorry, “Grayson is a crazy moonbat” won’t work as a legitimate argument.

        Proceed when you’re ready

      • Mike March 13, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

        Grayson is a lunatic…

      • Eric Saldanha March 14, 2010 at 10:11 am #

        your point in linking to that video from late January was…..demonstrating that Grayson was almost dead-on about how healthcare reform legislation will proceed while Tweety Matthews was his usual sputtering, interrupting, delusional self? Hmmm….needs more Teleprompter jokes at the CPAC

      • Mike March 14, 2010 at 11:56 am #

        Ya, that was a weak link, it popped in my head from memory…I should found the one on the house floor accusing the GOP of genocide.

      • Mike March 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

        This might be a better link…
        Sorry for Mathews again… just wanted to give an example of Grayson’s dramatic hyperbole during such an important debate…

  10. Hapklein March 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    Egads the American healthcare system is double in cost to any other healthcare system in the industrial world. Is there any justification to continue and increase this cost?
    I repeat my refrain – by pushing the same buttons that have led to our crisis will we achieve different results?
    On the same day the Buffalo News Editorial arrived my copy of the AARP Bulletin arrived. I bet the AARP folk have a lot better qualified researchers than the News staff and the consensus and survey results show that over 60% of Americans they surveyed want an equitable health care reform that is inclusive.
    In other words a system that allows all access to equitable health coverage.
    I intend to criticize the News for considering that the forces that have led America to the Energy Bubble (Enron), the dit,com bubble, the housing bubble and the hedge fund bubble, can now be trusted to help us grope our way to some sort of health care bubble.
    Lets go back to Teddie Roosevelt and kick butt and adopt a system that can later be adjusted. Reject the tenets of the Party of No and get something on paper! Maybe even a plan.

    • Mike March 13, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

      Not true, it is not true that US health care costs are double in cost to any other healthcare system. This “reform” bill that you support increases costs… You can not incease coverage to 30 million, maintain existing quality, and decrease costs… mathematically and statistaclly impossible.

      • Eric Saldanha March 13, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

        Yup, nothing summarizes the American, can-do spirit quite like “waaaa…it’s too hard”

        BTW, the CBO report on the Senate health care bill stated that it would cut $118 billion from the deficit over the next ten years.

      • Mike March 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

        Not too hard, too expensive.
        CBO scores 10 years of funds for 6 years of “reform”
        Do the math, not too hard, too expensive.

  11. Ben McD March 14, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    “Here’s the most sensible public option I’ve heard – Rep. Alan Grayson’s Public Option Act.

    So, would the people who are already on Medicare have to then pay for it?

    • Peter A Reese March 14, 2010 at 11:15 am #

      No we already did. See your pay stub, or if you are a libertarian, check the tax documents which came with your trust fund payments. Those under the normal retiement age of 55 would have to pay into the system at a price which covers costs. The computations are easy and Las Vegas is full of people skilled in this sort of thing.

      • Mike in WNY March 14, 2010 at 11:44 am #

        Peter, HELP!  I’m a libertarian and can’t find my trust fund.  I know what I don’t trust.  And that is the government’s ability to make decision in my best interest, especially when those decisions are predicated on the eradication of personal liberty.

      • Dave March 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

        I think Mike’s nailed the root of the problem – we don’t trust the very people we send to Washington to look out for our best interests. As far as health car is concerned, I won’t pretend to have researched the plans much, but I feel safe in saying there can’t be a good plan as long as Washington thinks it has to kiss the insurance companies’ collective ass to get it written and passed.

      • Peter A Reese March 14, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

        @ WNY Mike: Check with the Koch brothers on your trust fund they may have misplaced it with theirs.

        @Dave: I agree. Neither the insurance companies nor medical businessmen are voluntarily going to do anything which benefits the public. They all went to the Austrian School.

  12. jesse March 15, 2010 at 5:17 am #

    Anyone who thinks this insurance company payoff + government expansion + my gods let’s dig our fingers into even more of our economy is a “reasonable bill” is kidding himself.

    Alan, I don’t understand how you can understand the crippling stupidity that is Albany and then turn around and think that DC is any better.

  13. Gabe March 15, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    The major problem with this is that the various health insurance companies don’t actually “compete” with one another, they more or less collude, functioning as one big, happy cartel. If they actually “competed” with each other, they just might have to put pressure on the pharmaceutical companies, medical supply manufacturers/distributors, hospitals, service providers, ect. to actually lower costs for the ordinary schlubs (patients) who have to use these services. Instead, all the privileged corporate players frolic together in a big happy sandbox of shit where costs for seemingly-mundane services are inflated to obscene levels.

    Read more about this in my recent post:

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