Back when Ezra Klein got hired by the Washington Post, I pretty much decided (after that post) it was time to move on from making Ezra a daily read; indeed, as I come upon my third blogiversary, I'm struck by how much has changed since I started... because Ezra, and the blog he did, was both the inspiration, and the model, for how I approached blogging myself. And now... I barely read Ezra, and my model is... well, me.
Back then, Ezra was a nice kid, fresh out of college - and fresh from Pandagon - who wrote earnestly, if not always brilliantly, on liberal concerns he cared about. Eventually, he settled on healthcare, and gradually, he got better informed, if not more thoughtful, about the issues in American healthcare and the prospects for real change and reforms to our (multiple) system(s).
None of which, really, was quite enough to justify the WaPo hire... nor their inexplicable decision to park Ezra amidst the business section blogs and call him an "economic" blogger.
I don't mean this come off as harshly as it probably does - I visit the blog once, twice a week maybe, these days, and it's still an amiable, if unnecessary, read. Though many lefty bloggers have sort of "contracted out" coverage of the healthcare debate to Ezra (in tandem with Jon Chait, who blogs in similarly establishment lefty form at the New Republic), there's not much more to what Ezra provides than your basic mainstream newspaper - slightly more analyss, perhaps, but none of it necessarily better. And having missed a week or two and finally returning to his blog, I was struck by how little there was on offer.
Ezra's titled yesterday "Delivery Systems Day" and used multiple posts to focus on "reforms to the healthcare delivery system" in the congressional bills, as only he can. This entailed, basically, quoting e-mails from a string of policy wonk types reviewing aspects of proposals - few of which, really, amount to a concrete plan for anything - and evaluating them, largely on potential for success, mainly political success, and what Ezra likes to think of as "economic" success, which seems to consist of evaluating nonexistent numbers and presenting rosy, pie in the sky notions of favored ideas.
Could you guess his sources mostly work in a Washington based academic and policy thinking environment?
What I always found so frustrating about Ezra - the tendency to repeat, as told to him, political sales jobs for the side he likes, and to rarely look too critically at them - has really only gotten worse. There's no attempt in what passes for "reporting" from him to relate the proposed "reform" scenarios to concrete realities of the current healthcare system, or challenging any of his sc enarists to back up their assertions. Indeed, the bigger, structural, problem is that he spent a day repeating nice, hard to argue with opinions of people best referred to as "the usual suspects" when it comes to healthcare reform policy. By not looking outside the expected - not asking healthcare professionals, medical directors, anyone in insurance of any sort, heck even a Medicare executive - there's a circular, insulated quality to Ezra's healthcare writing, and it's always there, that underlines how poorly the healthcare reform process is being handled in DC (and yes, that includes going to someone from the Heritage Foundation as The Other Side).
What we need, and what we've needed, for a long time, is someone who can take the academic conceptualizing of reform and challenge it to the test of real world health care choices and activities. There are real questions to be asked about whether government can, actually, improve delivery of care. And that includes a hard edged look at what kind of "best practices" can really work, how you can really implement practice changes in the current medical climate - especially when docs resist change. And you could ask, seriously, what kind of enormous costs can realistically be made to achieve those goals - Ezra tosses the idea of spending billions to implement electronic medical records technology, you'd think he'd notice that a country with a deficit in the trillions might wonder how to pay for that.
This isn't some sour grapes notion of a blogger enjoying unearned rerwards; indeed, I think in some ways the WaPo deserves credit for providing Ezra a paid opportunity to learn to become an actual journalist. But he's not, and I tend to think that throwing Ezra into some ungodly mix of health and economic blogging - as opposed to using its own, often quite briliant already there reporters - tends to underline how the marriage of blogging and traditional news is still not fully baked. And lost in the shuffle is the kind of healthcare reporting that we desperately need to make sense of the reforms that, even now, don't necessarily seem to be coming together in the way we need to make real change. It's more fizzle than sizzle... and really, who wants to write about that?