Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Megan McArdle is on a rampage the likes of which we have seldom seen. She has posted eight times since yesterday, a torrent of output for her, and almost every post attacks one blogger or another. Her eight posts also have an unusually high degree of snideness; McArdle usually tries to minimize having to deal with the repercussions of her wrongness and rudeness by using more oblique and passive-aggressive methods. But now she is on the attack and making it much harder for her targets to ignore her frequent pot-shots. My time is short so for most of the posts I can only hit some highlights.

The Politics of the Possible:

Paul Krugman asks why favoring a second stimulus, like opposing the Iraq War, has been written out of the public argument. Now, I seem to remember a very robust and lengthy public argument about the war, which couldn't have persisted without opponents. But leaving that aside, what about the stimulus?

McArdle famously wrote that if people who protested the war were hit in the head with 2x4s it would be no more than they should expect. Andrew Sullivan called people who argued against the war traitors. Condoleeza Rice warned of mushroom clouds. Colin Powell lied to Congress. Bush/Cheney twisted the arms of Britain to lie for them and tortured prisoners to get them to say Saddam was going to attack the US. McArdle is full of crap. She does not know this because anyone who disagrees with her is wrong and a hater, so there!

Well, it is starting to get some traction. But it probably won't get much, and here's why: Democrats aren't interested. They aren't interested because they are already facing political pressure over the debt. Doing another stimulus will--or so they think--make it much harder for them to do health care and climate change. Their initial thesis that a big, bold spending program would "prime the pump" for more big, bold spending programs has fallen flat. The stimulus is working too slowly, probably because little money has yet been dispensed, which has made further spending programs less, not more, popular.

She gives us no proof of these statements, as usual. It is based on her own fantasy straw man of Democrats who wants to use the current crises Bush inflicted on us to socialize our government. It's a stupid argument, but she clings to it for dear life because it permits her to think that she is smarter than Democrats, despite the fact that she supported Bush, his wars, and his economic policies. Her next two paragraphs are just feeble attempts to change the subject. She has to do that a lot. At no time and in no way does McArdle admit that the bad practices that brought down our economy and the bank bailout that further enriched a lucky few, are the actions of the most wealthy people in the financial and governmental circles, our elite.

A Public Plan And The Law Of Unintended Consequences:

Okay, this post just boggles my mind because it reiterates McArdle's argument that health care companies don't deny care to save money, and if they do you just need to yell at them and they will pay, no harm, no foul.

Here's the first time she says it.

Jon Cohn, who I respect greatly, spends a lot of time on the money and time that insurance companies put into denying claims. This is undoubtedly true. But I have two caveats. First, some of that effort is a good thing: without it, there would be fraud. No, not the automatic denials so many insurers are fond of, and I'm not defending. But Medicare should probably spend a lot more effort rooting out excessive billing. And I don't know what percentage of claims denial consists of refusing to line the pockets of doctors and labs.

But the more important point is that I doubt this is the majority of their administrative costs, or even the difference between their administrative costs and Medicare's. I'm not trying to justify the bullshit automatic claims denial, but that's not actually a very costly process: a hospital submits a bill, they deny it, you yell at them. Nor is refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions, or any of the other multifarious complaints of single-payer advocates.

And the second time.

Since private systems have so far found it virtually impossible to deny many treatments for long, this will mean that millions of budget constrained people will find themselves with less available treatment than before.

Unbelievable. Just yell at them, and they'll do what you want. Ezra Klein and Hilzoy attempt to correct McArdle, but since McArdle either ignores corrections or returns them with excuses and insults, the attempts are, as usual, futile. McArdle's response to Klein:

Ezra complains that I called him a communist, or ignored the TOTALLY AWESOME EXAMPLES OF NATIONAL HEALTH CARE in order to compare it to the Soviet Union, which we all agree sucks.

Uh, no.

I said that these arguments about administrative costs and rationalizing production and eliminating wasteful competition turn out not to be nearly as good arguments as
they initially sound. Maybe there are other good arguments about national health
care. But this particular set of belief systems was well developed about other
nationalized markets by the vast tradition of socialist literature, with which
today's young progressives are shockingly unfamiliar.

Because so many young leftists do not seem to know their own history, they are doomed to repeat it. Literally. They make arguments that were common in socialist circles a century and a half ago--for the popular version, try Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward.

In other words, Klein, shockingly!!!, doesn't even know that (pssst) he's really a socialist, just like the Fabian Society! Usually you have to go to Jonah Goldberg for that sort of argument, and evidently McArdle is doing just that.

Two attacks down, two to go. I'll post this and get back to the rest a little later.


clever pseudonym said...

Wow. Her response to Ezra - without linking to what he actually wrote, as usual - is one of the most unprofessional things I've seen from her. And this is a person I've come to expect unprofessionalism from regularly. The tone is ridiculously condescending, even for Megan. She is supposed to be responding to a colleague, but her tone is more as if she were scolding a misbehaved child. She just keeps getting worse and worse. It's amazing.

Downpuppy said...

The false choice between health care & additional stimulus was pretty annoying, too.

I love the way her "allies" on the salon post casually call The Atlantic a brothel.

trizzlor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trizzlor said...

Yes, the response to Ezra is absolutely incredible. After he posts a dozen examples of national health-care that works, she again claims he's a deluded liberal who is denying his communist roots. You know what - the soviets used money and wore clothes, so those concepts must be communist failures as well!

Chad said...

Accusing liberals of not knowing their own history is probably the most unintentionally hilarious thing Megan has ever written (which is saying something), given that she and her ilk are absolutely convinced that their early 20th century ideological predecessors like Herbert Hoover were totally on the right track.

Susan of Texas said...

And she's still trying to rewrite FDR's presidency.

I call her a tool, but she's really an enormous Craftsman chest of tools.