I periodically mock the New York Times when editors, reporters, and columnists engage in sloppy and biased analysis.
- Claiming Medicaid cuts in a piece that shows rising outlays for the program.
- Asserting that government schools are “starved of funding” when taxpayer subsidies actually have skyrocketed.
- Claiming that budget-cutting austerity nations are doing worse than “stimulus” nations, but getting the numbers backwards.
- Writing that the sequester will mean “deep automatic spending cuts” when the budget actually would climb by $2.4 trillion.
- Claiming that Italy is more prosperous than the United States and that there is less poverty.
- Asserting that U.S. multinationals pay little tax on foreign-source income, but forgetting to include the taxes paid to foreign governments.
- Cherry-picking income data to hide the fact that pro-market policies produce broadly shared prosperity.
- Attacking the fairness of America’s economy by using poverty data that doesn’t actually measure poverty.
But all these instances of intentional and unintentional bias are trivial compared to our next example.
The New York Times has gone above and beyond conventional media bias with a video entitled, “How Capitalism Ruined China’s Health Care System.”
Here’s the part that caused my jaw to drop.
After the sad opening story about the guy with the sick mother, there’s a section from 1:33-2:27 that makes two observations that basically show the premise of the video is totally wrong.
- First, it points out (from 1:33-1:42) that there is a universal, government-run health system that ostensibly covers the guy’s mother, so her unfortunate status is yet another example that coverage in a government-run healthcare system is not the same as treatment.
- Second, it points out (from 2:05-2:27) that life expectancy soared once the communist party relaxed its grip on the economy and allowed some liberalization, which would seem to be powerful evidence that capitalism leads to better health outcomes.
These are astounding mistakes.
But it gets worse. Sarah Lilly, who lives in China, debunked the rest of the video in a column for FEE.
The New York Times…attempts to blame capitalism for the many problems in China’s health care system. …As a resident of China and a recipient of outstanding private health care here, I was confused as to why the Times would show us the horrors of a capitalist system without actually visiting a private health care facility. …All of the horrors depicted in the high-quality video—the long lines, the scalping, and the hospital fights—occurred at government-run health care facilities. …At the very least, failing to feature a single private medical facility while blaming capitalism for the dysfunction of China’s public health system is intellectually dishonest.
She points out that the big-picture analysis in the video is wrong.
In the video, the Times praises Chairman Mao’s introduction of “free” health care and claims that when capitalism was introduced into the country, the state retreated and care was no longer free. Neither statement is true. First, health care was never free; it was paid for by tax revenues. Second, the state never retreated; rather, its regulatory apparatus became vaster and even more invasive. Out of sheer necessity, China allowed for the creation of private hospitals to ease the burden of the country’s heavily bureaucratic and deteriorating health care system.
And she also explains that the details of the video are wrong.
The Times video depicts the ungodly long line most Chinese face to see a physician. …It’s an appalling scene. …There’s just one problem. The Shanghai Cancer Center is a public hospital, not a private one. The long lines, scalpers, bribes, and physical fights with hospital staff—all of these exclusively happen in the public, communist, government-run hospitals. …In an egregious bit of sleight-of-hand, the Grey Lady asserts that capitalism is ruining Chinese health care while presenting us with a hospital where capitalism is not practiced.
To be fair, we get the same type of mistake when journalists look at the flaws in the American health system. They blame capitalism when the problems of ever-higher prices and uneven coverage are the consequences of government intervention.