In his June 11 Washington Post column about a Capitol Hill hearing featuring single-payer advocates (imagine that!), Dana Milbank sheds no light on the policy debate, but manages to reveal just how deeply enveloped he is inside the Beltway bubble.
"Socialism is not dead," smirks Milbank. "It has, however, been confined to a House subcommittee." The columnist oozes condescension for single-payer activists at the hearing for harboring the quaint presumption they might get any real attention in Washington with their unpopular policy. Writes Milbank:
President Obama said it would be a "huge disruption." Democratic lawmakers ignored the single-payer crowd so completely that 13 activists got themselves arrested last month protesting at Senate Finance Committee hearings.
Since single-payer is such a non-starter, Milbank explains, the hearings are really no more than a safety valve, a token bone thrown to angry advocates in need of blowing off steam. In the end, he explains, little of substance was aired because "it was a day for venting, not answers."
In the world outside Milbank's bubble, of course, single payer is quite popular. For years, polls have consistently found majorities supporting tax-financed national health insurance. A January New York Times/CBS poll found 59 percent in favor of government-provided national health insurance. The same goes for surveys of medical professionals; for instance, a 2008 poll of U.S. doctors, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found 59 percent supported a single-payer plan.
Milbank might have used his valuable column space to probe the disconnect in American democracy, where the public and relevant professionals favor a policy that can barely get arrested in official Washington. While he may think he's made good fun of healthcare activists, what he's really done is reveal how profoundly alienated he is from basic notions of democracy and the open debate of ideas.