Listening

by Brien Jackson

I have a hard time fully respecting bloggers who don’t host comments on their blogs. If you’re going to spout off on the internet, you ought to be willing to host criticism, disagreement, corrections, etc. You can handle the trolls. For the most part, I think it’s just intellectual cowardice and a hiding mechanism. If Ross Douthat had comments, for example, people could instantly challenge his factually dubious assertions and his ever present assumptions that the lower classes are naturally inclined to vote for Republicans. But since he doesn’t, it can only be criticized elsewhere, and he can ignore that and go on like no one ever pointed out he’s wrong. But in some rare cases, I can sort of understand it. Andrew Sullivan, for example, has a very large readership, and so it’s easy to imagine him having a hard time keeping up with comments. And, to his credit, he does seem to read a large amount of emails sent to him, and regularly posts them. So that’s something.

Still, if he had comments, things like this might happen less frequently. Here’s Peter Orszag detailing the fiscal problems with “entitltements:”

Although reforming health care is the key to our nation’s fiscal future, other programs – including Social Security – do contribute to our long-term deficit. The long-term shortfall in Social Security, though, is modest relative to the possible effect of health care on the budget. As I just mentioned, if costs per enrollee in Medicare and Medicaid, grow at the same rate as they have in the last four decades, the costs associated with these two programs would increase by 15 percentage points of GDP—rising from 5 percent of GDP today to about 20 percent by 2050. By comparison, the cost of Social Security benefits is expected to increase by 1.5 percentage points of GDP over this same period, according to the Social Security actuaries, and the system, without any changes, is expected to be able to pay full benefits through 2041. After we reform health care, the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to strengthen Social Security’s finances.

And here’s Sullivan’s take:

Entitlement reform will happen, somewhere over the rainbow.

I should probably let this go, because Sully’s obsession with “entitlement reform” is pushing the boundaries of Trig-territory at this point. Ezra Klein took him to task recently, and as far as I can tell Sully just ignored it, even though he had been engaged up to that point. But what’s really maddening here is that, once again, you’re seeing someone stake out a position that turns out to be quite inaccurate. “Entitlement reform” does not equal cutting Social Security. There is no fiscal crisis presented by Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid are a different matter entirely, but the problem with those programs is rising healthcare costs. And so the key to “entitlement reform” is healthcare reform. This is a point being made by the Director of OMB, with numbers and graphs and proof, and Sullivan is just ignoring the fundamental point. He keeps going back to the “entitlement reform” well, and he keeps getting smacked down. So he posts some videos and reader emails for the rest of the day, and then comes back to entitlement reform like it never happened. Then he gets smacked down again, and the cycle keeps repeating.

Perhaps if Sully had comments, it would be harder for him to get away with brazenly ignoring the point.

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