August 21, 2002
More on Rhinoceroses

Jason McCullough believes that Mickey Kaus is not only turning into a Rhinoceros--a neoconservative--but that the process is complete: that he has turned into a huge mutant God-King Rhinoceros: that he has joined the DARK SIDE.

I disagree.


Hronkomatic: Oh, I missed the line that finally convinced me Kaus has gone over to the dark side:

P.P.S.: Does Krugman really think it's a sensible government expenditure to have a whole separate, costly, and not-very-good system of Veterans' health care? If not, why blast Bush for trying to save money by suspending "marketing activities to enroll new veterans" in that white-elephant system?

What the living fuck is going on? This is the same Mickey Kaus that wrote the End of Equality? Bush is trying to hold down spending by indirectly denying veterans health care. This is pretty slimy, as veterans have an entitlement to free health care by virtue of, oh, getting shot at. Kaus's reaction is to question whether should have the entitlement at all and complain about the quality of the system. Last time I checked, free health care was better than no health care! Talk about jumping through hoops to make your own...


First, some background. Joshua Micah Marshall posted a memo in which the Veterans Affairs Department brass directed that outreach activities to veterans be severely restricted, in the hope that it would allow them to save money: if you treat a smaller proportion of eligible veterans, after all, you save dollars. Paul Krugman picked up the story. It seemed pretty sleazy, yes? To try to save money by keeping veterans unaware that there exist hospitals where they have a right to have their diseases treated is just one half step above trying to balance your budget by stealing from the blind.

But then comes Mickey Kaus to argue before the bar that eliminating veterans hospitals is a good-government cause, and so keeping as many veterans as possible ignorant of them and their rights is a good-government cause too. This is what leads Jason McCullough to assign Kaus to the Dark Side.

And this is where I disagree. I agree that welshing on the government's promise to provide medical care for veterans is reprehensible. I agree that Kaus's attempt to claim that the budgetary savings come from reduced "marketing activities" rather than from more untreated sick veterans is mendacious. But Mickey Kaus can't join the Dark Side. After all, the Dark Side does believe in free medical care for veterans. On this John Derbyshire, Chancellor Palpatine, and Ming the Merciless agree.

Posted by DeLong at August 21, 2002 11:43 AM | Trackback

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Comments

Whew, for a second there I was worried you were somehow going to agree with Kaus. Reading his response to Krugman was like entering some kind of Bizarro world where up is down and disenfranchising veterans is a *good* thing.

Only slighly less bizarre was his bit on "social equality versus economic equality". Not only was Kaus the first person to mention the dreaded "economic equality", but he seems to be implying that mine workers care(or should care) more about the opinions of self declared "social elites" than about whether the MHSA has enough funding to keep them from getting killed. I guess this is the Bizarro world's version of populism.

Finally, no one seems to have mentioned that this situation looks awfully familiar. Back when he was the Governor of Texas, Bush dragged his heels on the Children's Health Insurance Program. Why? Because CHIP outreach programs could cause people to learn that they qualify for Medicaid. I suppose trying to keep poor people from getting health care is more understandable though.

Posted by: Nick on August 21, 2002 04:48 PM

Notice that the President is making nasty comments about Medicare, couple that with the number of Americans who have no health insurance and the health care facilities for veterans, and worry....

We are most fortunate to have so bold and precise a set of economic commentators as Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong.

Posted by: on August 22, 2002 09:53 AM

Yep, it was terrible. I don't care so much that Kaus has moved out of the neighborhood. Let him live anywhere he wants on the political spectrum. Wierd as Barry Goldwater was, he was, in his own way, honest and ethical. Kaus no longer is. (I tried to e-mail him to say so, but couldn't get the thing to land at his e-mail box - if you're out there Mickey, stop being an intellectual thug and get back to work.) Throwing elbows at Krugman is beside the point, inside baseball. Is it sad that Krugman wanders off into areas he isn't very good at, without the best of intentions? Sure it is. Big loss, too, because he is a hell of a lot better at what he does well than Kaus, or most of us, are at anything. Going for cheap points in the NYT is not worth it when you can win on the up-and-up.

Kaus has given up doing much other than finding other peoples weaknesses and then saying "nya-nya, caught you!" Do they deserve to be caught? Yes. Is "nya-nya" helpful along the way. No. It's a waste of his readers time. Kaus is carrying water for Bush now, no question. Going on about how sincerely Bush thinks himself no better than the rest of us while he regularly denies the public information about even routine aspects of government decision-making belies Kaus' conclusion. Concluding that populism, or any other quality, won Bush an election in which he lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote in a tight split in the Supreme Court is spinning, pure and simple.

And Mickey, if you are out there, my daddy worked for Reagan and Watt, I worked for a Republican governor and Congressman. I got here first. I'm not a lefty. You're a bum. Straighten up.

KH

Posted by: K Harris on August 22, 2002 09:56 AM

Yep, it was terrible. I don't care so much that Kaus has moved out of the neighborhood. Let him live anywhere he wants on the political spectrum. Wierd as Barry Goldwater was, he was, in his own way, honest and ethical. Kaus no longer is. (I tried to e-mail him to say so, but couldn't get the thing to land at his e-mail box - if you're out there Mickey, stop being an intellectual thug and get back to work.) Throwing elbows at Krugman is beside the point, inside baseball. Is it sad that Krugman wanders off into areas he isn't very good at, without the best of intentions? Sure it is. Big loss, too, because he is a hell of a lot better at what he does well than Kaus, or most of us, are at anything. Going for cheap points in the NYT is not worth it when you can win on the up-and-up.

Kaus has given up doing much other than finding other peoples weaknesses and then saying "nya-nya, caught you!" Do they deserve to be caught? Yes. Is "nya-nya" helpful along the way. No. It's a waste of his readers time. Kaus is carrying water for Bush now, no question. Going on about how sincerely Bush thinks himself no better than the rest of us while he regularly denies the public information about even routine aspects of government decision-making belies Kaus' conclusion. Concluding that populism, or any other quality, won Bush an election in which he lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote in a tight split in the Supreme Court is spinning, pure and simple.

And Mickey, if you are out there, my daddy worked for Reagan and Watt, I worked for a Republican governor and Congressman. I got here first. I'm not a lefty. You're a bum. Straighten up.

KH

Posted by: K Harris on August 22, 2002 09:57 AM

August 20, 2002

Unproductive Medicare Bashing
New York Times

Medicare, the venerable health care program for the elderly, is under attack again. Congress's failure to provide prescription drugs for older people can be attributed partly to Republican refusal to consider making the benefit part of Medicare, which many said should be "reformed" before it is expanded. Then last week President Bush engaged in more Medicare bashing, describing the Great Society program as "old," "stale," "tired" and in need of radical surgery.

Medicare, however, is not failing its participants. The federal government is failing Medicare. Although there are gaps in coverage, like prescription drugs, Medicare remains a secure source of affordable, high-quality health care for 40 million elderly Americans. There is, indeed, a long-term solvency problem, which will hit when baby boomers reach their retirement years. But this problem is made worse by misguided federal budget policies.

Posted by: on August 22, 2002 11:10 AM

Its a mystery to me why Slate hired Kaus to write a daily column. The stuff I've read lacks any depth. Its mostly 'gotchas' and scattered ramblings about various obsessions: miscegnation, welfare , Krugman, Democrats, and the New York Times (Whatsamatter Kaus, they turn you down for a job? Krugman dated someone you had a crush on?). He never makes an original point or articulates how HE would handle any of these issues. Yet other writers the web seem to take him seriously. I can't figure it out. Maybe his earlier writing was more interesting and coherent.

Posted by: Dan F on August 22, 2002 01:46 PM

That's an unfair assessment of the VA. It used to be a not-very-good-system, but now service and reliability have become so bad in regular hospitals that the VA rates very highly in comparison.

Posted by: Eric M on August 22, 2002 01:59 PM

Theory: Kaus is not a neo-conservative Rhino ... he's a neo-Horowitz, a neo-Innis. He used to hang out in one camp, which for reasons unexplained was insufficiently impressed with his offers of leadership. This led to a series of personal gripes and grudges, which eventually mounted to form a ramp of sorts. Kaus built and climbed this ramp, chip by chip, stone by stone, til he tumbled down the other side and found work carrying water for the opposing camp, where he is celebrated as a convert and rewarded with attention to his painstakingly-crafted bile-poisoned arrows for use against former peers.

But it's just a theory.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on August 22, 2002 04:57 PM

We need to consider one more explanation for the dreadful slide in behavior from Kaus. His approach is high on entertainment value (for those who find bashing entertaining) and low on analysis and information. It's perfect for cable talking heads TV. Maybe he's advertising for a more lucrative position. Degrade his current employer to attract a new one that, presumably, pays better. Anybody know if this guy is presentable on camera?

Posted by: K Harris on August 23, 2002 07:28 AM

"Last time I checked, free health care was better than no health care!"

Uhhhh....no. Free AND good health care is better than no health care.

But generally what you get when the health care is free is anything but good. I don't see anybody from the US looking to get into Canada to have open heart surgery. Hmmmmmm...wonder why....

Posted by: V on August 23, 2002 09:27 AM

Medical care in Canada and France and Germany and Sweden is simply excellent. There are waiting periods for elective surgery that are a nuisance, but all serious care is timely as well state-of-the-art.

My wife regularly consults with Canadian doctors and finds them excellent and contented. Canada is a democracy and Canadians have long defended their health care system.

Were you to need surgery in Canada, you would have surgery and be thankful.

Posted by: on August 23, 2002 11:27 AM

What annoys me about Kaus is that he pretends to be a liberal or neoliberal or centrist. He isn't- he's a conservative of some sort. Probably I guess the most accurate thing to call him would be a moderate Republican or liberal Republican. There's nothing wrong with that- plenty of people are right of center. But I get really annoyed when he says he's a Democrat or on the left, because then he uses that to give himself more authority in his constant attacks on the left. The normal thing to think is that if he's a Democrat, and he criticises his own party or the left, then his criticisms must be right, because he's not just a hack attacking his enemies but giving constructive criticism to his own side. But this is wrong, because he is just a right-wing hack.

Posted by: Mitch on August 23, 2002 12:55 PM
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