'The Survival of Our Planet' Is in the Hands of Time

Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald attempted in an article on Time’s Web site to make connections between two of the most prominent issues facing America and congress today, healthcare and energy. But he put forward a flawed argument that lacked balance and fell into the doomsday language so common in the main stream media.

“Everyone knows we use too much energy,” lamented Grunwald, “Our addiction to fossil fuels is torching the planet, empowering hostile petro-states and straining our wallets.” 

To justify his crisis language, Grunwald cited studies by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which “suggest that more than half of our energy is lost through inefficiencies, calculations that don't even include the energy we fritter away through wasteful behavior like leaving lights on or idling cars.” He failed, however, to mention that Livermore is not an unbiased source. According to its Web site, “More than 40 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers were key scientific contributors to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which, along with former Vice President Al Gore, won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.”

Grunwald continued his dramatic approach with healthcare, saying, “Our soaring health spending is on course to bankrupt the Treasury – along with state and local governments, big and small businesses, and millions of families.”  

To his credit, Grunwald did admit, “changing the dysfunctional payment system while safeguarding patient rights (and perhaps protecting doctors who practice evidence-based medicine from frivolous malpractice suits) would be easier than expanding coverage to the uninsured, transforming the insurance market and figuring out how to pay for it all during a crippling recession.”  

He praised President Obama’s “whacks at waste in energy and health care,” including the fact that “The stimulus also included $19 billion for computerizing the medical industry, which could reduce duplicative tests and office visits, plus $1.1 billion for "comparative effectiveness research" that could discourage ineffective treatments.”  However, he did not specify the cost of an Obama healthcare plan, a cost that the CBO puts at $1 trillion, one that would surely “bankrupt the Treasury.”  

Grunwald also praised the Obamas personally for helping “to discourage smoking while encouraging healthy eating and other wellness behaviors that reduce health-care consumption.”  In this, Grunwald rather bizarrely overlooked the fact that Obama is the first smoker to inhabit the White House in decades.

Grunwald’s solution to the over-consumption problem in healthcare: “to reward quality rather than quantity, to give providers incentives to keep us healthy and reduce unnecessary treatments, to encourage doctors and hospitals to promote a culture of low-cost, high-quality care.” He assumed that less healthcare would automatically lead to better healthcare. However, that non-sequitor could lead to many necessary health procedures being eliminated all in the name of consuming less.

He claimed that 30 percent of what is spent on healthcare in the U.S. is “wasted on unnecessary care.”  Yet many times these “mostly run-of-the-mill diagnostic tests, office visits, hospital stays, minor procedures and prescriptions for brand-name wonder drugs advertised on TV” are the things that save lives, as well as the fact that many tests have to be run in order to avoid malpractice suits.  

“Ultimately, the survival of our planet,” Grunwald concluded, “and the solvency of our country will depend on cultural changes that persuade enough of us to use less energy and less health care.”