Why I Hate The NY Times, Part [n]*

This paragraph:

There is most likely a middle way. Republican lawmakers might be comfortable with a system that shifts more of the costs of care onto people who are sick, if it makes the average insurance plan less costly for the healthy. But making those choices would mean engaging in very real trade-offs, less simple than their talking point.

“Republican lawmakers might be comfortable…”  Think of the assuptions not in evidence required to write that phrase.  Think also of the cluelessness in what comes next:  those who buy insurance are seen here in the Republican frame, as two binary populations, the healthy and the sick.

That would be  the “virtuous”  healthy paid less than the molly-coddled, feckless sick.  That the same people might occupy both identities at different points of their lives seems not to have occured to this Times writer, Margot Sanger-Katz — whom I’ve noted before has an odd willingness to couch her Upshot explainers in weighted and coded language.

As seems to be hers and several Times-folk’s penchant, much of the story from which I extracted above is perfectly fine, an actual explainer of what Essential Health Benefits do and why they’re important. She even notes that in a system without a required benefit package–

…the meaning of “health insurance” can start to become a little murky.

Well, yeah, as it doesn’t actually insure against unanticipated risks.  I’d take issue with the meekness of her critique here, that is, but at least she suggests to the fragile sensibilities of her tender readers that perhaps a minor problem might result here.

Which makes the passage I quoted up top both weird and revealing: cheap insurance for the healthy and soak-the-sick policies for those with the misfortune to suffer the ails that impinge on just about every human being, sometime or other is a pretty damn good example of a murky notion of health insurance.

That is: the habit of mind, the reflexive and seemingly unconscious acceptance of a right wing tropes that lead both to conclusions unsupported by the evidence and an inability to grasp what one has actually just said.  This happens a lot at The New York Times. Happened a lot there too, over the crucial months of 2016.  Which goes a long way, IMHO, to accounting for the predicament we’re in now.

*Where [n] is an arbitrarily large number.x

Image:  Codex Aureus Epternacensis, Christ Cleansing Ten Lepers, c. 1035-1040.

65 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    I respect your NYT hatred. It’s righteous.

  2. 2
    WereBear says:

    This is why my brain hurts when I try to mock up the conservative brain’s “thinking” processes.

    There’s your swamp.

  3. 3
    Tilda Swintons Bald Cap says:

    Everyone should hate the NYT, however I did read that their subscription numbers are up. Sometimes I just want to gargle Draino.

  4. 4
    JMG says:

    Every newspaper has a target imaginary reader as part of its overall marketing plan. Check the ads in the Times. It’s target reader makes at least $250 K per year. If they sound cluelessly elite, and they do, it’s because that’s who their writing and reporting is aimed at.

  5. 5
    dr. bloor says:

    Not getting outta the boat. More than enough here to remind me why I cancelled my subscription.

  6. 6
    XTPD says:

    Certain values of [n] for which number series entry this post is.

  7. 7

    NYT is garbage. Boycott it.

  8. 8
    Patricia Kayden says:

    You’re so correct that one can be both healthy and sick at different stages in one’s life. I have several pre-existing conditions such as severe allergies and asthma but otherwise am pretty healthy. The GOP is clueless if they’re acting under the assumption that if you’re sick at any point of time, you’re in a special “sick people” category and this should be penalized.

    That’s not how insurance works.

  9. 9
    XTPD says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I get it for free at college, and after I’ve read the Krugman/Blow columns I use it as cage-liner for my pet white-throated capuchin.

  10. 10
    Ian G. says:

    Preach it, brotha!

    Also, sweet Medieval image of Jesus healing the lepers, which is essentially the state of healthcare in this country in too many ways.

  11. 11
    Oatler. says:

    “seemingly unconscious acceptance of a right wing tropes”
    and by Sunday talk show, and millionaire/billionaire owners fer sure.

  12. 12
    Gravenstone says:

    Sorry to go O/T, but this might be worth a mention. Apparently Manafort has volunteered to appear before the House Intelligence Committee. My cynical take is that this is part of a coordinated rat fuck intended to obfuscate and shield Trump. A more neutral take is that his crisis communication team has advised Manafort to get his story out there ASAP. Guess we’ll see in due time which is correct (or more).

  13. 13

    @XTPD: You are still giving them clicks and absorbing their propaganda.

  14. 14
    piratedan says:

    … why yes, we reported on Trump’s links to nefarious Russian mobsters and the coincidental occurrences of Trump demanding dirt on Clinton and the DNC and those requests were answered by outside agencies in a coordinated attack… but her e-mails….

  15. 15
    Betty says:

    Her mistake is in assuming good faith on the part of Republicans. There is no evidence to support her assumption.

  16. 16
    XTPD says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I get the newspaper for free at college, and Krugman/Blow are the only parts I read. I pretty much never use the website unless I’ve gotten wind of a particularly good Krugman columns, and for that I use Incognito browsing.

  17. 17
    James Powell says:

    the habit of mind, the reflexive and seemingly unconscious acceptance of a right wing tropes that lead both to conclusions unsupported by the evidence and an inability to grasp what one has actually just said. This happens a lot at The New York Times.

    This happens a lot everywhere because every inch of the press/media is owned & operated by Republicans or people who are rich and powerful enough to have plenty of Republican friends who constantly complain that the press/media is too liberal and too biased against Republicans.

    I remember when the internet and blogs were going to save us from the one-sided corporate media. Those were good times.

  18. 18
    Yarrow says:

    What time is the vote on this terrible bill? I thought it was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Eastern? We’re well past that now.

  19. 19
    sherparick says:

    @Tilda Swintons Bald Cap: They are certainly a mixed blessing. There is Krugman, to some extent the Upshot, and business and non-political news coverage.

    On the other hand there is their news coverage. A combination of Broderite “both sides,” Maureen Dowd “in crowd” high school coverage that always favor the “kewl kids,” and political coverage as “bad theater criticism.” I keep wanting to ask these people that they are confusing stages of life with “classes.” Everyone who is healthy will eventually become “sick,” the when and how, is what is a matter of luck.

  20. 20
    bystander says:

    We stopped our decades long subscription to the NYT the day after the election. The hatchet job on Clinton was disgusting.

  21. 21
    dmsilev says:

    Ezra Klein had a piece this morning called The GOP’s true health care problem where, among other things, he summarizes some actual conservative health care plans (i.e. not just OBAMACARE EVIL SCREEEEEEE!). They’re every bit as appalling as you could imagine. My “favorite” was this one:

    First, we should replace our current web of employer- and government-based insurance with a single program of catastrophic insurance open to all Americans—indeed, all Americans should be required to buy it—with fixed premiums based solely on age. This program would be best run as a single national pool, without underwriting for specific risk factors, and would ultimately replace Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. All Americans would be insured against catastrophic illness, throughout their lives.

    Proposals for true catastrophic insurance usually founder on the definition of catastrophe. So much of the amount we now spend is dedicated to problems that are considered catastrophic, the argument goes, that a separate catastrophic system is pointless. A typical catastrophic insurance policy today might cover any expenses above, say, $2,000. That threshold is far too low; ultimately, a threshold of $50,000 or more would be better.

    Get that? Out-of-pocket for everything until you reach “catastrophic” levels, where that’s defined as $50K. Because of course your average American has plenty of savings to cover $20K in hospital bills, no problem.

    _That’s_ the sort of thing the House Freedom Caucus would really go for.

  22. 22
    dmsilev says:

    @Yarrow: The latest update I saw was 4 hours of debate followed by a vote in the afternoon. If they start postponing the vote time, that’s a tell.

  23. 23
    the Conster, la Citoyenne says:

    By every account out there in media land, and by every metric, the AHCA provides worse results than the ACA. Have any of these intrepid reporters asked any of these moron Republicans what the hell their true motivation is to get it passed? No reporter pushes back on their claim that the ACA is a disaster, which is easily disprovable, or asks them to clarify which outcome of the ACA is sub-optimal, and which provision of the ACA results in that outcome, and how if that’s what they’re so fauxraged at, why can’t they just focus on fixing it? I mean you’d think a reporter would poke that turd, but you’d need to know something about the ACA and how it works so you’d think wrong.

  24. 24
    Chris says:


    Yeah, I keep checking and rechecking and rerechecking the news. Come on, dang it, enough with the suspense.

  25. 25
    PPCLI says:

    @Gravenstone: Or, as Barbara pointed out in the last thread, it may be part of an Oliver North strategy to get use immunity and then blab about everything under the sun, making it all inadmissable.

    Edit: Or, maybe to confess to being a “lone gunman”, never talking to anyone, and certainly not Trump, about any of this, doing it all himself. Then get pardoned by Trump.

    Or all of the above and more. The one thing that is certain to anyone with half a brain is that this is part of a protective strategy for the Administration, and that Nunes is unquestionably on board.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    I am always astonished that there are sentient humans over the age of 30 who do not realize that they could be unlucky enough to get sick pretty much at random. When I was in my early 20s and working at Crown Books, one of my coworkers developed liver cancer and had to quit so he could be treated by Medicaid, because our employee health insurance was expensive and useless.

    If people you actually know get randomly sick and you don’t think, “Oh, shit, that could happen to me, too,” you’re a fucking moron.

  27. 27
    Kropadope says:


    Yeah, I keep checking and rechecking and rerechecking the news. Come on, dang it, enough with the suspense.

    Suspense means they are still working on it. Suspense means they don’t have the votes yet. Remember the vote was supposed to be yesterday and never happened. As far as I’m concerned, they can wait til December 2018 to hold the vote…or longer!!!

  28. 28
    amk says:

    wow, there is no depth the thugs will dive into.

    BREAKING: Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan and Yates in attempt to choke off public info.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 24, 2017

  29. 29
    dmsilev says:

    @Kropadope: I think they should still shoot for holding the vote on the March 23rd Obamacare anniversary. A year of the GOP collectively shooting itself in the dick over just how badly to screw over several tens of millions of Americans would be very helpful and clarifying for the whole country.

  30. 30
    Chris says:


    My favorite conservative health insurance plan to date is the “Christian” one my birdbrain fundamentalist relatives went on a couple years back.

    How it works: you pay $250.00 a month, but whenever you have a health care problem, you still have to pay for all the bills yourself, it’s only after that you send emails around to everyone else in the network asking for donations to help you repay it. In exchange, you have to promise to live a fully Christian lifestyle (no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs, no sexual activity outside of marriage – and naturally “sinful” things like rehab and birth control aren’t covered by the plan). And you have to make all your medical documents available to everyone else in the network so they can verify that you are, indeed, living up to your promise. The network guarantees you nothing, and you have to sign something promising never to sue them if they fail to cover you.

    Basically, their health insurance plan is a GoFundMe page linked to a “1984” telescreen.

  31. 31
    Yarrow says:

    @dmsilev: Thanks for the info. I saw an update in Richard/David’s thread below that Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chair of the Appropriations Committee has said he’s voting No. That could be a sign.

  32. 32
    WereBear says:

    @sherparick: Everyone who is healthy will eventually become “sick,” the when and how, is what is a matter of luck.

    Except… there are certain well-off folks who cater to the quite rich with systems of supplements, discreet drugs, and a few popular procedures that soothes their minds about actually dealing with this mortal coil. They don’t think the way we proles do.

    And when they do want some health care, I honestly think some of them believe that the more they withold from the proles, the more there is for them.

    Logic, with them, has always left the building.

  33. 33
    Elizabelle says:

    I feel like a quisling for retaining my NY Times sub. Keep it for the — I have realized — non-NY Times reporters’ material. I have stopped reading any of their political coverage. It’s suspect, and crap. I skim, if that, and read the reader’s comments if they’re appended. The editorials against Trump and his policies are thundering, but they could not masturbate to salivating over Hillary’s emails enough. Fuck them. Major fail.

    I do like their stuff on climate change.

    Sadly, their digital subs are indeed up. Which explains why “national” news is now just about all Trump, and they run a “45th President” banner on their webpage every single day.

    Reminding me they had a lot of power to see that we got a better 45th President, but did not.

    CNN; they were fact checking one of Trump’s lies:

    The New York Times is seeing subscriptions grow, despite President Trump saying they’re “dwindling.”

    The paper reported on Thursday that it added 276,000 new digital news subscriptions in the fourth quarter. That is the best quarter for the Times since 2011. On the print side, The Times added 25,000 subscribers, its best number in six years.
    The total number of digital and print subscriptions to the Times has now crossed three million.

    The additions led Times CEO Mark Thompson to push back against Trump’s claims that the paper was losing readers.
    “President Trump was once again busy tweeting this weekend that our audiences and our subscribers were, to use his word, ‘dwindling,'” Thompson said in an earnings call Thursday. “Well, not so much, Mr. President.”

    Though the paper’s messaging was focused on its increasing subscription numbers, not everything is so rosy for the Times. Print advertising revenue decreased 20 percent in the quarter. Digital advertising revenue rose roughly 11 percent, not enough to make up for the loss. Adjusted operating profit for 2016 was $241 million, down from $289 million in 2015. And the paper is expected to make cuts to its newsroom soon.

    Trump attacked The Times on Twitter last week calling it “failing” and “FAKE NEWS!” Trump then said that The Times “actually apologized to its dwindling subscribers and readers.”

  34. 34
    Brachiator says:

    Thank you, Tom Levenson, for this post. Friends and I were talking about the Republican health care bill, and we concluded that neither the Republicans nor their constituents understand the concept of insurance. Instead of a risk pool, they insist on looking at insurance as a discrete service you buy, like going to the doctor to have a specific illness treated.

    Sadly, the NY Times reporter is doubly stupid, and also wants to reduce the bill to some kind of idiotic horse trading. There was an early story in another newspaper where some dope complained that he didn’t understand why he, as a male, had to pay into an insurance program that provided for maternity service when he would never need them.

    And as you note, this zero sum nonsense of separating people into the healthy and the sick, and ultimately into the worthy and the unworthy is a stupid waste of time, as is any effort on the part of the reporter to try to make sense of this and turn it into an analysis of realistic political options.

  35. 35

    @Patricia Kayden: Exactly. For several decades I’ve managed my border;line hypertension. When I turned 60, I was diagnosed with cancer. Situation went from “not that big of a deal” to “ruh-roh”. I went from fairly healthy to somewhat less than that in a very short, sudden time… Really glad that GOP were legislative eunuchs.

  36. 36
    Taylor says:


    If they sound cluelessly elite, and they do, it’s because that’s who their writing and reporting is aimed at.

    At the policy level, it’s the kind of Ivy League groupthink that got us into Iraq and thinks cutting entitlements is Very Grown Up.

    At the media level, it’s the kind of smug attitude that considers Krugman very Shrill.

    Sometimes I’d like Trump to lock up a few journalists, just to wake some of them up. Some of them, like Alex Burns, do show signs of self-awareness, but not nearly enough of them.

  37. 37
    randy khan says:

    On the other hand, the Times whip count on the health uncare bill is pretty useful. Currently 150 yea, 46 undecided, 9 lean nay, and 32 nay among Republicans. Yesterday it was 31 nay votes.

    Fingers crossed.

  38. 38
    WereBear says:

    @dmsilev: Exactly. And the 5K diagnostic that would keep it from turning catastrophic?

    Your problem.

  39. 39
    rikyrah says:


    BREAKING: Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan and Yates in attempt to choke off public info.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 24, 2017

    UH HUH
    UH HUH

  40. 40
    randy khan says:


    If I were in charge of the committee, I think I’d be telling Manafort’s team “not just yet, but we’ll get back to you.”

    Since it’s Nunes, who knows? He might think it was a good idea to deliver Manafort to the White House loading dock.

  41. 41
    Mart says:

    @the Conster, la Citoyenne: Simple answer is a trillion dollar tax cut for folks x of $250K/yr income to hurt medical delivery to poors and olds. Pretty simple really.

  42. 42
    rikyrah says:

    When a Republican investigator needs to be investigated
    03/24/17 11:20 AM
    By Steve Benen
    It would’ve been fairly easy for House Intelligence Committee Chairman David Nunes (R-Calif.) to maintain some semblance of credibility. Even if he wanted to be Donald Trump’s sycophantic cheerleader, even if the Republican congressman wanted to ignore his responsibilities and shield the president from potential embarrassment, Nunes could’ve at least pretended to take his duties seriously.

    But he didn’t. The GOP lawmaker, who’s spent months trying to protect Trump, going so far as to call reporters to wave them off of a controversy he was ostensibly investigating, engaged in antics to ridiculous this week that the editorial board of the Washington Post today argued that Nunes himself should be investigated.

    [On Wednesday], Mr. Nunes himself held a news conference in which he cited a confidential source to describe what clearly appeared to be classified information about intercepted communications involving Trump associates. He did this outside the White House, where he had rushed to brief the president about the intercepts – even though the House Intelligence Committee he chairs is supposed to be investigating the Trump campaign’s possible connections with Russia.

    We’ve said before that it was doubtful that an investigation headed by Mr. Nunes into Russia’s interference in the election could be adequate or credible. The chairman’s contradictory and clownish grandstanding makes that a certainty. His committee’s investigation should be halted immediately – and Mr. Nunes deserves to be subject to the same leaking probe he demanded for the previous disclosures.

  43. 43
    Mnemosyne says:


    It always makes me think of the tragic story of the young boy in Washington DC who was not able to get abcessed tooth extracted because his mother had to decide between that and some more extensive dental work for his brother before the Medicaid benefit was exhausted. The abcess turned into a brain infection that cost $250,000+ to try and treat, and the poor kid still died.

    All that because taxpayers were too fucking cheap to pay $50 to have the bad tooth extracted before it became a fatal crisis. Penny wise and pound foolish is too weak to cover it.

  44. 44
    Aleta says:

    About VPN providers: they have to be trustworthy, so how do I know which ones can be trusted? And what other things should I look for in a VPN company?

  45. 45
    dmsilev says:

    @WereBear: The theory, such as it is, is that the Miraculous Invisible Hand of the Free Market will drive down prices on things like MRI scans and colonoscopies, and we’ll all live happily and healthily ever after.

  46. 46
    Chris T. says:

    @dmsilev: Wow. The great contrast, from that same vox.com article, is right here, although all the boldface is mine:

    On Wednesday, I wrote about the closing argument President Donald Trump was making to skittish Republican legislators. Vote for the bill, he’s been telling them, or you’ll lose your seat.

    That night, I received a call from a Democratic senator. He’d read the piece, and it had reminded him of the closing argument President Barack Obama made to skittish Democratic legislators. Vote for the bill, Obama told them, because it’s worth losing your seat.

    That is, Trump’s take is “screw the public, save yourself!” Obama’s was: “save the public, even if it costs you.”

  47. 47

    @dmsilev: No its simpler than that. They believe that everything is a zero sum game. If someone gains or does well, they think they lose. That’s the logic behind, everything from destroying NATO alliance to the logic behind opposing Obamacare.

  48. 48
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Also, research is constantly changing conventional wisdom regarding so called chronic “lifestyle” illnesses. My husband’s cardiologist told him last year during a stent insertion that his clogged arteries were not from cholesterol but calcium. Quote:
    there is nothing you could have done to change this outcome other than had different genes or parents; fortunately, you noticed the issue in time.

  49. 49
    Elizabelle says:

    @Chris T.: Why I am proud to be a Democrat, part 312.

    Be sure baud sees this later today. It will brighten his spirits.

  50. 50
    Chris T. says:

    @Cheryl from Maryland: Yes, this is basically correct.

    I have a nice graphic to illustrate how this works, though I am not sure I can put it in a comment. Essentially, nature (your genes) gives you a non-accident (and no fatal illness of course) lifespan range: some will live 50-55 years, some 80-100 years. Within that range, factors like diet and exercise can push you toward one end or the other. But the unlucky sod with the 55-year-max can be super healthy and still keel over at 55, while the lucky bastard can eat nothing but pork rinds and last another 25 years.

    (Of course, diet and exercise also affect how good those years are…)

  51. 51
    Mike in DC says:

    Geez. Ras down to 44-56. Imagine how much lower it would be if Dems focused on why Hillary sucks and the party is corrupt, instead of this baseless Russia stuff. /sarc

  52. 52
    SFAW says:

    @Mike in DC:

  53. 53
    Stephanie says:

    The lack of understanding of how insurance works and Republican talking points was discussed in this great post at LGM that linked to an insightful article written by Tom

    Tom takes on a, go figure, NYTimes opinion writer who complains about having to pay for cancer treatments of others in her ACA policy. Tom replies, “Why, the complainers ask, should the young and healthy be forced to pay for the health care of the old and sick? It might be the single dumbest argument about health insurance. This isn’t even the usual greedy antisocial libertarian line of complaint—well, I don’t have a kid, so why should my taxes pay for schools? There’s no need to invoke social unity or the common good: Young, healthy people are not a separate population from the old and unhealthy. They are the very same people, only at a different stage of life.”

  54. 54
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @amk: So when do Democrats shut down this whole fraudulent committee given that Nunes acted so inappropriately and illegally by revealing sensitive info to the White House? Nunes has close ties to Trump’s campaign. Why the hell should we trust him?

  55. 55
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Stephanie: Same argument could be made about disabilities. We all can become disabled during our lifetimes. My Dad is now blind in his late 80s. Could happen to any of us. That’s why we need to be a bit more caring about older people and the disabled instead of acting as if we are separate and apart from them just because we’re healthy and younger now.

    Republicans are evil to even be making healthcare into an “us” against “them” proposition.

  56. 56
    Mike in DC says:

    Rasmussen Reports, the most Republican-leaning of opinion polls. Trump was at 59-41 on inauguration day. Went from +18 to -12, in 9 weeks.

  57. 57
    SFAW says:


    The lack of understanding of how insurance works and Republican talking points

    Terry Pratchett had them pegged, sort of. Ankh-Morpork, here we come!

  58. 58
    Downpuppy says:

    Having read the NYT link, sure, the last graf is weak, but the rest of the article is the best explainer on Essential Benefits I’ve seen in a newspaper. Also the first time I’d read about the children’s insurance subsidy that went awry.

  59. 59
    SFAW says:

    @Mike in DC:

    Thanks. Yes, I know what Rasmussen is, I just thought you might have made a typo for “R’s” or something like that. (I don’t go looking for their polling numbers, generally.)

    Good to see he’s tanking.

  60. 60
    Brachiator says:


    No its simpler than that. They believe that everything is a zero sum game. If someone gains or does well, they think they lose. That’s the logic behind, everything from destroying NATO alliance to the logic behind opposing Obamacare.

    It’s funny. The Constitution did not provide for a permanent standing army (the Founders were suspicious of the idea of permanent armies), but conservatives understand the idea that taxes provide for collective defense. But they want to insist that health care must be a matter of individual choice, which you might think would mean that they were against the idea of insurance, which is also a collective undertaking.

    The hypocrisy and the inconsistency is amazing. It’s no wonder that the Freedom Circus falls back on the fantasy that the Free Market Tooth Fairy will provide cheap insurance for everyone if the government stays out of the way.

  61. 61
    SFAW says:

    @Patricia Kayden:

    Why the hell should we trust him?

    We shouldn’t, of course

    @Patricia Kayden:

    Republicans are evil to even be making healthcare into an “us” against “them” proposition.

    Hell, they don’t even need that. Doing Evil == Feature, not Bug, for them.

  62. 62
    Neldob says:

    My beefs with the nyt shrivel in comparison to Fox and other Murdoch properties.

  63. 63
    Pangloss says:

    It seems to me that having the drive, endurance, and ambition to become a reporter at the New York Times (and the qualities that they’re looking for in someone to fit their idea of a New York Times reporter) suggests youth and single-mindedness on the task at hand, to the detriment of a full range of interests. And youth often comes with a lot of naivete, which is what Republicans thrive on while presenting their arguments.

  64. 64
    TenguPhule says:


    Ankh-Morpork, here we come!

    Trump is no Vetanari.

    Lord Snapcase, definitely.

    And they had a League of Snazzily dressed Assassins to get rid of stupid incompetent leaders that threatened the common good.

  65. 65
    TenguPhule says:


    you pay $250.00 a month, but whenever you have a health care problem, you still have to pay for all the bills yourself,

    Or as Modern Republicans call it, “Perfect Insurance.”

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