Blame Americans First

Allen and Stein

Blame Americans First

Allen and Stein

Blame Americans First
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 15 1998 3:53 PM

Allen and Stein

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Amen, Herb

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I'm all for keeping Caesar out of God's world and vice versa. I do wish, however, that I had a picture of you and Murray Chotiner linked in prayer. No doubt your problem with the $1,065 billion arose from your failing to take the time to explain it in detail to Billy Graham. He probably got the decimal in the wrong place or started praying in 1973 dollars.

In the spirit of not talking about you-know-who, let me mention the government report on resurgent medical prices that made the front of the Washington Post (but only an inside page of the New York Times--have you noticed that lately the Times is more Starr-struck than the normally politically-obsessed Post?). This will no doubt throw both Congress and the president into full pander. Both spent recent months competing to undo all the "managed care" controls that had produced the much-applauded abatement in medical costs in recent years. Now that "managed care" has been thoroughly villainized, the search will be on for new targets for blame. No one will want to point to the real culprit of this tale: the U.S. consumer.

We Americans value nothing more highly than our health--except we don't value it enough to want to pay for it out of our own pockets. We demand access to the doctors and hospitals of our choice including the right to shop for the latest technology however unproven or cost-ineffective. But ask us to give up something else to help cover the cost--a night out on the town or the latest $150 running shoes--and we get downright huffy. Send off a letter to our congressperson. Someone else is supposed to pay for our health care. Our employers (only don't take the cost out of our wages or other benefits). Or the government (only don't raise our taxes).

The Clintons never addressed this problem squarely in their promise-everything-to-everyone health care plan in 1993. Maybe now that the president is in a repent-and-come-clean mode, he'll be willing to take it on. Oh dear, now I'm back to you-know-who again.

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P.S. I knew I'd make a mistake in guessing the composer of "Our Love is Here to Stay." Among others, former Breakfast Tabler Erik Tarloff writes: "Irving Berlin? IRVING BERLIN??? May God have mercy on your soul. The song is one of the last collaborations of George and Ira Gershwin. A posthumous collaboration, actually, since the melody was found in one of George's notebooks after he died. Vernon Duke completed it and arranged it, and Ira wrote the lyric." But who wrote the song from which you borrowed the end of your ditty which I think (now I'm just asking for more trouble) went something like "When other friendships have been forgot, ours will still be hot"?

Jodie T. Allen is Slate's Washington, D.C., editor. Herbert Stein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He is a member of the board of contributors at the Wall Street Journal.