Only 8% Of Journalist Coverage Of Healthcare Debate Is Actually About The Healthcare System

from the and-they-want-us-to-pay-for-this? dept

One of the mantras of journalists who insist that paywalls will work, or that the world needs professional journalists is that they do such important work informing the public. And, certainly, sometimes that's true. The problem is that it's so rare. Jay Rosen points us to a report from the Columbia Journalism Review, where it notes that very little of the reporting on what to do about the healthcare system is actually about the healthcare system. Instead, it's mostly reporting on the chatter about the healthcare system:
The Project for Excellence in Journalism, for example, found that so far this year 55 percent of coverage of health care has been about the political battles, 16 percent about the protests, and only 8 percent about substantive issues like how the system works now, what will happen if it remains unchanged, and what proposed changes will mean for ordinary people.
In other words, the press is spending more time on the fighting, rather than on the substance. It's filler and fluff -- that often misleads and distracts from the actual discussion. And we're supposed to value that? There's a tremendous need for thoughtful discussions about healthcare, and it's a spot where professional journalists could be a huge help. But, it's a lot easier to just focus on the play-by-play commentary, rather than actually adding value.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Bradley Stewart, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 2:20am

    I Believe Ted Koppell Said It Best

    when leaving the Night Line Program. He said many of us would like to do good substantive reporting on stories. The problem is the Public's eyes would just glaze over.

     

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  2.  
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    jmproffitt (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 2:35am

    Pick a topic. Any topic.

    It pretty much doesn't matter what topic you pick, journalists don't really do journalism anymore. Which is why the much-ballyhooed "death of journalism" doesn't scare me. It's like the word journalism itself is double-speak -- meaning the opposite of what it purports to be.

    It's nonsense that the public won't respond to good journalism. Sure, there's a sector that will never respond. But look at the reaction to "The Giant Pool of Money," made by a comparatively obscure public radio show (This American Life) with no known economic chops, but who made a complex issue accessible to millions -- and they were rewarded for it with financial support and the chance to do more reporting (Planet Money at NPR).

    People need, and will use, good reporting. But with the bastardization of news by cable television, "journalism" is widely held in disregard, if not outright contempt.

    For example, I was blown away by a NY Times "summary" piece several weeks back on the health care situation. It was thinner than most current newspapers! Pathetic. A waste of time and paper. It was just a skimmed-over compilation of the non-reporting done to date. He said, she said.

    Journalists aren't doing the job. And don't cry to me about not having enough resources. If you're really that much of a journalist, you need to quit working at your corporate media job and strike out on your own. Or at the very least do some real journalism on the side to prove you can, even if you have to pay the bills with your press release regurgitation job.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but if "the press" spent as much time actually reporting as they do bitching about paywalls, we'd have all the information we need for smart health care decisions (even if we wouldn't all agree).

    Ironically, I suspect a true journalistic effort would be rewarded with advertising dollars because it would have an audience. Indeed, anyone doing real journalism today would have virtually no competition.

     

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  3.  
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    haiku, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 3:58am

    A number of years ago I attended a talk given by the managing editor of South Africa's highest-circulation newspaper.

    His theme was simple:

    1. The sole purpose of a newspaper is to sell advertising.
    2. Editorials exist simply to fill empty space, i.e. to join the adverts.
    3. Only the incredibly naive believe in 'crusading' journalism (or similar) e.g. Watergate.

    Based on his criteria I have come to the conclusion that the 'purest' form of journalism is represented by the so-called trade magazines, whose editorials are simply a reprint of the PR company's hand-outs ... 8-)

     

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  4.  
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    haiku, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 3:59am

    A number of years ago I attended a talk given by the managing editor of South Africa's highest-circulation newspaper.

    His theme was simple:

    1. The sole purpose of a newspaper is to sell advertising.
    2. Editorials exist simply to fill empty space, i.e. to join the adverts.
    3. Only the incredibly naive believe in 'crusading' journalism (or similar) e.g. Watergate.

    Based on his criteria I have come to the conclusion that the 'purest' form of journalism is represented by the so-called trade magazines, whose editorials are simply a reprint of the PR company's hand-outs ... 8-)

     

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  5.  
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    helpfuljones (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 4:26am

    Koppell??!!

    You mean "Ted Koppell"? Hell, I thought this was a story about "journalists".

    I think journalism went extinct in the 50's/60's. Definitely by the time Watergate became common knowledge.

    Regardless of whether you think the main-stream media (print, broadcast or otherwise) is biased left or right, I think most people agree it is biased nonetheless. I also think most people would agree that the mind-set that seeds and promotes the bias (knowingly or otherwise) can be attributed in whole or part to the "journalism" schools where these reporters build the foundation of their skill-set. I would give the professors the benefit of the doubt and allow that they don't even realize the bias they infuse into their more gullible students. Perhaps the professors truly believe everyone sees the world from their point of view.

    Judging by the ratings, Faux-News is *killing* all of it's competitors by hyoooooge margins. As the lone conservative-leaning news outlet in cable broadcast news, I can't explain it. ABC/CBS/NBC/MSNBC/CNN/HN,etc. -- all the rest are left-leaning (compared to Faux), and I find it hard to believe that viewers who lean left could stomach Faux for long. I don't know what that says about the political make-up of the country, but there it is. All of them are more opinion than news, so you can't really compare them to "journalists".

    It doesn't matter, we're still doomed!

    But that's just me -- a grammatically challenged, non-journalist spouting off yet another opinion piece...

     

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  6.  
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    dwind (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 4:26am

    What to do

    Why don't newspapera give the printed version away for free?

     

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  7.  
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    ..., Sep 8th, 2009 @ 5:14am

    In all fairness,

    I suppose that nuts showing up at townhall meetings with guns is actually news. It would be nice if the MSM would devote more time to the actual issues rather than side show antics.

     

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  8.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 5:17am

    Re: What to do

    >Why don't newspapera give the printed version away for free?

    Some papers with lots of online components do. They just charge for the paper, ink and it's delivery.

     

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  9.  
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    chris (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 5:35am

    Re: I Believe Ted Koppell Said It Best

    He said many of us would like to do good substantive reporting on stories. The problem is the Public's eyes would just glaze over.

    ahh yes, the "americans are too stupid to recognize quality" argument which can be used to explain the overall decline in the quality of pretty much all media.

     

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  10.  
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    dostadawg, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    are you surprised

    if the left has to talk about actually substance on how healthcare system works and what is really wrong with it they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. So again like every other topic they distract the less informed readers with the unimportant stuff.

     

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  11.  
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    John McGrath, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 6:13am

    Media = melodrama

    The media prefer melodrama - all good vs all evil - to presentation of pros and cons. Just like entertainment TV, or comic books.

    The right has been very skillful at using all media - including the internet - to feed melodramatic stories on health care to targeted constituents - the elderly, veterans, small business owners, rural and southern people.

    Plus Rupert Murdoch's media have imported the British style of supermarket tabloid story telling into main stream US media.

     

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  12.  
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    dostadawg, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 6:17am

    Re: Koppell??!!

    maybe the problem is where your so called "faux" news is reporting stories and catering to people who work hard and want to come home to watch real news where as the other media outlets are catering to the true dem base which are folks that only show up to vote for a dem again because they are getting free smokes or free rides and care less what is going on because they get handouts for everything. Free food, free housing, free money,etc...

     

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  13.  
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    dostadawg, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 6:34am

    Re: Media = melodrama

    Murdoch's imported the supermarket tabloid style? lol Have you watched MSNBC for longer than 15 minutes? it is alot more up there with shows like TMZ or other crap shows than Fox. The problem is the media just can't say crap and get away with it now. too many way for folks to research the issue themselve and get the real facts. once you start getting the real facts you might not agree with everything Fox says but they are closer to the truth than any others out there and the ratings prove that.

    case in point and this really is for all politicians but it is laughable at hearing some of these leaders say crap like Maxine Waters saying that the problems with Freddie and Fannie were the lack of regulations but you can easily go to Youtube and find her arguing with regulators telling them the problem with freddie and Fannie is too much regulation. And I for one don't take any news outlet for face value but when you have the video yourself to few its hard to argue again that.

     

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  14.  
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    Monarch, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    This story isn't news. The majority of stories by so called "Professional" journalists are fluff and filler. Quite often if I read a news story that interests me from a major news outlet, I am left thinking "Where's the rest of the story?"

    So I then need to do a web search until I find bloggers who have actually done the research. Unfortunately the majority of blogs are opinionated pieces based on the original news stories that have no real substance.

    Which is the main reason I won't pay for a major news paper. As the only articles worth reading in a newspaper are the opinions pages.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    During the entirety of the "health care reform" non-debate the only two persons on television I have seen who appear to be trying to identify and grapple with the issues are Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck on FOX. Certainly not NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and the myriad of other so-called "news channels". As for the print media? Forget it. Online media? Same.

    Is journalism dead? I want to believe it is not. I want to believe there are people out there who actually want to report the news, including an analysis of important issues such as here. Apparently, however, they are in hiding lest they be criticized for trying to focus on something other than meaningless fluff.

    O'Reilly made a good point a week or two ago. He said that if the administration wants to convincingly make its point, a good start would be to reduce the issues to about 5 bullets on a single sheet of paper that people can understand. I am not at all hopeful that anyone will heed his sage advice.

    Tomorrow night Obama will address a joint session of Congress. When he has concluded his speech, and after all the talking-heads on television have given their typical useless analysis, I expect to be no more informed than I am right now.

     

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  16.  
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    serg, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re: are you surprised

    because the left controls %90 of the media in the same way they control the churchs and the gun clubs and the NRA

     

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  17.  
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    Reed, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 9:38am

    Re: Journalism lives on - Bread and Circus for eveyone!

    "Is journalism dead? I want to believe it is not. I want to believe there are people out there who actually want to report the news"

    Of course Journalism is not dead, you've got O'Reilly to listen too! And if he doesn't have something to say their is always Glen Beck. Thank God for FOX news and don't forget to praise him as well.....

    I really dislike people who pander to such nonsense. The news isn't controlled by the left or the right rather many people's self interests who all happen to be wealthy. On a side note though, you notice how the wacky left called for Bush to be arrested and tried in a court of law? Now the right extremists call for Barrack to be killed.

    Is there a difference here? I hate the whole left rigt thing, but clearly their is a disonnect of tremedous proportions going on here.

     

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  18.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    It's filler and fluff -- that often misleads and distracts from the actual discussion.

    It's filler and fluff -- that often misleads and distracts from the actual discussion.
    That is the current state of our media today. All of them, left, right, and center.
    You are not surprised; Are you?

    http://www.opencongress.org/
    http://www.loc.gov/index.html

    Unfortunately, in the climate we have now, you have to proactively search for the truth.
    http://help.senate.gov/BAI09A84_xml.pdf

    Most ppl wont take the time to read it, so it then becomes our duty to inform our fellow Americans. (If you can get the Obama blinders off first.)

     

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  19.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Sep 8th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    kill some time

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    Re: In all fairness,

    Those crazy cops...carrying guns and all.

     

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  21.  
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    Crabby, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: I Believe Ted Koppell Said It Best

    Yep. Blame the dumb public. But what can we say? They are graduates of public schools, after all...

    Koppel's comment just goes to show the supreme arrogance of the media. If they did offer something of substance, their ratings would go through the roof. Unfortunately, they just use excuses like the public's supposed lack of attention span so they don't have to do any really hard work, like investigating a story or doing any fact-checking.

     

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  22.  
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    Crabby, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    Re: Media = melodrama

    The right feeds melodramatic stories to people?! Come on, where have you been hiding? For years, all the left needs to do to push more taxes and abuse is shout "For the children!" Every damn issue they don't like, they use children as political cannon fodder to push their agendas.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    "The Project for Excellence in Journalism, for example, found that so far this year 55 percent of coverage of health care has been about the political battles, 16 percent about the protests, and only 8 percent about substantive issues like how the system works now, what will happen if it remains unchanged, and what proposed changes will mean for ordinary people." This is one reason I favor the Internet over mainstream media. Mainstream media simply ignores many many important issues and discussions and focuses on irrelevant topics where as on the Internet anyone can engage in whatever discussions they want and learn from each other, peer review and correct each other, and have more meaningful discussions about the issue.

     

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  24.  
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    tubes, Sep 8th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Journalism lives on - Bread and Circus for eveyone!

    THANK YOU!!!! Seems like you are the only one who gets it. I was losing hope in the human race. I applaud you!! Every one of these comments I have been reading have scared the hell out of me. I am so sickened by this left/right crap. Who cares, in the mean while we are ALL getting screwed without the lube. That is exactly what they all want, for the majority to stay stupid.

     

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  25.  
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    Ed C., Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:23pm

    Re: Re: are you surprised

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Ed C., Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re: Media = melodrama

    Sure...and all the right needs to do to push more laws and abuse is shout "For the industry!" Every damn issue they don't like, they use jobs as political cannon fodder to push their agendas.

     

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  27.  
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    Ed C., Sep 9th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

    Re: Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, but even Jon Stewart does better at reporting the facts of "health care reform" than O'Reilly and Glen Beck is just full of s***! Just let him explain it in his own words...

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/89783/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-thu-aug-13-2009

     

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  28.  
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    Very Awake, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:41pm

    New World Order

    The establishment does not want people to discuss what is actually in the hundreds of pages in the legislation. For the New World Order to get its laws past, It does not want people to find out what is in it -- else people will revolt in protest.[1]

    Just like the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the backers of the bailout rushed the bailout bill through Congress so fast that most of the representatives did not even have time to read it![2] Then, when the Federal Reserve does not know where the freshly printed money went. Congress asks. The answer Congress got from Fed. president Ben Bernanke is "I don't know."[3] So since the-powers-that-be cannot rush the health care issue through Congress because it has received so much attention from the left and right, they stage phony debates, cat-fights, drama, and FUD -- all in a grand, coordinated attempt to pull the wool over the citizen's eyes. The Obamacare bill is now so non partisan that Republicans and Democrats are voting for and against each other in a scramble to slay this bill in its tracks.

    Oh, and it's also probably best for the New World Order (NWO) to fire Nancy Pelosi. She is not good with promoting their agenda and she could just break the illusion (aka mind control) that the NWO has worked so hard to establish. She calls people against Obamacare "Un-American."[4]

    Sources:
    1) http://www.infowars.com/obamacare-is-a-eugenics-program/
    2) http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/17/cafferty.stimulus/index.html
    3) http://www.infowars.com/bernanke-i-don%E2%80%99t-know-which-foreign-banks-were-given-half-a-trillion /
    4) http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/08/top-house-democrats-call-town-hall-disruptions-uname rican.html

     

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  29.  
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    Richard Seagraves, Sep 10th, 2009 @ 12:15am

    Wow... I would give you more credit for effort but...

    The grammar and syntax in some of these responses are just abusive to writing. Since an obvious fan of the right proposed a bullet point method of breaking down the issue, let me attempt to provide you with some perspective as a healthcare information technology consultant working in the trenches on a day to day basis with doctors, nurses, administration, and patients.

    - Healthcare insurance is unavailable to many people
    - If you do not have healthcare insurance, no matter your position in life, you are likely to go bankrupt should you have a major health problem
    - Americans need to be protected from a system where ICD-9 coding and related CPT-4 codes are scrutinized by insurance companies to such a degree that it either requires doctors to commit fraud to have their services accepted by the insurance conglomerate or patients to pay out of pocket for medically necessary procedures that should be covered
    - The costs of healthcare are rising as a result of some factors that the Right would prefer not to discuss: insurance company's overall power to disable the entire system as a result of a prior emphasis on deregulation; a fundamental distortion in pricing pharmaceuticals for consumer needs; a fundamental lack of information provided to patients regarding end of life care such as hospice treatment; and a failure of the government during massive periods of deregulation from holding anyone accountable for business practices that have directly contributed to juvenile diabetes, cancer, obesity, and a multitude of other problems overwhelming the system.

    I suppose we could all ramble about illegal immigrants and how they drive up costs for us all. However, if we are going to use illegal immigrants as the main stomping ground for healthcare cost increases... or lawyers... it would benefit the Right to actually study some empirical data on the primary drivers of healthcare inflation. The sheer number of obese people in this country is astounding. However, it is the free market movement and lack of control around advertising that has led to this national crisis.

    Hold on.... illegal immigrants. Yes... if we would just kick them all out... wait... we can't do that to maintain our free economy. That would mean that businesses would have to pay employees more and provide more benefits. Oh my God, shareholders would suffer as profit margins would decrease by 6%. My MegaMillions portfolio would lose value and I would end up in the ... can I bare to say it.... middle cl.... no. We will just say illegal immigrants are the problem. No one likes lawyers... let's blame them. We have to protect United Health, Phizer, Roche, Celegen, and our major construction businesses... hell we own stock in them.

    Okay... deep breath. Here is what we are going to do boys. We are going to find a bunch of middle class and uneducated Southerners who really would benefit from some proposals we oppose but they don't understand anything but what we tell them on TV anyway. We will call the strategy "operation call it socialism"... yeah.. that will fire them up. Then, just like the Nazi's, we will call them Nazi's on TV. But the funny part is boys... get this... we are the ones dictating what they are to say and believe all because we use keyword methodologies that only the elite and online marketers understand. Oh... thank goodness.

    For a second there I thought our healthcare system might actually move away from the shareholder model and incorporate some stakeholder principles. Where is the profit in that boys?


    Despite my satire, I was once a very free market oriented conservative. Then I watched the party flame into a radical religious movement bound to scream certain phrases like communism, socialism, weak, anti-country, anti-american,if anyone suggested a change they did not agree with in "principle". Then we invaded Iraq, at an astonishing national cost that seems to have been lost on all Republican voters. Of course... my most laughable moment as a conservative economics Republican came when the Bush Administration and Republican congress passed a stimulus package and sent me a refund check........ wait... no... I didn't receive one of those even though I paid $40,000 in taxes. Let me check here... there must be a mistake Mr. President.... WHAT? I DON'T QUALIFY? I MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY? You mean... you mean... we actually had wealth redistribution under a Republican Senate and President? Wealth redistribution? Isn't that a principle in the... my God... the C word...

    Here is my middle finger to both parties who have no clue as to what in the hell is going on in business or in an average person's life. Go back to the bube tube boys for your Fox fill and daily dose of MSNBC. I will be reading The Music of Pythagoras to my daughter and not filling her head with nonsense.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2009 @ 5:05am

    Where the hell are Monday's posts?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2010 @ 6:27am

    The problem with health care in U.S. is that most of our current public servants are more interested in serving themselves than serving their constituents. There is no need to pretend to have to re-invent the wheel here. Simply model the U.S. health care system after the ones in Canada, and U.K., and Japan, and Germany! Thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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