Getting the argument wrong

A number of people have spent the day noting that those in opposition to reform are arguing by making stuff up instead of constructing legitimate arguments against reform.  That’s frustrating.

What’s even ore frustrating (at least to me), though, are arguments by people who genuinely thing they are correct, but are totally wrong.  Especially when they pervert good work that should be cited often in debate.

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting T. R. Reid.  I asked him how he felt when people use his book to make an argument in exact opposition to what his book actually says.  He was far more polite than I would have been.  That practice hasn’t stopped, unfortunately:

Today, though, Conrad went on Dylan Ratigan’s MSNBC show. Ratigan’s hobbyhorse for weeks (months?) now has been to complain that the health reform bill isn’t dramatic enough in its impact on most people. He wants to see something more Ron Wyden-style that would sever the employment-insurance link more rapidly. I think this is a fair point, but it’s not practical and in the long-term it’s not going to matter since the bills in congress do head in that direction. Either way, Ratigan had Conrad on this morning to harass him about this, resulting in a dialogue in which Conrad asserts that Germany, France, Japan, Switzerland, and Belgium all have great employer-based systems. Ratigan points out once or twice that this is wrong, but Conrad insists, Ratigan seems to lose his confidence and pivots to Singapore, then Conrad comes back to his claim about Europe and Japan and says everyone should read T.R. Reid.

I think it’s fair to say that Ratigan had this right the first time. Employment isn’t totally irrelevant to French health care, but it works nothing like our employer-based system and most French people are covered by what amounts to a single-payer system. In Germany employers have a big role in financing people’s insurance premiums but, again, that’s not the same as what America’s employer-based system does. In America what happens is that the cost of your premium is split between you and your employer, but your choice of insurance options is determined by your employer’s HR department. The German system is more like a payroll tax that funds government subsidies for you to sign up for the “sickness fund” of your choice. In Switzerland “individuals — not employers or the government — choose from a broad array of health plans, sold by private insurance companies.”

This isn’t the first time Senator Conrad has misunderstood T. R. Reid’s book.  Since Mr. Reid is too polite to ask him to stop, I will.

Please, Senator Conrad, stop using T. R. Reid’s book in your arguments.  Even better, go read it again.

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