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I recently heard Bill Moyers interviewing Susan Jacoby (FREETHINKERS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN SECULARISM in 2004, THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON) on his show.  She discussed many things with him but among them was the irrational beliefs of Americans and our short attention span.  She talked about why we didn't get the health care problem fixed eleven years ago and why we aren't going to get it fixed today.

BILL MOYERS: How is this flight from reason, as you describe it, affecting-- playing out in our current political race?

SUSAN JACOBY: In an age of unreason you tend to get focus on very small personal facts as opposed to big issues. But even more than that, lack of knowledge and unreason affects the way candidates speak about everything.

I mean, for example, obviously the healthcare situation in this country is very important. All of the candidates say it is. But if people don't know, for example, how is healthcare handled in other countries? How many people, for instance, do have the right to choose their own doctors in this country? In other words, without a base of knowledge of how things are you can't really have a reasonable talk about how things ought to be. In other words, you can say, "Oh, we don't want a program which will prevent people from choosing their own doctors." Well, are we able to choose our own doctors? I'm not. I have to choose within a managed care network.

..........

SUSAN JACOBY: Because the President's only the Commander in Chief of the Armed Force. He's not the commander in chief of us. And it's a word that presidents didn't use except in a strictly military sense in the past. What's far more important than being commander in chief is being educator in chief. And Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln would not have succeeded as commanders in chief if they hadn't first succeeded as teachers in chief.

To be non-partisan about it, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are two of the biggest failures as teachers in chief of any presidents we've ever had. Bush at foreign policy obviously. It's great to bring people along with you when everybody's in favor of the war as they were in 2003 'cause there was this desire to strike back at somebody, anyone, for 9/11. So Bush just said, "Oh, yeah. Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11." And people believed it. But--

BILL MOYERS: And Clinton? What about Clinton?

SUSAN JACOBY: Everything in my view that's being written about the failure of the Clinton healthcare program in relation to Hillary Clinton's candidacy is wrong. Yes, it's true. It's that failure is usually attributed to their failure to bring the insurance industry groups to the table, all of the interest groups in advance.

No. The reason that healthcare reform was dead on arrival was that the American people hadn't been educated and prepared for any kind of change. Bill Clinton just announced his plan which had been developed kind of secretly, without much public participation. The health insurance industry jumped in with its Harry and Louise commercials. Now I'll bet everybody who is listening to this tonight remembers Harry and Louise. And nobody remembers a detail of the Clinton plan, the healthcare plan. It is the job of the president to get his message out before Harry and Louise. Bill Clinton didn't do that.

......

BILL MOYERS: But I can't imagine a politician succeeded by saying, "We're an ignorant culture and an ignorant people."

SUSAN JACOBY: No. But I can imagine a politician succeeding by saying, "We as a people have not lived up to our obligation to learn what we ought to learn to make informed decisions." I can imagine candidates saying, "And we in the Congress have been guilty of that too." Because it's not just the public that's ignorant. We get the government we deserve.

In other words, you wouldn't say to people, "You're a dope." You would say, "We have got to do better in-- about learning the things we need to know to make sound public policy." We can't learn the things we need to know from five-second sound bite commercials. We can't learn the things that we need to know from a quick hit on the Internet to see the latest person making a fool of themself on YouTube. We can only learn the things we need to know from talking to each other, from books. And we all need to do a lot more of that.

You know, what I don't see on the campaign trail-- if universal healthcare were one of my priorities as a candidate, first thing I'd be doing, I'd be having sessions all over the country with three groups of people, nurses, doctors, and patients. You don't need to know what the insurance industry thinks. Because you know what they think. They're going to oppose anything that they think will place any limits on medical spending and their ability to charge you higher health insurance premiums. But I'd be sitting down in unscripted sessions with people so that when-- if I was elected I could take that knowledge with me into the White House. So I could get my message across before Harry and Louise. That's what being an educator means.

And I think a candidate could say that to people. Not, "You're dopes." But, "We all need to know a lot more than we know." We've become satisfied with too little. We've become satisfied with the lowest common denominator. It is not good enough when 23 percent of our young people who have had some college, only 23 percent of them can find these countries on a map. We all need to be able to learn how to find these countries on a map.

http://www.pbs.org/...

Once again thank you Bill.  This is why PBS just couldn't fire you!  You just keep getting it right.

Originally posted to Dr A on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:15 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Coming from Europe (23+ / 0-)

    I have always been astonished about the hostility to one payor health programs that is used so widely in Europe.

    For the people it makes being sick quite simple -- the whole nightmare insurance crap is taken out of the way -

    and result is that the infant mortality rate in Europe and longivity is far superior to the US rates.

    For corporations -- why should they pay for health-insurance for their employees -- it puts American companies at a disadvantage to other countries.  I think I read that the price of any US car includes a $1,200 that is added due healtinsurance primium costs

    and America has less people covered per percentage and the cost for each is way higher than in Europe.

    So - tell me again - what is so great about the American health care??

    Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

    by sara seattle on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:25:33 PM PST

    •  Massive profits for the few! N/T (6+ / 0-)

      Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
      Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

      by Caelian on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:27:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just a point of clarification (13+ / 0-)

        when it comes to infant mortality rates

        So next time you hear anyone say that USA is number One when it comes to healthcare --

        http://www.cnn.com/...

        (CNN) -- An estimated 2 million babies die within their first 24 hours each year worldwide and the United States has the second worst newborn mortality rate in the developed world, according to a new report.

        American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

        Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

        "The United States has more neonatologists and neonatal intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but its newborn rate is higher than any of those countries," said the annual State of the World's Mothers report.

        Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

        by sara seattle on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:57:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  30 years of conservative propaganda (12+ / 0-)

      would be proven wrong within six months if it was actually implemented. A lot of people, not just elites, have invested a significant part of their personal identity in either conservative or "anti-liberal" identities. At its core it is a failure of American culture; to many Americans believe that collective action reduces freedom, when often it can be used to increase choices. Many people will fight universal healthcare to the end simply because they know it will prove them wrong.

      I know that if I had universal healthcare, I would have a completely different career right now.  I imagine the same is true for many, many people. Imagine all the small businesses that never started in this country because people needed health care benefits and couldn't afford them on their own...

    •  The profits keep the stock exchange afloat... (0+ / 0-)

      ...becaus ethey can be plowed into speculative risks that would other wise be ignored by prudent investors?

      "It's a race to decide who the British goverment will follow blindly for the next 4 years" Kennedy/Kerry '08

      by Salo on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:03:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hey. Who You Calling Dum? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doinaheckuvanutjob

    __________________
    Fascism ought to more properly be called Corporatism since it is the merger of state and corporate power. - Mussolini

    by Pluto on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:31:24 PM PST

  •  Kudos to Susan Jacoby & Moyers too (13+ / 0-)

    for having her on his show.  

    Susan is so right on the mark...it is about education...first and foremost.  Difficult to do if you are bucking a media that is only interested in the bottom line (as in catering to the lowest common denominator in our society) ....or a media that is aligned with the corporate political forces to the degree that the population is hand fed propaganda and lies...and the truths are excluded.

    Important topic...tips to you.

  •  Not you average hyper-shallow attack diary..... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sara seattle, splashy, tigerdog, RevenantX

    Kudos and thanks! Refreshingly honest and thought provoking.

    I think a change, would do U.S. good....

    by AnnieM on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:39:33 PM PST

  •  And a rec to go with the tip n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sara seattle, DrKate
  •  What Obama is talking about (3+ / 0-)

    I'm someone who has defended Hillary, but this jumped out at me and speaks to what many here say is different about Obama's style of leadership:

    The reason that healthcare reform was dead on arrival was that the American people hadn't been educated and prepared for any kind of change. Bill Clinton just announced his plan which had been developed kind of secretly, without much public participation. The health insurance industry jumped in with its Harry and Louise commercials. Now I'll bet everybody who is listening to this tonight remembers Harry and Louise. And nobody remembers a detail of the Clinton plan, the healthcare plan. It is the job of the president to get his message out before Harry and Louise. Bill Clinton didn't do that.

    Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

    by the fan man on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:41:04 PM PST

    •  This may be more of a trend. Maybe we .... (5+ / 0-)

      are only electing "folks" that will treat us like children.  I admit that there are days that I would like someone to make breakfast for me and give me cookies after school but most days I like being an adult.  I am hoping that we are getting over our political regression and the pendulum is swinging the other way for a while.  That we are accepting that we are in deep trouble and need to own up to this and fix it.

      •  Global War on Terror marketecture (0+ / 0-)

        only electing "folks" that will treat us like children

        Yes for sure

        The Global War on Terror marketecture is designed to have that effect.

        Let Daddy take care of everything.  Just give me the keys (rights) to everything dear, the better to protect you with.  Don't you want to be protected?  Don't your neighbors want to be protected?  Do the right thing dear.  Hand  over your keys (rights) like a good little girl. All of them. Daddy knows best.

    •  problem to me is both Hillary and Obama (6+ / 0-)

      when it comes to health care - why didn't they go for Universal Health Care? Single Payor health care.

      It would have been the right thing to do -- and we would have ended up with something real -- instead of something that is lacking - in both their programs.

      They could have been bold - they were not.

      Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

      by sara seattle on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:09:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think what I highlighted is the reason (0+ / 0-)

        The public isn't prepared, and if you've watched the news (I  have to tell you, I don't) most advertising is... drugs. If either candidate goes forth, guess what, H and L. The public does want a solution, but education is needed.

        Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

        by the fan man on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:20:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Both Obama and Hillary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          the fan man, Santarita

          could use all their speeches and press conferences -- they are having peoples attention righ now in spades.

          If this would not be a terrific time to really get peoples attention - then when??

          Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

          by sara seattle on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:41:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  maybe she will (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sara seattle, the fan man

            the reason we can't go to single payer immediately is that for us medical care is part of free enterprise, and the government can't close down private industry even if it's usurious, overnight.  But once one option is medicare type insurance and once most of us take that one, the insurance companies will earn less and in time they may go under.  In this way government will compete, not take over, and if they have the best and cheapest plan, they'll win.  And those few richer people who want some other type of insurance, can pay the big bucks, and sam's your uncle.  I think if Obama wins, he'll be pressured by the party to go for Edwards and Hillary's plan.  It's a good reason for the contest to take it's time too, if he was very far ahead he'd be tempted to tell the party to stuff it and he'd do things his own way. This way he may have to accept input..  

      •  I agree ...Edwards was the gutsy one (7+ / 0-)

        on health care. He brought the issue to the forefront.  Sigh...

        I think a change, would do U.S. good....

        by AnnieM on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:23:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  so far, his "style of leadership" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      anna shane, dewley notid

      is masked by his silver tongue.  Absolutely no guarantee that he will be the teacher in the sense the diarist means.  The clues?  His arrogance and dsimissal are just two of the odious factors that don't make him a teacher in any sense of the word.

      sign the petition at http://www.impeachbush.org

      by DrKate on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:17:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Stop it. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doinaheckuvanutjob

        I spent about a half hour yesterday trying to stop people from pissing on a diary about a woman who was positively influenced by Hillary. Stop with the "silver tongue" meme. Everyones mind has been made up on this site, don't you think? I've met Hillary and thought she was quite effective as a politician. She would be a great as a president. The point of quote stands.

        Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

        by the fan man on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:28:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We use education and healhcare for (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sara seattle, Jbeaudill, Dr A, JG in MD

    political footballs in America.  It serves no real purpose, and it does a huge disservice to us, as human beings and as voters.  

    If we could ever get publicly financed campaigns in place, this may stop, but as things are now, the politicians will glom onto whatever they think will turn a few more votes their way.

    Thanks for the thought provoking diary.  It would be so much better if we had an actual solution to the problem, but I don't think I see one on the horizen.

    pb

    Adding fuel to the outrage is all I have left. November 7, 2007. panicbean

    by panicbean on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 02:45:01 PM PST

    •  Got to agree with you there. I don't... (6+ / 0-)

      see a solution either.  

      But here is some other food for thought:  In some European countries with very good health care the health care system is even more of a hot potato politically.  The public will "fire" (not reelect) a candidate they feel has not served the health care system well.  These countries do not have long waits for procedures and have very good care.

      I submit to you that it is not the fact that health care is considered a political issue but that the American people are easily manipulated.  That they do not have the resolve to fire even the worst president in history.  That the politicians can promise anything and not  be held accountable due to poor media coverage and lacking education.  

      Your thoughts?

      •  Dr A - have you ever considered (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        panicbean

        running for political office??

        If not - may I suggest .....

        Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

        by sara seattle on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:05:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Lacking education is a given. (0+ / 0-)

        Poor media coverage is a lame excuse in my book.  If you are paying taxes, and we all are, and if you are holding elections, and we do for so many of our officials, then it is up to you to be informed, and stay informed.

        Americans have become so lazy, so willing to accept what is,  they never even bother to ask what can be?  

        I see editorials every day in my local paper arguing against universal healthcare of any kind.  They have no idea of how it works, what it would entail, they heard somewhere that it sucked, it was too expensive, etc.  Little do they know what it costs them to keep sending our sick and uninsured to the ER on a regular basis.

        If the education were available, and it isn't yet, it would be interesting to see just how the public would receive and perceive it.

        Hopefully Obama, who appears to be our nominee, will spend some money airing ads that spell out how his plan will work, what the true costs, and the true benefits will be, and maybe we can make some headway  with that.

        Thanks!

        pb

        Adding fuel to the outrage is all I have left. November 7, 2007. panicbean

        by panicbean on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:05:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  do not have the resolve (0+ / 0-)

        they do not have the resolve to fire even the worst president in history.  That the politicians can promise anything and not  be held accountable due to poor media coverage and lacking education.

        Fear creates pussies.

        Mission accomplished

  •  The Solution to our problem (9+ / 0-)

    Support and vote for progressives who are not on the take.  

    Support Campaign finance reform and instant run off elections and paper backed ballots.

    Support a comeback of the Fairness doctrine to our media.

    Get verbal...go forth and educate.

  •  Transparency and education (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sara seattle, Dr A, JG in MD

    Go hand in hand. as a process for change, both are imperative. People are not dumb, they are usually engaged in paying the rent in our wonderful economy and don't have the time or the inclination to be policy wonks. Any effort to initiate change must also be an effort to educate people on the issues with hard data and examples of things that work, with an explanation of why they work. And then as policy is being formulated, the public needs to be in on the whole process, looking over the shoulder of those involved and able to evaluate and respond effectively to protect their interests.

    But the biggest missing element is to educate and then elicit feedback and then to educate. To repeat, people are not stupid. If there is sufficient public participation, what happens is that first people offer all ideas however unrealistic. Then as the conversation continues, and as the education about possible options continues, the ideas begin to coalesce into a framework of a plan that may not please everyone but does address the majority of concerns. Working behind closed doors with experts will never produce this outcome, because experts suffer from the blindness of their specialties and their shared history. Truly innovative solutions happen when you engage the wisdom of the crowd if the process emphasizes transparency and education. And part of the education is what you hear from the crowd. Who knows more about the problems of access to health care than the people who are unable to get access to it?

    All of our political processes exclude the vast well of knowledge to be found by simply asking an informed public. But that means we need processes for informing the public and including them, not just by polls, but by actually including them in the policy debates.

  •  Bill Moyers is a hack (0+ / 0-)

    I used to have a lot of respect for Bill Moyers for his guts in opposing Bush, but the guy is clearly a Clinton hack. he has build this pretense of fairness in his show, but what he really wants is Hillary to win. he has brought on Kathless Hall Jamieson multiple time recently so that she can blather about how much favorable the media coverage is to a man and not too a woman. then he got on Shelby Steele and some other black guy who basically claimed they didnt like Obama and that African Americans would vote for him because he wasnt the descendant of a slave and was basically an  "Uncle Tom"

    Bill Moyers always claims he regretted being LBJ press secretary for LBJ's role in Vietnam and that he has been trying to amends to his liberal base ever since. I think what he really wants to another repeat of Vietnam and the LBJ admin in the form of Clintonites. who knows maybe they will give him the role of press secretary should Clinton win

    •  girlyman (5+ / 0-)

      How about staying on topic - which is healthcare?

      Proud to be a Bleeding Heart Liberal

      by sara seattle on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:11:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  oh no (0+ / 0-)

        we have a war, conducted by hardy  and well paid professional volunteer soldiers to end.

        Reform anything tha'll last beyond anti war sentiment? Bwahahahahah.

        "It's a race to decide who the British goverment will follow blindly for the next 4 years" Kennedy/Kerry '08

        by Salo on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:01:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  mind crimes (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SarahLee, splashy, dewley notid

      what he really wants is Hillary to win

      what he really wants to another repeat of Vietnam

      Please be careful in your expertise in what someone else is thinking but not saying.

      Expertise in the unspoken contents of other people's minds, who are far away from where we live, who we've never met in person, who we've never talked to, is hardly reliable.

      Government prosecutors claim such expertise all the time.  Fox "News" pundits do this regularly.

      E.g., "You hate America."

      E.g., "You like al-Qaeda."

      It's impossible to disprove the absence of a "want" or a "hate" in your head.  

      You could always be "wanting" whatever I say you are, aren't you.

      Prove you are not.

      You can't do it.

      That's why evidence is the basis of western justice systems.

      Mind crimes are crapola.

    •  He has the right to dislike my hero... (4+ / 0-)

      Bill Moyers.  What can I say.  He is just plain wrong.  YOU HEAR ME WRONG!

      Seriously, you should check out the stats done at Fairness and Accuracy in the Media (F.A.I.R.)  Turns out the press is actually harder on women than men.

    •  off topic (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sara seattle, splashy, Salo

      and certainly there are many who will disagree with you.  

      sign the petition at http://www.impeachbush.org

      by DrKate on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:19:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Uh, the enemy are liars like O'Reilly, haters (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SarahLee, Dr A

      like Coulter who destroy what's left of journalism.

      You may not like who Moyers favors for President, but that does not discredit his outstanding journalistic explorations of many cultural (one of the best ever presentations on American poetry), social and policy issues that he does better than virtually any American journalist.

      I have not seen the health care show but have no doubt it was as excellent as his one on civil liberties where Republican constitutional scholar Bruce Fein called for Bush's impeachment.

      It would be nice to see people drop the ugly smearing against our national treasures that just didn't endorse your candidate.

      Children in the U.S... detained [against] intl. & domestic standards." --Amnesty Internati

      by doinaheckuvanutjob on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:52:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just bought Jacoby's book and find (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SarahLee, Jules Beaujolais, leema, Dr A

    myself nodding in agreement while reading... how on earth did we get so insular, so navel-gazing, so sitting-on-butt TV watchers?? Why does America dislike intellectuals and learning?  And PBS: Please give Moyer's back his full hour!  God knows we need it!

    In youth we learn, in age we understand.

    by Jbeaudill on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:26:24 PM PST

  •  My theory is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SarahLee, Jbeaudill
    that the encroachment of evangelicals has also something to do with it.  They make it their mission to sit on as many schoolboards as possible...
  •  There are so many reasons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doinaheckuvanutjob

    I support Obama.  But this Jacoby points to one of the many:  he tells use what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.

  •  This is a blueprint (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SarahLee, Jbeaudill

    of what the next President of the United States needs to do.  Not only on this issue, but on issues like the military and globalization.

  •  To paraphrase the exchange (0+ / 0-)

    Campus anti-war faction unite around a temproal issue and fail to address permananent change.

    "It's a race to decide who the British goverment will follow blindly for the next 4 years" Kennedy/Kerry '08

    by Salo on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 03:59:14 PM PST

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