This post would be better if I had not already thrown out the recent newspaper commentary that triggered it. (Note To Myself: Throw it out after you write the post. Note To My Note: I’ll try to remember that.)
You would think that after years of vituperative pummeling on The Daily Show concerning the insanity of “False Equivalency” that thoughtful journalism would have ceased and desisted from engaging in it. But there it was again. In the form of an op-ed commentary, written by a regular, highly respected contributor for the L.A. Times.
(Note: I realize I am not plowing unfurrowed terrain here. Which is me, making an excuse being late to the party. The thing is, the party, unlike in Bells Are Ringing, does not seem to be over. I am thinking of rescinding my excuse.)
The commentary concerned an examination of the supplanting of Obamacare with a replacement Republican health care proposal, the commentary’s central thesis being that, with the replacement plan, the Republican majority was merely accommodating its constituency the same way that Democratic-passed Obamacare previously accommodated its constituency.
The commentary did not evaluate which plan helped or harmed those constituencies more, thus making no distinction between my accidentally grazing your arm and you intentionally socking me in the jaw, which, although both involve uninvited personal contact, one demonstrably hurts more.
But that was not the journalist’s intention. So, moving on.
A Remembered Summary of the Argument (the best I can do, having thrown out the newspaper):
As Obamacare benefitted its constituency – “the poor” – by expanding health care coverage and detrimented the Republican constituency – “the super-rich” – by raising their taxes to pay for it, the replacement Republican plan, less mellifluously monikered Trumpcare, redresses that arrangement, detrimenting the Democratic constituency, many of whom would now lose their recently received health care coverage while benefitting the Republican constituency, by cancelling the tax hike.
So there you have it, the commentary implies. It’s just “politics as usual” – You reward who voted for you, and you stick it to who didn’t. (Although I have questions about whether “the poor” actually votes that much.)
Here’s the thing, though. (Which wise readers may have already discerned.)
IT’S NOT THE SAME!!!
I mean, it is the same when you narrow the conversation to rewarding respective constituencies. But that’s it. After that…
Two people are in the water. One’s swimming along comfortably; the other is drowning. Who do you throw the floatable “lifesaver thing” to?
The swimmer who’s drowning.
Because they’re drowning.
Who do you not throw the floatable “lifesaver thing” to?
The person who’s swimming along comfortably.
Because they are swimming along comfortably.
Okay. Does anyone have a problem with that?
THE PERSON SWIMMING ALONG COMFORTABLY: “I do.”
“Yes. It’s not fair.”
It’s not fair.
“You threw them a floatable ‘lifesaver thing’ and you did not throw me one.
You didn’t need one.
“I know, but they got one.”
Because they were drowning.
“That has nothing to do with it. If they get a floatable “lifesaver thing”, I want one too.
“Because if I don’t, then it’s not ‘equal treatment.’ Not to mention that a probably paid for that floatable “lifesaver thing” and they’re getting it for nothing.”
You just mentioned it.
“Because it’s unjust. This is supposedly an egalitarian society and there you go, behaving unequally. On top of that – and it is no small point although it may be ‘improper’ to say so – I took the time, trouble and effort to learn how to swim and they didn’t, knowing, I imagine, that if things ever ‘got difficult’, somebody would throw them a floatable ‘lifesaver thing’ so why bother taking the time, trouble and effort learning to swim in the first place when you will inevitably be bailed out?”
Making you “The Better Person.”
“That is not the issue, although… never mind. The issue is ‘equal consideration.’ You help them; you are obligated to help me. Otherwise, it’s not equal.”
To which I finally respond,
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT???
Thumbnail Summary: Poor people need health care; rich people have health care. (Along with every other amenity money can buy, although they’d rebut that by saying they earned it, which they did, but health care is different because if you don’t have it, you die, at least arguably sooner than you’d die if you did have it.)
It is possible that the L.A. Times journalist trusted his readers, leaving them to realize the problem with his “dueling constituencies” argument themselves. (And I’m an idiot for imagining otherwise.) But you know, I detected no “Psst! Read between the lines“ or “conspiratorial wink” whatsoever. The argument’s nakedly sitting there, saying “They helped their guys, now they’re helping their guys”… and it’s
And you have to write about it because they’re still doing it.
And they really REALLY…