October 31, 2007
Vouchers and Health Insurance
If you want to see, like, six, really unconvincing, but really pissed-off and insulting arguments for vouchers, scroll through McArdle's place for awhile. It'll raise your blood pressure. At least until you're overtaken be sheer befuddlement.
Her argument, in a nutshell, is, "Either you agree that poor kids should be allowed to exit until the system works for them, or they don't." What? Since when do libertarians think making something cost money is the same as prohibiting you to do it? Poor kids can exit the system. They just need to become rich kids. But does Megan apply this theory widely? Does she agree that the Federal Government should pay for all Americans to have health insurance from any insurer, either public or private, that they want, at least until Aetna begins working better? Because if she does, then I've massively misunderstood her writing up till this point. If she doesn't, however, then her constant screech of hypocrite throughout this argument makes no sense -- particularly given that she has awesome, employer-funded insurance, while all millions of Americans are trapped on the individual market.
Indeed, unlike with vouchers, we actually know that being uninsured is bad for you, and that the poor have better outcomes when they're given full insurance. But, like with the schools, they -- not to mention many in the middle class -- are currently unable to purchase exit from their shit insurance -- or uninsurance -- systems. But then, systems don't seem to be much under analysis here. Megan's posts are remarkable for their lack of data as to why vouchers are actually superior. Which is because there is no data on that point -- vouchers haven't proven themselves in any of the largescale experiments we've conducted. What Megan is offering is "exit," not improvement. A big ladling of libertarian economic theory onto the trays of the poor. And if you're not down with that, well then, you hate the poor.
October 31, 2007 | Permalink
Yeah, I know, I'm becoming a nuissance, but for the umpteenth time: Why the obsession with McMegan? Who cares about what this nitwit writes, except you and some republicans who studied economics, but didn't really get it? Can't you at least report about the stupidity of another Moron McClueless for a change, pls?
Posted by: Gray | Oct 31, 2007 9:33:43 AM
Gray: Ezra and McArdle are friends. Like Matt Yglesias's place, the links here are dominated by a single social circle. There's nothing intrinsic to Megan McArdle's actual work that makes it compelling per se; Ezra just reads her a lot because he knows her socially.
Posted by: Christmas | Oct 31, 2007 9:39:04 AM
No, I read her a lot because she primarily writes about social policy issues, which are the actual issues that interest me, and her writing gives me a chance to explore arguments I wouldn't otherwise take on. I'm far better friends with Dave Weigel, Kay Steiger, Dana Goldstein, Kevin Drum, etc, than with Megan, but their writing doesn't intersect with mine as usefully. And I linked to Megan long before I ever knew her, long before she moved to DC. That's how we got to know each other.
If you don't like who I link to, or how I run this site, you can go elsewhere, or start your own blog. Otherwise, when you see her name, swallow hard and move onto the next post. I will keep linking to posts of Megan's, and I'm tired of seeing the comment sections hijacked by meta-commentary on why I do it. If you have something to say about vouchers, or insurance and exit, that's what this thread is for.
Posted by: Ezra | Oct 31, 2007 9:46:42 AM
"And I linked to Megan long before I ever knew her, long before she moved to DC."
Ok, so it's a bit of a tradition. Thx for answering, btw. But I'm still wondering: How much influence does McMegan have in the wingnutosphere? Is she on the same level, say, as the Capt'n or as old girl Althouse?
Posted by: Gray | Oct 31, 2007 9:55:15 AM
Without detracting from the basic point that vouchers are a bad idea, one difference must be noted. The government does already spend money on kids' education, but not on people's health insurance.
Posted by: gregor | Oct 31, 2007 10:06:18 AM
Wow, it's almost like poor people have No Exit from the current market-based insurance system.
Posted by: SP | Oct 31, 2007 10:06:21 AM
I don't know as to the wing-o-sphere. Megan has influence in elite policy circles -- her role as a libertarian social policy commentator is roughly similar to mine as a liberal social policy commentator, which is why it's important to offer rebuttals to her arguments.
Posted by: Ezra | Oct 31, 2007 10:07:31 AM
Ah, thx for the insight, Ezra! And I'm sry that I'm such a pain in the a**.
Posted by: Gray | Oct 31, 2007 10:10:51 AM
Ezra, this post is insane. The government doesn't currently insure anyone, so the analogy doesn't make any sense. Why would Megan not wanting the government to pay for fixing a problem it doesn't cause prove an obstacle to an argument that it should pay to fix problems it does cause?
Megan's point is that the government essentially forces poor kids to go to bad schools. Whether vouchers work or not isn't the point at all - the point is that the current system manifestly doesn't work and is government-sponsored classism, so we should do something other than the current nothing we're doing.
Megan also supports government health insurance for the poor, so your analogy is crazy for two reasons.
Posted by: Ryan | Oct 31, 2007 10:46:52 AM
I'm tired of seeing the comment sections hijacked by meta-commentary on why I do it.
Ezra, you almost sound like a MSM journalist defending himself from blogs in this post.
Basically I agree with Ryan. We already pay for kids to go to school, Megan is just saying we could do it differently. This isn't the same thing as saying we should pay for something that currently isn't being payed for.
Posted by: Mark | Oct 31, 2007 11:18:48 AM
The glaring hole in Megan's screed is that none of these Voucher experiments, such as the one in Minnesota, provide any data to measure student peformance. In fact, voucher schemes almost always explicity reject the idea. I'm very liberal and a strong supporter of public education, but if there was some empirical data that could support the voucher case for better student outcomes, particularly in our worst schools, I would listen and possibly even support the idea. But voucher supporters never seem eager or remotely intersted in the idea of providing data. Megan is no exception to this.
Posted by: hebisner | Oct 31, 2007 11:22:54 AM
"Ezra, you almost sound like a MSM journalist defending himself from blogs in this post."
Maybe surprisingly, but Ezra is only human, too, and I really raised this topic for the umpteenth time...
Posted by: Gray | Oct 31, 2007 11:24:31 AM
"This isn't the same thing as saying we should pay for something that currently isn't being payed for."
It is. You seem to think that it doesn't matter if the taxpayers' buck is spend in a private or a public school, but in real life, this isn't so easy. You may fire teachers when pupils opt for private schools, ok, but the fix costs of maintenance, administration etc. will stay. I guess that for every dollar going into a voucher, at least 50 additional cents will be necessary for those costs. Of course this will be more expensive than the status quo.
Posted by: Gray | Oct 31, 2007 11:28:55 AM
"But voucher supporters never seem eager or remotely intersted in the idea of providing data."
Of course not. The hidden idea behind this plan is solely to provide the parents who are sending their kids to private schools (a group leaning republican) with another tax break. This isn't about the kids wellbeing at all, it's just another Rovian plot. And that's why there isn't any data supporting this.
Posted by: Gray | Oct 31, 2007 11:33:30 AM
I want to be clear that I fully support gathering data, and I would bet my lifes' savings that Megan does too. That's obviously not the only concern here - as Megan points out, there's also some pretty vile hypocrisy at play (freedom's okay for rich people but not for poor people). There's also a sense in which we're still Americans and we're still supposed to value freedom over not-freedom unless not-freedom is going to make us better off in some important way. Since there seems to be no evidence that forcing poor parents to send their kids to public schools is better than allowing them to send their kids where they want, there's a liberty argument to made here too. I suspect Megan (and I) would continue to make that argument until you can show us that government schools perform better than private ones rather than repeatedly reminding us that all schools are equally good at mis-educating kids.
Also, a second point Megan makes is relevant to this data question: whether you believe it or not, a lot of rich liberals don't seem to think the data is inconclusive. If it's actually the case that using vouchers to send poor kids to different schools won't help, then why do rich people seem to think it's so important to get their kids into different schools? This is the hypocrisy argument: you can repeat the "vouchers don't work" mantra all you want, but it's awfully hollow when your actions are the exact opposite of what you claim. (The "you" here is general; I make no aspersions on the character of Ezra or his commenters.)
Posted by: Ryan | Oct 31, 2007 11:46:36 AM
You say you link to McArdle because "her writing gives me a chance to explore arguments I wouldn't otherwise take on." So would a trip to the head injury ward, and you could do some good there. It would be more illuminating if you debated somebody who has an intelligent thought once in a while. "Rich liberals who oppose vouchers hate poor children" isn't an argument; it's a cross between a tantrum and a fart. And proving McArdle an idiot is like shooting stupid fish in a barrel.
Posted by: Boring | Oct 31, 2007 11:54:01 AM
Isn't another problem with Ezra's post is that kids are forced to go to school? Megan's right that without vouchers they are literally *forced* into public schools. But it's not the same with not having medical insurance.
Although, as a commenter noted above, Megan does support health insurance for the poor.
Posted by: Selfreferencing | Oct 31, 2007 11:56:11 AM
Ryan, you say "The government doesn't currently insure anyone".
But this is false - everyone with health insurance is getting government money. Either the money is provided directly, as for Bush and Guiliani's care; or it is provided via tax breaks for the corporations that are paying directly; or it is provided via tax breaks on individual health care costs. Ezra has the actual dollar amounts in some of his old posts, if you care to look. Basically the US government pays much the same for health insurance as other OECD countries. It's just we have to pay the same again in individual costs because the US healthcare system is so damned inefficient.
Further, you opine, "I suspect Megan (and I) would continue to make that argument until you can show us that government schools perform better than private ones"
This isn't the question at all. The question is, will vouchers allow for better outcomes ? The evidence does not support this, and Megan (Jane Galt) is not interested in the evidence, or even in measuring the difference. Cf please the comment threads at Laura's place,
and the response to this thread by Jane, noted here,
Of course this elides the fundamental issue of what do you mean by "perform better", and how that performance is to be measured. However I have a day job so won't get into all that.
Posted by: Doug K | Oct 31, 2007 12:12:31 PM
". It'll raise your blood pressure."
My doctor told me I had to stop reading McArdle . . .
" If it's actually the case that using vouchers to send poor kids to different schools won't help, then why do rich people seem to think it's so important to get their kids into different schools?"
Because they're rich. Different rules apply.
Posted by: Dan S. | Oct 31, 2007 1:04:47 PM
Why do you only ever refer to experimental american voucher programmes, rather than the established systems of northern Europe?
Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Oct 31, 2007 1:08:41 PM
Now, more importantly on vouchers, if the evidence is that they don't make things worse, but make things cheaper, why are you against them? Such systems would then allow more money to be spent on other government-provided goods or on tax cuts, either of which would increase social welfare, without making any person worse off.
Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Oct 31, 2007 1:13:47 PM
It always surprises me how heated and caustic the debate from school voucher (health and school) supporters can be. Perhaps they are at odds with their personal politics in contrast with their support for what is technically a government aid program for the wealthy?
Here in Utah, the school voucher debate (up for vote Nov 6th) has taken many nasty turns. The latest may also violate several laws, as it seems our local pro-voucher camp Parents for Choice in Education have (according to the Utah Democratic Party website) been caught spamming, setting up fake "anti-voucher" websites, illegal use of local news media logos in their campaign flyers, and most recently buying votes with a $10 per documented vote offer to their volunteers/canvassers.
If you're interested you can read more at the UDP sister site, Utah Amicus: http://utahamicus.blogspot.com/2007/10/can-you-believe-anything-they-say.html
Posted by: jasonthe | Oct 31, 2007 1:24:13 PM
Since there seems to be no evidence that forcing poor parents to send their kids to public schools is better than allowing them to send their kids where they want
Huh? By this logic, do you agree that we shouldn't force poor people to go the emergency room? The government should provide them with the same specialists Steve Forbes gets to see?
Posted by: nate | Oct 31, 2007 2:12:22 PM
"Since when do libertarians think making something cost money is the same as prohibiting you to do it?"
Megan isn't acting like a "pure" libertarian demanding the whole public system be shut down immediately.
She has wisely separated the issues of government funded education and government run education.
But I'll tackle the question myself. (Megan I think touched on this, but I'll risk being redundant.)
It's not just that going private costs money. The current system that gives free education to all who choose the public system despite their wealth.
This acts as a predatory pricing scheme, which kills off competition.
This has in essence not only trapped the poor into public schools, but also much of the middle class, due to options drying up due to monopolistic practices.
Posted by: Shawn Levasseur | Oct 31, 2007 2:35:05 PM
And I linked to Megan long before I ever knew her, long before she moved to DC. That's how we got to know each other.
And since then your links to her have increased dramatically. Are you really disputing that who you know personally doesn't affect who you link to?
If you don't like who I link to, or how I run this site, you can go elsewhere, or start your own blog.
And if I don't like the way professional journalists stay cozy with politicians and with each other, I can start publishing my own newspaper, right? Look, for years bloggers have been criticizing the dreaded MSM for being too cozy, too inbred, and too insular - for having a cocktail party atmosphere that limits the national discourse to whatever the cool kids think is appropriate at any given moment. Right now the most prominent wonky liberal blogs are all linked to each other, not just on the web, but in real life, many of them actually living with each other and hanging out on a regular basis. You really expect us to believe this doesn't affect who you read, who you link to, and what kinds of ideas you consider mainstream? If you want to prove me wrong, you could always start linking regularly to people you aren't hanging out with all the time - maybe even people to your left instead of to your right.
Posted by: Christmas | Oct 31, 2007 3:10:50 PM
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