New York Times Editorial on Kids’ Health and Tobacco—Wrong Again

Few things are as disingenuous as trying to sound warm and fuzzy while
supporting the status-quo, which is cold and prickly. But the NYTimes
has accomplished it yet again. Writing editorially yesterday, BIG TOBACCO DEFEATS SICK KIDS

Few things are as disingenuous as trying to sound warm and fuzzy while
supporting the status-quo, which is cold and prickly. But the NYTimes
has accomplished it yet again. Writing editorially yesterday,


of the biggest disappointments in Tuesday’s election was the defeat of
an Oregon ballot initiative that would have raised the state’s
cigarette tax by 85 cents a pack to help pay for health care for
uninsured children.

I don’t know who should be
more disappointed, those who would practice the predation of one
species to aid another or the ordinary guy who can’t understand why
decent health care is beyond his means and that of his family. It sure isn’t the fault of the smoker down the block.

outcome is a testament, more than anything else, to the shamelessness
of the nation’s big tobacco companies. They spent an obscene amount of
money on deceptive television ads designed to protect their profits,
even at the expense of poor children. The results should not be allowed
to diminish national concern about insuring those youngsters.

Engaging in demagoguery against Big Tobacco is the easy reach for a newspaper too lazy or morally indifferent to go after the problem head on.
Since when has it become shameless to protect a corporate profit when the state decides to confiscate it in the name of children?
Since when has that corporate profit come at the expense of anyone other than the buyer of a pack of smokes, much less poor children?
Since when does fighting the confiscation of privately accrued profit somehow diminished national concern about insuring youngsters.
Apparently since yesterday’s editorial page. It’s astonishing to
believe the NYT editorial board actually allowed that diatribe in
print. There’s more;

Tobacco firms led by Philip
Morris and R.J. Reynolds poured $12 million into defeating the
initiative — about $3.33 for every Oregon resident, or $24 a vote.
That’s about a dollar more per capita than the $60 million tobacco
companies invested to defeat a similar California measure last year,
according to The Associated Press. The health and civic groups fighting
for health care for children were able to spend only a quarter of that.

They did as they must do–as any man with a lawn-mowing business or a giant corporation must do—fight tooth and nail to keep government from imposing sanctions on private enterprise to solve a civil problem. We already have a tax system (yet another busted governmental boondoggle) for that.
The industry being castigated already pays an enormity of taxes, including health insurance policies for its employees. Its product is already the victim of near confiscatory sin taxes on its product.
Because your product is unhealthy is no reason for the state to
expect you to pay for what it refuses. If your wife is unlovely, she
should not be made to do the neighbor’s laundry.

purveyors of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes did not win by disputing the
urgent health care needs the initiative was meant to address, or the
benefits higher cigarette taxes would bring by deterring smoking. They
sought to hide behind a benign-sounding front group called Oregonians
Against the Blank Check and proceeded to barrage voters with
unscrupulous TV ads and mailings. Among other things, they stoked
doubts that the funds raised would actually be used for children’s
health care, and they manufactured an overblown controversy over
amending Oregon’s Constitution.

It is not the business of cigarette manufacturers to dispute urgent health care needs. Nor should it be their need to hide behind anything. They do not have a dog in this fight.
The federal government, since Nixon, has so screwed up national health
care by demanding it be left to the vagaries of private insurance
companies, that it serves no one well while absorbing the highest per-capita cost in the developed world. Bill Keller and the editorial board of the stumbling and near-sighted New York Times would slap a BandAid on that gaping national wound by announcing their disappointment that cigarette companies weren’t tapped to pick up the tab.
Pitiably, and with their tail clutched tightly between their legs, the NYT concludes;

referendum said a lot about the power of money in any election, and not
much about what the public thinks about the issue if given accurate and
balanced information. The vote should neither deter Congressional
Democrats from continuing to confront President Bush on expanding
children’s health care under the S-chip program nor discourage other
states from trying to do more to take care of the health of their

If this is the best that Pinch Sulzberger (owner) and Bill Keller
(editor) can do in the way of carrying the banner of health care in
America, they ought to sit down and enjoy a quiet cigar.
The nickname ‘Pinch’ is a takeoff on his father’s nickname, ‘Punch.’ Its origin in the kid’s case comes from paring back staff, but there are other definitions as well. In Brit slang, to ‘pinch’ is to ‘make off with belongings of others’ and that’s certainly apropos of an 85 cent ‘health tax’ on cigarettes.
America has become eerily complacent about calling things what they are not. Celebrity (noun) the state or quality of being widely honored and acclaimed, which used to apply to the likes of Bing Crosby and Cary Grant, is now slapped on Paris Hilton and actually taken seriously.
Health Care (noun) the preservation of mental and physical health
by preventing or treating illness through services offered by the
health profession
currently refers to a mish-mash of regulatory
disinformation whose business entails the refusal of claims, denial of
prior condition, downgrading of physician-prescribed care, padding of
for-profit procedure, obfuscation, neglect, co-insurance fees and the
intentional ‘blizzarding’ of paperwork. Leaving Bing and Cary for the
moment, language has been the first casualty of this war.
The defeat of language allows such words as HMO to substitute for care. Health Maintenance Organization
sounds like a company that comes twice a month to pull the weeds of bad
health from your biological garden. The reality is that (for a price
beyond any private possibility) HMOs will trim your hedge, but when a
plague of locusts arrives, good luck. Their constant profit-motivation is to decline to deal with locusts.

Jones MarketWatch) — Managed-care companies look financially healthy
lately: A sample of 528 found that profits increased 52 percent during
the first nine months of last year from a year earlier on the strength
of higher premiums, according to a new study.

Health maintenance
organizations’ profits jumped to $6.7 billion in the first three
quarters of 2003, up from $4.4 billion in 2002, according to a Weiss
Ratings study of financial statements filed with state insurance
departments. The figure is the highest for the period since Weiss began
looking at HMOs’ quarterly statements in 1995, senior analyst Donna
O’Rourke said.

The unasked question by Sulzberger and Keller, who are presently focused on Big Tobacco, is why
there should be a layer of profit in the health care system at all?
Bill might logically ask his boss (over those cigars) if he sees some
sort of logic to the number 52.
Fifty-two is the percent of HMO profit increase, as well as the
number (in millions) of those Americans lacking health care. What
fifty-two is not, is the number of cigarettes in a pack.
Pinch that number, Mr. Sulzberger.
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