Evan Thomas Has a Point, Kind Of

A number of posters in the dextrosphere have been pointing with disdain to this Newsweek column by Evan Thomas. (For example, Hot Air linked to it with the blurb "It's not our politicians who are terrible, it's the public.")

Now I know: Newsweek is horrible. Geraghty's Morning Jolt e-mail today describes it as:

It's reached the point where you avert your eyes and try not to notice the mag. If you slip up and mention that you used to read it, you try to deflect the vaguely disapproving looks by explaining that it was a totally different magazine then, and you don't know what happened to it since.

As if to illustrate Geraghty's point, Thomas's article is accompanied with a link to a photo essay titled "Town Hall Face"; Newsweek apparently thought it would be fun and illuminating to gather a bunch of unflattering pictures of irritated people publicly confronting their elected leaders. Ho ho! Newsweeek might not be interested in old-fashioned news reporting any more, but it's happy to feed your typical lefty's burning need to feel superior to right-wing knuckle-draggers.

But Thomas's article is not unmitigated dreadfulness. For example, late in the article, Thomas wonders if there's anything Obama can do to "cut through the Gordian knot tying up health care?"

Actually, there is. Obama is well informed enough to know that sky-high malpractice-insurance rates and defensive medicine drive up health costs. There is debate over how much, but any doctor will attest to the costly fear of a lawsuit. Almost all objective medical experts agree that something should be done to cut back the vast jury verdicts won by clever trial lawyers in medical-malpractice cases. But the Democrats have declined to even try. Why? Because trial lawyers are among the biggest campaign contributors to the Democratic Party.

Thomas deserves at least a half-cheer for making that observation, which might surprise and outrage his typical readership.

But his main point is that "we" are to blame:

The problem is not the system. It's us--our "got mine" culture of entitlement. Politicians, never known for their bravery, precisely represent the people. Our leaders are paralyzed by the very thought of asking their constituents to make short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards. They cannot bring themselves to raise taxes on the middle class or cut Social Security and medical benefits for the elderly. They'd get clobbered at the polls. So any day of reckoning gets put off, and put off again, and the debts pile up.

Now, Thomas rambles and babbles quite a bit. (Later he spends a few sentences on increasing personal debt, waistlines, promiscuity… you get the idea. Kids today, they're no damn good, and their music, it's just noise. True fact: Thomas is five days older than I am. I hope I don't sound like this in five days…)

But there's a kernel of something approaching truth there: we elected these bozos. (Well, not me. But when the votes were counted, they wound up on top. Recommended reading: Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter.)

But let's concentrate on this key sentence:

Our leaders are paralyzed by the very thought of asking their constituents to make short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards.

Thomas can rail against the cowardice and selfishness of others, but his own (probably unconcious) dishonesty shines through when he describes what he wants politicians to do as "asking".

Evan, baby, grow up. This is government. And government doesn't "ask". It demands, regulates, prohibits, controls, fleeces, forbids, assesses,… but it doesn't ask.

That aside, neither do I believe that government is either willing or able to detect obvious "short-term sacrifices" that will infallibly lock in "long-term rewards." Where is the evidence for that?

And if you're asking an 80-year-old Medicare recipient to make a "short-term sacrifice"… just exactly what "long-term benefit" do you plan on offering her in return, Evan?

Were I grading, I'd give Thomas a solid C-. Shows some promise, needs much work.

Much more believable on the "entitlement" mentality is Mark Steyn, in his most recent column, looking at the recent Greek riots:

We hard-hearted, small-government guys are often damned as selfish types who care nothing for the general welfare. But, as the Greek protests make plain, nothing makes an individual more selfish than the socially equitable communitarianism of big government. Once a chap's enjoying the fruits of government health care, government-paid vacation, government-funded early retirement, and all the rest, he couldn't give a hoot about the general societal interest. He's got his, and to hell with everyone else. People's sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make sense.

I wish Evan Thomas would read that and let it roll around in his brain for a bit.

Irrelevant aside: Here is something I didn't know: Evan Thomas is the grandson of Norman Thomas, who ran six times for president under the banner of the Socialist Party. Not that it matters, just found it an interesting bit of trivia.


Last Modified 2012-10-04 8:01 AM EDT

Do You Take Me For a Fool, Do You Think That I Don't See

… that ditch out in the valley that they're digging just for me?

  • I've long harbored a sneaking suspicion that the secrets of life, the universe, and everything were concealed within the lyrics of Steely Dan songs. Protein Wisdom tries out that theory with Obamacare, and it works out pretty well.

  • Planet Moron turns its attention to the FCC report "Broadband Adoption and Use in America".
    If you are like most Americans, three questions probably pop into your mind:

    1. Am I paying for this?

    2. Seriously, am I paying for this?

    3. Because if I'm paying for this, I'm going to be really ticked off.

    Via the Technology Liberation Front.

  • One of the day-job things I do is a daily scan of Freshmeat, a site devoted to keeping track of new releases of software packages of interest to (mostly) the Linux/Open Source community. Most package blurbs tell you what vitally important niche the software admirably fills. So the description of the latest release of the programming language Txr kind of stood out:
    Txr is a baroque and painfully hard to use language inspired by, among others, the idea of reversing "here document" generation into "here template" extraction. Since its inception in September 2009, it has grown hair, such as functions that aren't really like normal functions, and try/catch/finally exception handling. If a complicated Txr query fails on your sample input, just give up. Don't even think about trying to understand the debug trace output, and the mailing list is likely to be of little help, since pretty much only the author reads it. It is recommended for those who are faced with some simple, boring little problem that is dire need of compounding.
    The Txr home page is here.

  • The A. V. Club explores personal pop-culture rules:
    What are your pop-culture rules? That is, the up-front guidelines that will prevent you from seeing/reading/listening to something, or that will guarantee that you'll see/read/listen to it even if reviews or word of mouth or past experience with the creators have been negative?
    Various answers at the link. I have some rules of thumb for movies:

    AVOID: Nicholas Sparks; Woody Allen, unless he starts being funny again; Steve Martin "family" movies; any movie where it looks as if the trailer has every single funny bit in it.

    MUSTS: Anything with Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator, or Batman in the title. Bill Murray. Bruce Willis. Needless to say, any involvement whatsoever by Mr. Clint Eastwood.

    How about you?


Last Modified 2017-12-04 11:49 AM EST