Category Archives: Harold Meyerson


This point from Harold Meyerson is where the health care debate ought to start:

Every other nation with an advanced economy long ago secured universal health care for its citizens — an achievement that the United States alone finds beyond the capacities of mortal man.

One might also add that health outcomes in those countries are generally superior to ours for sometimes half the money.  Notice also that the plans that these other countries have implemented are far to the "left," as it were, of anything being considered today.  In light of that, Michael Gerson's endorsement of centrism merely because it is centrism is baffling:  

Some may accuse such moderates of lacking in boldness or ambition. It is better than lacking in responsibility and good judgment.

I suppose I should mention that Gerson hasn't done anything (in the rest of the piece) to establish that moderates have exhibited anything like good judgment.  He has simply assumed that the moderate position is superior to the one advocated by "liberal interest groups."  Yet, as Meyerson points out, the fiscally responsible good judgment seems to be far to the left of anything being proposed.  Few also could deny that the current system has been a striking success for anyone not in the insurance business.  In light of the reality we face, and the possibilities actually realized in every other nation with an advanced economy, one wonders what the virtues of the moderate position, because it is the moderate position, must be.   

Everyday America

(I think I've mentioned this issue once before) Rare it is when columnists mention one another's arguments.  There seems to be some kind of agreement that you can't mention another columnist by  name (although I seem to remember George Will doing this to Krugman once).  So imagine my surprise when I read Harold Meyerson this morning.  He writes:

This year, we can expect to see almost nothing but these kinds of assaults as the campaign progresses. The Republican attack against Obama all but ignores the issue differences between the candidates to go after what is presumably his inadequately American identity. He is, writes one leading conservative columnist, "out of touch with everyday America." His reluctance to wear a flag pin, writes another, shows that he "has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism."

The first quote is Charles Krauthammer, the second Michael Gerson (we talked about it the other day).  In fairness to the columnists, who both write for The Washington Post, Meyerson ought to give more context.  If he did, he'd be unable to argue that they assert these things themselves.  Rather, they merely observe the fact that others will assert them.  First Krauthammer:

It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that she found the seam in Obama's defense. In fact, Obama handed her the playbook with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Michelle Obama's comments about never having been proud of America and Obama's own guns-and-God condescension toward small-town whites.

The line of attack is clear: not that Obama is himself radical or unpatriotic, just that, as a man of the academic left, he is so out of touch with everyday America that he could move so easily and untroubled in such extreme company and among such alien and elitist sentiments.

Clinton finally understood the way to run against Obama: back to the center — not ideologically but culturally, not on policy but on attitude. She changed none of her positions on Iraq or Iran or health care or taxes. Instead, she transformed herself into working-class Sally-get-her-gun, off duck hunting with dad.

He's talking about Clinton, hardly a Republican.  Whether Krauthammer's account of Hillary's position is true is another story.  He certainly doesn't think it's true to call Obama unpatriotic.  But he doesn't really care.  Now Gerson:

The problem here is not that Obama is unpatriotic — a foolish, unfair, destructive charge — but that Obama has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism. And this sense of superiority, revealed in case after case, has political consequences, because the Obama narrative reinforces the Democratic narrative. It is now possible to imagine Obama at a cocktail party with Kerry, Al Gore and Michael Dukakis, sharing a laugh about gun-toting, Bible-thumping, flag-pin-wearing, small-town Americans.

Gerson doesn't care either.  Meyerson would have a stronger argument had he directed it at the media types who will repeat these charges in just the way Krauthammer and Gerson have.  Sure, they argue, they're not true.  But still, will everyday, real Americans–who apparently have no regard for the truth and don't read Gerson or Krauthammer–be convinced by them?

After all, if everyday Americans read Gerson and Krauthammer, they'd know that such charges are baseless.  Wouldn't they?



Harold Meyerson points out what many would consider obvious:

>Just outside our nation’s capital, in affluent Montgomery and Fairfax counties, they still build public schools when the number of school-age children rises above the number that the existing schools can accommodate. Beyond question, there are parents in Fairfax and Montgomery who could easily afford to send their kids to private schools but who send them nonetheless to the excellent public schools in their neighborhoods . They thus increase government spending and withhold revenue from the private-school industry, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about that. A free public education is a right, or, if you prefer, an entitlement in America, because the nation long ago decided that an educated population is a national good.

Of course many wouldn’t consider it obvious, say, for instance, George Will:

>Unless facts are allowed to intrude, in which case it will be pointed out that what the Democrats are doing is taking a program aimed at poor children and turning it into a huge ever-expanding middle class entitlement program for, if Governor Spitzer in New York has his way, people, children up to say 25 years old from households with incomes of $82,000. Now, the guy sitting next to you at the bar at the plaza with a mustache sipping a vodka martini may be on that program for poor children.

Outside of knee jerk conservatism (“I don’t trust nothing new”), what principle could one invoke for offering school equally and to all (in principle–no bad school complaints please) but not health, the more basic and necessary condition for vigorous democratic and economic participation? But rather than thinking of reasons not to offer that particular (to my mind) obvious and rational “entitlement” (which is a silly word), can anyone think of another “entitlement” Meyerson’s principle could be understood to justify?