This video has been makings its way around the old internets recently, like so many of Jon Stewart’s interviews do these days. It features William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, discussing his issues with Obama’s health care plan in a responsible, reasoned manner…and I mean that in most sarcastic way possible.
Kristol is, of course, spewing conservative talking points and Stewart, as he often does, get him to stumble a little over them. The real knock-out line that liberals have seized on is Kristol’s admission that the military deserves better health care than average American citizens do. Since military health care is public, Stewart twists this into an admission that government-run health care is better than private health care.
I don’t like Bill Kristol and I don’t think he handles himself well here, but I think he is kind of right. First of all, of course the government insures soldiers. That goes along with America’s (ridiculous) employer-provided health care system, since soldiers, like elected officials (who also have a government-run plan), are government employees. Rather than paying for a private insurer the Defense Department runs the Military Health Service itself.
The more important point is that Kristol is absolutely right that soldiers and civilians should have different health care. Of course, Kristol’s explanation isn’t very cogent, and he goes along with Stewart’s attempts to frame it as a matter of “deserving” better health care, which is stupid.
It’s actually quite obvious why we should not all have the same coverage as the military (and it has nothing to do with them putting their lives on the line): The reason I don’t need (or want) the same coverage as a soldier is that, no matter how reckless my lifestyle, I will not, in all likelihood, be hit by an I.E.D. tomorrow. I will probably not be exposed to any chemical weapons in the next week. So paying to insure myself against these health risks makes absolutely no sense.
Soldiers face a unique set of health threats, and so they need a different health care plan than other people. The government is unusually equipped to handle these needs based on the nature of the military’s work. But this doesn’t mean that the government is the best handler of insurance for a suburban family of four, or a rural worker, or a sedentary blogger. It seems that most of the problems with the current health care plan stem from out tendency to pay for things we don’t need, so Stewart’s “gotcha” question is really disingenuous.
With that said, Bill Kristol is still an idiot.