Nat Hentoff certainly is no conservative but he is a principled civil libertarian who has stood up for life since his days writing in the Village Voice. Unlike most liberals, Hentoff fears that the threat of rationing under the President's health care plan is not only real but imminent and he is willing to go after those who advocate rationing of care leaving no sacred cows behind. That's why Paul Krugman is now in Hentoff's sights and he is firing at will.
In a recent column, Hentoff writes:
Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in economics and an influential New York Times columnist, also has a blog, "The Conscience of a Liberal." On ABC's "This Week" (Nov. 14), during a discussion on balancing the federal budget against alarming deficits, he proclaimed the way to solve this problem is through deeply cost-effective health-care rationing.
"Some years down the pike," he said, "we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes." That would mean the U.S. Debt Reduction Commission "should have endorsed the panel that was part of the (Obama) health-care reform."
Sarah Palin was one of the first, and the most resounding, to warn us of the coming of government panels to decide which of us -- especially, but not exclusively, toward the end of life -- would cost too much to survive.
She was mocked, scorned from sea to shining sea, including by the eminent Paul Krugman for being, he said, among those spreading "the death penalty lie" as part of "the lunatic fringe." (Summarized in "Krugman Wants 'Death Panels'" Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (Nov. 15).
Soon after he had left the ABC Studio, someone must have alerted Krugman that -- gee whiz--- he had publicly rooted for death panels!
Swiftly, on his blog, Krugman admitted he had indeed said those dreaded words, but:
"What I meant is that health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they're willing to pay for -- not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we're willing to spend for extreme care."
"Extreme care," Professor Krugman? To be defined by government commissions, right?
The first battle in the death panel wars is underway and the winner will be declared on December 17. On that day, the Food and Drug Administration will determine whether insurance and Medicare should provide breast cancer patients and their doctors the option of using Avastin -- a late-stage cancer drug that has been proven to extend life. Should the FDA deny coverage for the drug because of its cost, it will be apparent that Krugman and his ilk are winning to battle to ration care in America. Rest assured we are watching the outcome.
Holly Pitt Young is a frequently interviewed expert in Washington, D.C. who focuses on the crossroads between policy and political engagement.