If you like it so much

This episode has been repeated all over the place, but I'll repeat it here, just because it is so absolutely emblatic of the dismal state of our public discourse on health care.  Maria Bartiromo, a CNBC financial reporter (no really), played the role of a health care pundit yesterday, asking New York Democratic Congressional Representative Michael Weiner, 44, why he wasn't on medicare if he liked it so much.  Here is their conversation:

REP. WEINER: Listen, Carlos talks about Canada. You talk about Europe. Let's talk about the United States of America, Medicare —

MS. BARTIROMO: You have to look at where there are public plans.

REP. WEINER: No. No. The United States of America, 40 percent of all tax dollars go through a public plan. Ask your parent or grandparent, ask your neighbor whether they're satisfied with Medicare. Now, there's a funding problem, but the quality of care is terrific. You get complete choice and go anywhere you want. Don't look at —

MS. BARTIROMO: How come you don't use it? You don't have it. How come you don't have it?

REP. WEINER: Because I'm not 65. I would love it.

MS. BARTIROMO: Yeah, come on.

Now this is an obvious attempt, I stress "attempt" at ad hominem tu quoque.  For those who are new to fallacy analysis, and ad hominem argument is one where you discount a person's view because of irrelevant (that's important) facts about that person.  There are a few ways of doing that.  One way is to call their character into question, assail them with insults, and so forth: "your view is wrong because you have a weight problem!"  Another way–a very common one among small children–is to charge irrelevant hypocrisy.  So if your doctor says smoking is bad, yet she smokes, challenging the truth of the view with the fact of her smoking is irrelevant.  The doctor means that smoking is bad for anyone–including herself.  Indeed, one of the reasons it is bad is because it's addictive.

Now in this circumstance, Bartiromo, who I am not kidding is a financial reporter for a major US business cable channel, alleges that Rep.Weiner is a hypocrite for not opting for a health plan (medicare) he is not eligible for.  That means he can't even be a hypocrite.  Now all of this is even more silly from the point of view of the public option–where the government would offer a low cost alternative to private insurance.  It's a public option–not a public requirement.

When I hear this stuff–which is all of the time–and then I hear the likes of Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush (think, "axis of evil" and other belligerent pro-life Christian phrases) pronounce:

The incompetence of President Obama's health-care reform effort is undeniable, and unexpected. 

No amount of competence could counter the massive lies, distortions, scare tactics, and sheer ignorance of what calls itself "opposition to health care reform."  That is the premise of Obama's "defeat."

3 thoughts on “If you like it so much”

  1. My guess is that she wanted to score a point with some sort of hypocrisy accusation, but failed badly. She wasn’t quite quick enough to realize what a dumb point she was raising. The hypocrisy argument doesn’t really work against advocates of health reform.
    It’s interesting that the argument is more common on the other side of the debate–“Those Senators all have great health care through the government. Therefore, ___________.”
    The blank can be filled in with a variety of conclusions:
    1. They don’t care about health care reform.
    2. Their criticisms of health care reform are unjustified.
    3. Their criticisms of health care reform are the result of a distorted perspective.
    There are some reasonable things that can be concluded from the fact that Senators and Representatives are all provided health care, but often the argument that is actually deployed is fallacious.
    Baritomo’s argument is worse than any of these in fact since it just doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. But, somehow lots and lots of people want to be able to score points by pointing out that Congresspeople have federal health care, though it is rarely dialectically relevant to the question at hand.

  2. yes, a failed tu quoque. Now the odd thing is that Weiner said (a bit later) that he would love to have medicare at age 44 and would endorse that possibility (the public option) for everyone.

    Indeed, most of the people alleging something about the federal plan (which is one all federal employees get–even postal workers) use it to make a point about the superiority of private plans. But I never get how that is relevant.

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