Krugman on Fire

Paul Krugman does his usual fine job of exposing the utter lack of conscience on the American political right:

Soon after the radio address, right-wing bloggers began insisting that the Frosts must be affluent because Graeme and his sister attend private schools (they're on scholarship), because they have a house in a neighborhood where some houses are now expensive (the Frosts bought their house for $55,000 in 1990 when the neighborhood was rundown and considered dangerous) and because Mr. Frost owns a business (it was dissolved in 1999).

You might be tempted to say that bloggers make unfounded accusations all the time. But we're not talking about some obscure fringe. The charge was led by Michelle Malkin, who according to Technorati has the most-trafficked right-wing blog on the Internet, and in addition to blogging has a nationally syndicated column, writes for National Review and is a frequent guest on Fox News.

The attack on Graeme's family was also quickly picked up by Rush Limbaugh, who is so important a player in the right-wing universe that he has had multiple exclusive interviews with Vice President Dick Cheney.

And G.O.P. politicians were eager to join in the smear. The New York Times reported that Republicans in Congress “were gearing up to use Graeme as evidence that Democrats have overexpanded the health program to include families wealthy enough to afford private insurance” but had “backed off” as the case fell apart.

In fact, however, Republicans had already made their first move: an e-mail message from the office of Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, sent to reporters and obtained by the Web site Think Progress, repeated the smears against the Frosts and asked: “Could the Dems really have done that bad of a job vetting this family?”

And later:

All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they're “phony soldiers”; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he's faking his Parkinson's symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he's a fraud.

Exactly right.

But Krugman does get one thing wrong:

Meanwhile, leading conservative politicians, far from trying to distance themselves from these smears, rush to embrace them. And some people in the news media are still willing to be used as patsies.

Sadly, things are worse than Krugman realizes. It's not that the media is being used as patsies, it is that they are, with very few excpetions, ideologically in league with the right-wing. (Or at least they work for such people.)

Leave it to the folks at Town Hall to defend the practice of lying about sick children. Here's Amy Ridenour:

Do people on the dole have a reasonable expectation of privacy vis-à-vis their financial affairs?


That question, though not always my answer, is coming up frequently as defenders of the Democratic Party's $35 billion SCHIP expansion proposal condemn bloggers and talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, who have examined the statement penned by aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and delivered as the official Democratic Party rebuttal to President Bush's weekly radio address by 12-year-old Graeme Frost, that the State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is for “families like mine.”

The questioners' question: If Graeme Frost's family isn't all that low-income, then maybe the SCHIP program doesn't need to be expanded by $35 billion to cover millions of extra families with even higher incomes than the Frosts apparently have.

Rather than address the core question, some say it is inappropriate even to consider the Frost family's circumstances, even if the people doing the considering are helping the Frosts raise their kids. This assumption reverses a thousand years of philanthropic practice.

No, Ms. Ridenour. We say merely that it is inappropriate to tell lies about people for the purpose of advancing your heartless and immoral political agenda.

Ridenour's casual description of the Frosts as being “on the dole” is representative of the sickness at the core of the modenr Republican Party. She goes on to discuss, in quasi-philosophical terms, the nature of charity. You see, to Town Hall types it is an act of charity to provide health care to children whose families can not otherwise afford it.

To people with consciences, by contrast, it is a moral imperative.


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You really have to be impressed by this whole ordeal. I can't think of any other instance where the right-wing punditocracy's outright contempt for the poor has been so brazenly obvious. It's especially disgusting to watch people like Ridenour actually try to argue that anyone receiving government assistance (which is pretty much everybody, it's only "welfare" when the peasantry is the beneficiary) automatically loses the right to privacy.

I'm thinking that this whole wingnut meltdown has a whole lot in common with the "dead ender" Nazis when the Soviets were in the suburbs of Berlin and The Western Allies were across the Rhine. Rather than sue for peace, and become part of the solution, they will fight to the last. Limbaugh came to politics through s job in sports broadcasting, and to this day has no idea how politics really works. If it's victory or nothing, you get nothing Rush. Treating this family as another victim in your scorched earth holding strategy proves that the values you claim to hold is nothing but sloganeering and PR.

You see, to Town Hall types it is an act of charity to provide health care to children whose families can not otherwise afford it. To people with consciences, by contrast, it is a moral imperative.

To the sort of Christian whose belief encompasses living and letting live, judging not lest they be judged, and loving their neighbour as they do themselves (as Christ enjoined them), charity is a moral imperative.

Unfortunately that isn't the sort of Christian whose public image is highest on the media attention ladder.

By Justin Moretti (not verified) on 14 Oct 2007 #permalink

Seems to me you are mis-characterizing the debate. The argument made by the right is that the Frosts simply are not poor, and therefore don't merit the support a truly poor person might.

Considering their multiple vehicles, the least of which is much nicer than anything I own, and their home plus all their other investment property, I find myself with little sympathy for their lack of insurance. It seems they made a choice somewhere that having a spanky car was more important than their kids. From my perspective that makes them disgusting, not objects of sympathy.

Seriously, I never thought that I'd see anyone attempt to defend this assault on a family with a 12 year old suffering from a traumatic brain injury. You people are the one's who are disgusting.

About their car, I'd have to be suspicious without an adequate source on the value of it. Since you people have managed to lie through this whole ordeal, anyone would have to stupid to take your word for it.


Please provide the source of your information regarding their vehicles and valuation of their home.

By Steverino (not verified) on 17 Oct 2007 #permalink

Know what I find disgusting? People who advocate for war at the drop of a hat yet will not serve in the military.

The link below to a TIME mag article spells it out pretty well. Income near $50,000. Home worth $265,000. Business building worth another bundle.,8599,1670210,00.html

Decent income, plenty of assets. It is sad that their SUV skidded on ice and they were so seriously injured. But that is not the debate. The debate is why why why didn't they buy insurance BEFORE this happened? My sympathy is with the kids NOW due to their injuries. But I don't make anywhere near $50,000 and I can't afford an SUV, except maybe a 10 year old one. I don't want to pay for these peoples poor judgment. I guess I am just a sucker paying for my own health insurance and sending my kids to public schools.

You don't have to wait for a bill to pass. Donate some of your own money to this family to help them pay for their medical bills.


Did you even read that article?:

"It turns out, however, that not everything about the Frosts' life pops up on a Google search. While Graeme does attend a private school, he does so on scholarship. Halsey Frost is a self-employed woodworker; he and his wife say they earn between $45,000 and $50,000 a year to provide for their family of six. Their 1936 rowhouse was purchased in 1990 for $55,000. It was vacant and in a run-down neighborhood that has improved since then, in part because of people like themselves who took a chance. It is now assessed at $263,140, though under state law the value of that asset is not taken into account in determining their eligibility for SCHIP. And while they are still uninsured, they claim it is most certainly not by choice. Bonnie Frost says the last time she priced health coverage, she learned it would cost them $1,200 a month."

"In short, just as the radio spot claimed, the Frosts are precisely the kind of people that the SCHIP program was intended to help."

I read your note. If they bought a house for roughly 50k, that means they probably have over 200k of equity in it right?

I've gone many years not able to afford health insurance. Insurance costs are high.

But my lack of insurance is not due to the evil people that ultra-left wing liberal Jason says are not living up to their "moral imperative".

You see, I realize this country can't afford to pay for everything for me. It can't even afford to pay insurance for everyone. What I would like is a dialogue to discuss why health care is so high and work on ways for making it more efficient.

My Grandmother is on medicare. She needs it. But the system is contributing to the bankruptcy of the country. If we don't revise the entire health care system, we won't be able to help anyone.

But I think if all of you like the in love with himself pretentious and arrogant Jason are really concerned and so disgustingly judgmental of those opposing this bill then all of you should donate all your savings to the millions of uninsured children in Africa. They need it bad over there and it is our moral imperative to help.

Hi Taylor,

Sure, I read it. They sound like pretty normal middle class people to me. Spending is all a matter of priorities once you get above subsistence. Eat out or eat in. Buy prime beef or a cheap pot roast. Insurance isn't cheap, but is one of things our society expects responsible adults to provide for their kids.

I am a lot like the father in this story. I have my own small business, and am not making much money this year. But I am looking for a 3rd shift job to cover just such expenses as insurance while I work to make next year better. I am just trying to imagine how far I would have to go lower in income before I drop my kids health insurance.

It makes me angry to see the massively wealthy pouring their money into class-envy politics rather than spending it on the actual living people who really do need help. Left and Right. I don't excuse Gates or Soros just because they give mega-bucks to left causes and more than I excuse the Bushes.

Just out of curiosity tom: how many kids do you have? And what does the monthly insurance bill price out to to cover them? The Frosts have six kids in total. Having a brain damaged son is going to make whatever bill the Frosts have skyrocket.

SCHIP was intended specifically for families like the Frosts. Non low-income people who still cannot afford insurance for their children. Low-income children get medicare. Pointing out that the Frosts are not impoverished is a red herring on the part of the conservatives stalking the family.

And excuse me, but do you actually know what daily choices they make? Do you know what expenses they have?

We get it, conservatives don't want a social support structure. They live in a fantasy cowboy capitalist world where everyone pulls themselves up by their bootstraps. That's all well and good, but it doesn't warrant stalking a family and smearing them as people gaming the system.

They don't have six kids. They have a family of six. And I know because I haven't been able to afford insurance for many years that it is darn expensive.

However, I don't think the conservatives stalk the family as you tiraded. It was the conservatives who gave us a child tax credit in the 90's per child, when we were promised a middle class tax cut by the President but didn't get one.

I am glad this family got insurance. No doubt if they made sacrifices they could have barely afforded at least catastrophic care. But sacrifices are very hard and I am sure they are on a tight budget.

But Tyler before you and Jason and others get all self righteous and judgmental, remember that we can't afford to insure everyone. In 2000 we had trillions of dollars of debt and now we have even more trillions of dollars of debt.

Medicare costs are out of control. If we don't reform the system, instead of throwing money at the problem, we as a country are doomed. Logic over emotion leads to better life for all.

First off, my mistake about the number of kids. I apologize for my error.

"However, I don't think the conservatives stalk the family as you tiraded. It was the conservatives who gave us a child tax credit in the 90's per child, when we were promised a middle class tax cut by the President but didn't get one."

How exactly does the second point here reinforce the first (speaking of "logic over emotion")? The right-wingers found some tablescraps of info on the family and immediately proceeded to engage in a campaign to smear them as a wealthy family gaming the system. Then, when called on their bullshit, they immediately backpedaled into the kind of rhetoric you're using.

"Medicare costs are out of control. If we don't reform the system, instead of throwing money at the problem, we as a country are doomed. Logic over emotion leads to better life for all."

I have to love the idea of someone forecasting impending economic apocalypse immediately proceeding to preach to me about using logic over emotion. A "logical" thing to do would be to source your claims and provide corroborating evidence (such as something like this happening, which would establish a historical precedent).

The Frosts are a family with children earning about $50k/yr. The Conservative Family Tax Credit was a bill passed to provide relief to families with children earning up to $55k/yr. Therefore, the Frosts get to keep up to $4,000 per year than they would otherwise would to help defray costs such as health care. This coupled with market reforms to make insurance cheaper sounds like pretty logical to me and not an example of living in a fantasy world as you said. It even sounds like these evil people care about families like the Frosts.
Also Tyler, it is well corroborated and historically significant that we are on the edge of fiscal collapse because of too much government spending. The national debt is a staggering $9 TRILLION Dollars. ( ). Without spending cuts and system changes, the baby boom generation will break Medicare and social security. (comments made by Alan Greenspan The present SCHIPS bill includes families with too much income especially when the US is going broke. (, The Bi-Partisan Concord Coalition founded by DEMOCRAT SENATOR BOB KERREY-NE and the late DEMOCRAT PAUL TSONGAS-MA among others). In August of this year, the comptroller of the US warned Congress that conditions are historically the same as the Roman Empire before its fiscal disintegration, and that we would meet the same fate if we don't make substantial changes immediately. (
My God Tyler, the evidence is so overwhelming that if you actually question this then surely you must question evolution too. I hope for the best for everyone Tyler. So do me a favor and pass on a note to Jason for me is so fond of mentioning our "moral imperative." Tell him it is our moral imperative to make sure the United States doesn't go broke. Have a good day.