Joe Klein’s Fatuous Fantasy

Michael Collins

Also published here and here.

Time Magazine’s Joe Klein is having an allergic reaction to free speech and public debate. The title of his latest column says it all:   The Left’s Idiocy on Health Reform. It’s an ex cathedra pronouncement from a made man at one of the nation’s oldest media properties.

What’s got Joe so worked up?

Two things. He’s upset at the lack of respect that internet based writers show for the mainstream media and Washington insiders. He’s also beside himself that people are actually finding fault with the health care reform bill which many bloggers have the nerve to describe as just another government bailout for big business.

In the snarkier precincts of the left-wing blogosphere, mainstream journalists like me are often called villagers. Joe Klein, Dec. 30

That’s some pretty nasty name calling isn’t it. “Hey villager!” Accusing an entire class of people of idiocy pales by comparison.  If I’ve ever read the term villager, I didn’t pay enough attention to remember it.   But let’s take Joe’s word that it’s out there in all its rhetorical glory. According to Klein, leftist bloggers see villagers as “regurgitating spin spoon-fed by our sources or conjuring a witless conventional wisdom that has nothing to do with reality as it is lived outside the village.” Now there’s some idiocy – from Joe’s keyboard to our screens.

What Joe is doing at the start is an old trick called setting up a straw man. You create the perceived problem on your own but label it as your opponent’s position.   You tailor it for your purposes with a little accuracy added for effect. Then you blast the straw man to smithereens in a self righteous rejoinder. Those who fabricate a straw man are essentially talking to themselves. The straw man fallacy is one of the first taught in logic classes because it is so easy to spot and so far afield from any form of serious dialog.

It’s a good thing Joe did this. Had he paid serious attention, he would have noted that over and over, on blogs and web sites of many persuasions, citizens refer to Joe’s kind of mainstream journalism as … the corporate media. It’s a dispassionate descriptor that invokes nearly immediate understanding.

Corporations almost never tolerate public criticisms or critiques of the corporate products and services from their employees. Corporate employees are aware of this rule. You go along or you find someone else to pay your salary. There are eight major corporations that “dominate” the United States news media. The obvious conclusion is that opinion journalists and reporters, to a lesser degree, have certain clear limits in their expression of opinions and reporting.

Given the problems with monopolistic behavior, predatory business practices, rigging regulations through bought and sold members of Congress, and the ultimate goal, the transfer of wealth from just about everybody to the financial elite running the major corporations, the corporate injunction against going after the company results in a corporate media that often fails to get to the bottom of our current troubles. It’s not a secret or a veiled conspiracy . It’s just the way parent corporations treat their subsidiaries and employees. But Joe doesn’t want to go there.

Joe takes down the straw man of his own creation by accusing the leftists of living in a “claustrophobic hamlet,” emulating Fox News, and a few other asides. However, once you know the straw man trick, it’s hard to take the author’s rebuttal seriously.

Actually, both the left and right opponents of health care reform are drinking from the same watercooler. Joe Klein, Dec. 30

After creating an interior dialog that he says represents a reality that he calls idiocy, Joe gets around to talking about health reform. He feels the need to explalin why there is so much opposition by citizens, his leftists.  Klein offers this.

“The dyspepsia of the left blogosphere is less easily explained, though. It has its roots in an issue the left got right and almost everyone else got wrong: the war in Iraq.”

This statement is factually incorrect. It was not only the left that got Iraq right, it was the left, the right (the paleocons, Ron Paul and his  supporters), a majority of Democrats, and a majority of Republicans. Some of those good citizens were swayed by the scare tactics of a president we now know lied repeatedly about weapons of mass destruction and much more. This occurred with the support of Klein’s mainstream media which failed to ask the tough questions we’d like from journalists.

Klein’s argument about Iraq and the left is simply wrong. The public has serious problems trust those in power that create pervasive doubts about this legislation.

One key element in the distrust of the corporate media and the perpetual insiders who run our capitol concerns the Wall Street bailouts, a topic Klein avoids entirely. The intital bailout of 2008 was defeated after the most intense public outcry on any piece of legislation in memory. Wall Street mobilized quickly and with the help of both 2008 presidential candidates got the first of many bailouts. When administrations changed, the new president continued the tradition and opened up the full credit of the United States to the failed Wall Street enterprises to the tune of $23.7 trillion.

In the mean time, the people got virtually nothing. Facing record foreclosures, soaring unemployment (17% real unemployment, see “U-6”), and a constant fear of losing the ability to care for their families, health coverage included, many citizens have noticed a consistent pattern. We are always the last in line and there’s nothing but scraps left over when it is our turn to use our own contributions to the Treasury to help the nation as a whole.

The bipartisan coalition in Washington, DC, representing the vested interests of the very wealthiest individuals and firms consistently neglects citizens while it rewards the perpetrators of our current economic collapse. That’s why the people have little trust those who claim to represent them. The distrust is not limited to just “leftists.” It is pervasive.

Klein brushes aside the real winners in health care reform, the nation’s health insurance companies. The bill bails out an industry that adds no value to health care. However, the industry does take value from the health care consumer with a 12% to 30% overhead on the direct cost of insurance. In addition, companies extract huge added fees by their constant meddling with health care providers; something Medicare manages to avoid as evidenced by its low overhead. The “reform”  proposal gives the insurance companies new customers by the millions, citizens will be forced to buy  insurance with only the promise of cost containing regulations.

Klein avoids the key question — why are health insurance companies placed at the center of citizen health care? He also avoids the consistent support of citizens, as high as 65%, for a program with the federal government as the payer of claims. It’s called “single payer,” “Medicare for all,” etc. and has strong public support despite hardly any coverage by the mainstream media.

“populist exaggeration — the idea that Washington is controlled by crooks and sellouts” Joe Klein, Dec. 30

Klein’s essay isn’t about health care reform. It’s an attack on those in the Democratic Party and others who dare to speak out against what they perceive as the poor performance and neglect of the majority by the president and Congress.

In his closing, Klein says “those of the left blogosphere consider themselves the Democratic base” then quickly points out that the base is really “African Americans, union members, Jews, women and Latinos.”  Klein’s transparent and somewhat ugly divide-and-conquer ploy ignores the important fact that all of those groups are heavily represented on the same “blogosphere” that is providing such troubling criticism of an overly sensitive national government that promises much but delivers just about nothing.

The source of increasing criticism is not an irrational response to the alleged good our leaders offer us. It’s the reality of getting nothing while those who created the problems reap untold rewards … every single day without any end in sight.

END

This article may be reproduced in whole or in part with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

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