March 8, 2014

What's with all the doctors running for Congress?

"Where do we get this idea that a background in medicine is particularly apt for lawmakers?" I asked on this blog 2 weeks ago.
What is going on with this promotion of doctors in the American political scene? There's something odd and excessive about our respect for them. We must trust and depend on them when we have medical problems, but why are we bent on installing them in political office? Let's think more carefully about the sort of minds that go into medicine and whether we are not overvaluing them as political candidates.
Now, the NYT is looking into the doctors-and-Congress phenomenon:
With a few exceptions, these physician legislators and candidates — there are three dozen of them — are much alike: deeply conservative, mostly male, and practicing in the specialty fields in which costs and pay have soared in recent years...
The Times quotes 2 members of Congress who are doctors, one a Republican and one a Democrat. The Republican, Tom Coburn, a family doctor, says doctors are "frustrated" over changes in the practice of medicine. The Democrat, Jim McDermott, a psychiatrist, looks into the psyche of doctors and says: "They want to have their hands right there on the handle so they can pull it one way or another."
As for the reason so few of them are liberal... [McDermott] said he believed that politically conservative physicians were more likely to chafe at the direction of changes in health care, with greater oversight by the government and a more regulated role for the private sector.
That undercuts McDermott's need-to-control analysis. He's implying that liberal physicians are the ones who accept government control. I can see how to harmonize McDermott's 2 statements. The Congress has already pulled the handle very far in the liberal direction, so the liberal doctor doesn't need to go to Congress to pull the handle back the other way. The liberal doctor is accepting if things as they are because that's what he likes, and he appreciates the way Congress has been pulling the handle. (Or as Bob Dylan once sang: "The vandals took the handles.")

By the way, when a psychiatrist talks about pulling the handle, one simply must cry phallic symbol, and don't tell me sometimes a handle is just a handle. McDermott's handle was always a metaphor, and the image of Congress as a place where a lot of guys get their hands right there on the handle so they can pull it is just too rich to ignore. From the 3rd variation on the top-voted meaning of "circle jerk" at Urban Dictionary:
When a bunch of blowhards - usually politicians - get together for a debate but usually end up agreeing with each other's viewpoints to the point of redundancy, stroking each other's egos as if they were extensions of their genitals (ergo, the mastubatory insinuation). Basically, it's what happens when the choir preaches to itself.
Okay. Let's get on back on the pavement, thinking about the government. The NYT article under consideration here indicates that the GOP is recruiting physicians to run for office and there's something about doctors — at least the ones who say yes — that responds to the call:
“When you’re a Type A surgeon, as I am, one thing leads to another,” said Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican who is an orthopedic surgeon. “The next thing you know, somebody is asking you to run for office.”
Mixing up the medicine... with politics.

57 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

"Better stay away from those/That carry around a fire hose…"

Sometimes a fire hose is just a fire hose.

damikesc said...

Why doctors?

Haven't we given lawyers enough time to ruin things?

I'd rather they bring in a few tech school grads and high school grads, personally. Get an actual cross-section of the country.

...also, limit bills to 100 pages or less. If it needs more, it is probably a poor idea.

damikesc said...

A different view from the usual Harvard Law view on the world is endlessly useful and worthwhile. The more perspectives, the better.

PB Reader said...

Okay, keep electing lawyers. let's just have a moratorium on the ones from Harvard and Yale for about 50 years.

jimbino said...

This is a good development, not so much because they're doctors, but because, having graduated med school, they might well have an inkling of math and science, which is sorely lacking in COTUS, POTUS and SCOTUS.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

This writes itself.

What is going on with this promotion of lawyers in the American political scene? There's something odd and excessive about our respect for them. We must trust and depend on them when we have legal problems, but why are we bent on installing them in political office? Let's think more carefully about the sort of minds that go into law and whether we are not overvaluing them as political candidates.

paminwi said...

Tom Price put together his own health care plan and it is pretty specific with solutions. He wrote a bill that is long, (249 pages), but not as long a the ACA. Democrats would not even look at it.

http://tomprice.house.gov/press-release/price-introduces-patient-centered-health-care-solutions


Shouting Thomas said...

God! Lawyers and their Dylan fetish.

Really, Althouse, you are eventually gonna make me loathe Dylan.

Back in the mid 70s half of all friggin' male law school graduates were just building up a nest egg so that they could retire and become the Next Dylan.

Could you please be original in some way? The teeny bopper thing is pretty stale.

You are a pettifogging lawyer. Your job is churning out rent seeking lawyers who want to engage in social engineering in order to increase their own power and wealth. You aren't little Suze Retolo.

Get real.

Ann Althouse said...

@Shouting Please don't take the name of the Lord in vain.

Bob R said...

I'm in favor of reducing the percentage of lawyer-lawmakers as anyone. But doctors aren't exactly the ideal replacements. "Often wrong, never uncertain" isn't a great motto for a politician.

James Pawlak said...

As Lawyers (Properly) control the Courts and are taking over the Executive Branch, I suggest a Constitutional Amendment baring them from The Congress.

Titus said...

Weekday mornings I rush to get out of the house....because I am an incredibly busy, high powered, 6 digit, career girl....therefore I can't focus on pinching loafs. The morning loaf pinching process is very quick and dingleberries surface during the weekday.

But weekends I really focus on the loaf. Specifically, wiping the loaf. Long, slow, detailed swipes of my vagina, which keeps my 15 year old prostate clean as a whistle.

thanks,
and
weekend tits with a clean vagina.

Gahrie said...

There's something odd and excessive about our respect for them.

I would rather be ruled over by the average doctor than the average lawyer.

Shouting Thomas said...

Confession is at 4 p.m.

Fr. George is a pushover. Woodstock hippie priest. Not even the usual five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys.

Just contemplate the painting of Mother Mary for a few minutes and go home.

Ann Althouse said...

Great PR for the Catholic religion. I'm sure the Protestants here will be switching sides now that they know what a slick game your people are running.

Meanwhile, some of us feel abused by having the Lord's name shouted as an expletive, as if it's casual and cool, and your "cure" for your purported eternal soul does absolutely nothing for us.

Don't do it next time. I'm serious. I object to it.

Michael Ryan said...

Let's also discuss how wrong it is to have lawyers mixing up law with government. No conflict of interest there, huh?

Titus said...

Why do you stay in Woodstock Shouting? You seem unhappy there and have such contempt for your neighbors.

tits.

clint said...

This seems obvious.

Something changed recently.

If you wanted to have an impact on the practice of medicine ten years ago, you either went into research, or worked to get to a senior position at a large hospital.

If you want to have an impact on the practice of medicine now, you need a seat in Congress.

What could possibly have changed that?

Shouting Thomas said...

Great PR for the Catholic religion. I'm sure the Protestants here will be switching sides now that they know what a slick game your people are running.

That's only in Woodstock. Special case. In my Kingston parish, you get a real fire and brimstone Irish priest. A lot of Salvadorans, of all things, in that congregation, and they like that.

So, if you're into dozens of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, there's a place for you to go, too.

There's nothing about my soul that is "purportedly eternal." It's here to stay. Wait and see.

Shouting Thomas said...

And, I gather that Larry is manning the control booth this morning.

Nice gambit, Larry.

Birkel said...

Is there no profession or job about which we could say/think/write ridiculous stereotypes? Given the answer is no, perhaps we would do well to think of these people as individuals.

Name the things that are wrong with these individual candidates. Be specific. Otherwise I call bull shit on your stereotype.

For example: Barack Obama is a lawyer. But I do not care about that. I care that he would seek power over me. I care that he believes centralized government will somehow improve my life, contrary to the long historical record that will not support the claim.

But the fact he's a lawyer matters not.

Phil 3:14 said...

"What's with doctors..."

Professor,
I could try to explain from a doctor's perspective, but you, as a lawyer, wouldn't understand.

Rusty said...

It's only fair.
politicians are trying to be our doctors.

Bruce Hayden said...

As Lawyers (Properly) control the Courts and are taking over the Executive Branch, I suggest a Constitutional Amendment baring them from The Congress.

There are way too many lawyers in Congress already. They revel in complexity, and in creating complexity, and the rest of the country has to deal with their efforts.

This from a lawyer, in a family of lawyers.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Anecdotally, almost all the surgeons I know are deeply religious, and a surprising number are 7th Day Adventists.
May explain some of the conservatism.

Anonymous said...

Why doctors? It might have something to do with politicizing healthcare with a certain major law passed by lawyers and signed by a man whose knowledge and expertise of healthcare was a bit lacking.

Pat Moffitt said...

I like the idea of people (physicians) in Congress that understand that actions can have life and death consequences. The fact that you can't negotiate away a heart attack changes how one sees the world.

We need to stop seeing Congress as law makers- Congress function is to act as management and in that role sometimes legislation is required. Law does not train managers.

J Lee said...

Somehow, this wasn't an issue 10 years ago when Dr. Howard Dean was running for president.

Michael K said...

Doctors have been forced into politics as medicine has become, perhaps after airlines, the most regulated industry in the US. I spent 8 years on the CMA's Commission on Legislation, both state and federal. I met many politicians, including Dave Durenberger when he represented Minnesota in the Senate. He told us that he was at that time the only Senator who knew anything about medicine. He had no background in medicine but had taken an interest in it. He also told us that doctors were "going to be screwed." That was about 1986 when the RBRVS was introduced in Medicare payments.

The RBRVS was a project of the AMA and the Harvard School of Public Health to change Medicare payment. It was sold to the AMA, which got a large amount of federal funds for participating, as a way to reduce payment to surgeons and increase payment for primary care.

Primary care has steadily lost ground since then. The AMA contribution was incompetent and that was the time I quit the AMA. I wasn't the only one.

One example, the RBRVS screwed up payment for cardiac surgery. For example, pericardiotomy which is the term for opening the fibrous sac around the heart, was to be reimbursed more than opening the heart, itself, which requires cardiopulmonary bypass.

The thoracic surgery society hired the Boston form of Abst and Associates to rewrite the RBRVS to correct all the errors. The corrections were then added to the law.

Since then, doctors have realized that they must get more involved in politics. I should add that medicine has become so entangled in incompetent politics that the attraction of medical practice has been reduced and has encouraged more doctors to get involved. Not me. I met many politicians in those years and was not impressed.

I would also add that medicine generally did better with Democrats then Republicans in those days and I supported several Democrats but that has changed with Hillarycare and its bastard grandchild Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare and institute some sensible reforms and doctors will lose some interest in politics. Most of it, perhaps. It is totally defensive.

Biff said...

The other issue is "doctors in private practice" vs "academic doctors." Much of what we see in today's healthcare reform is driven by the bureaucratic tastes and political influence of the academic medical community, especially the Massachusetts academic medical community. I haven't done a headcount, but I'd wager that physicians who practice primarily outside of the academic environment, i.e. who practice primarily as small business owners, are far more conservative than their academic brethren. I expect that the Congressional docs assert themselves accordingly.

sydney said...

Organized medicine is encouraging doctors to run for office these days. You can even take classes on it from the AMA.

madAsHell said...

McDermott is a twit.
I'm in his district. The district runs from Edmonds to Vashon Island. It's gerrymandered to pick up all the Subaru's with COEXIST bumper stickers.

Michael K said...

"Much of what we see in today's healthcare reform is driven by the bureaucratic tastes and political influence of the academic medical community, especially the Massachusetts academic medical community. "

Absolutely right. I was at Dartmouth right after Hillarycare failed with the 1994 flip of Congress . A lot of Dartmouth Medical School folks were very deep in Hillarycare. Some were quite good; that's why I went there for a year, but many were typical lefties like those writing Obamacare.

Gahrie said...

Wait.....you have no problems printing Titus, but Shouting exclaims "God!" and you issue a fatwa?

Bob Ellison said...

Yeah, this is a petty complaint these days. What's with all the women running for Congress? What's with all the college grads? What's with all the Democrats? Let 'em start their own damn country somewhere, hell, let's give them a piece of Canada or something.

cubanbob said...

I say we need garbage men and forensic accountants in congress. Garbage men are experts in garbage and forensic accountants are pretty good at detecting fraud. A perfect combo for congress.

Bob Ellison said...

Maintaining an open debate in a blog-comment environment can be difficult, especially when you introduce controversial subjects.

I suspect that judi at Dave Barry's blog could write a treatise on how to do it.

richard mcenroe said...

"When you've got them by the handle, their hearts and minds will follow." -- Things G. Gordon Liddy Might Have Said If He Was A Shrink

Biff said...

"I expect that the Congressional docs assert themselves accordingly."

Heh. I meant to write "assort" instead of "assert," but I guess it works, either way.

Ann Althouse said...

"Wait.....you have no problems printing Titus, but Shouting exclaims "God!" and you issue a fatwa?"

Taking the Lord's name in vain is quite a different matter from writing cheekily about sex and other bodily functions. Haven't you read the 10 Commandments?

richard mcenroe said...

PB Reader -- ditto on State Department hires.

William said...

Philosopher kings are hard to come by, but my guess is that if you wish to recruit such a person, you'd have a better chance of finding such a person among the ranks of physicians rather than of tort lawyers. Physicians think of obesity and diabetes as a manageable condition that eventually ends badly for the patient. Lawyers regard obesity as curable by banning large drinks and sueing McDonald's. It's the nature of a physician's job to be more aware of the intractability of the human condition.......At any rate, as Rand Paul becomes more viable as a candidate expect to see more observations calling into doubt the qualifications of physicians......It's hardly a coincidence that Assad and Paul are both eye surgeons. There's something about that field of study that brings out the murderous tyrant in people.

Birkel said...

Professor Althouse engages in quite a bit of illiberal thought in her talk about doctors as Congresspeople or "public servants".

Again I will ask why Althouse would write as if all members of a group share some inherent trait that would make them less desirable for the positions they seek.

Without stereotypes, please, explain what makes these particular office seekers unacceptable. Don't tell me that what might make the average person in some category unacceptable makes all people in the category unacceptable. Alright?

furious_a said...

Haven't you read the 10 Commandments?

Haven't you read Leviticus?

hombre said...

The country is sick. Elect a doctor.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

McDermott is 77.

Soon, (And good riddance.)

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Meanwhile, some of us feel abused by having the Lord's name shouted as an expletive, as if it's casual and cool, and your "cure" for your purported eternal soul does absolutely nothing for us.

Don't do it next time. I'm serious. I object to it.


Wait. You claim God exists? And there is a Lord?

That is a truly extraordinary claim.

Got any extraordinary evidence?

No? Nothing? Of course not.

Therefore, aren't claims of "offense" quite inappropriate?

I think I'm offended that you are offended.

fivewheels said...
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SomeoneHasToSayIt said...
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SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Charges of "blasphemy" have to be one of the more pernicious things ever invented by the mind of Man.

Made up out of whole cloth and used to justify the most heinous of behaviors

Ann Althouse said...

"Without stereotypes, please, explain what makes these particular office seekers unacceptable."

I didn't say they were unacceptable. I said that they were overvalued.

Birkel said...

Professor Althouse:
You said the category was overvalued. But that says nothing of these particular candidates.

Don't dodge the issue.
Don't turn to pedantry.

How are these particular candidates overvalued?

Gahrie said...
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Gahrie said...
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Gahrie said...

Have you read the Ten commandments?

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ...ass nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

(OK OK...I just couldn't resist)

Gahrie said...

Taking the Lord's name in vain is quite a different matter

God is his title, not his name. His name is:

Yahweh if you are Jewish;

Jehovah if you are Christian;

Allah if you are Muslim.

Skeptical Voter said...

Jim McDermott is off the charts looney toons in his politics. He could tell me that the Sun would rise in the east tomorrow morning, and I'd have a hard time believing him.