Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 3, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

HAPPY NEW YEAR!....It's not often that someone writes a column that is simultaneously as condescending, juvenile, obtuse, and soul cankered as this one in Slate. You'll think it was written by a native of Alpha Centauri trying to parody Ayn Rand, but you'll be wrong. It was written by Steven Landsburg.

Kevin Drum 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (223)

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Seems that economics still has a few bugs in the philosophy department. It does pose interesting questions though.

Posted by: demisod on January 3, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

*Snicker* Weren't liberals the ones who supported pulling the plug of Terri Schiavo because it was costing too much even though people of faith were against it? It's hypocritical of you liberals to be now against pulling the plug of the poor.

Posted by: Al on January 3, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Landsburg wrote a book dedicated to the proposition that all moral questions could probably be solved by asking his 9-year-old daughter what she thought. He should check with her on this one. She's 17 by now, though, so she might be less inclined to serve as a prop for her father's positions.

Posted by: DonBoy on January 3, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Denny Hastert doesn't seem to mind "pulling the plug" for New Orleans so.....

Posted by: ET on January 3, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

condescending, juvenile, obtuse, and soul cankered as this one in Slate.

I think the adjective you are going for is "true".

Posted by: Al on January 3, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Wow - nice example of free market reasoning driven to its logical conclusions.

The irony is that your comment is right next to an advertisement for the Economist. Despite it's indepth coverage, the Economist's greatest weaknesses is its consistent blind faith in "markets good, governments bad" reasoning.

Look back over their predictions recently. For example, they predicted Putin would bring ruin to Russia with his quashing of Kordovsky and the oligarchs - oops best performing market in the world over the last few years.

Good to have you back though. Slate is really a good source of these achingly dumb articles. Anyone read some of John Dickerson's (sp?) stuff? Reminds one of the Wash Post editorial page. Wonder why?

Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 3, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

That guy actually has a job at Slate? Wow. Have we no work houses?

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 3, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Did any of you guys spend more than a minute pondering the issue before you jumped on Kevin's bandwagon? That can be a dangerous practice, because quite often Kevin's wagon is wandering down Dumbass Boulevard, as it is on this topic.

Posted by: Ivor the Engine Driver on January 3, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Medicaid doesn't pay for ventilators?

But I didn't realize that a hospital could EVER withhold lifesaving treatment. Is that just a Texas thing?

Anyway, the Terri Schiavo contrast is dead-on. I gather the lady here had the misfortune to be something other than white.

Posted by: Anderson on January 3, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

This is pretty close to the philosophy of Peter Singer, which a colleague of mine once described as "logic without compassion." It's interesting how the ultra-libertarians and the far, far left arrive at a similar position of utter contempt for human life. (Whittaker Chambers described Rand's brand of politics as the kind of anti-statism that says "To the gas chambers - go!")

Economist's greatest weaknesses is its consistent blind faith in "markets good, governments bad" reasoning.

This does not need to be inconsistent with preventing poor people from dying horrible deaths. I tend to share the Economist's philosophy, but I also recognize that there is no free-market solution to that poor woman's case, and I don't mind paying higher taxes to prevent that from happenning. (Or, rather, I don't mind the gov't. spending existing taxes on ventilator insurance instead of wasteful subsidies or pork projects.)

Posted by: neoliberal on January 3, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Every column I read by Landsburg furhter convinces me of the fact that he only writes them to get a rise out of the typical Slate reader, because what appears to be serious is so obviously ridiculous upon any examination.

However, this latest missive does go to the heart of the current climate. Of friggen course the avereage poor 21-year old (hell, the average rich 21 year old) will choose $75 in the hand over ventilator insurance.

But that's not the point, is it? Even Landsburg had to acknowledge the issues of the tragedy of the commons when in comes to vaccination, but why not health insurance? Moreover, I'm not even sure the question is a close one. Even I would admit that the poorest of the set of poor 21 year olds has some chance of earning $75 bucks by working for it in some way. By the time you are on a ventilator, you are at the complete mercy of a combination of the government, your family, and the hospital.
Exercise your free choice then!

Essentially, the "ventilator" economic choice is a false one. Landsburg confuses (I'm pretty sure, intentionally) gambling with economics.

When most of these issues are framed as what they in fact are, insurance questions, most people support them. It is the goal of the modern Republican party to somehow paint the issues as anything other that what they actually are.

Posted by: hank on January 3, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yow. I couldn't do more than skim this -- and that was enough to get my blood boiling. Two thoughts:

1) Fifteen minutes is a very long time to spend dying. Perhaps Mr. Landsburg will learn something like that one day.

2) Our society has truly failed if the only thing that determines a person's survival is the amount of money they have. Or more accurately, our society has truly failed if we are willing to so baldly state and blandly accept that this is so.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on January 3, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

So where are the right-to-lifers on this one? I would think they should be up in arms about this tragic and unnecessary loss of a human life.

Posted by: joe on January 3, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

First, Al: the key issue is to respect autonomy by ensuring that the care provided accords with the wishes or values of the patient.

If the patient wants to be kept alive on life support, then she should be. If she doesn't, then she shouldn't be.

If she's not able to express her own wishes at the time, then you go to her substitute decision maker, who's supposed to tell the doctors what that person would have wanted if she were able currently to express her wishes.

This is why it's perfectly consistent to say that Shiavo should have been allowed to die while this woman in Texas should not have been.

Posted by: otherpaul on January 3, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

al - i really shouldn't need to tell you this, but the difference between the terri schiavo case and this one is that schiavo expressly desired to have her feeding tube removed in that kind of situation, whereas in this girl's case there was no desire to do that at all.

this is a question of individual liberty - should people have the right to die with dignity, or should their lives be left to the whims of large, centralized, beaucratic entities?

also, there can never be a free market for health care. if you're having a heart attack you can't shop around for the best treatment option, and if there's an epidemic having a bunch of unprotected people running around is bad for the country. public health is a public good, like clean air - everybody's got a right to it.

if it ain't social it ain't security, and if it ain't public it ain't a health system. as long as it's in somebody's financial interest to see you coming back to the hospital, your health is not going to be taken care of. the VA is the most efficient medical system in the US because it's socialized. this provides yet another refutation of the capitalist dogma that "free" markets are the be-all-end-all form of human social organization.

Posted by: sayke on January 3, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but Mr. Landsburg has a point. We've reached the point in medical science where we can spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars extending the lives of the terminally ill a few more days or a few more months, but that doesn't make it the right thing to do. Is extending the life of a terminal patient a day worth not feeding ten poor children for a day? What if it's a hundred children? Or a thousand? We live in a world of limited resources and, at some point, the (tough) decision has to be made, .

I realize some will object that "the rich" will not have to worry about this problem, but that doesn't change what is right. We can't force people to spend their money the way we might want, but that doesn't mean we should make the same mistakes they do.

And do realize I say all this as a liberal progressive and cancer survivor.

Posted by: Kurtz on January 3, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals weren't in favor of pulling the plug on Terry Schiavo because of the cost. They were in favor of pulling the plug on Terry Schiavo because

(a) She was dead. Residual activity in the brainstem doesn't really count as alive.

(b) It was the wish of her husband. As a Catholic Christian, I've learned that the Bible says that once you're married, you belong to your spouse, and no longer to your parents. And most certainly not to the government.

I thought conservatives were supposed to be for keeping government out of people's lives?

Posted by: Don Hosek on January 3, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Where exactly can one buy ventilator (extreme life-prolonging care) insurance for $75, at any age? When I was 22 I worked for an organization with excellent and proactive benefits, and I am reasonably sure if such a thing had been available they would at least have told us about it (and probably just bought it for us, thus massively reducing their long-term liabilities). I don't recall any such product ever being offered.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 3, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

I've always enjoyed Everyday Economics, but I agree with Kevin that this one was pretty bad. Honestly, I wanted to be convinced that he was right, but he never convinced me.

It's not the worst Slate.com article ever. Here is my pick for worst, not just w/Slate.com but for nearly everything.

http://www.slate.com/id/2112083/

Posted by: Alex Parker on January 3, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of the Helga Wanglie case in Minnesota. Helga was elderly and could no longer express her wishes on the matter.

The hospital thought her continued life on a ventilator (or some sort of life support) was futile and a waste of their resources.

But Helga's husband (her subst. decision maker) said that they both adhered to a strong sanctity of life ideal, according to which you keep the person alive as long as you can.

The hospital challenged the husband's legal status as subst. decision maker and of course lost. The upshot? The hospital had to keep Helga alive as long as the husband wanted them to.

How can it be okay for another state to say pretty much the opposite of this? I'm Canadian and don't know a lot about how the American system works. Is absolutely everything connected with these cases determined at the state level?

Posted by: otherpaul on January 3, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I stopped reading that guy when I realized he was just a right-wing opinion writer who dresses his opinions with a little economics. He gives economics a bad name. He also seems to not be a very good economist. He stuck at that econ 101 level. If all you know is econ 101 of course you're going to be a heartless libertarian. But if you factor in grown-up economic thinking like Thomas H. Frank's stuff, you're back in the real world.

Posted by: Chris on January 3, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, economic considerations are the basis of true compassion
As a former libertarian, I'm not at all surprised. I have heard the phrase "to really value people, you must value them" bandied about before. To tell people outside the party that people HAVE to be given a dollar-value was the height of both political stupidity and (to me) wanton cruelty, but it is the norm. I'm not surprised when this attitude slips into broader conversations.

Posted by: Mike B. on January 3, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

My God, what an ass.

Please tell me this was satire. I hate to think there really are people this soul-less walking around.

I can guarantee you if it were he on the ventilator, he wouldn't have to reach for Webster's to know what compassion is. Obtuse indeed.

Posted by: chuck on January 3, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

On the contrary, Alex, the article you pan was one of the better articles Slate published. It's a quite effective spearing of the tendency -- a tendency that should be offensive to religious as well as non-religious people -- for those who have survived disaster to credit God for saving them, implying that the neighbors who were killed were somehow less worthy. If you like, you can read it as a call for a boycott of a primitive concept of God.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 3, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

I guess what matters in these cases is two things: the prognosis and the wishes of the patient or the patient's legally appointed decision makers.

As for the prognosis, it was apparently terminal cancer, so it's not like she could have recovered. The article doesn't say anything about the patient's wishes. So I suppose this thing could go either way.

The vast majority of our health care spending in this country is spent in the last six months of a person's life. We need to have a serious national discussion about whether this spending is good from a quality of life standpoint. I know that I don't want to spend my last months completely incapacitated, and I would choose to die rather than be on life support if I had the choice.

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on January 3, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Good luck selling the idea of compulsory/state aided ventillator insurance to the American people in 2006.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 3, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Although the article is certainly condescending and borderline malicious, it does (rather obliquely) raise a good point: how, in a world of finite resources, do we maximize the utility of the funds available for providing relief and assistance to the underprivileged? Although I have no idea what it costs to keep a person on a ventilator for a day, and the article unfortunately (and perhaps irresponsibly) did not mention that amount, it does seem perfectly reasonable to ask whether the money is better spent keeping one terminally ill patient alive for a few more days, versus perhaps providing preventive care to extend the lives of several other people for months or years, despite the apparent callousness of allowing a person to die when that death is, in a literal sense, preventable. (Obviously these calculations are highly abstract in the absence of concrete numbers, but the reasoning process they illustrate seems valid). Underneath the distracting talk of "ventilator insurance," I think the article raises that valid point against the bloggers' reaction.

Al,

I don't recall any "liberals" making the argument that Ms. Schiavo should be allowed to die because keeping her on life support was "costing too much." The argument was that the state should not compel her to remain alive in a persistent vegetative state despite the professed wishes of Ms. Schiavo and her husband. This argument is grounded in a respect for personal autonomy that holds that the individual should be permitted to make the most personal of life's decisions without interference from the state, and has nothing to do with the expense of her care.

Posted by: James Dillon on January 3, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

There is a reason why we have things called "life insurance" and "health insurance" rather than a blizzard of policies dedicated to arcane specific events. The odds of any one thing causing catastrophic loss are not high, but the cumulative probability that something will be needed is significant.

There are honest arguments to be made about how we treat end-of-life issues, both in terms of societal cost and quality of life. Since none but the super-rich can afford out of pocket costs in the millions, however, singling out the poor for triage is more than a little obtuse. It's a moral abomination.

Posted by: Marc on January 3, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Huh, I just read that Slate article you point to Alex and have to disagree. Tho I don't agree with all of it, at least, it does provoke people to think about the whole out-moded and always illogical God idea. (At least God, as presented in the Old and New Testaments anyway.)

If the author ruffled your feathers, I guess that was the intent.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

There is room for a great deal of disagreement about how much assistance rich people should give to poor people, either voluntarily or through the tax system. Landsburg

Mr. Landsburg does not know it is the extra value poor people add by their work that makes rich people rich. Our political economy does not allow for this transaction to be made voluntarily. What was this capital apologist's opinion of the Terry Schiavo affair?

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 3, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

What's striking to me about the Slate column is exactly the lack of compassion. There is no sign whatsoever of Landberg making any emotional connection with the dying woman, or with her family. His empathy organ is not working. It is appropriately symbolic that he has to look compassion up in the dictionary to be sure he knows what it's supposed to mean - his heart doesn't tell him.

Posted by: Stuart Staniford on January 3, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

My god, this is evil. Just sick, twisted and evil.

No, it's not moral to offer poor people such a choice. Mayve this is obvious, but I'm drawn to an analogy of Sophy's choice here--the boy or the girl? Um, it's not kindness or a concern for the weak that leads people to pose such choices.

This is a really sick way to make yourself feel better about not taking care of sick poor people. I mean, you gave them a choice! It's really THEIR fault they chose to eat instead of get ventilator insurance! You have no moral responsibility for them whatsoever.

Seriously, this is evil. This is an evil argument.

Posted by: theorajones on January 3, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

this should help to alleviate the gloom: Construction spending hit an all-time high in November as government spending to build schools, highways and sewer systems offset a slight dip in home building.
***
The Commerce Department reported that total building activity rose to a record $1.146 trillion at an annual rate in November, up 0.2 percent from the October pace.
***
Through the first 11 months of 2005, construction spending is 9 percent above the pace set in 2004 as a boom in housing helped to push construction activity to record levels. However, home building by the private sector was essentially unchanged in November, which could be a harbinger of the expected slowdown in this sector as rising mortgage rates cool housing activity.
***
In other economic news, a closely watched gauge of manufacturing slowed a bit in December but remained at a level indicating manufacturing will continue to expand in coming months. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index turned in a reading of 54.2 last month, down slightly from the November reading of 58.1.

Posted by: contentious on January 3, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I see Joe Buck said what I did already only better!

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

...alleviate the gloom...

"Hey look at this puppy over here!"

thanks contentious

Posted by: Russ Ruszkowski on January 3, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Joe,

Here's my problem with the God article.

One of the oldest questions involving religion is, How can a benevolent God allow awful things to happen? Whether you're religious or not, (and I'm in the not category), it just isn't right to say that religion hasn't been dealing with this question for nearly thousands of years. The author comes off like she's discovered some amazing new insight when she's really just blithely repeating what serious religious scholars have debated.

That, and I read it as making light of a truly devastating event. I don't think anyone would have written a column like that after 9/11.

Posted by: Alex Parker on January 3, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

After thinking about it a bit, I have decided to buy this "ventilator insurance" for my kids. I am willing to pay up to $150 each, double the quoted price. Can anyone point me to an agent who will sell it to me? Tbrosz perhaps?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 3, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Stuart said: "It is appropriately symbolic that he has to look compassion up in the dictionary to be sure he knows what it's supposed to mean - his heart doesn't tell him."

That is so good, I just had to say it again.

Posted by: CK Dexter Haven on January 3, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Where are the bleeding heart liberals on this one? Why didn't some compassionate liberal fork over some money to keep her on the ventilator? What was that? Liberals are generous when giving out other people's money?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 3, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, while I am a firm believer in "no one should die because they can't afford treatment", Landsburg does invole some good discussion:

- Asking Miss Habtegiris before she got sick is probably a good idea. She might have said "I don't want to be put on a ventilator, never mind the insurance." Poor people should not be kept on ventilators just because they can't afford a lawyer to fight for their Right-To-Die.

- Despite his "unfortunate" headline, the crux of the article is actually about deciding where is the best place to spend the money. Letting the person decide is certainly not the worst suggestion. (It might be close to the best)


At some point the country must decide how to spend money. The woman was critically ill (terminal cancer patient) and likely would have died anyways. As medical technology advances, this issue will ballon. Follow this simple argument:
- What if you could cure cancer but it cost $10 billion per person. Even Bill Gates would die.
- What if you could do it for $10 per person, now no one would die.
- Somewhere in the middle is reality, but where do you draw the line? Using economics, only the rich get cured, (bad) bit this subsidizes and refines the system to make it more affordable (good).

It's a complex argument, with no correct answer.

Posted by: JustInTime on January 3, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Dang! For a moment there I thought I was reading a rant by the guy that played a detective on Barney Miller. Not to be. His name is spelled Landesburg.

Posted by: Poncho & Lefty on January 3, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously Mr. Landsburg has not read TAKING CARE: ETHICAL CAREGIVING In OUR AGING SOCIETY, available here:

http://www.bioethics.gov/reports/taking_care/index.html

The report from The President's Council on Bioethics makes the case that folks who want to leave before they succumb to dementia should be talked out of it.

As the report puts it, "Good long-term care requires willing and able caregivers, community supports, caregiving institutions, and social policies that go beyond advance directives and beyond even responsible advance care planning. Public policy must address these issues directly."

Short version: Don't plan ahead. The medical community will take care of you once you start to slide. As for the cost to the family, that cannot be a consideration. Nor can the cost to the society.

Posted by: MrLipid on January 3, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"What's striking to me about the Slate column is exactly the lack of compassion. There is no sign whatsoever of Landberg making any emotional connection with the dying woman, or with her family. His empathy organ is not working. It is appropriately symbolic that he has to look compassion up in the dictionary to be sure he knows what it's supposed to mean - his heart doesn't tell him."

Stuart,

I don't think that's at all true. Lansburg explicitly notes his compassion for the dying woman, but implicit in his discussion is the (I think) valid point that the zero-sum game of resource allocation does not allow us to indulge our compassionate impulses on every occasion. Yes, the life of this dying woman could no doubt have been extended for some time by the allocation of additional funds to her care, but at what cost in terms of lost opportunities to help others in which the relief could do more absolute good? What would be the opportunity cost of a policy of extending the life of every terminal patient to the maximum extent achievable by state of the art medical technology? Is it better to spend millions of dollars extending the lives of comatose or terminal patients for a few months when the same funds could be allocated to improve the quality of life for many others? There may be no clear answer to these questions, but an insistence that society consider these questions and strive for solutions that maximize utility across the board seems to me to indicate both the compassion and level-headedness necessary to allocate the finite resources of society between literally millions of competing claims in an equitable way.

Posted by: James Dillon on January 3, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Kurtz,

Setting the law aside and just looking at the ethics, it makes all the difference whether the person is still conscious. Maybe we should say that when someone is in a persistent vegetative state with no prospect of recovery, it's a waste of resources to keep that person going. But I don't see how the treatment could be called a 'waste' if the individual is conscious or could regain consciousness.

This Texas law is just filthy. Some Dutch ethicists say that their system of active euthanasia should not be adopted in the US, since it would lead to people being 'euthanized' for purely economic reasons. Critics replied by saying that Americans wouldn't be that inhumane -- after all (they said), there's the potential for people in the US to be passively euthanized for economic reasons, but that doesn't happen. Guess what, now it does.

In fact, this was involuntary euthanasia. I can't think of any other western nation that even considers allowing that.

I realize that the US (and Canadian) legal system bizzarely regards this as passive euthanasia (merely 'allowing' someone to die), but really it's obviously killing. Withdrawing treatment is an action that causes death, and I don't see how one could deny that that's killing. And the people who withdrew the treatment knew full well what the consequences would be. They should be charged with murder.

Posted by: otherpaul on January 3, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

They should have kept her alive because Dead men pay no bills.

Oh come on it was funny!! *shrug* well I laughed.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 3, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

OtherPaul:

How can it be okay for another state to say pretty much the opposite of this?

It's not the opposite. Minnesota was saying that extending the lady's life was pointless. Hence Minnesota lost, because who is the state to say that a life is pointless, when God tells us we have to prolong everyone's life, no matter how vegetative or painful? Why, it's positively un-American!

What Texas was saying, on the other hand, was: we don't care whether your life is pointless or holy or rich and full of glory; you don't got the money, honey, so it ain't our problem. And that attitude is as American as apple pie.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

the whole article is worth reading, but the beginning is worth quoting: Tirhas Habtegiris, a 27-year-old terminal cancer patient at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, was removed from her ventilator last month because she couldn't pay her medical bills.

Wouldn't most people on life support with a terminal illness want to be removed from life support?

"Financial considerations" are a measure of how many other people are required to work, and how hard they are required to work. People might have an obligation to work on my behalf, but not to keep me lingering in death with an uncurable illness. Don't forget, lots of people in the world do not have medical even start due to financial considerations. In Oregon, for example, the state will not pay for (and doctors will not perform) bone marrow transplants, though they pay for lots of other medical treatments.

It's no fun to think about death and dying, but that isn't a good reason to stop thinking. While we are thinking, how many people who find this case unsettling have donated the funds necessary to pay all the bills? Not I, my money has gone to tsunami relief, Katrina relief, and Pakistan earthquake relief. If I feel like donating more, that's where I will donate; or to Southern Poverty Law Center, MSF (who say they have more money than they can spend wisely), or local charities.

Posted by: contentious on January 3, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose I'm naive, but doesn't it seem fucked up that someone in America just died because they couldn't afford their medical bills? Doesn't that just seem.....creepy? Maybe I'm idealizing our country, but it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should happen here.

And I know in the larger picture if you're poor you're not going to have good health care in the first place, which is likely to shorten your life, so being poor equals being dead sooner is something I get. But this seems so immediate and personal and inhumane and...yeah, creepy.

Posted by: Mike on January 3, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I have printed out Abramoff's rap-sheet, and posted it on my wall next to Tom Delay's and Lewis Libby's.

yay.

I couldn't find one for Randy "Jailbird" Cunningham though. :(

By the time this is over, I hope I have enough wall-space for them. Or maybe I hope I don't.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 3, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

That's right, dammit, the rich should be buying healthcare for the poor until they're no longer rich. We've got to bleed those rich people, make them buy the poor homes and cars, too.

Because that's what the lefties want.

If you moonbats are so up in arms about this, why weren't you paying for her ventilator?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Never take seriously anything written by someone with the same last name as an actor on "Barney Miller."

Posted by: Eisbaer on January 3, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

The economic "analysis" was incorrect. The question is what the patient wanted now, not six years ago. I would wager her utility function has undergone some drastic changes. Landsberg also assumes the "price" for the ventilator had anything to do with "free markets". Truly laughable.

The compassion angle is also wrong, insofar as it conflates individual vs. societal choices.

Overall grade: D-

Posted by: kaptain kapital on January 3, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Whoops, that should be the same NAME -- first AND last name.

Posted by: Eisbaer on January 3, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Suppose somebody told me, "Hey, libdevil, I'll give you $100,000 to go kill this lady. She's a terminal cancer patient in Texas." They'd be commiting a crime, and a monstrously immoral act. If I took the money and did the deed, I'd also be commiting a crime, and a monstrously immoral act. I'd be a contract murderer, in fact, among the lowest of the low. But when hospital administrators kill the same woman for the same $100,000 (or whatever the number is), they're somehow morally correct? No way.

Posted by: libdevil on January 3, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am as outraged by this as anyone else, but given that billions of people all over the world do no have access to healthcare services more rudimentary than a ventillator, including a large number from India and China whose labor provides the goods and services that we buy everyday, on reading the posts here I cannot but think of a PETA meeting at McDonalds.

Posted by: lib on January 3, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Lansburg explicitly notes his compassion for the dying woman, but implicit in his discussion is the (I think) valid point that the zero-sum game of resource allocation does not allow us to indulge our compassionate impulses on every occasion. Yes, the life of this dying woman could no doubt have been extended for some time by the allocation of additional funds to her care, but at what cost in terms of lost opportunities to help others in which the relief could do more absolute good?

This is pure idiocy, of course. Do we ask, every time we cut a paycheck for a police officer, whether in the zero-sum game of resource allocation we might not better fight crime by establishing a midnight basketball league with the same $50,000 a year? One could make the very same cost-benefit comparison with literally every action undertaken by anyone anywhere in pursuit of any goal. And Landsburg doesn't bother arguing that the money spent on this woman's respirator was worse spent than some other worthy health-care goal. He presents no evidence on this question. I can make the same sort of evidence-free argument to show that the Defense Department does not protect America, that government highway spending does not promote transportation, that education spending, private or public, does not promote learning or intelligence, and that eating does not make us less hungry. After all, who is to say that, in the zero-sum game of resource allocation, other techniques might not be more effective at accomplishing these goals?

For example, to keep from getting hungry, it would be far more efficient to shoot yourself in the head than to spend your entire life fruitlessly trying to eat enough to dispel hunger. Hence, eating does not make us less hungry; by prolonging death, it actually, in the long run, makes us hungrier.

It's an amazing argument, really. Giving life-prolonging care to a woman dying of cancer is not "compassionate", since, twenty years earlier, she did not choose to spend a much smaller amount of money to buy a nonexistent type of insurance against the precise catastrophe which, many years later, would strike her down. In the same sense, when your child falls out of a tree and breaks his leg, it is not "compassionate" to bring him to the hospital for treatment, since, earlier that day, he might more efficiently have chosen to purchase an inexpensive but nonexistent metal anti-fracture leg-brace, but instead chose to use his time and resources differently. It is more compassionate to use your precious time and labor on whatever services the market values most highly at that moment, such as, say, writing some software, or practicing corporate law, while leaving your child screaming on the lawn.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't most people on life support with a terminal illness want to be removed from life support?

She didn't.

Even though her body was being ravaged by cancer, this family says Tirhas still responded and was conscious. She was waiting (for) one person. "She wanted to get her mom over here or to get to her mom so she could die in her mom's arms," says her cousin Meri Tesfay.

Kevin's right - it's truly stupid, pea-souled column. The dumbest thing in it is this:

Accounting for "economic considerations" meansby definitiontrying to give people what they'll value the most. In other words, economic considerations are the basis of true compassion.

What people value the most (compassion, for example) isn't buyable with dollars.

Posted by: No Preference on January 3, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

That's a ridiculous oversimplification conspiracy nut, especially given that the uber rich and corporations are often paying *less* taxes than the poor. If the rich and the corporations would pay their gd taxes, it'd sure help.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

If you moonbats are so up in arms about this, why weren't you paying for her ventilator?

Because people like me have most of the money, and have been sponging off the system for decades (Social Security Trust Fund, see).

But shsss. Keep it a secret, OK?

Posted by: kaptain kapital on January 3, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

James Dillon wrote: ... an insistence that society consider these questions and strive for solutions that maximize utility across the board seems to me to indicate both the compassion and level-headedness necessary to allocate the finite resources of society between literally millions of competing claims in an equitable way.

As far as I can make out, the article advocates that the "finite resources of society" be allocated between "millions of competing claims" in a very simple way: by the ability to pay.

Those who can afford to pay for medical care can have whatever care science is able to provide, for whatever condition they need or want care for, whether it is trivial or life-threatening; those who cannot afford to pay will not get care. Period.

Is that a "compassionate" and "level-headed" way to "maximize utility across the board ... in an equitable way"?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 3, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

typical republican compassion.

oh, and fuck al.

Posted by: Vinnie on January 3, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Good point Neo-liberal - let me clarify.

My crack about the Economist always believing in free market solutions is connected to this article in this way. Consistently they've supported all the "free-market" fixes to the US health care system, and decried European socialism. All this despite the fact there is little evidence that economics really works in health care.

The US is the only industrialized country without socialized medicine and has the highest costs (by far) and middling results. Over and over, attempts have been made to introduce market based solutions and they backfire. And one reason is exactly connected to this article - because nurses and doctors do the compassionate thing. They cheat to help out patients. We've all seen it - and we (almost) all agree that they are doing the right thing.

In addition, there are lots of theoretical reasons why economics doesn't work in health care: there isn't perfect information. There aren't informed consumers, there is tremendous supplier power, etc. All of these are basic tenets of micro-economics - and they just aren't credible assumptions in health care.

And yes, maybe the writer was trying to make the point of how ridiculous economics is in health care.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 3, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

But when hospital administrators kill the same woman for the same $100,000
So your position is that someone can run up a $100,000 tab for services rendered with no sign of payment coming, and the service provider should just keep providing service?

Let me guess, you also bitch about the high cost of hospitalization, you're probably wondering why hospitals charge so much. Clueless.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Son where can I get some of that ventilator insurance?

Posted by: Ace Franze on January 3, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Steven Lanburg is making a very religious argument here in favor of the most optimally compassionate possibility.

Of course, we're talking here about "compassion" within the moral framework of the religion of Mammon. Of which tbrosz is a high acolyte, of course.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 3, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

especially given that the uber rich and corporations are often paying *less* taxes than the poor
Too bad the facts don't support this bullshit. Over 50% of taxes are paid by the top 10% of earners. And taxing corporations is stupid, its a cost that gets passed back to the consumer; you pay those taxes one way or the other.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Accounting for "economic considerations" meansby definitiontrying to give people what they'll value the most. In other words, economic considerations are the basis of true compassion.

Yeah, No Preference, I just can't get past that line. See, the thing is, Rupert Murdoch is willing to pay me $1 million to help him out with this corporate merger, while that homeless guy on the corner isn't willing to pay me a dime to give him a bath and a square meal. So by working on the merger for Murdoch, I'm being much more compassionate than I would be if I were to give the homeless guy a bath and a square meal. Murdoch is simply much more deserving of my compassion - about a million dollars worth more deserving, to be precise.

The man is sick. He has a screw loose.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Happy Ney Year everyone.

Posted by: koreyel on January 3, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

conspicy nut wrote: moonbats lefties moonbats lefties moonbats moonbats lefties lefties nyah nyah nyah nyah ...

Some one should disconnect conspiracy nut's life support. He's been brain dead for a long time now.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 3, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

How much would Steve Landesburg pay to insure that a bunch of bloggers won't burn his house down?

Oops. Wrong choice, Steve. Remember, society can't help everybody who makes bad decisions.

Posted by: TheCat on January 3, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, color me a scumbag but nothing in this article seems unreasonable to me. Perhaps if the woman wasn't terminal, if there was some chance a cure could be found if she just held out a little longer (spare me any Schaivo theatrics here), I'd feel differently, but I don't think society has an obligation to keep forking out money so someone can live a little longer, probably in great discomfort or pain. If it were me, the only extra I'd want is death by a massive morphine overdose as opposed to natural causes.

Posted by: wil on January 3, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

That stats you provide do absolutely nothing to undermine what I said, conspiracy nuts. You give no stats for the percentage of the uber rich and corporations not paying taxes. And the corporations not paying taxes simply earn greater revenue which they seldom pass on to their employees. They could pay taxes and still make a profit. AND, it's COMPANIES which want to be treated like INDIVIDUALS in ever other respect, so they can DAMN well pay taxes, too. If you don't think they should pay taxes, talk to THEM about the fact that they shouldn't be treated like HUMAN BEINGS.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

So that's what Bush meant by "compassionate conservatism."

Posted by: Jeremy on January 3, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

"I have printed out Abramoff's rap-sheet, and posted it on my wall next to Tom Delay's and Lewis Libby's.

yay."

Sounds like you had a good Fitzmas.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 3, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Soul cankered" struck me as a bit of over-the-top hyperbole, but after reading that column, wow. It fits perfectly.

It's not the pig, so much - the idea that poor people should be simply be allowed to die - its Landsburg's fumbling, transparent attempt to put the lipstick of economic theory on it that sticks in the craw.

If he'd said "you know what? People die every second. It's the natural condition. I shouldn't have to pay to help them live a little longer" I could have respected him a little. But to make up numbers and other people's opinions and try to perform an ugly little scarf dance with them...

Yeah. Soul cankered.

On another note, I'm a longtime subscriber to the Economist and while they do put an inordinate emphasis on market-based solutions, they also take absolute moral positions, positions which tend to be liberal. Their support for aid to the underdeveloped world, for instance, is based solely on a sense of moral obligation. As is their support for homosexual marriage.

Posted by: S Ra on January 3, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

And taxing corporations is stupid, its a cost that gets passed back to the consumer; you pay those taxes one way or the other.
Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Taxing consumers is stupid. That's less money they can afford to pay for goods and services, so it acts as a tax on corporations anyway, but instead depresses the economy. Only investment income and corporate profits should be taxed.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 3, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK


The article is a fascinating testament to the futility of attempting to reduce values such as compassion to logical formulas. Clearly, "compassion" is a result not of economic calculus but deeply-felt moral conviction. The absence of it in the case of this author seems to me to be indicative of a strange absence of moral sensibility.

Its also a rather troubling demonstration of the willingness of arrogant #$@&%s to treat serious human issues as little more than an excuse to devise clever cocktail conversation.

Posted by: Aidan on January 3, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a longtime subscriber to the Economist and while they do put an inordinate emphasis on market-based solutions, they also take absolute moral positions, positions which tend to be liberal.

That's because even tho they're conservative, they're over there in a more enlightened Europed, whereas so many of our conservatives are still neck-deep in superstitious religious muck.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

If it were me, the only extra I'd want is death by a massive morphine overdose as opposed to natural causes.

But it wasn't you, was it?

What's impossible to understand in this thread, what gives me the sense that I am living in the haunted house at Disneyworld, is how conservatives who argued that Terry Schiavo should be maintained indefinitely on life support at state expense because she was alive though braindead, can now argue that it was right to take Tirhas Habtegiras off of life support because she didn't have the money to pay for it.

It doesn't make any SENSE!!! It's like the gibberish penned by a seven-year-old on an essay question.

Are you clear that Terry Schiavo didn't have the money to pay for life support, either? How can you argue that brain-deadness is a lesser criterion for terminating life support than poverty? How can you argue that people should be maintained indefinitely on life support at state expense ONLY when their brains are dead?

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose I'm naive, but doesn't it seem fucked up that someone in America just died because they couldn't afford their medical bills? Doesn't that just seem.....creepy? Maybe I'm idealizing our country, but it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should happen here.

There probably isn't enough money, and there certainly isn't a large enough supply of doctors, nurses, technicians and custodial staff, to supply everybody with the kind of medical care that people and their families demand in the aggregate. In the US and in every other nation, people die every day because they can not afford a treatment that might keep them alive. In the US, for example, people are dying of AIDS because they can not afford antiretroviral medicatiion (more opportunities for the compassionate among us to make donations of time and money), or because they have multidrugresistant HIV and society hasn't yet invested the resources to develop and test the next antiretroviral drug.

The villain in this story is Death, not the hospital, not economics, not a lack of compassion. But a lack of thinking makes the problem we face worse, not better, no matter who feels morally superior to whom. The cited article is not the last word on the subject that we shall have to read, but it illustrates why economics is called "the dismal science".

Posted by: contentious on January 3, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Landsburg is not only a repugnant person, he's a poor excuse for an economist as well. I think Slate keeps him around, as they do Kaus, to give them a "contrarian" edge. It certainly isn't for their great writing.

Posted by: Jeff II on January 3, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I love lies.

But the most delicious lies are the lies my worshippers tell themselves to convince them that they're worshipping someone else, when they're really worshipping me.

Posted by: Mammon on January 3, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

S Ra wrote: If he'd said "you know what? People die every second. It's the natural condition. I shouldn't have to pay to help them live a little longer" I could have respected him a little.

Well, that wouldn't have been enough to fill up an entire Slate column.

Come to think of it, "People die every second. It's the natural condition. I shouldn't have to pay to help them live a little longer" could completely replace not only a Slate column, but whole shelves full of books on so-called free market libertarian "philosophy".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 3, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

In the US, for example, people are dying of AIDS because they can not afford antiretroviral medicatiion (more opportunities for the compassionate among us to make donations of time and money)

No. Read a book. Read the legislation. The Ryan White Act is supposed to provide government funding for every single HIV+ person in the country to get care and treatment, including antiretroviral medication when they need it. The fact that it is being underfunded at the moment is a violation of this country's basic social contract; it is a decision by the Congress to put poor people to death.

ARV medication is by now so cheap that BRAZIL can afford to treat every single AIDS patient in the country. If the US decides to let poor HIV+ people die rather than guarantee them treatment, that is a political decision by the American voter to kill poor people, not some kind of economic inevitability.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"it is a decision by the Congress to put poor people to death."

Sounds more like natural selection at work to me.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on January 3, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe sums it up so well: some conervatives are really going to find themselves holding mutually exclusive opinions on this one.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I just googled Landsburg, and I gotta say, how much of a proffessional disappointment do you have to be to have a PhD in economics from UChicago minted in 1979, and still only teach in Rochester? That has to be a little embarrassing.

Posted by: Scott E. on January 3, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

What's impossible to understand in this thread, what gives me the sense that I am living in the haunted house at Disneyworld, is how conservatives who argued that Terry Schiavo should be maintained indefinitely on life support at state expense because she was alive though braindead, can now argue that it was right to take Tirhas Habtegiras off of life support because she didn't have the money to pay for it.

I can't contend against that sentiment. I think that when it comes to death and dying most people just give up thinking and form a strong emotional attachment to some small set of details: Schiavo might recover, the state should pay to support a dying woman's wishes, poverty shouldn't matter, neglect to buy insurance shouldn't matter, people should be more generous. Thinking (even done without great skill) requires setting aside compassion for a time, and the result is always cold, calculating, and like a canker upon the soul in its appearance.

Posted by: contentious on January 3, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

ARV medication is by now so cheap that BRAZIL can afford to treat every single AIDS patient in the country.

So we can add Brazil to the list of countries which have superior health care to ours now, too, huh? (Partly kidding/stirring.)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Thinking (even done without great skill) requires setting aside compassion for a time."

That's only a certain kind of thinking.

Posted by: booger on January 3, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I bothered to actually read up on the case, as Landsburg's stuff sounded pretty heartless. Some questions I have in general...

1. Forget waiting for her mom to come from Africa. Red Herring, or should be. What if she just didn't want to die? Still don't pull the plug? Or wait until she's unconscious? How cognizant was she?

2. Hospital beds can be damn scarce. How many people turned away due to full wards?

3. Was she still cognizant?

4. How many $$$ spent on her? Sounds like she received a hell of a lot of care gratis, and the relatives gave a "f$%^ you" in return.

5. Why wouldn't a nursing home take her? Why weren't they required to? Makes a thousand times more sense to put her in a situation similar to Terri Schiavo then to take up an extremely expensive and rare hospital bed.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

contentious, YOU are not thinking straight. You're setting up a completely bogus scenario in which hardheartedness equals intelligence, when in this case it actually stems from confusion and muddleheadedness.

You have no idea how much it was costing the state of Texas to keep Habtegiras alive. None. And you don't know how much longer she was going to survive, with life support. So arguing that it was too expensive and the taxpayer has no obligation to prolong her life only reflects your a priori prejudices. You don't know whether keeping her on life support until cancer finally got her would have been any more expensive than giving someone's grandpa a heart operation which only prolongs his life by 6 months, which happens all the time without anyone raising much of a fuss about it.

It's not a matter of sentiment. There's an absolutely crucial intellectual point to be established here, for future reference: lack of national health insurance means that being poor kills people. That's all. If Habtegiras were rich, she would have been able to afford more expensive catastrophic health insurance, and she would have stayed on life support. She wasn't rich, so she had to die a few weeks, or months, or whatever, earlier than she would have if she were rich.

This, then, is one of the underpinnings of the argument for national health insurance. Without it, rich people live while poor people die. That's all.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

For anyone who cares, here's an excellent article on Baylor's approach to medical ethics.

Article

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

If Habtegiras were rich, she would have been able to afford more expensive catastrophic health insurance, and she would have stayed on life support.

And her care would have subsidized all of the patients without health insurance that Baylor is reuqired to treat. The paying subsidize the non-paying.

She wasn't rich, so she had to die a few weeks, or months, or whatever, earlier than she would have if she were rich.

She died a hell of a lot later than she would have if turned away by the hospital and left to her own resources. In effect, she had a de facto form of insurance.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

So we can add Brazil to the list of countries which have superior health care to ours now, too, huh? (Partly kidding/stirring.)

Well, Robert S., Brazil's HIV/AIDS comprehensive national treatment program is indeed a model to be emulated, both in the third world and, I'm afraid, in the US. It's better at reaching poor dark-skinned segments of the population, and it's better at ignoring social taboos and being open and frank enough about sex and drug use to reach the gay, transvestite, IDU and sex-worker populations that are most at risk.

As for the rest of the health care industry in Brazil, I imagine that as the US becomes increasingly polarized by wealth, we'll start to resemble more and more a country of state-of-the-art cosmetic surgery clinics for the rich, and filthy, understaffed, medication-short neighborhood health stations for the poor.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Note that the poor woman was "terminal". IE, there was no chance of recovery. So, it is not a question of whether she gets "treatment". There is not any "treatment". Does she get kept alive? Why? What is the compelling reason to keep people alive, as opposed to helping them get better?

Posted by: msf on January 3, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

What is the compelling reason to help people get better, if not keeping them alive?

Posted by: Viserys on January 3, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

She died a hell of a lot later than she would have if turned away by the hospital and left to her own resources.

Red State Mike, is someone advocating revoking the legal obligation of hospitals to treat seriously ill patients who show up at their doors, which the US shares with every single advanced economy on the planet? Or are you congratulating yourself on living in a country where people are better off than they would be in Sudan? I imagine she died a hell of a lot later than she would have if she had been abandoned in the glaciers of Antarctica, too. So?

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

That stats you provide do absolutely nothing to undermine what I said, conspiracy nuts
You said that the rich and corporations often don't pay as much in taxes as the rich. I pointed out that most of the taxes are paid by the rich. No taxes are paid by the poor, the bottom 50% of wage earners contribute nothing in taxes.

So tell me, since the rich pay over half the taxes, and the poor pay none of the taxes, how is it that the rich often don't pay as much? Clown.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut, I can neither tolerate this continued idiocy nor be bothered to look up the stats I need to refute you; it's not worth it. Please, just stop.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

The article itself is an exercise in straw man logic. The author suggests that a lifetime of ventilator insurance would cost maybe $75, but ventilator insurance is not what is on the table in terms of the health insurance debate. Some of us will need long term rehab for leg fractures, others of us will need long term therapy for emphazema, and the rare individual will spend time on a ventilator before dying young. A more realistic debate would be about charging every single person who files an income tax return some amount to allow for minimal medical insurance. The medical care itself can be fee based or socialized, but the issue involves making the insurance pool open and universal. The problem with this article is that it views the universe of possible health care in the most constricted way possible, in fact in a way that goes beyond even what the right wingers would generally imagine.

Posted by: Bob G on January 3, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Good catch, Kevin. I wrote the following email response to the writer:

Mr. Landsburg,

This is in reference to your essay in Slate - http://www.slate.com/id/2133518/ .

My faith tradition happens to be Christian. I dont seek to convert others. I dont even think that being Christian is the only way to get closer to that which we dont know but binds us all together. I do know that Christ would never have spoken these words:

Accounting for "economic considerations" meansby definitiontrying to give people what they'll value the most. In other words, economic considerations are the basis of true compassion.

Nor would He have relied on a dictionary definition to describe what true compassion is.

Human beings are called by God to be co-creators in this world. We human beings have the ability to make this world into whatever we choose to.

The free market is a human-created phenomenon. It certainly isnt some mysterious force which makes everything right, assuming, that is, ceteris paribus. The efficiencies of a pure market society are, in fact, well documented.

There are alternatives to your world view that dont condemn others to die because they made decisions in life that werent necessarily in their best interest. Further, there are plenty of instances in which people, through the tragedy that is circumstance, make all the seemingly correct decisions in their lives and still get whacked.

Our life on this earth is a fragile one. Some of us are blessed with more and some not so much. In both cases, the individual has a journey in this life to discover their God-given gift (vocation where your deep gladness meets the world's deepest need Buechner). Realizing our fullest human potential and helping others realize theirs too is paramount to anything else. For those of us with more, much truly is required and, importantly, its an opportunity for a joyful realization of our lifes gifts.

Lifes meaning is much more than the sad economic calculations that you limit your perspective to.

Regards,

Patrick Briggs,
Pasadena, CA

Posted by: Patrick Briggs on January 3, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

A few basic points:

This is inherently different than the Schiavo case. In that case, money to pay was not the issue - there was plenty of money floating around to keep her alive. The issue was her wishes, and the wishes of her husband, given the fact that she was effectively brain dead. Tirhas Habtegiris was not brain-dead - she was awake, responsive, and wanted to see her mother one last time before she died. (Landsburg helpfully omits any mention of this.)

The second is the vapidity of the 'analysis' presented. He presents a lifetime of ventilator insurance at $75 as his 'back of the envelope' calculation. First off, given the depth of the rest of his writings, I'm fairly certain that he ignored time value of money. Given that most of the need for ventilation insurance is later in life, this is a major consideration. Second, insurance isn't purchased as a lifetime lump sum - he's comparing the cost of lifetime insurance versus the immediate need for food and milk. If you asked most 21 year olds if they would pay for a lifetime supply of milk (with no time-value adjustment, no less) or give it up, most would have to go off the moo-juice entirely. (And, btw, computing the cost of 'ventilator insurance' is problematic, given the huge inefficiences in our health care system.)

Finally, consider: I conclude that YucatanMan either doesn't understand what an economic consideration is or doesn't understand what compassion is, because in fact the two are not in conflict.

Of course the two are in conflict. That conflict is part of life. He later states: I conclude that YucatanMan either doesn't understand what an economic consideration is or doesn't understand what compassion is, because in fact the two are not in conflict; this is the real conflict, the one he avoids with all his talk of milk and CDs. He wants to take this off the 'table' because it's really the only discussion to have.

His version of a social contract would involve the rich giving fixed amounts to the poor, and the poor having decision making around every penny - and if they make the wrong choices or are unlucky, they can pay for it with their lives.

Posted by: Fides on January 3, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

So tell me, since the rich pay over half the taxes, and the poor pay none of the taxes, how is it that the rich often don't pay as much? Clown.
Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

The Rich are my blessed minions, the corporations my demonic servants, so it would be immoral to tax them.

But fear not, my faithful one, by my own hand, this evil taxation system shall be crushed, and re-built in my image, so that the poor will be paying their fair share once again soon.

Posted by: Mammon on January 3, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut: No taxes are paid by the poor, the bottom 50% of wage earners contribute nothing in taxes.

Bullshit. If they work, then they pay social security taxes, even if they don't pay any federal or state income tax. If they buy anything at all, then they pay sales taxes.

Stupidity, ignorance, hatefulness, greed and dishonesty: that's what passes for "conservatism" in America today. conspiracy nut is a shining example.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 3, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

So tell me, since the rich pay over half the taxes, and the poor pay none of the taxes, how is it that the rich often don't pay as much? Clown.

In Texas, where this person found no compassion or mercy, there is no personal income tax. There are consumption taxes or sales taxes, which are paid by everyone, and there are property taxes paid by everyone who owns, well, property. Then there are fees for all manner of licenses and permits.

A better way to frame the tax issue is to distinguish between state and local taxes and federal taxes.

Oh, and we might also want to remember that how a government treats people is a moral issue and a values issue. If a rich white guy had been allowed to die like this, there'd be lawsuits galore.

And what is it with Republicans like Trent Lott and Tom Delya who decry lawsuits but file them and make money off of them?

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 3, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Was she still cognizant?

Yes, she was. See my post above.

Some people miss the main point here. Of course, as a society we have to make tradeoffs on the cost of life support vis a vis other needs. The big problem was the way Landsburg framed the story, and in particular his tone. I couldn't agree more.

Aidan described this article as "rather troubling demonstration of the willingness of arrogant #$@&%s to treat serious human issues as little more than an excuse to devise clever cocktail conversation" (see above).

Posted by: No Preference on January 3, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

>No taxes are paid by the poor, the bottom 50% of wage earners contribute nothing in taxes.

This is only true in a hypothetical world where payroll taxes don't exist. My employer has a whole lot of people in the bottom 50-percentile, and I can assure you they pay taxes.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 3, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

federal or state income tax. If they buy anything at all, then they pay sales taxes.
Point taken, my number is for Federal Income Tax. I should have been more clear, as is the 50% by 10% number.

But, do you want to claim that poor people pay more in sales tax than rich people? Do you want to claim poor people pay more to SS than rich people? If not, the assinine argument that the rich often pay less tax than the poor is just that, assinine.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oops - I meant I couldn't agree more with Aidan.

Posted by: No Preference on January 3, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

This stuff goes on at Baylor every year. From Baylor's ethics report...

Of the 36 explicit futility consults, in 29 cases, the family agreed to withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and a switch to comfort care only following ethics consultation, with all agreeing fairly promptly. The other 5 cases were pursued through the entire dispute resolution process as outlined in the law to the point of delivering a written report to the family and initiating the 10-day waiting period. Of these 5 cases, one patient died on day 9 of the 10-day waiting period, and no alternative provider was found; an alternative provider was found for one patient, but that patient died while awaiting transfer; and in the remaining 3 cases, the family agreed to withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment within a few days of receiving the formal report from the ethics committee.
Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

the assinine argument that the rich often pay less tax than the poor is just that, assinine.

It's spelled "asinine".

No one makes the claim you reference above, so whether or not it is "asinine" is immaterial. What they do claim is that the rich are currently bearing an unjustly small percentage of the overall tax burden, given that people who make fifty million a year could afford to pay a marginal rate of 40% on the top, say, forty million a lot more easily than people who make $25,000 a year can afford to pay a marginal rate of 27% on the top $10,000. In other words, given that progressive taxation makes sense, in a decent society with a sense of common purpose.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Some more info on "medical futility". This is common practice, evidently. Notice NO DISCUSSION OF WHO CAN AFFORD IT!

http://eduserv.hscer.washington.edu/bioethics/topics/futil.html

What are the ethical obligations of physicians when an intervention is clearly futile?
The goal of medicine is to help the sick. You have no obligation to offer treatments that do not benefit your patients. Futile interventions are ill advised because they often increase a patient's pain and discomfort in the final days and weeks of life, and because they can expend finite medical resources.

Although the ethical requirement to respect patient autonomy entitles a patient to choose from among medically acceptable treatment options (or to reject all options), it does not entitle patients to receive whatever treatments they ask for. Instead, the obligations of physicians are limited to offering treatments that are consistent with professional standards of care.

Who decides when a particular treatment is futile?
The ethical authority to render futility judgments rests with the medical profession as a whole, not with individual physicians at the bedside. Thus, futility determinations in specific cases should conform with more general professional standards of care.

While a patient may decide that a particular outcome is not worth striving for (and consequently reject a treatment), this decision can be based on personal preferences and not necessarily on futility.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Rider
What did any of that have to do rich people often paying less tax than poor people?

MJ
My employer has a whole lot of people in the bottom 50-percentile, and I can assure you they pay taxes.
Whoops, I see the 2003 data is out, and the bottom 50% of wage earners has now actually contributed something.

Top 5% of wage earners pay 31.2% of taxes.
Top 10% of wage earners pay 42.4% of taxes.
Bottom 50% of wage earners pay 3.5% of taxes.

Average rate paid
Top 5% 16.6%
Top 10% 18.49%
Bottom 50% 3.0%

Gosh, even that massive shifting of the tax burden onto the poor doesn't seem to have left the poor paying more tax than the rich.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

>But, do you want to claim that poor people pay more in sales tax than rich people? Do you want to claim poor people pay more to SS than rich people? If not, the assinine argument that the rich often pay less tax than the poor is just that, assinine.

Actually, you could probably make both cases, although finding the numbers could be tricky. The poor by and large spend a much larger share of their income- which means a disproportionate amount of sales tax for their income. Considering there are many, many more poor people than rich, this could mean more sales taxes from the poor.

For SS, I would almost guarantee the poor contribute more than the rich because of the income cap on SS taxation, which if I recall kicks in around $90K or so. This means, in effect, 3 people making $30K balance out any one person making $90K or more. Again, with a much larger number of poor than rich, you could very easily see more SS revenue from poor people than rich ones. Since theoretically you get the money "back" eventually, in the form of your SS annuity, I'm not sure how relevant this is to the overall tax debate. However, given that the SS surplus has been used to cover general fund deficits, maybe it is.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on January 3, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I should have been more clear. . .
Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Why bother? You'd lose your ability to parrot another dishonest republican talking point.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 3, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

No one makes the claim you reference above
Nice spell check, but no reading comprehension.

especially given that the uber rich and corporations are often paying *less* taxes than the poor.
Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 1:52 PM
Thanks for playing.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

This stuff goes on at Baylor every year.

This stuff goes on at every hospital, all the time, Red State Mike. In the 29 cases where the family agreed to terminate life support, there's no problem. (Note: how does this differ from Oregon's assisted suicide law, exactly? You know what "comfort care only" means, right? A morphine drip. They gradually turn it up over the course of a couple of days until the patient pleasantly and unconsciously OD's. The only difference is that in Texas they have to lie and pretend they're just giving painkillers and letting nature take its course, while in Oregon they can say what they're actually doing.) Anyway, the problem is: what about those other 7 cases? What should be the dispositive factor? In Baylor's case, the dispositive factor is the patient's wealth or lack of same.

I don't particularly blame Baylor for that. I blame the whole country.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

From a Simpson's episode:

(while Homer lies comatose in a hospital bed, with his family nearby)

Mr. Burns: This man is costing my health plan a fortune. I demand he die with dignity!

Posted by: david on January 3, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I made the "asinine" claim that rich and corporations "often" pay fewer taxes than the poor and I stand by it.

"often" doesn't mean "most" - as conspiracy nut has willfully construed. The rich and corporations *often* do pay less than the poor in taxes. You don't think there are tens of thousands of wealthy peoples/corporations who/which are avoiding taxes *all together*?

No? Well, what planet are you living on?

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

MJ
Point taken on the SS. Given other assistance to the poor (food stamps, etc) I don't see it working out on sales tax, though.

Given that SS + Medicare is about 7.5%, and the difference between "rich" and "poor" in average tax rate paid is 15.5%, the total tax burden is still heavily weighted against the rich.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I pointed out that most of the taxes are paid by the rich. No taxes are paid by the poor, the bottom 50% of wage earners contribute nothing in taxes.

This is gobbledegook - the fact that the rich who *do* pay taxes (excluding those who avoid them all together) pay most of the taxes is an argument entirely separate from the one I'm making, which is that if the *many* wealthy and companies wo/which *do* avoid taxes *all together* paid their due, it'd certainly *help.*

There are many companies, for example, in which their employees make the least amount of money, but still qualify to pay taxes, yet those companies pay $0 in taxes. If you're not aware of this, it's because you have your head in the sand.

If you want to blow what I said out of proportion to paint me an idiot in you rush to elevate the rich, go right ahead. Doesn't change the facts.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

You don't think there are tens of thousands of wealthy peoples/corporations who/which are avoiding taxes *all together*?
Define "often", then prove it happens. That's all it would take to make me happy.

Given the difference in average tax rate paid (note: that is not marginal rate, that is actual average tax rate paid), I'm thinking you have a job for that outrageous claim.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't change the facts.
You haven't had any facts, just some off-the-wall claim about 10s of thousands of rich people that don't pay taxes.

Nothing to back it up, and I don't have to buy into your delusions.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure you'll appreciate these stats, conspiracy nuts:

"In the year 2000, at the height of the last economic boom and before the most recent round of tax cuts were enacted, IRS data shows that the richest 400 taxpayers paid 27% of their income in federal, state, and local taxes. On average, these 400 taxpayers each had taxable income of $151 million. All other taxpayers had average taxable income of only $34,600, and yet their tax burden was 40%."

http://www.askquestions.org/articles/taxes/

So relatively, the rich are actually paying LESS in taxes.

That's why your argmuent that the rich pay most of our incomes taxes is a mere diversion from the point I was making.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe and others:

here's the original news link:

http://cbs11tv.com/topstories/local_story_348124802.html

it doesn't appear that her lack of insurance had anything to do with it.
a couple other points: 1. metastatic cancer is horribly painful -- if the patient's aware -- which isn't actually clear in this case -- that her family thought she responded to stimuli differentiates her from the Schiavo case how?
2. ventilators are in chronic shortage...long-term use on terminal patients is discouraged for ethical reasons...no matter what their economic or insurance status.

Robert S.: there simply aren't very many "rich" people who avoid paying taxes altogether. the crazier tax shelters of the past have been largely eliminated.

Posted by: Nathan on January 3, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Robert S. you'll note that you have drastically redefined your definition of "rich"

Posted by: Nathan on January 3, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

This is a good thread (with the usual exceptions), very thoughtful, but a couple of things have not been mentioned. According to one news story, both the family and the hospital tried desperately to find a nursing home, but none would accept the lady without insurance, and few "charity" beds are available--surely something concrete for Texas to work on.

Also, I am willing to bet my house that if the situation as presented in the news story (waiting to die in her mother's arms) had been made public, they would have had to beat off donors, both liberal and conservative, with a stick--even in Texas. As often happens, there may turn out to be more (or less) to this story than first appears. It is wise to use this as a painful reminder of how far we have to go in achieving a reasonable and humane public health system, but hang on to the outrage until the facts are known.
Claire

Posted by: Claire on January 3, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Claire: there's nothing indicating that insurance was the issue with finding a nursing home other than one family member's uncorroborated supposition. (the woman was almost certainly eligible for Medicaid).

Posted by: Nathan on January 3, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

What disgusts me is Kevin and all the rest of the left-wing chickenhawks advocate that the ventilator continue to be paid for but THEY THEMSELVES haven't contributed a red cent.

Chickenhawks!

If they are SOOOO DARNED CONCERNED about Ms. Habtegiris, why didn't they volunteer their own money to pay for her ventilator?

(Hey, if the chickenhawk argument is good for the goose, why not for the gander???)

Posted by: Al on January 3, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan, thanks for the link--I hadn't seen this article. Still many questions, but it does seem that the hospital tried to help. Should have also mentioned that 1) ventilators can themselves be painful and 2) the impetus for the hospice movement and Living Wills in the first place was to enable people to avoid long-term "living death" on ventilators. Not to say we still know the whole story, but let's acknowledge the complexities.
Claire

From Nathan's linked article:
"Sometimes applying technology when there is no other opportunity for recovery is wrong not because its expensive, but because it prolong suffering," he said.

Salvi said his sister wanted to die in her mother's arms.

A hospital spokesperson the facility offered to hire an immigration attorney free of charge to help bring the woman's mother from East Africa.

Relatives, however, said the East African process was too lengthy.

Posted by: Claire on January 3, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I beg to differ with Kevin on this one.

I generally consider Landsburg's columns to be tasteless, pointless, unserious, unfunny swill betraying a notable lack of a human soul in the author.

This particular article, while tasteless and betraying a notable lack of a human soul, at least raises an interesting point. The clash between the moral imperative to make life-extending health care available to all regardless of wealth, and the economic imperative that somebody must pay for it, is becoming one of the more important issues we face today. Virtually nobody seems willing to confront the question. Landsburg's contribution is non-productive, but the resulting discussion might not be.

Posted by: Violet on January 3, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Al,
I paid a pretty good sum in federal taxes last yesr, and I would very much prefer them to be used to extend a life like this as opposed to funding special sessions of congress and midnight flights to Washington as was done in the Schaivo case.

duh.

Idiot.

Posted by: CK Dexter Haven on January 3, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

if the situation as presented in the news story (waiting to die in her mother's arms) had been made public, they would have had to beat off donors

Well, THERE's a solution to our national health insurance crisis. Let's just let every person who finds themself in a tough spot appeal to the folks at the local TV station to let them tell their story. Why, they'll have to beat off the donors!

You can't just make a story public, just like that. Try making a story public sometime and you'll see how easy it is.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

How did his child teach him to yank the plug on the poor?

Posted by: jimmy on January 3, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

So relatively, the rich are actually paying LESS in taxes
They separated off the top 400 wage earners, and you lump everyone else as poor? The top 1% consists of over 1 million tax returns. And you want to group all but 400 of them as poor?

Twist away, it ain't working. The bottom 50% of wage earners pay an average tax rate of 2.95%.

And in 2003 the average tax rate paid for all taxpayers was 11.9%. In 2000 it was 15.3%. I don't know where your link got it's cooked numbers but here's some real ones.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Some more stats for conspiracy nuts and co:

"The number of affluent individuals and married couples who paid no federal income taxes jumped more than 15 percent in 2002, to 5,650, government data released last week showed.

The chances of having a large income but not paying taxes on any of it are growing, according to the data, issued in the Internal Revenue Service's annual report to Congress on well-to-do Americans who live tax free.

About one in every 436 high-income Americans paid no taxes in 2002, up from one in 531 in 2001 and one in 1,010 in 2000."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/03/business/03tax.html?

"At the same time, the tax burden on the wealthy has plunged. People in the top fifth of the income scale now pay only 19% in taxes -- and that figure takes into account state, federal, sales, property, and all other levies. The poorest fifth of Americans pay 18%. The people in the middle -- the other three-fifths -- presumably pay considerably more (I certainly do), though Johnston doesn't give a specific number."
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jan2004/nf20040113_3831_db028.htm


"For instance the Enron corporation paid no income taxes in four of five years, paying only $17 million in taxes in 1997, yet it got a total of $381 million in tax rebates."
http://www.blowingthewhistle.org/vicroberts/taxes.html

"Corporate tax dodgers get off easy, too: in 2002, the IRS assessed just 22 penalties against corporations, a decline of more than 99% from 1993 when 2,400 penalties were imposed. Audits of corporate returns fell sharply from 26 per 1000 returns in 1997, to only 7 audits per 1000 returns in 2003."
http://www.askquestions.org/articles/taxes/

"The study, Corporate Income Taxes in the Bush Years, surveyed public filings
by 275 of the nation's largest and most profitable companies, based on
revenue from the Fortune 500 list of 2004. The 275 companies reported pretax
profits from operations in the United States of $1.1 trillion from 2001
through 2003, the study said, yet reported to the Internal Revenue Service
and paid taxes on half that amount.

According to the study, some 28 corporations paid no taxes from 2001 to 2003, despite having profits in the period of nearly $45 billion.

The 2000 study found that from 1996 to 1998, 11 of the 250 largest and most profitable companies paid no taxes, even though all reported profits. The earlier study found that the 250 companies showed a 23.5 percent increase in pretax profit, while the tax payments rose 7.7 percent.
Last year, 46 of the 275 companies surveyed paid no federal income tax, up from 42 companies in 2002 and 33 in 2001, according to the study. Over all, the number of companies that paid no taxes increased 40 percent during the
period."

http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/taxes092304.cfm

If these stats don't make outraged over the advantages the wealth and corporations enjoy, nothing will. And, as the figures show, the problem is only getting worse.

Those stats were for the largest 275 companies; overall, the problem is EVEN WORSE:

"Almost two-thirds of American companies paid no tax between 1996 and 2000 even as the economy was booming and corporate profits were reaching an all time high, according to a government report.

The percentage of US-owned companies saying they owed nothing to the taxman during the study's timeframe grew moderately but steadily from 60.3% in 1996 to 63% in 2000.
Corporate dollars have fallen dramatically as a percentage of the overall tax base in the US, accounting for 7.4%, $132bn (71bn), of federal tax receipts in 2003. The figure is the second lowest on record and down from a post-war peak of 32% in 1952.

The study found that foreign-owned companies operating in the US are even less likely to pay tax. About 70% reported that they owed no federal income tax during the five-year period."

These are the facts you willfully ignore conspiracy nuts.

Consider yourself schooled, pal.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

> at least raises an interesting point.

The problem being that before interesting points can be raised there has to be some basic competence displayed. I am still waiting for the link to Landsburg's $75 ventilator insurance, on which pivot his entire analysis turns. Commentators as Slate have asked for this also. So far, no response.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 3, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The clash between the moral imperative to make life-extending health care available to all regardless of wealth, and the economic imperative that somebody must pay for it, is becoming one of the more important issues we face today. Virtually nobody seems willing to confront the question.

What are you talking about? There are reams being written on this question. There's an entire literature on the comparison of national health insurance systems. What have you been reading?

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 3, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Are you clear that Terry Schiavo didn't have the money to pay for life support, either? How can you argue that brain-deadness is a lesser criterion for terminating life support than poverty? How can you argue that people should be maintained indefinitely on life support at state expense ONLY when their brains are dead?

Perhaps you misunderstood my reference to Schiavo or perhaps you're spoiling for a fight, but you seem determined to put words in my mouth. I was 100% against the extra efforts to keep Schiavo alive, it seemed quite clear she'd been dead for a decade. Keeping terminal people endlessly on life support is just a giant waste of money and effort. People would better spend their efforts accepting the nature of death than railing oh-so-righteously about the "injustice" of situations like this.

Posted by: wil on January 3, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan:
Thanks for the comment. However, I've just been through this with a relative, and if you don't have insurance a nursing home gets paid up-front (in CT, that's a minimum of $230/day--surely less in Texas, but still beyond most peoples' means).

How hard is it for legal immigrants to get Medicaid? Does anyone help the family apply? At the end of one news story there was a note that Bush is trying to improve immigrants' access to health care.
C

Posted by: Claire on January 3, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Al,
I paid a pretty good sum in federal taxes last yesr, and I would very much prefer them to be used to extend a life like this as opposed to funding special sessions of congress and midnight flights to Washington as was done in the Schaivo case.

I paid a pretty good sum in federal taxes last year too. And would prefer that amount to pay for the war in Iraq.

But I'm not volunteering for the war (other than my federal taxes), and you'r not volunteering to pay for her ventilator (other than your federal taxes).

That makes me a chickenhawk (on the war).

And it makes you a chickenhawk (on the ventilator).

Again, if you so much want her ventilator paid for, whay are you not paying for it yourself?

Posted by: Al on January 3, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Robert S. you'll note that you have drastically redefined your definition of "rich"

No, that's just an illustration of one particular area of inequtiy.

And, no, conspiracy nuts, at no point did I claim that everyone but the richest 400 people were "poor." Nice try.

Obviously, all that's really going on here is a defense of the rich verus the poor. Whatever I point out, you're just going to respond with how little of the total the poor play - because it's your job to defend the rich, not the poor. And you'll go on defending whatever inequities the rich enjoy and ignoring the fact that the poor pay less because it'd be *inhumane* to expect the, to pay more.

And don't even get me started on the fact that there are people who pay taxes, but don't get health insurance and can't afford it. I suppose you'll say they don't deserve it because they're not rich enough.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut: I don't know where your link got it's cooked numbers but here's some real ones.

We do know where your link cooked up its numbers . . . WhiteHouse.gov.

Remove your lips from Bush's ass to view the real world and real numbers, conspiracy nut.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 3, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Pssst... Conspiracy nut... There's a difference between the federal income tax burden, and the tax burden related to health care.

Now, I know you're just being a killjoy and playin' people here for making sloppy, unsupported claims, but it's worth pointing out that your data are nothing but a red herring in this discussion.

Considering that Medicare, which provides for most life-extending medical treatments, is funded entirely by a dedicated regressive tax that falls disproportionately on the lower and middle classes, the overall point about the shifting tax burden onto the middle and lower classes is a valid one.

Posted by: Violet on January 3, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Landsburg actually made some errors in his column so I sent him an email:

Dear Dr. Landsburg
(armchair@troi.cc.rochester.edu),

I think you have not been consistent in your column in applying the
definition of "compassion". This is important because that is one of
the underlying points of your argument and by doing so, you have
undermined it.

You quote the dictionary's definition which says that compassion is
"the sympathetic consciousness of other's distress" and "desire to
act". However, in your writing, you imply that compassion is the
work/money/effort actually provided.

Not so. Compassion is the thought spurring the action --not the
action itself. Mother Teresa had compassion on all people from what I
can tell. By your writing, however, she only had compassion on the
people she could actually help. That's not true.

This is important because if we allow our means to dictate right and
wrong, money becomes our god (a violation of the 1st commandment in my
religion). That's backwards and not technically the defintion of
compassion anyway. Compassion leads one to do a certain thing.

You also say that it's not compassionate to provide the "ventilator
insurance" when milk and eggs are preferred. It would be
compassionate to WANT to provide assistance to the young woman's
hunger and the older woman's need for life support. You limit the
discussion to insurance. Insurance is simply a means to implement our
compassion --to show it. That's why consistency in application of the
definition is so important.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment,

David

Posted by: david on January 3, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

it's worth pointing out that your data are nothing but a red herring in this discussion

Everything, conspiracy nuts has brought up is a red herring. He may have a legitimate quibble over my use of the owrd "often," but whole idea of how much the rich who actually pay taxes contributes is a diversion.

My point, which I've repeated consistently above, is not that if the wealthy and corporations who avoid taxes would actually pay them, that would help. Not that it'd be a solve-all, but it'd help. And you can be damn sure after looking at the stats above, it'd help significantly. Even if only those who skip out on paying all taxes were made to pay, it'd help. Add in the others who pay some but otherwise successfully avoid paying much and it'd help a lot.

This point seems so obvious, I can't believe I even have to defend it. But such is the bent of compassionate conservatism, I guess.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK
Our society has truly failed if the only thing that determines a person's survival is the amount of money they have….Posted by: Roddy McCorley
I would judge a society on how it cares for its young, its old, its infirm, and its mentally challenged. On all counts, after nearly 40 years of Republican rule, our society fails miserably. Of course, if you are wealthy and / or a Social Darwinian, we're doin' jes fine.
Is extending the life of a terminal patient a day worth not feeding ten poor children for a day? What if it's a hundred children? Or a thousand? … Posted by: Kurtz
You are framing this as an "either / or" when, in fact, it's neither.
This Texas law is just filthy….Posted by: otherpaul
It was signed by Compassionate Christian Conservative, George W. Bush in 1999 and modified to include pediatrics in 2003.

Sun Hudson, the nearly 6-month-old at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, diagnosed and slowly dying with a rare form of dwarfism (thanatophoric dysplasia), was taken off the ventilator that was keeping him alive.
Sun Hudson died in his weeping mother's arms.

Here's some Ventilator Insurance

Posted by: Mike on January 3, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

This incident highlights two dilemnas of the healthcare issue: 1) how to pay for healthcare for those who cannot afford it and 2) who decides to let people die when their bodies can no longer function without medical machine assistance.

Politics and economics are the 'sciences' of allocating scarce resources. Most modern industrialized economies treat healthcare as a public good, acknowleding good medical care of everyone is also a benefit to society.

The US does not subscribe to this model, letting individuals fend for themselves in the market place. For those without financial resources, charity is the last resort for treatment. The old saw, "beggars can't be choosers," applies to this policy, and reflects the sentiments of some commenters that poor people should be lucky to have any charity at all.

Obviously, even the societies who want to provide good healthcare to all cannot afford to provide all medical services to all people, so opportunity costs must be analyzed to determine what is the best way to allocate this utility. The case presented here is with a person who was unable to pay, cognizant, able to live with a ventilator, and terminal. The healthcare required to at least keep her alive until other organs failed was a ventilator in hospital, which one can surmise also included nutrition and vital sign checks. The patient's only desire was to remain alive long enough to say good-bye to her mother. The patient did not request expensive experimental cures or surgery. The state of Texas and the Baptist, Baylor University Hospital made a determination the patient's life was not worth the opportunity costs to keep her alive a little longer. In our political economy, this decision is justifiable based on the economics of cost and the ability to pay only of the individual and institutions involved. No opportunity cost analysis is done regarding the society or the commonwealth, which, I think is a mistake.

Keeping a cognizant person alive with a ventilator is probably not too expensive for our society to offer all persons. The resources to provide this care exist and the beneficial utility, although marginal, would probably make us all better off, as citizens and humans.


Posted by: Powerpuff on January 3, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Do you want to claim poor people pay more to SS than rich people?"

I will. The rich who don't "work" but make all their money on investments do not pay SS tax.

Stock options? No SS tax.

Dividends? No SS tax.

Capital gains? No SS tax.

Wages over $94,200? No SS tax.

Minimum wage? Maximum SS tax.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 3, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

The Dead Kennedy's are of course the final word on this subject.

Kill The Poor.

Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the neutron bomb
It's nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
With no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home...

The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in a flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Gonna
Kill Kill Kill Kill
Kill the poor...tonight

Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate's gone
Feel free again
O' life's a dream with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda's on thre screen today
Convinced the liberals it's okay
So let's get dressed and dance away the night

Posted by: Nemesis on January 3, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Brooksfoe
This incident highlights two dilemnas of the healthcare issue: 1) how to pay for healthcare for those who cannot afford it and 2) who decides to let people die when their bodies can no longer function without medical machine assistance.

Yes to (2), but no to (1). This case falls squarely into the realm of "medical futility" and "ethics", apart from who can afford what. the actions Baylor took are within pretty much everyone's ethics policies around the country, and those policies do not cite ability to pay.

Do a google on "ethics" and "medical futility". you'll find that what went on at Baylor goes on all the time all over the country, and that policies are very similar all over the country.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Nemesis, Kissenger called these people "useless eaters."

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 3, 2006 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, meant to say I was quoting Powerpuff...

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut: I don't know where your link got it's cooked numbers but here's some real ones.

Of course, conspiracy nut's "real" numbers come from the right-wing, corporate-funded Tax Foundation, which, according to the Media Transparency site, "supplies outrageous figures on taxation that are used throughout the right wing movement. One common figure: The TF says Americans pay 40 percent of every dollar earned to all governmental bodies. More accurate estimations put the figure at 30 percent, making the TF figure 33 percent too high."

Scott A. Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation, is a former employee of the right-wing, corporate funded Heritage Foundation, and a co-founder of the right-wing, anti-environmental, anti-public school, pro-tobacco Heartland Foundation.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented numerous, blatant, misleading distortions in the Tax Foundation's reports, noting in particular that "The Tax Foundation's methodology substantially exaggerates the amount of taxes that typical or average middle class families pay. Under the methods the Tax Foundation uses, an increase in taxes solely on high-income taxpayers is pictured as increasing the taxes the average taxpayer pays. This methodology can produce particularly sharp distortions when taxes are raised primarily on affluent taxpayers..."

In other words, conspiracy nut shows once again that if he really, really tries, really really hard, he can go beyond typing "moonbat lefty" over and over again, and actually rise to the level of mindlessly regurgitating fake, phony, scripted, bought-and-paid-for, corporate-funded, right-wing propaganda like the other brain-dead neo-brownshirt Bush-bootlicking mental slaves.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 3, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sheesh Drummy - soul cankered? And mean spirited too maybe? As in, those m.s. ____ who don't want to spend $$$ on ___ just want poor people to die?

Put that dirty old shoe on the other foot and see how ugly it looks. Let's say for a moment that Drum became President and every single member of congress were called Ditto Drum. He got his way completely on every issue and could write the entire Federal budget on his mac at home. He could make his cats cabinet members if he wanted. What would the result be?

More money for the poor. Of course.

But at that point what would prevent someone even further to the left from yelling that there were still "Unmet Needs"??? There always are.

In that state of the world President Drum would be the mean and soul cankered one because of _____ medical procedure or _____ afterschool program or _____ food assistance or _____ whateveryouhave that had not yet been "provided".

Unless you assume that the government (or hospitals or whoever by govt fiat) need to provide everyone with everything, you have to make priorities. I'd rather live in a world where I can make my own.

Posted by: cranky on January 3, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure how this thread ended up being a discussion of the relative tax burden by income levels in America, when I see this Slate article speaking more to the hideous hypocrisy of Frist, Hastert, et al and the mock sympathy they emoted on behalf of Terri Schiavo, while they made not a peep about the poor victim who died because they could not pay their medical bills.

BTW - the statistics which Conspiracy Nut and others are bandying about, only addresses income tax burden and completely ignores the fact that many high net worth individuals receive most or all of their income from interest on municipal bonds and other tax-preferenced sources, for which they pay no tax whatsoever!!!

Statistics are meaningless without all of the facts...

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on January 3, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Consider yourself schooled, pal.
The only moderately interesting thing in that mass of stuff was the "The number of affluent individuals and married couples who paid no federal income taxes jumped more than 15 percent in 2002, to 5,650".

This is 1/2% of the top 1%. Or .005% of all taxpayers. Color me alarmed. The top 1% of wage earners still pay 34.27% of Federal Income taxes while the bottom 50% pay 3.46%.

I do have to admit that I didn't expect you to even come that close to your 10s of thousands of rich people not paying taxes, however.

Companies paying no income tax is not news, most of those companies are small and make no money to tax. You'll notice the phrasing of your quotes carefully distorted the situation. And as I said, taxing corporations is stupid to start with.

We do know where your link cooked up its numbers . . . WhiteHouse.gov.
Sure, all those numbers back to 1988 were cooked up by Bush. Nicely clinging to the moonbat philosophy that all opposing facts are disregarded.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky, you do live in that world. You should hope you never require charity while living in your paradise, because no individual can withstand the type of cost/benefit analysis the woman of this story endured.

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 3, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

The TF says Americans pay 40 percent of every dollar earned to all governmental bodies
Uh, that 40% figure was used by Robert S's link earlier. The Tax Foundation numbers say that 11.9% is paid in Federal Income Tax. A number I quoted earlier.

Maybe you ought to tell Robert that the 40% figure is bullshit, I believe that's when I said his numbers were cooked and used the Tax Foundation to refute them. Of course, since I've done that I've heard how terrible the Tax Foundation's numbers are. But I'm relieved that they're closer to accurate than Robert's numbers.

But I'm not too worried, a bunch of moonbats whining about data they don't like is normal moonbat behavior.

Should I find a bunch a wingnuts saying bad things about Krugman, and will you stop believing him then?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Please, the next time anyone, even our good friend "nut," trots out some variation of the "the richest 10% of taxpayers pay 50% of the taxes" argument, forget about the important, but technical arguments concerning the differnece between income and capital gains and dividend taxation, SS and Medicare taxes, and state sales taxes, and state property taxes, and just go straight to comparing the 10% figure with the amount of income that 10% earns, which is, I recall, very close (for example, I think the top whatever percent earns a few percentage points less of the total income than they pay in taxes) AND, for good measure, you can also point out that those same top 10% have something like 70% of the country's net worth.

The overall burden is pretty flat. The differential between the net worth of the poorest and the top percentages, is, of course, not flat. In terms of public policy, the only interesting discussion left is whether the current rate differential between earned and unearned income is justified.

My advice is to not really bother with this. The republcians have done a spectacular job in shifting the discussion from what the government actually does with the money to the rate of taxation. They probably did this because they realized that once they let the discussion flow to how the money would best be spent, they lose the discussion.

As a result, Nut and others constantly shift discussions like this to tax rate discussions, and sorry ones at that. As bad as the original argument was, even Landsburg attempted to keep the analysis where it should be, on the spending side.

Posted by: hank on January 3, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

while they made not a peep about the poor victim who died because they could not pay their medical bills.

Landsberg is full of s#$%, and most of the folks here are also arguing the wrong thing.

It is a MEDICAL ETHICS issue, not a $$$ for treatment issue. What she received is treatment that complied with policy adopted by medical ehtics boards all over the country. If you want to argue, argue about those ethics. You'll notice they don't discuss ability to pay as part of the decision process when dealing with "medical futility".

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

First a brief concession, then a brief rebuttal:

>No, conspiracy nuts, I didn't find a stat that tens of thousands of wealthy people avoided taxes all together, just several thousand. I guessed wrong.

>However, that would seem to indicate that if you add in those who avoid *most* of their taxes, it quite possibly *could* be tens of thousands.

>Has anyone else noticed that while conspiracy nuts is happy to quibble over stats, he has entirely ignored the *principle* of my argument. And that's what this started out as: an argument of principle, not of statistics.

I win on principle. And that's why conspiracy nuts has to keep throwing in irrelevant stats and making jabs at the sides.

So, I'll rephrase and restate again the principle: If all the wealthy and corporation which avoided paying taxes (and the thousands upon thousands who pay none) paid their due, it would help immensely.

And conspiracy nuts never did address the fact that it's the corporations who insist upon being treated as individuals, so why shouldn't they pay taxes?

Also, note how conspiracy nuts coyly avoids commenting on the number of companies who claimed they owed no taxes.

Keeping in mind, all of this was a response to my reaction when conspiracy nuts said this:
That's right, dammit, the rich should be buying healthcare for the poor until they're no longer rich.

My essential rebuttal: No, cn, they don't need to pay until they're poor, but if they paid what they're supposed to, it sure as hell would help.

Punkt. Das Ende.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Refer back to my posting above - how did this discussion about the author's faux compassion get lost in wonky facts and stats?

Is nobody else willing to argue this from a moral and spiritual one?

Patrick

Posted by: Patrick Briggs on January 3, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

See the last part of the post immediately above you, Patrick.

And, yes, good point.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Nut and others constantly shift discussions like this to tax rate discussions
I didn't shift here, that was done by others. But thanks for playing.

My essential rebuttal:
If that's your essential rebuttal, then why the hell did you drag out that Mickey Mouse shit about the rich not paying their share when they clearly do?

Your essential rebuttal is that the rich still aren't paying enough. But you probably think the poor are a larger economic driver than the rich. You probably think that the labor content is all that matters. The fat cats that start and build these corporations, and then keep them running are just mooching off the labor of the downtrodden worker. Same shit Karl Marx said, you can look that up, too.

Let's pick on everyone's evil example: Bill Gates. If software companies were easy to build, why aren't there more? Microsoft didn't start with a monopoly. It's a hell of a lot easier to get a job with a software company than it is to build one.

So we'll just have to disagree about penalizing success by bleeding rich people.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Is nobody else willing to argue this from a moral and spiritual one?
Sure, I'm easy. Good looking, too.

I think it's immoral to run up a massive tab at a service provider, with no way of paying that tab. I think it's immoral to expect other people to take responsibility for you.

You're probably another one wondering why the hospital didn't continue to provide service without payment, while simultaneously wondering why hospital costs are going up.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think he has a good point in the essay about the costs and benefits of extreem life saving, however he has thrown in a non-sequiter with the reference to the poor.

How does it matter if the person being put on the ventilator is poor? Why is it economically wise to keep a rich person on (long term non-recoverable) life support? Economically they are already dead. The sooner we get them actually completely dead the sooner thier wealth starts benefiting some person who is still actually a sentient being. It would seem that it is actually likely to be WORSE to keep a rich person semi-alive with life support than a poor person.

Take all the money the US spends on life support beyond 72 hours and spend it on non-slip mats for bathtubs and you would almost certainly save vastly more life. Do the same analysis to the war on terror, or the war on drugs, or whatever. We spend most of our money very stupidly because people don't like to do the math.

PS one of the main ways the right distorts the relative amounts of taxes paid is that they pretend that social security isn't a tax whenever it is convenient to them.

Posted by: jefff on January 3, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

brooksfoe wrote this: ARV medication is by now so cheap that BRAZIL can afford to treat every single AIDS patient in the country.

That's not actually true, although it's reported occasionally. Like other nations where ARVs are available, the rate of infection by MDR strains of HIV is rising. Brazil, like India and almost all of Africa, is not investing enough research to create anti-HIV medications to take care of the emerging epidemic of MDR HIV.

Brazil is a good case study of effective anti-HIV public policy, but don't exaggerate. In Brazil the poor die of malaria and measles, as I wrote.

"Read a book"? For AIDS you need to read current peer-reviewed technical articles. And you need to be quantitative: needle exchange programs, for example, add about a year to the expected lag between drug addiction and HIV infection. That's another thing widely done in Brazil but not widely done in the US; it may or may not be good, but it isn't very good. And it works more poorly among the poorer victims, like everything else.

Somebody commented that only some kinds of thinking require one to put aside compassion. I agree, and the kind of thinking that I addressed was thinking about money.

Posted by: contentious on January 3, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Since none other than William F. Buckley made a version of the "10% paying 50% of the taxes" argument, its either harder for some to grasp, or, perhaps easier to bluff with. I report, you decide.

For example, if there were two taxpayers in a country, a serf and the nobleman he served, and the serf made $1,000 and paid, at a 10% tax rate, $100, and the nobleman made $100,000 from the crops he sold which the serf actually farmed, and the nobleman paid $10,000 in tax at the same 10% rate -- HOLY FUCKING CHRIST! IN THAT SYSTEM 50% OF THE POPULATION PAID OVER 99% OF THE TAXES! ITS INTOLERABLE!

I find some of your arguments clever and entertaining, but it would go along way towards proving whether or not you are an actual troll to see whether you ever use this one again.

Please note that Bill Gate's contribution to the world is a completely separate argument.

Posted by: hank on January 3, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

'I think it's immoral to run up a massive tab at a service provider, with no way of paying that tab. I think it's immoral to expect other people to take responsibility for you.'

So, you think Bush's war in Iraq is immoral, then, since he is running up a mega-massive tab with no way of paying for it??

George W. Bush has a long personal history of shirking responsibility, from aborting the love child he fathered with a 15 year old, to having his cocaine arrest in 1972 expunged from his record, to going AWOL from the TANG, to the insider trading he did with Harken Energy stock to using taxpayer subsidies to parlay a $500,000 investment in the Texas Rangers into $15+ million. He is far and away the most irresponsible person to ever be president...

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on January 3, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Any freshman economics course will teach that companies, including corporations, are not able to pass all of their costs, including taxes, on to their customers because of price elasticity. Higher prices have a corresponding affect on lowering demand, thus corporations can only pass on a portion of a tax to their clients if they want to maximize revenue.

If rich people would pay more for universal healthcare, all of society would become richer and the rich would become richer, too. Short-sighted concentration on this quarter's ROI prevents the rich from realizing this. I cannot explain why others, who are not rich, do not realize it.

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 3, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kriz
Check your medication, we're not talking about the Iraq War here. Besides, the US has the financial moxie to pay its bill. This woman didn't.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Let it be noted that in response to my last post above, conspiracy nut does not respond to my point at all.

I never once said the rich should pay additional taxes (tho perhaps in many cases they should). I said that if they paid the taxes they were supposed to, it'd help immensely.

The rich people I'm specifically talking about aren't being "penalized" (boo-effin-hoo!) at all - they're actively avoiding the taxes you and I do pay. And corporations do the same thing.

Conspiracy Nut then continues by attempting to play a game of "guess what's in Robert's head" and finally pulls out the old chestnut that all liberal must be Marx acolytes. How quaint.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

it would go along way towards proving whether or not you are an actual troll to see whether you ever use this one again.
I'm an actual troll. Notice how effectively I've derailed this thread? But my link, much to everyone's chagrin, is to raw data from the IRS. And as stated above, the top 10% pay 42.4% (2003 data). I'll use it again to derail another thread, you just wait. I've done it before today.

Your serf example is lousy, because your serf should be paying 3.5% and your nobleman paying 35%. Then we have more what's actually happening (if you throw in a lot of muck dealers in town).

And Bill Gates contribution is relevant, because you want to penalize him for creating jobs for 48,000 people and developing software that assisted in the boom in PCs (integrated, similar layout and function in programs). Where would our economy be without user friendly PCs? I would like to encourage people to do things like that, not penalize them. Even for Bill Gates, and I hate Microsoft products.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

How quaint.
And how true. Anytime someone is telling me that other people's money should be used to cure the ills of society, I get real suspicious.

I find it very, illuminating, that you think those .005% of taxpayers are causing such a widespread shortage of tax revenue that we can't afford basic service (like unlimited health care for everyone). Touching.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Is nobody else willing to argue this from a moral and spiritual one?

Keeping a cognizant person alive with a ventilator is probably not too expensive for our society to offer all persons. The resources to provide this care exist and the beneficial utility, although marginal, would probably make us all better off, as citizens and humans.

Does anyone know if iron lungs were used to keep indigent polio victims alive for their lifetimes? I saw a couple of googled sites that indicated America used to be more compassionate.

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 3, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

And as stated above, the top 10% pay 42.4% (2003 data).

And every time you bring up this statistic it's been rebutted logically. And you ignore the rebuttal each time. Because the statistic sounds so dramatic, I guess, and having it undermined sours your case.

Basically, a small percentage of people make most of the money in the United States. Couple that with your statistic and it kinda takes the air out of your point, doesn't it.

You know this is true and you've probably seen the stats on it, unless you placed your hands over your eyes when they flit by.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

I find it very, illuminating, that you think those .005% of taxpayers are causing such a widespread shortage of tax revenue that we can't afford basic service (like unlimited health care for everyone).

Something else I never said. Nice try.

What I did say: If all the wealthy and corporation which avoided paying taxes (and the thousands upon thousands who pay none) paid their due, it would help immensely.

(Note how Conspiracy also keeps avoiding mention of the corporations.)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Couple that with your statistic and it kinda takes the air out of your point, doesn't it.
Robert, take a deep breath and try to realize something here: it's the truth.

Is it also the truth that rich people pay most of the taxes because they make most of the money? Yes it is.

But I can see that I've been reading from the wrong numbers. It's even worse for you. The top 10% make 42.4% of the money, they pay 65.8% of the taxes. If any of you had been looking at the data you would have caught this error.

The bottom 50% make 14.9% of the money, and pay 3.5% of the taxes.

The bottom line is: the rich do now, and always have, carried the lion's share of the tax burden. Quit shitting on them for doing it.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Something else I never said
Not your words, but certainly your sentiment.

And yes I'm ignoring corporations, and I've explained why. I have forgotten to address the fact that I don't think corporations should be treated as individuals. Because they're not.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 3, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK
Should I find a bunch a wingnuts saying bad things about Krugman, and will you stop believing him then?

Hey Dipshit,

It is only necessary to read Krugman with a half-way open mind to see that the man exudes intelligence and integrity.

It is only necessary to read you to find that you exude fart smells.

Posted by: obscure on January 3, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

In the late 1970s, the top one percent of the US population held 13 percent of the wealth; in 1995 it held 38 percent. (Levy, Frank. The New Dollars and Dreams )

More recent stats? Happy to oblige:

The wealthiest 1 percent of households owns roughly 33.4% of the nation's net worth, the top 10% of households owns over 71%, and the bottom 40% of households owns less than 1%.

http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/faculty/hodgson/Courses/so11/stratification/income&wealth.htm

Now, Conspiracy Nuts, couple that with your shattering stats about the percentage of taxes paid for by the top ten percent and try to imagine the implications. OK?

Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Until it finally sinks in.

(And remember all I'm saying is that it'd help if the rich and corporations paid what they're supposed to pay. This is just in rebuttal to your utterly simplistic idea that the rich bear the brunt of the tax burden. Poor things.)

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Quit shitting on them for doing it.

Pay attention, Mr. No-Account.

We're not shitting on the rich for paying a higher percentage in taxes.

We're shitting on no-account idlers like yourself who have nothing to offer except offense.

Posted by: Uncle Penis on January 3, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Not your words, but certainly your sentiment. Sorry, no. As I've explained several times, in fact, no.

Corporations are treated as individuals; they want to be. So take it up with them.

Additionally, the law says they're supposed to pay taxes and every time they try to find loopholes to avoid paying them, the goverment closes them. So take it up with the government.

Are are you essentially a cheerleader for corporate malfeasance?

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

There's an article here that implies that this decision was made more on an ethics level than a financial one, but I'd like to see more details.

There's a lot of noise on taxes and who pays and compassion here. The fact is that modern medical technology has made preservation of life at great expense much more common than it used to be, and as the technology improves, this will be even more common yet.

The demand for such care will be constantly increasing, and the costs will be increasing even more.

Even if we had nationalized health care, these difficult decisions are not going to disappear. They'd just be made by different people.

If we had a national health care system, who WOULD decide when or if to take this woman off the ventilator? Or the thousands like her who don't make the news?

Posted by: tbrosz on January 3, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Or are you essentially a cheerleader for corporate malfeasance?

Should've read.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and by the way, conspiracy nut, what if I tell you I have no particular qualms with a flat tax?

That pretty much busts your line of bull throughout this thread where you try to put words in my mouth about "penalizing" the rich, doesn't it?

But you're not in the habit of answering the actual argument anyway.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Given that SS + Medicare is about 7.5%, and the difference between "rich" and "poor" in average tax rate paid is 15.5%, the total tax burden is still heavily weighted against the rich."

cn, you are ignorant of the most basic facts of taxation and prove it here.

Social secuitry plus medicare is actually about 7.5% * 2.

The employer pays an equal amount to what shows up on your pay stub, so the tax is actually double what it appears at first glance to be.

So using your simplistic analysis from above and accepting your claim that the average (federal income) tax rate difference is 15% (though given the accuracy of your other claim any claim from you is highly suspect), and that the social security tax rate is really 15% for anyone making less than 90k or so, and trends toward 0% the more one makes you must conclude that the tax system is flat!

In reality I beleive the federal tax system actually is somewhat progressive for most people, however state and local tax systems are almost all somewhat regressive. For example in my state of washington the bottom 20% pay 20% in state and local taxes and the top 1% pay 4%. The rates pretty steadily drop as income goes up because our tax system is mostly sales and property taxes which are highly regressive. Overall taxation here is quite flat. This is, however, one of the worst states in the country in this respect.

Social security is one of the main things left out of all these "analyses" (really they are propaganda) written by wealthy men to convince people like you that it is the poor who are somehow taking all your money (despite having a ridiculously small sliver of total wealth and income after all thier supposed theft). There are others of course, but this is the biggest one.

Posted by: jefff on January 3, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Very well done, jefff. It'll be interesting to see cd has to say in response. He may just to have to ignore you since what you present doesn't reflect his world view.

Posted by: Robert S. on January 3, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

from reuters:

An Iraqi baby with a life-threatening birth defect arrived in the United States on Saturday for medical treatment after being sent by U.S. soldiers who found her during a raid on her family's home.
***
The baby, three-month-old Noor, was taken by ambulance to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a pediatric hospital that is donating surgery and other care for the infant, after flying into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. . . .
***
"The infant is in good condition, is responsive and smiling and seemingly resting comfortably," the hospital said in a statement after doctors completed an initial evaluation.

No doubt, the caprices of medical care are aggravating.

Posted by: contentious on January 3, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Powerpuff
Does anyone know if iron lungs were used to keep indigent polio victims alive for their lifetimes?

Howzabout modern times. Christopher Reeves? Quads live on respirators for years and years. But they don't have terminal cancer which has moved from their abdomen to their lungs, as this victim had. Apples and oranges.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 3, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

I do live in this world, the real one. The one where even President Drum, a congress full of Ditto Drums, and a cabinet consisting of Kevin's cats will NEVER EVER be able to guarantee that I can get access to every conceivable medical procedure, even ones that might save my life.

All the stats, and all the nonsense about tax rates (who cares if rich people pay 100% of all taxes - it still would not solve the basic problem) cannot obscure the fact that somewhere someone will have to say "no".

All you lefties need to take a look in the mirror and face the fact that you will die, every one of you (think of it as a daily non-affirmation, you can even do it imitating Al Franken). And if your resources are exhausted and the procedure that might save you is not offered by whatever government "plan" (or other plan) you have, then that's it.

No matter how "progressive" our government, they will always have to make choices.

Posted by: cranky on January 3, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Cranky. Kevin's clearly off his meds today. "Soul cankered" for saying that if a choice has to be made, then the one most directly concerned might be better off if he or she was allowed to make it herself?

I guess Kevin's point is that some choices are too harsh and difficult for anyone to make. But when the choice is difficult, isn't that even more of a reason for YOU to decide for Yourself?

Posted by: lab on January 3, 2006 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

I am highly suspicious of the facts in this case. Baylor hospital is an ethical , non-profit institution in my area. They would never turn off a machine for financial reasons. I'm sure they have a multidisciplinary committee including docs, nurses, chaplains, administrators, etc discuss this terribly difficult problem and then discuss it over the course of time with the family.

Posted by: Rain on January 3, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Just noticed you already made my point, Tbroz. Lab, the question of what exactly crawled up Kevin's ass this morning is a very good one indeed. But if you compare a debating opponent with space aliens, it's probably not a good idea to also refer to his arguments as "juvenile" -- one point kinda defeats another...

Posted by: cranky on January 3, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky, your real world doesn't add up to mine. It's really easy to get confused about this, so let's make it simple. A woman died sooner then she had to because her family couldn't pay her medical bill. You and lab seem to think that making the choice not to be able to afford medical care is much of a choice at all; it clearly isn't. So let's not get confused about this okay...they couldn't pay, so she got unplugged. There's nothing but wrongness about that, whatever side of the political aisle you're on, and whatever "economic" justifications you guys on the right want to offer for this, they can't change a simple fact that this woman shouldn't have died for want of adequate health coverage or the money to pay her medical bills.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on January 4, 2006 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Happy New Year!

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Posted by: tschnesko on January 4, 2006 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK

Hi all,
I attache some comments I drafted on my own blog concerning Steve's article:

DO THE POOR HAVE AN UNCONDITIONAL RIGHT TO LIVE?: I ask this question because that seems to me to be at the heart of the argument that I perused at The Washington Monthly concerning the case of "Tirhas Habtegiris, a 27-year-old terminal cancer patient at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, was removed from her ventilator last month because she couldn't pay her medical bills." These are the opening words of Steve Landsburg's latest column on everyday economics. The title of his piece is actually "Do the Poor Deserve Life Support?" rather than what i wrote above as the title of this entry.

I could have easily written, "Do we have an unconditional right to live?" Steve's answer, in line with his views that there is always a trade-off is: "No." And wearing my "economist hat", I can certainly understand that reasoning. After all, the decision to save this woman a few more days, weeks, or months, of life has to be weighed against the alternative allocation of resources that would allow someone (or someones) else a chance to live. Steve doesn't really pursue this utilitarian route, but rather focuses on the idea of the availability of ventilator insurance and the rational choice of this cancer patient to forego it, when 21 in order to buy other things more valuable to them at the time. Basically, by refusing the insurance, Tirhas basically said, "Sorry, I value my steak dinner today more than the right to a ventilator tomorrow." On this logic, again, Steve is right from an economist's perspective.

Yet I have two observations. First, why does Steve make the test one of the 21 year old and the steak dinner? What if I age the person a little, so that they have become more aware of their mortality, something we tend to become aware of once we hit the 40s? In other words, it is possible that Steve's patient is horribly unaware of the real odds for her ending up this way. If this is so, this could be an example of a breakdown in individual rationality and an example of market failure. The point I am making here is that young folks tend to have thresholds for knowledge (self-awareness). We do not face the real odds of our circumstances until we hit a certain threshold of information and age (i.e., we move from zero percent awareness to finite awareness, which allows us to then make bets of the kind that Steve says that we should).

The second point is that if Steve had couched his bet this way: Pay $75 now, at 21, so that you will have catastrophic health insurance for medical emergencies later in life, my guess is that most people take that bet. The reason that most people don't take that bet is because it isn't offered. My guess is that that bet is very expensive. Why? Because in real life, catastrophic events are a very real possibility at the end of one's life--and very expensive. And covering the bet that Steve wants a rational person to make might only be possible--especially if one is poor--by being willing to trade-off something else, like housing or a subsitence level of food intake, or something else of a like nature. There are problems attached to that trade-off.

I think it is OK to make the thought experiment that Steve does. However, I think it is also important to remember the context in which this experiment is carried out. It is one thing to say, "[t]his is not to deny that the health-care system needs a massive overhaul; it does. But that's not the issue on the table here. " But it is the issue. Steve assumes that people can take his bet, either because they have full knowledge or because they have the income. He has not convinced me that his assumptions are reasonable. Why? In our society, there are plenty of people who politely refuse the opportunity of medical insurance because they cannot afford it, if they want to put enough food on the table to keep body and soul together.

Finally, I found Steve's definition of compassion spot on: "compassion is the "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it."" I find it interesting that he shows no sign of this kind of thinking feeling in talking about Tirhas' situation qua human being and actual corporeal person. Tirhas is an abstract atomistic agent calculating odds and making choices for Steve. And this makes sense as this is the level of humanity that Steve is interested in in making his economic analysis. And yet, I wonder what Steve would say about the conditional nature of a human's right to life, if it had been his own close family member in Tirhas' situation. I wonder how much this alters the calculus for Steve. In any case, Steve is an economist and probably able to afford the insurance that he would offer to Tirhas, who might not have been able to pay for it, even if offered. And if he had not been able to afford it, would his arguments advanced in his article have given him comfort as he sat by a bedside, waiting for someone to turn off a switch?

Posted by: cas on January 4, 2006 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

It's really easy to get confused about this, so let's make it simple. A woman died sooner then she had to because her family couldn't pay her medical bill.

So simple, and of course so wrong.

Issues of medical futility, ethics, when to stop futile medical care, and how to allocate scarce resources (not dollars, resources like ventilators and bed space) are deep topics. Not a time for intellectual dog paddling and splash fights in the shallow end.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 4, 2006 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

And remember all I'm saying is that it'd help if the rich and corporations paid what they're supposed to pay.
You're complaining about 5600 rich taxpayers dodging (You're paying all those corporation taxes anyway). Average income of the top 1% is $858K per year. At an actual tax rate of 24.31% that is lost tax revenue of $1.1B. Total tax revenue is $747B. So you're whining about 0.1% of revenue.

This huge frigging problem that you're having is 1/10 of 1 percent. I've got bigger concerns than that on the spending side. Does that mean I get to whine louder than you?

Get some perspective.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 4, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike: Issues of medical futility, ethics, when to stop futile medical care, and how to allocate scarce resources (not dollars, resources like ventilators and bed space) are deep topics. Not a time for intellectual dog paddling and splash fights in the shallow end.

As Kleiman puts it . . . Predictably, none of the busybodies who made a national crisis out of the Terri Schiavo case seem to care about the people being killed for their poverty under the Texas "futile care" rules, signed into law by Gov. George W. Bush.

And predictably, Red State Mike insists all of a sudden that this is a "deep topic".

Too bad RSM doesn't consider Iraq to be a "deep topic" also.

conspiracy nut: If you moonbats are so up in arms about this, why weren't you paying for her ventilator?

Why aren't conservatives up in arms?

They prefer to further the interests of dead people or people not yet born, while ignoring those who are actually alive and suffering.

Why aren't conservatives offering to pay for her ventilator like they did with Schiavo?

Because they are hypocrites and liars.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 4, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Because they are hypocrites and liars.
Or maybe its because they believe that people should take responsibility for themselves instead of having mommy government do it all.

And you'll notice in the Schiavo case the religious folk offered to put their money where their mouth was for their cause. Unlike you moonbats, who want other people to fund your cause.

You want it, you buy it.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 4, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Whenever I see people in distress, I make a distinction of what their political economy ideals are so that I do not help them if they are not inclusive to the community of humankind.

Tsunami: send help.
Katrina: send help.

Oklahoma/Texas fires: Burn you motherfuckers!

Posted by: Hostile on January 4, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

what their political economy ideals are ... Tsunami: send help.
Ah, Islamofascists = good. Christians = bad.

Heh, see ya next election.

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 4, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

I must agree with David Warren above that corporations are hit much too hard by taxes. Why in the State of Oregon, the Corps must pay a minimum of $10.00. Over 2/3rds pay this amount, including Pacific General Electric, a subsidiary of Enron. In addition, PGE is under investigation concerning non-payment of taxes from consumers to government.
In the Oregonian of either yesterday or the day before, there was a long article about the poor not being able to pay either their electric bills and/or their gas bills for heating. Their only resort is to apply for aid from local charities. The charities are reporting that they have been overwhelmed and are running out of money.
I know of someone who called PGE about help and was told that car payments were higher than electric bills and that people somehow found the way to pay for their cars.
Yes, yes, I know that I have provided an anecdote, but it is what it is.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 4, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut: Ah, Islamofascists = good. Christians = bad.

Translation of cn: Ah, Islamofascists good then when we were supplying them with WMDs and other weapons, not to mention political and financial support, bad now, unless they happen to serve Bush's partisan needs, in which case he will ship them weapons and promote them internationally.

Christians are the world's elites and can do no wrong unless they are wrong Christians meaning an Christian who disagrees with George Bush.

I get it.

Still waiting for that 60% approval for Bush you were predicting cn.

LOL.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 4, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut: Or maybe its because they believe that people should take responsibility for themselves instead of having mommy government do it all.

Funny that cn and conservatives don't and didn't apply that principle to the Iraqi people.

We get it though: poor people are poor because they deserve it, unless they are useful like the Iraqis and then it is because of whatever scapegoat conservatives can hang the problem on, even if they themselves assisted the scapegoat in suppressing the poor Iraqis.

And you'll notice in the Schiavo case the religious folk offered to put their money where their mouth was for their cause.

And in this case conservatives didn't, because the victim was a poor person who they couldn't work up any concern about, since she must have deserved it.

You want it, you buy it.

Funny that conservatives always want someone else to buy what they want, but pretend like it is otherwise.

Democratic congress members vote against their own wealth all the time; Republican congress members never vote against their own wealth except at the point of a proverbial gun.

What a pathetic liar you are, cn.

Now, where's those booming approval numbers you were predicting from the Alito nomination?

Hardee har har!

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 4, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

conspiracy nut: If you moonbats are so up in arms about this, why weren't you paying for her ventilator?

Why aren't conservatives up in arms?


come on afg, this is an elementary school debating technique.

--------------------------

Now, where's those booming approval numbers you were predicting from the Alito nomination?

Hardee har har!

note to afg, bush will win the 08 election. keep it up, i said you'd all get crushed in 04, and you will keep getting crushed, all the wanabee message board wit in the world won't change that, it will help it.

Posted by: satan on January 4, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think Steev is, as usual, dead on, and the issues he raises are exactly the ones serious liberals should be thinking about when discussing healthcare. His basic point is that it's easy and cheap to whine about the pathos of this single case and make yourself out to be a compassionate hero. In the perfect world in our imaginations, there are no tradeoffs. In the real world, though, there are.

Steve's point at the end is patricularly biting. While I can imagine someone rushing out and buying vent coverage for Habtegiris because it's the big newsy case, I have a hard time seeing anyone running out and paying what it would cost to insure every poor person the right to a vent. And the exuse "I don't have enough money" makes little sense: if the value of human life is infinite, why not at least go broke on the cause? No? There are better ways to spend your limited money to help people? Well guess what: that's exactly Landsburg's point.

You can react to his logic in several ways: you can declare him an alien. Or you can see that your way of thinking is comforting and self-aggrandizing (I'm compassionate for poor Mrs. Habtegiris and he must not be!) and that he's making a pretty serious point about what we as a society should and do choose to spend our limited resources on. And shame on people for calling into question his own compassion, humanity, or even comparing him to Ayn Rand. His argument is not about lacking compassion. It's that our much-touted claims of compassion are, in this case and others, belied by reality and unworkable in anything other than a celebrity hype way. As social policy, it's the ones pretending that there are limitless resources for everything that, of course, someone ELSE will foot the bill for, for anything and everthing who are being juvenile.

Posted by: plunge on January 4, 2006 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Habtegiris was fully conscious when the vent was cut off. This is not a case involving futility of medical care. She was murdered.

Posted by: JR on January 4, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

"No, it's not moral to offer poor people such a choice. Mayve this is obvious, but I'm drawn to an analogy of Sophy's choice here--the boy or the girl? Um, it's not kindness or a concern for the weak that leads people to pose such choices."

See, and this is exactly the kind of stupid commment that Landsburg is talking about. People say shit like this, but they don't actually mean it. Poor people, and EVERYONE, DO face choices like this, like it or not. That's not Landsburg's doing or anyone else's. We are constantly trading off one thing for another. And while the value of human life is easy to declare infinite just so you can show off you moral superiority, nobody, including you, actually treat it as if it was when making your own economic decisions. His argument isn't against giving the poor vent insurance: if we want to pay for that, then we will. His point is: consider all the other things we and indeed, the person themselves, have to forgo to do that. Someone has to pay for it. And despite your posturing, it sure isn't you. And once you do decide that it must be paid for, what are you going to trade it off for? Less education? Less preventative care? Less what? And are you sure that your own celebrity judgement based on a media story and blog post is the correct allocation of resources?

As Landsburg points out: it probably isn't. Because I bet even after posting your comment, you've donated not a dollar to ventilator insurance for the poor in general: or even thought about doing so. That suggests that you, in reality, feel you have something better to do with your money.

Interesting that someone noted Peter Singer and claimed he was without compassion. Singer's supposedly compassionless logic in part points out exactly what I noted above: that your spending isn't anywhere near in line with your own claimed moral principles. You'll spend 10$ on a movie that you don't eevn expect to like, and DON'T like rather than give it to prevent hundreds of deaths from diarreah in Africa. Even if you DO give money to that cause, the fact that you'll basically throw away 10$ on something your own moral compass tells you is far LESS important than charity shows that your beliefs and your actions are waaaaay out of whack. Singer's argument is for people to give up far far more of their incomes than they currently do. Your may claim to be more compassionate than Singer, and yet Singer's argument shows that this is just posturing.

Posted by: plunge on January 4, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Brad DeLong, economics professor at UC Berkeley, disagrees alightly with Kevin on this:

Kevin Drum writes: "HAPPY NEW YEAR!....It's not often that someone writes a column that is simultaneously as condescending, juvenile, obtuse, and soul cankered as this one in Slate. You'll think it was written by a native of Alpha Centauri trying to parody Ayn Rand, but you'll be wrong. It was written by Steven Landsburg." Shouldn't that be: "You'll think it was written by a native of Alpha Centauri trying to parody Ayn Rand, and you'll be right. It was written by Steven Landsburg"?

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/01/if_i_had_infini_1.html

Posted by: Calton Bolick on January 4, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Keeping a cognizant person alive with a ventilator is probably not too expensive for our society to offer all indigent persons about to die. The resources to provide this care exist and the beneficial utility, although marginal, would probably make us all better off, as citizens and humans.

Liberals or progressives or radical Marxists or Catholic priests or Buddhist monks are not asking for expensive experimental cures or surgeries for this condition. What compassionate people are asking for is a small bit of welfare for the dying. Making an idealistic rationalizing brouhaha about cutting the air off of a conscious woman who is about to die anyway because of inability to pay, demonstrates a disregard for humanity. It should not come as a surprise that a Democratic country with a near plurality of people with this attitude voted for Bush, legitimizing war, torture, terror.

I am reminded of special care homes that take in children who have suffered brain debilitating accidents or injuries, mostly near drownings. Most of these children are described as brain dead and many are on ventilators. If Landsberg wrote the same story except it was one of those near drowning victims instead of a conscious (African) woman as the subject, one wonders if the neo-liberal idealists would discuss the correctness of the act as vigorously.

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 5, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

I already had in mind what there was to say to most of you creeps before I went to read the Slate article, and then I found it there, anyway:

"I'm guessing that in the wake of the Habtegiris case, nobody at the Daily Kos has taken to funding ventilator insurance for the poor."
Well? Speak up.

How' bout it, Drum? Which ones of you have gone out to give what you own for the cause, instead of endorsing hiring goons to force others to part with what it theirs?

I wouldn't do that to you, and not one of you has any business talking about "freedom", you lying shitbags.

Posted by: Billy Beck on January 5, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Billy Boy Beck, why don't you go pull some plugs on some brain dead near drowning victim children and save yourself some tax dollars. Like the raping of children by US soldiers in Iraq, that should make you feel very proud.

Posted by: Hostile on January 5, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have a better idea, sonny: why don't you get off your commie-slug ass and try to come take from me with your own hands what you would rather hire someone else to take for you? I guarantee that I'll meet you on your principles.

Pack a fuckin' lunch for the project when you find your nerve, punk.

Posted by: Billy Beck on January 5, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Billy Boy, I do not arrange sexual liasons with homosexuals.

Posted by: Hostile on January 5, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

satan: bush will win the 08 election

Bush will never win another election in his life.

He'll be lucky to win any more political battles.

Posted by: Satan's Advocate on January 5, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Beck, I apologize, that was an uncalled for insult, even though you wanted to settle our differences violently. Public goods are valuable to the polis, and providing minimal healthcare to the dying increases the quality of your life and everyone elses, too.

Posted by: Hostile on January 5, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Let me explain something to you: you're the one who implicitly and necessarily endorses violence, with your reliance on the force of state to make me pay for things that you value. Like I said in my first post: I would never do that to you, under any circumstances. For instance: I'm all for a war to kill terrorists, but I endorse your freedom, sir: no one on earth is competent to force you to pay for that in my name. Now, you come along with your arbitrary assertion of values ("public goods"). I am here to let you know that once you do that, the fight's on. You assert health care. I could assert the war -- or any number of other things -- but I don't.

Between the two of us, I'm the one who stands for freedom. Not you.

And when the thing comes to dispute, you can count on me to meet you on your premises. You complain of violence, but the fact is that I prefer reason. However, there is only one alternative when reason fails, and when that happens, then I say: "bring it on."

You want peace? Keep your fucking hired thugs out of my life.

I promise you: they will never be permitted to force so-called "public goods" on you in my name.

Try your best to understand.

Posted by: Billy Beck on January 5, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

People came to live together to escape the state of nature you proclaim to be the highest form of being. Good luck with that.

I assume you have your own water source, because I know a moral person like yourself would never use socialized water. If you should ever be accosted by another human being, I know you will not call the police because other people share in the cost of law enforcement, and your ideals prevent you from sharing costs with others for the social good. Roads, built with taxes from people who never use them, as well as by those who use them more than they contributed, would never be used by you. I hope you do not have an LCD watch, because the socialist organization called NASA, took credit for that. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to have a corporation dump toxic waste in your children's playground, a public good, leaving you no recourse but to seek restitution without the benefits of laws and the collective power of the polis. But you are a rugged individual and you will not suffer the loss of your children to the greed of others.

Oh, I notice you use the internet, which is a socialist invention created to benefit all as a public good. For shame!

Posted by: Hostile on January 5, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

"People came to live together to escape the state of nature you proclaim to be the highest form of being.

Cite that, moron. Go ahead: go find my words -- not the ones that you're pleased to put in my editor -- and post 'em up.

"I assume you have your own water source..."

In fact, I do. And don't tell me about a socialist internet: I know where I send my money to pay for my service.

In any case, I have noticed that you're not interested to talk about freedom, even if nobody else has. You're content to rationalize everybody forcing each other to pay for their shit.

I don't do that to you, and I never will.

Posted by: Billy Beck on January 5, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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