As a political science nerd, I often find myself lamenting the fact that most political podcasts aren't nerdy enough. Often times, they focus on the major headlines of the week, charismatic and well-known politicians, and other stories that capture the public's imagination... boooooooring. I want statistics and abstract policy discussions, damnit!
Ezra Klein and his friends over at Vox must have heard my feckless complaining, as this podcast is just the sort of thing that I've been looking for. For my first foray into The Weeds, I selected their second episode, which focuses on the potential effects of adopting single-payer healthcare and stricter gun control legislation in the United States. Largely ignoring discussions about the feasibility of passing such things with the current Congress, they focused on the costs, benefits, and logistics of implementing these sets of policies.
This episode was full of fascinating little tidbits that made me mutter "hrm, good point" out loud to no one in particular while listening. Take, for example, their perspective on the "public health care systems have longer waiting periods" argument. On the one hand, it's factually true that waiting periods in some countries with single-payer health care systems are longer for various procedures. On the other hand, when you consider that many people in the United States can never receive certain procedures (due to an inability to afford them), statistics like average waiting periods have to be considered in a different light.
Similarly, this episode made me consider that switching over to a single-payer system could be a complicated thing to roll out in the short term, even if the long-term benefits would make it worthwhile. Cutting down the percentage of our GDP that we spend on health care would have a real impact on the healthcare industry that will be disruptive to large swathes of the economy, so cost-saving measures would likely have to be introduced gradually. I'm telling you people, this sort of conversation is way rad.
One area where there is room for improvement: there wasn't much actual debate taking place in either topic. Everyone seems to agree with each other on just about everything, with counterpoints only being brought up occasionally by someone attempting to play devil's advocate. There are plenty of complex issues with a multitude of plausible positions that one could take that fall outside of the standard partisan nonsense. When those issues come up, it'd be fun to listen to something that's a little more contentious.
I'm definitely subscribing this one.