Have you ever noticed that all Chinese menus are remarkably the same? Moo shu pork. General Tso's Chicken. Beef with broccoli. Sweet and sour pork. In New York, everybody knows that it's because all the Chinese food is prepared in one massive central kitchen located beneath Times Square. Of course it's all the same!
What hasn't been as widely recognized is that there is also one massive central newsroom, equally located just beneath Time Square (right next to the central Chinese kitchen), that prepares the progressive news talking points each day and distributes them to dozens of seemingly separate televisions networks, newspapers and websites. How else to explain that you can go to literally any one of the so-called "mainstream" sites on any given day, and find not only the same stories, but generally also expressed in the exact same words? Recently -- by which I mean, since January 20 -- the selected words always have been chosen to maximize the degree of evil attributed to the new President and Congress.
And thus, with the unveiling last week of the first proposal from the Republican Congress to start undoing Obamacare, we find the immediate emergence of the official progressive talking point clearly emanating from the central newsroom: This is "cruel." The CBO has estimated a likely increase in the number of people without healthcare "coverage." Go literally anywhere, and you find this circumstance described with the same word -- "cruel" -- repeated, over and over. At the New Republic on March 14 it's "The Incredible Cruelty of Trumpcare" (subtitle "Republicans are willing to cause a humanitarian crisis just to give permanent tax cuts to millionaires"). At New York Magazine, it's "Trumpcare Is The Culmination of All the GOP's Healthcare Lies" ("they instead rushed out a plan that is shambolic and cruel"). At the Washington Post on March 8, it's "the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus . . . is terribly distressed by the fact that the Ryan bill is insufficiently cruel to poor people." Paul Krugman of the New York Times put it in a tweet on March 14: "The first and most important legislative initiative [of the new Congress] is stupid as well as cruel . . . ." There are dozens of other examples.
You get the idea. The little people are incapable of facing any downside risk of life on their own. Any failure of the federal government to accept and provide for any and all downside risks of life, right down to a couple of aspirin to help with a headache, is "cruel." It's "heartless." It's "a humanitarian crisis." Government's job is to make sure that all people have free or affordable "healthcare," so that any healthcare issue that arises in their lives can be promptly treated, at public expense.
Of course, it is a given that government-provided health care is a moral imperative. Without it, people who are poor and of low income will go without needed medical treatment. They will suffer, and then die. Right? I mean, everybody knows that people who go without healthcare "coverage" have a higher death rate than people who are "covered." Everybody knows that because, back in 2002, the Institute of Medicine estimated 18,000 excess deaths per year among the "uninsured," based on an assumption that uninsured people had a mortality rate higher than that of the insured. In 2009, in the run-up to enactment of Obamacare, a Harvard "study" upped the estimate of annual excess deaths among the uninsured to some 45,000, again based upon an assumption that the "uncovered" must have higher mortality.
And yet. First came that controlled study in Oregon where thousands of people were randomly assigned to Medicaid and non-Medicaid groups. The results were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013:
This randomized, controlled study showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes . . . .
But here is what is even more significant. Look at reports of health data among high-Medicaid recipient populations of poor people. What you will find is that their health outcomes are universally inferior to national or city norms on any measure you can think of. As discussed here several days ago, last year New York City published health data for 2015 broken down by neighborhood. Look up the data for the poor and majority-black neighborhoods, where Medicaid is pervasive, and you can see how well Medicaid is working -- or not. After 50+ years of massive and ever-growing spending, has Medicaid succeeded in bringing health outcomes among the poor up to national norms, or are the poor stuck in a rut of persistently inferior health outcomes? It's not even close. Here is the report for Central Harlem; here's the one for Mott Haven/Melrose in the Bronx; here's the one for Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn; and here's the one for Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn.
A sample of some of the results:
- U.S. life expectancy in 2016 was 78.8 years. But in Harlem it was 75.1 years; in Mott Haven/Melrose 76.1 years; in Bed-Stuy 75.1 years. And in the ultimate public housing, Medicaid, and food stamp dependency utopia of Ocean Hill-Brownsville, life expectancy was just 74.1 years, almost five full years less than the national norm.
- Obesity and diabetes rates are far higher in these neighborhoods than elsewhere in New York City. In the four cited neighborhoods, obesity rates range from 28% of the population in Central Harlem to 33% in Bed-Stuy, against a city norm of 24%. Diabetes rates are 50% above the city-wide norm of 10% of the population in all of Mott Haven/Melrose, Bed-Stuy, and Brownsville, and 30% above in Harlem.
- These neighborhoods far exceed city norms for drug and alcohol-related hospitalizations. Brownsville is again the "leader," with 2,285 alcohol-related hospitalizations per 100,000 population in 2015, and 2682 drug-related hospitalizations per 100,000, as against city-wide norms of 1019 and 907 per 100,000 respectively. The best of the four is Bed-Stuy, with "only" 1713 alcohol-related hospitalizations per 100,000, and 1830 drug-related.
- Medicaid beneficiaries supposedly have infinite free pre-natal care and obstetrical services. Yet somehow, infant mortality is far higher in all of these neighborhoods than city-wide norms. The city-wide norm for infant mortality per 1000 births is 4.7. But the rate is 8.1 in Central Harlem, 8.0 in Brownsville, and 6.6 in Mott Haven/Melrose. Only Bed-Stuy, at 5.0 is near the city norm.
- In the category of "premature mortality," where the city-wide rate is 198.4 per 100,000, Brownsville leads the city with a rate of 367.1. Bed-Stuy ranks third at 309.2, and Mott Haven/Melrose fourth at 305.7. Central Harlem is closest to the city norm -- not very close -- at 293.1.
Do you maybe get the idea that something is not working here? While no association of Medicaid "coverage" with better health outcomes can be demonstrated, it is glaringly obvious that what can be demonstrated is an association between widespread dependency on government programs for the poor (of which Medicaid is the largest and most widely available) and worse health outcomes. Much worse health outcomes.
I don't know why high dependency on government programs in general, and Medicaid in particular, is so closely associated with much higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, higher death rates and shorter life spans. But the best hypothesis is that no-questions-asked handouts take away human independence and act as a "subtle destroyer of the human spirit." (The phrase comes from the 1935 Address to Congress of Franklin Roosevelt.) If you can't improve your life by working hard, why not just take drugs?
Anyway, if we are to take it as established that subjecting the poor to worse health outcomes is "cruel," then the path forward is obvious. The thing to do is to lower rates of dependency. Get as many people as possible off of Medicaid, and for that matter food stamps and subsidized housing. Bring back some striving to the lives of the poor! Anything else is "cruel"!
Somehow, I don't think that anyone has yet written this story in the central newsroom beneath Times Square.