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Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Tonight I did something that I hadn't done in a long while: I dropped 50 cents in the slot and bought a USA Today. I remember when this newspaper first hit the stands, and we all laughed: "TV on paper," we scoffed at the time. The sports section was fantastic, but the rest of it seemed like a joke, with its super-short news stories, garish color graphics, and predominance of words of one syllable.

Times have changed, of course, and now many hometown papers look just like USA Today, or are trying to. It's no New York Times, but the USA's no longer on a level below papers like The Oregonian. In fact, in some respects, it may be ahead of The O. (For the record, however, The O's cheaper.)

Meanwhile, TV network affiliate news has gone even further downhill, to the point where on most nights it's not recognizble as anything serious. So in the grand scheme of information sources, the USA has ascended a fair amount.

Catching my eye in today's edition was a nice story about a college cross-country runner who accidentally inhaled a rock thrown up by one of her competitors toward the end of a road race. She fell choking to the ground, whereupon she was lifted up and successfully Heimliched by her coach. Way to go, coach!

The editorial page also was interesting. The lead editorial joins the growing chorus, including this blog, to the effect that the Bush tax cuts are, on the whole, irresponsible, and that some of them need to be cancelled before they take effect. As is its custom, the paper then runs an opposing view, this time from someone named Stephen Moore, president of an anti-tax, anti-government group called Club for Growth. Moore offers up these choice morsels:

But the binge in debt spending is not a result of President Bush's tax cuts. At most, only about 25% of the deficits are a result of the tax cuts.... The most vital step in restraining the tidal wave of red ink that has engulfed Washington is to just say "no" to the unconscionable $450 billion prescription drug bill for senior citizens...

That's right. It's more important to get a couple of million a year back in the pockets of the Dick Cheney billionaire types than to give ordinary senior citizens the right to get their prescription drugs without fear of having to eat cat food. That's Stephen Moore's, and George Bush's, America.

The paper also took a strong shot at Abercrombie & Fitch, the giant clothing retailer that's racking up the profits from bringing sex even further into the grammar schools. This fine upstanding company features nude teen models, and sells thongs as small as size girls medium with the words "eye candy" printed on them. I'm no prude, but shame on them (and on all the pervs who come here from Google when they hit on the immediately preceding sentence). Good for USA Today for calling Abercrombie out on it, and pointing readers to groups like Dads and Daughters, who are fighting back.

D&D is playing an interesting angle. It's calling attention to the people who sit on the Abercrombie board of directors while the company's up to its salacious shenanigans.

For example, here are two of the directors of Abercrombie & Fitch -- Lauren Brisky, vice chancellor of Vanderbilt University and a Girl Scouts Council board chairwoman, and John Golden, a retired financier and head of Colgate University's board of trustees -- along with a photo from the company's latest ad campaign. An interesting juxtaposition:

Hey, Lauren! John! Do you really need to do this to sell the sweatshirts?

In all, the paper was a surprisingly thought-provoking read. Four bits well spent.

Comments (7)

All right -- I'm going to put my head out on the chopping block for everyone here: why should senior citizens have a prescription drug benefit?

First of all, shouldn't their kids (or their extended family) be the ones eating the cost of medical care? (Isn't the first debt owed to these people from their families and not from their society?) Second, why should I pay for drugs that are used to solve health problems that these senior citizens brought upon themselves by years of unhealthy living? (Should I have to pay for Lipitor for the guy that's been eating beef everyday for the last thirty years? If I did pay for his health, does that mean I get a say in his lifestyle?) Finally, hasn't the writing been on the wall for senior citizens for years (that someday they're going to retire and need money) and shouldn't they have been saving all these years for their retirements?

I know I'm a real jerk for asking these questions (i.e., you don't need to tell me what a bastard I am; I already know.). I'm just curious as to what people out there think about these questions. I'm all for leaving taxes on the uber-rich the level that they are right now; I'm just not sure that more pork for seniors is where I'd be sending it.

You're right, klug. Let them die.

I don't ever buy USAToday, but when I get a free copy at a hotel, I'm always surprised that I read it cover to cover. There's nothing wrong with graphs and colors, right? I especially like the two sentences about each state -- that's how I heard about Katz/Kroeker. Then I had to get more info of course!!!

Why a prescription drug benefit?

Because yes, in theory, people should save enough money over their lifetimes to support themselves. And yes, in theory, people's families should support them in their old age, just like on The Waltons.

Unfortunately, almost every single public policy decision that anyone has to make, ever, is a decision about what the appropriate response is when things don't go the way you hope they would. People don't act the way you hope they will (they steal from, take advantage of, or beat the crap out of each other), they don't have the luck you hope they'll have (they are born with disabilities that will require lifelong care that their families have absolutely no capacity to fund), or they just plain freaking screw up (they fall asleep at the wheel, they get unexpectedly pregnant, they marry unwisely).

Yeah, we should all wear our seatbelts all the time, and we should all run five miles a day and eat All-Bran for breakfast, and no one should ever watch World's Wildest Police Videos. But I don't think people are like that. Ultimately, I believe in public willingness to share some of the burdens that result when people don't do what they ideally might do, or aren't born equally lucky, or can't fully fund all of their own needs at any given moment in time, because the alternative is pretty horrifying.

Denying people access to affordable prescription drugs on the theory that they should have saved their own money to pay for them amounts to the death penalty as a punishment for bad planning, which . . . no. I don't see it. Shared burdens are part of life, it seems to me, and while the question of "why offer a prescription drug benefit?" is a fair one, I think the answer is "because of the unacceptability of the alternatives."

And I don't think prescription drugs are what's meant by "pork," either, incidentally.

Perhaps the best thing about USA Today is that, last time I looked, Maureen Dowd was not stinking up its pages.

hey jack, do you actually read these comments or are they only for your audience's entertainment? just curious. i guess if i dont hear from you i can just asume the latter. thanks. hope all is well. -z

I read 'em all, for better or worse.

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