Thursday, August 9, 2012

The end of intelligence in the media

Let's be clear about one thing, right up front: E.J. Dionne is not a deep thinker, is not a critical thinker. Yet, he is a working member of the professional media with a regular column at the Washington Post. I delved into one of his columns previously. In that piece, Dionne demonstrates a total lack of understanding with regard to the concept of hypocrisy. But as bad as that column was, his latest is even worse.

Entitled "Romney and His Fictional Obama," the piece begins with a challenge, of sorts:
Here's a chance for all who think Obamacare is a socialist Big Government scheme to put their money where their ideology is: If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.
Bam! There it is! What do you say to that, you right-wing dumbasses? Of course, the problem is that Dionne's big dare is six ways stupid. It doesn't make any sense. True, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains a provision--the Medical Loss Ratio provision--that requires most companies to spend 80% of collected premiums on actual medical care and this has resulted in rebate checks being issued to an estimated 12.8 million Americans. And?

In Dionne-land, accepting that money somehow represents a tacit acceptance of Obamacare, as a whole. As I said, six ways stupid:
  1. It's just one provision of the Act and hardly the one most are up in arms about.
  2. The money wouldn't go to the Federal Government if it was sent back. Contrast this with challenges laid at the feet of people like Buffet, who don't think they pay enough in taxes. They're free to actually send more money to the Feds, but they don't.
  3. Regardless, it can't be sent back. Insurance companies are required to send out the checks by law; send it back and they'll just re-send it. 
  4. The average rebate has been estimated to be about $151 dollars. Real money, true, but hardly a small fortune. It'll be gone in the wink of an eye. And really, who turns down rebates?
  5. Almost no one is jumping up and down praising Obama for the rebate checks because most realize that the long term costs of Obamacare make these checks insignificant.  
  6. Additionally, not everyone opposed to Obamacare is a big fan of health insurance companies, to begin with. Many of us want them out of healthcare decisions, altogether (along with the government). Rebate check or no rebate check, Obamacare isn't making that happen. It's only making things worse.  
And that was Dionne's big lead-in for the reminder of the piece, which unfortunately doesn't get any better. He closes by musing on whether or not Romney got a rebate check and on whether or not Romney plans on returning it. Dionne actually thinks he's being brilliant and clever, that he's scoring big points. It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

In the middle of the piece, Dionne also offers this scintillating tidbit of pseudo-analysis:
Political commentary these days is obsessed with the triviality of this campaign. Most of it is rooted in the refusal of conservatives to be candid about the implications of how their beliefs and commitments would affect the choices they would have government make -- and how these differ from the president's. 
In Romney's case, this often requires him to invent an Obama who exists only in the imagination of his ad makers. So they take Obama's statements, clip out relevant sentences, and run ads attacking some strung-together words that have a limited connection to what the president said. In the welfare ad, Romney lies outright.
Dionne is so incapable of thinking outside the box he lives in, he can't see how he just encapsulated the OBAMA Campaign's strategy in full. But even worse is his "observation" about political commentary. He's writing a piece centered on something--rebate checks--completely trivial with regard to the campaign. Even Obama is smart enough to not hang his hat on these checks; they just aren't that big of a deal because--again--they don't really represent the nature of Obamacare as whole, from the perspective of the Left or the Right.

This article is available online at RealClearPolitics. It's supposed to be political commentary. RCP even put it on the front page, under Real Clear Politics Thursday. I like RCP, don't get me wrong. It's chock full of good pieces by good writers  (and some not so good pieces by the same good writers, to be fair). But this piece is neither. It's downright stupid and thoughtless, something that should be held up as an example of how not to write political commentary. Drivel, through and through.

So, what is it doing there? Who at RCP read it and thought "yeah, this is good"? It's not only the intelligence of writers that is going down the tubes, but apparently also that of editors and other decision-makers in the media. I understand the need to fill space, but come on! Is this what we have to look forward to in the coming months and years? How 'bout bringing back some actual standards?

Cheers, all.

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