A job for Hillary.

A mostly political Weblog.
Sept. 5 2006 5:33 AM

A Job For Hillary

Plus--Shorter summer.

(Continued from Page 7)

What If Cruise Sues? Nikki Finke thinks Tom Cruise may have a cause of action--presumably for libel--against Viacom (owner of the Paramount movie studio). But then she would think that!

But why the f[***] are you setting up his legal piranha (Bert Fields, who's never lost a case) for what could well be the biggest lawsuit ever to hit Hollywood?

Maybe Fields doesn't lose cases because he's very, very selective about the threats he actually pursues in court. ... I'm still waiting for him to bring the L.A. Times to its knees for what he called its "false, defamatory and highly damaging" assertions about Susan Estrich. Where's that lawsuit? ...More: Yes, Finke's claim that Cruise has a basis for suing seems farfetched. But she did get past a preliminary challenge in her own suit against Disney over a similarly mundane bit of business. And Redstone said more than merely that Cruise's "recent conduct has not been unacceptable." According to the WSJ [$], Redstone also said Cruise was

"someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue"

which could be considered both false and damaging, if you read it in a certain strained light. (Obviously, Redstone didn't mean that Cruise overall costs Paramount revenue, only that some of his conduct did, but let him explain it to the jury!) ... Update: Fields has now said he has "no intent to sue." ...  6:16 P.M.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Iowa Menace: I take the Dem's announcement of new early presidential nominating contests (in Nevada and South Carolina) as an opportunity to rant against the Iowa caucuses. Whose judgment do you trust more: sweet unionized Iowa teachers or cynical unionized Vegas gambling workers? Somehow I don't think the Vegas gambling workers would have picked out John Kerry as "electable"! ... But Hotline says I'm deluding myself if I think the DNC's additions will reduce Iowa's role. ... Update:  New West Notes' Bill Bradley  calls the Hotline writers "dinosaurs" who "don't want to fly West--where the presidency is merely waiting to be won in a number of states in addition to Nevada--and learn something new." ... I do think it's a bit early for Hotline to ridicule the Nevada caucuses just because "No NV visits are yet scheduled" by candidates. Did Hubert Humphrey know, in the summer of 1958, that West Virginia would be a big deal? ... 6:29 P.M.

Matthew Yglesias takes issue with my suggestion that a "decent" national health care system, added on top of our current Social Security system, will require a "larger tax burden than citizens are willing to bear." He argues:

The U.S. government currently spends a phenomenal sum of money on health care by world standards ... [W]hen you're talking about universal health care you're not really talking about increasing the aggregate resources poured into American health care. There's already tons of money being spent on it. You're talking about redistributing the spending somewhat from richer to less-rich people and altering the path through which the money flows.

I'm not a health care expert, but it seems to me:

1) If we want a system that reinforces social equality--everyone in the same waiting room-- that means we need basically the bottom 90% to use the same system. The hardest (i.e. impossible) way to do this is by forcing the affluent to get less care than they are willing to pay for ("redistributing the spending somewhat from richer to less-rich people," as Yglesias tactfully puts it.) The easiest way to do that is to offer subsidized universal care good enough so that the vast majority of the affluent will be content to use it. In other words, you can't just "insure" the poor with bare-bones HMO treatment. This will be expensive.

2) Medical technology will offer more and more complex and costly ways to treat illness. Some of these treatments will work. We want to offer them to everyone, with a minimum of rationing--again, in a system that most of the affluent will also sign up for. The alternative seems to be a system in which the upper middle class lives (because they can afford fancy treatments) and the working poor die. Avoiding this will be expensive.

3) We will still want to encourage future medical research and technological advance--or at least we want to retard it as little as possible. That's why I'm skeptical of some plans for realizing huge cost savings. For example, the government could undoubtedly use its monopsony power to lower the price it pays for drugs--maybe lower the price to something approaching the marginal cost of producing additional pills. It's not at all clear, however, that this is the price we should want to pay, because it does little to fund research and development costs of developing both the existing drug and new drugs. See Michael Kinsley's analysis here. Paying medical providers enough to fund future advances will be very expensive.

4) Yglesias writes

The significant financial challenge has to do with covering the bills for old people, but that challenge exists one way or another thanks to Medicare (and the basic reality that senior citizens are largely uninsurable in the private sector) and has relatively little to do with whether or not we can afford to bring universal coverage to the under-65 crowd.

If you're trying to assess the overal budgetary burden, it won't do to pass off the cost of caring for old people by saying 'Oh, that's just Medicare.' Caring for old people is still part of the health insurance system, and to the extent (a very great extent) that government will have to pay the bill through Medicare then that will be a budgetary burden that might "require a larger tax burden than citizens are willing to bear."

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