Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Inner Voice

Dear me. Megan McArdle has been driven to a frenzy by the prospect of letting people with previous medical conditions get health insurance. (Remember, this includes her as well.) One minute she's giving directions on how to steam carrots and the next minute she's in a posting frenzy, cranking out seven posts about the Coakley/Brown race and the future of health insurance reform.

First, McArdle warns Blue Dog Democrats that they might lose their seats if they pass health insurance reform.

There's been talk of delaying either the certification or the seating, but while this is possible, I don't think the Democrats dare do this (nor do I know that they want to commit a fairly outrageous breach of the electoral process). Moreover, it may be moot: apparently, the Senate precedent is that Kirk loses his ability to vote the day of the special election.

Of course, the Senate could violate its own precedent. But you can be damn sure the Republicans would turn it into a circus akin to Bush v. Gore, and the political cost would be appalling; I'm not sure it's too much to say that any Blue Dog who voted for such a procedural shift would probably lose their seat come fall. I'm sure it's a price that Pelosi is willing to pay--but I'm not sure the Blue Dogs are.

[yip yip yip]

The problem with Brown's election is not just that it would the Democrats of a seat in the Senate. It's that it would send a chill down the spine of every Democrat who is not sitting in an ultra-safe, ultra-liberal seat.

McArdle has said several times (after making especially stupid political predictions) that she's no expert in politics, yet she seems to be able to both predict elections and read the minds of people she knows little about. But soon she is declaring Coakley is in "free-fall," and wondering if she should have bet against her.

And even if I thought those numbers were about right, it might make sense as a way to hedge my net psychic wealth. If Scott Brown wins, I'm happy--and if Martha Coakley wins, at least I get $50 or so to drown my sorrows.

I'm a great believer in hedging emotional risks. Betting against an outcome you really want is an excellent way to manage downside disappointment. But in the case of the whole future of our nation's health care policy, I can't quite bring myself to do it. Some risks are better off unhedged.

Only McArdle would think of shorting her own happiness. I hate to think of the odds she's assigned P. Suderman, considering his tragic lack of a trust fund.

Because she has decided that the nation does not want to get the health services they are already paying for, McArdle next advises Democrats to throw in the towel on reforming health insurance. Sunk costs fallacy leads to looking like a doofus when you can't get legislation passed that nobody wants and then you commit suicide. I gather that's bad for Democrats.
Of course, one could say that the political argument [for health care reform] is cold and inhuman, and that's not how politicians should be making this decision. Perhaps so.

In my mind, she is filing her nails while saying this.

In fact, McArdle says, Democratic politicians should be terrified.

Hell, If I were Blanche Lincoln, anyone in the leadership who wanted to get me to the floor for a health care vote would have to pry me out of the darkened room where they'd find me huddled in the corner, rocking back and forth and crying. Maybe Cohn's right and the thing's too far gone to save, so you might as well vote for it anyway. But that's not exactly soothing, is it?

Not exactly sturdy, pioneer stock, is she? I hope to heaven she never ran for class president. Children can be so cruel.

Speaking of cruel, McArdle works herself up into an unpleasant froth in her next post. It's unusually shrill for McArdle because it's personal. I hardly know where to start quoting--it's hysteria and self-justification from one end to the other.

Hold your breath. We're going in.

In 2004, the day after George Bush was re-elected, New York was a sullen place. At lunch, I sat next to one of my favorite New York liberals in brooding silence for a while, and then her sadness and rage suddenly erupted.

"I just didn't realize," she said, "that America hated me."

What do you say to that? America didn't hate her; America didn't know her. America mostly wasn't thinking about her. Yes, I've no doubt that the more tribal political partisans were cackling at the thought of grieving New York liberals (and in 2006, their liberal counterparts were prowling the internet for pleasurable nuggets of schadenfreude--no, don't deny it, I physically watched them do it.) But most people hadn't been thinking about my companion when they voted. They'd been thinking about themselves. They'd been trying to do, in their own hamfisted and probably ignorant way, the best thing for themselves and their country.

"Tribal"? Has McArdle been talking to a liberal? Someone set her off. Now a liberal is all liberals, all New Yorkers are liberal, and all liberals are self-obsessed. That would make McArdle a liberal narcissist, which would only be half right.

I've got a fine sense of deja vu after reading this on Andrew's page:

[...]The past year has been a very difficult one for me, personally and professionally. I've been up a lot more than I've been down, and I've been angry and frustrated with life, as we all are at times. But I can't remember the last time I felt such overwhelming rage toward a group of people as I have felt toward the Republican Party and the conservative movement since President Obama's election.

I simply cannot grasp what motivates these people, what compels them to thwart even the smallest attempts to clean up the enormous destruction they wrought under Bush and Cheney. Irresponsible, hateful, mendacious, sleazy, destructive - these words do not even begin to describe them.[...]

Saying that you "cannot grasp" what motivates others is supposed to indicate their utter moral turpitude, I suppose. And in the case of say, people who rape children, yes, it's true: I cannot grasp it. Can't imagine. Don't want to.

Her comparison is in very poor taste, but McArdle is defending her entire world view here. She has allied herself with failure too many times and is just a tiny bit sensitive about her decision-making process.

The next time you are trying to imagine why the people who disagree with you are actively promoting the destruction of all that is good in the universe, grab a soothing cup of mint tea, put your feet up on a comfy pillow, and then close your eyes and imagine what those people would look like campaigning against something that is a very bad idea. 99 times out of a hundred, you'll find that they look . . . well, exactly like they look when they're campaigning against your idea. And suddenly the whole thing is no longer so inexplicable, isn't it?

I mean, we all know that that's ridiculous, because you have never in your life been wrong about any major question, or had a bad idea of your own, which is why you are so fabulously wealthy and married to the first person you ever dated, who is even now smiling at you in blissful perfection from the arms of your four flawless children. But they don't know that, you see. As I think I've mentioned, they haven't met you. They won't know anything about you until you finally accept that Nobel Peace Prize. So you'll have to content yourself with understanding that while you, personally, may never be in error, other well meaning people sometimes are. And then still other well-meaning people have to get up off the sofa and point this out, lest they lead the entire nation astray.

This does not require arguing that the people who oppose you are right. Obviously, if you thought that, they wouldn't be opposing you. It just requires a little more empathy, a little less tribalism.

In other words, McArdle made indefensibly stupid decisions based on wrong facts, lack of understanding of human nature, inability to reason, vanity and hubris. When others demanded that she accept responsibility for her actions, she refused. Now she must spend the rest of her life telling herself that they just don't understand and they're just meanies and anybody could have made the same mistake. When, in reality: they do, they aren't, and you wish.

When I realized that health care was probably going to pass, I was, as you can imagine, sort of unhappy. I thought that this was, over the long run, very likely to result in the untimely deaths of lots of people, maybe including me. I may have been in error about this belief--but it was sincerely held.

Had I gone off into a despairing and rage-filled rant about how I just could not understand how all those people could be so determined to kill millions and millions of innocent people with their stupid central planning schemes that never work, haven't they seen what happened to the Soviet Union, ferchrissakes . . . should my views get a respectful hearing? I think not. Had I said anything like that, I would have sounded like an idiot. As, indeed, some of the more benighted conservative commentators kind of did.

I'm sorry, but just because she used to pretend she was Ayn Rand doesn't mean McArdle suffered through the Russian Revolution. Nor is national health care the equivalent of a Soviet program, as every other major nation can attest. Surely an elitist like McArdle understands that not all fears (or ideas) are equal.

Because it's not that hard to understand why the people on the other side want what they want. They look at people without insurance, and they want to help them. I'd like to help them too. They believe, as I do not, that the government will be able to muster the political will to control costs. They believe, as I do not, centralized government planning will improve the health care system rather than being hijacked by special interests within it. They believe, as I do not, that there is so much fat and waste in the pharma and medical technology industries that they can considerably reduce reimbursements without reducing useful innovation and thereby condemning those who might have been saved to an early death. These are not unreasonable beliefs. Neither are mine.

She's never going to admit she was wrong. Never.

In a situation like that, it is natural to despair that those who oppose you have made a tragic error. But if you want to rage, rage against the universe that provides us too little information, and too limited brains, to make perfect choices every time. If Coakley wins (or Brown does and the Democrats manage, against my expectation, to pass something anyway), I won't be happy about it. But I don't need to go inventing evils where none exist, for the sheer joy of venting my unhappiness on a person. Life is too short for me to spend any time manufacturing hatred for strangers.

Someone made McArdle feel bad for supporting policies that hurt other people.

Maybe there is just the tiniest bit of justice in the world.

A short finger-biter follows, in which McArdle, oddly enough, warns everyone not to panic. It's followed by a post that states blithely that Democrats will be sure to drag out the procedure as long as possible, because they're just silly that way. Then she mentions suicide again. I think she's hoping to brainwash through repetition.

No, she does not mention Al Franken.

Mercifully, she has only one more post, a deeply concerned and sorrowful account of how Democrats, having lost the Brown/Coakley race,* will not get to have a New Deal after all and they should have known better from the start. Nyah nyah.

LATER: There's more, but this is more than enough.

*The race was not over yet, by the way.


Clever Pseudonym said...

"Saying that you 'cannot grasp' what motivates others is supposed to indicate their utter moral turpitude, I suppose."

She supposes wrong. I cannot grasp how anyone can believe a fetus is a human being, but I don't think they're awful or amoral because of it (well, most of them). Neither does it imply that I think I am perfect and incapable of making mistakes or being wrong myself. But it wouldn't be a day at AI if Megan didn't climb on her high horse to snivel at the rest of us inferior beings at least once.

cb said...

"Only McArdle would think of shorting her own happiness. I hate to think of the odds she's assigned P. Suderman, considering his tragic lack of a trust fund."

What a tragic small world she lives in. I wonder if it has occurred to her that once health care fails there won't be much need to pay stooges like Mr. S

Susan of Texas said...

It's hard to maintain an aura of superiority when you're always wrong, yet she tries.