How to get around censorship: House GOP edition

House Republicans are censoring Democrats’ constituent mail criticizing the Ryan plan to end Medicare. Riposte: send mail protesting the censorship.

The Republican plan to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher plan is deeply, deeply unpopular. It helped cost them an otherwise safe Republican seat in NY-26. So the House GOP is reacting in a sane, grown-up fashion: it’s blocking House Democrats from using their franking privilege to accurately inform their constituents about what the Teapublicans have in store for them.

Generally the Republicans are skilled both at cheating and at getting away with it. But in this case, the Democratic response is almost too easy. If I were one of the censored Dems, I’d submit a new mailing, this one asking my constituents to protest the censorship, and quoting the full passage in dispute.


Footnote: No, the Republican tu quoque doesn’t connect. Obamacare is not, in fact, a “government takeover” of health care. That’s not a question on which opinions can legitimately differ, it’s just a matter of fact. Equally clearly, the Ryan plan does end Medicare, replacing it with an utterly different program with the same name.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

13 thoughts on “How to get around censorship: House GOP edition”

  1. David, please learn either to read or to tell the truth. Mankiw never claims that the actual bill involves a government takeover of anything: he merely speculates on a possible cost-containment mechanism that might be invented later.

  2. I am stunned to learn that the majority party has the power to read and censor the outgoing mail of the members of Congress, even if it is franked mail. How does this work? Must all franked mail be submitted to the Speaker for approval? Has the power to censor ever been used before?

    Regarding the current use of the power, have the Republicans put their plan into effect, and are the Democrats complying with it?

  3. Dennis’s article points out that Dems have pulled similar stunts. Reflects badly on both sides. [/broder]

  4. @Mark Kleiman…..“……..Obamacare is not, in fact, a “government takeover” of health care….. the Ryan plan does end Medicare…..”

    And your point is…?

    We are living in a nightmare; Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and all the clones have convinced half the country that sanity is an evil trick used by the God hating, Homo loving Libruls in their quest to “take away your freedoms and destroy your country.”

    So they bring flame throwers and buckets of M-4 into the battle, we respond with fact-check and Bill Maher.

    Fact is, THEY are winning the war, so I ask again, “your point is, what?”

  5. @ Anderson

    Let’s say the article points to claims that the Democrats have pulled similar stunts. That’s a fairer assessment: the claims are from a Republican spokesdroid for the House Committee on Administration. That’s hardly a neutral source. I believe that’s what Mark is referring to with his footnote. “Tu quoque” is the fancy Latin phrase for the invalid playground defense, “He did it first.”

    The Ryan budget proposal on Medicare does not change Medicare in the same way that slaughtering a pig and having a luau does not change the pig. We aren’t (or ought not) be arguing semantics here: pulling the label off Medicare and slapping the label on something completely different is not saving Medicare. It’s changing Medicare into something unrecognizable (and leaving the original, allegedly untouched Medicare for those 55 and older) economically unviable.

  6. I used to read Mankiw’s blog back when there were comments on it. The commenters usually whipped his sorry *ss on economic matters (sometimes quoting his own books). Mankiw sold out during the reign of Bush the Lesser, and has never looked back.

  7. Hey! I am a genius.

    We need to re-institute the draft. Every American citizen 65 yrs or older is required to join the Geriatric Corps. Then we can end Medicare, and just handle seniors’ medical care through military hospitals. Added bonus – as part of the Pentagon, the budget will never be cut.

    Everybody wins.

  8. Maybe, in this age of austerity, they should all pay for their own propaganda. What are their campaign committees for again?

  9. If I were one of the censored Dems, I’d submit a new mailing, this one asking my constituents to protest the censorship, and quoting the full passage in dispute.

    What makes you think they won’t censor that too Mark?
    Their innate animal sense of fair and balanced?

  10. “Obamacare is not, in fact, a ‘government takeover’ of health care. That’s not a question on which opinions can legitimately differ, it’s just a matter of fact.”

    The statements only make sense if the declarant believes that the federal government controlled the health care system prior to Obamacare, which in fact it did. See Mayes and Berenson, Medicare Prospective Payment and the Shaping of U.S. Health Care” in which the authors describe how the Medicare’s transition from traditional cost reimbursement mode to the prospective payment model lead to “the U.S. government control over the price of most medical care…As the single largest individual buyer of health care and the ‘first mover’ in the annual payment game between those who provide medical care and those who pay for it, Medicare invariably drives the behavior of medical providers and private payers.”

  11. “Government takeover” is just the kind of sloppy rhetorical sloganeering that drags political discourse into the mud.

    The truth is that “takeover” can mean any number of things. It can mean anything from a literal annexing of private businesses by the government, to a slight increase in the government’s presence in the healthcare market – the effect of which being to put the government in the position of driving some degree of health costs in the entire market. The former is entirely untrue, while the latter is mostly true. And basically the same can be said about government “takeover” of the banking or auto industries.

    The problem is that when most people think of “takeover”, they think of the former. This is helpful rhetoric because while there is a kernel of truth to it, the claim can be backed away from as “hyperbole, while retaining all the demagogic punch and avoiding the impression that one is outright lying.

    I suppose being a mealy mouth weasel doesn’t bother some people, but I’m not comfortable with it. Nor am I comfortable going one step further and offering for my defense the claim that “well, they do it to”. I suspect this is an Achilles heel of the left – not being as comfortable playing dirty.

    However, in the end I imagine it is mostly about a conscious awareness of what we are doing. To the extent that the right is more comfortable playing games with language and emotions, I don’t think it is really a conscious choice to behave unethically. I think they simply aren’t as reflective intellectually in general.

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