Thursday, February 11, 2010

The myth of the center

Here's Theora Jones, commenting over at Ezra Klein's blog.  Reprinted in its entirety:
I was just at a health policy conference where wonks were talking about the "parts of the bill we all agree on," which were various demos and health delivery system change provisions.
And I was like … "we all agree" on these? Any one of these provisions could be controversial if someone thought it was in their interest to demagogue it. Heck, we could make medical education and licensure sound like a Stalinist plot if it suited our purposes ("the ONLY doctor you are allowed to see in America is a doctor who has attended a government-approved school, who has studied at a government-approved hospital training program, who has passed a government-approved test of how he will practice medicine, who can be reported anonymously to a panel of government-appointed bureaucrats and then have to justify to them the way he practices medicine, and who must by law prescribe ONLY government-approved medicines!").
The only reason we think we all "agree" on these things is because nobody except honest, informed, smart and well-intentioned wonks are paying attention to them!
You see this over and over again that people "from across the spectrum" "agree" on something until, you know, there's a possibility it will actually HAPPEN.
At which point people who would be losers start digging into the details of this policy so they can demagogue it, while at the same time people who have a political interest to see their opposition fail start trumpeting these demagogued points, and the bill is suddenly "controversial."
At which point someone "centrist" says, "Hey, why don't we do this other thing that none of you have paid much attention to? It seems so much less controversial ... " At which point people start digging into the new thing and demagoguing it and then it's lather, rinse, repeat until we decide that it's "too hard" to address this issue and oh it's so lamentable that "Washington" can't find a "common ground, common sense" solution which is somehow, magically, not offensive to anyone.
At a certain point, reporters and politicians and observers of DC need to grow up and realize that "moderate" does not mean "uncontroversial."
Especially when, for goodness' sake, organizations and parties have figured out that they can gin up controversy over anything!

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