Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's okay to call Oedipus a...

As I suspect everyone has noticed by now, mainstream media journalists love pox-on-both-their-houses stories, stories where they can point to both parties committing the same offense, thus allowing the journalists to appear both impartial and morally superior.

Journalists love pox stories so much that they often equate very different offenses. Here Jonathan Chait finds an excellent example at the Washington Post:

After a recapitulation of some basic facts, the editorial arrives at the only other portion that can be called an actual argument:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel that seniors would “die sooner.” The Democratic National Committee proclaimed in an ad: “Their leaders have called for cutting Medicare, and now for killing it.”
This is false, inflammatory and, as we said, useful — for winning elections, that is. When it comes to solving the government’s most pressing problem, it threatens to set things back.

Are these claims false? No, they aren't. Let's take the democratic claims in reverse order. The current Medicare system is a commitment to cover health acre expenses for the elderly. The Republican plan would end that commitment and replace it with a limited and rapidly shrinking subsidy toward that end. It's somewhat tantamount to replacing public education with a system of limited vouchers for well below the average cost of public school tuition. Would you describe that as "killing" public education? I would -- the design of the program would be so altered as to no longer constitute the same thing.

It is true that both sides of the debates have accused the other of attacking Medicare, but only on one side were those accusations accurate.

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