Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Explaining Jokes to Bob Murphy

by Charlie Clarke

Bob Murphy finds Krugman saying something monstrous:
 We won’t be able to pay for the kind of government the society will want without some increase in taxes…on the middle class, maybe a value added tax….And we’re also going to have to make decisions about health care, doc pay for health care that has no demonstrated medical benefits. So the snarky version…which I shouldn’t even say because it will get me in trouble, is death panels and sales taxes is how we do this.
Murphy's reaction is, "Ha ha ha, the government deciding who lives and dies because it’s taken over health care, and right-wingers are routinely mocked for making the exact same claim. How droll."

Of course, Murphy completely misses the joke.  Paul Krugman is equating not covering health care that has no demonstrated benefits to a "death panel."  That's a ridiculous thing to do.  It is funny and snarky, because Republicans actually do this!  Even though every insurance company ever, private or public, has to decide what procedures to cover, it is somehow a monstrous death panel when the government does it.  Granted, it's easy to see how people like Bob Murphy who think it's perfectly acceptable to equate taxation and theft can miss the irony.

The deeper irony is that the well-informed academic critique of health care on the right argues that this is actually the main problem with health care in this country.  Due to government subsidies, people buy too much health insurance, perform too many high cost, low benefit procedures and drive up the costs of health care.  They would argue that the primary cost benefit of national single payer systems is rationing health care and not improving efficiency.  I think the point has merit, but apparently Republicans don't.  Ironically, I was first convinced this argument had merit by Paul Krugman's Age of Diminished Expectations as an undergraduate.

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