Archive for the ‘public option’ tag
Media Matters has posted a very interesting report that once again illustrates just how laughable the Fox News slogan “Fair and Balanced” really is. It seems the network’s Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, sent around a memo instructing his staff not to the use the phrase “public option” because it was testing too well.
Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox’s reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases — wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.
Journalists on the network’s flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon’s directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox’s Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox’s supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon’s “government option” email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right — in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.
Go read the whole report. It’s really very interesting – if not very surprising for those of us who have been casual viewers of Fox News for the past decade, or so. This kind of leak is helpful, however, because it provides empirical evidence straight from the Conservative horse’s mouth.
The report also confirms the popularity of the public option, and how it’s widespread positive polling had Conservatives running scared. Republican pollster Frank Luntz actually scolded Sean Hannity for using the term “public option.” He ordered Hannity to instead call it the “government option.”
Luntz argued that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but that “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” Luntz explained that the program would be “sponsored by the government” and falsely claimed that it would also be “paid for by the government.”
“You know what,” Hannity replied, “it’s a great point, and from now on, I’m going to call it the government option.”
Of course, because Obama chose not to fight for the public option, Conservatives have since been able to frame the narrative as the public having “rejected” the public option. That simply isn’t the case. In fact, poll after poll after poll showed that a majority of the American people supported including a public option in the final health care bill.
That’s the danger of having a propaganda network like Fox News. This memo shows how the staff works to shape a Conservative narrative that they package as “What The American People Think.” Then Conservatives on the hill nod to Fox News as evidence that a Conservative agenda is What The American People Want, and that of course bolsters the whole fictional “America is a center-right country” bullshit fantasy Pat Buchanan jerks off to every evening.
Here’s a little mental exercise you can play at home: Imagine if Fox News got a hold of an MSNBC memo like this in which a network head was instructing his staff to refer to the Deficit Commission as the “Catfood Commission.” Can you imagine how fast Neil Cavuto or Megyn Kelly would rupture a lung screaming about the “liberal agenda?”
It’s easy to get swept up in the stupid meaninglessness of a public event like Obama’s healthcare summit and lose perspective of what’s really at stake in all of this reform business. The media is more preoccupied with who is “winning” or “losing” this particular PR stunt without taking time to discuss the real matters of life and death.
Back in September, I asked Trudy Lieberman, a veteran healthcare journalist, to grade the media’s performance in explaining reform to the American people.
The horse race coverage of the healthcare reform debate does not impress Lieberman. The “Who’s up; who’s down? Who’s winning today? Does Pelosi have the votes? What’s going to be the game-changer? What should Baucus do because he can’t get the votes out of his committee? That chatter doesn’t inform citizens, she says. “That kind of coverage certainly wouldn’t rate very high — probably C-, but I tend to be a very tough grader.”
Nothing has changed since then. Sticking with the horse race theme, the media has covered the summit in terms of who’s “winning” and who’s “losing.” Dylan Ratigan played with marionette puppets. It was a strange time. (The Daily Show lampoons the media’s coverage of the summit here, starting at around 9:10).
David Brooks recites at length what went down during the health care reform debacle except he throws in a bunch of misleading statements, cites a firm that behaves as a front for an insurance company to bolster one of his claims, and then — why not? — fails to make a compelling statement or introduce any kind of noteworthy information.
In short, the column is representative of the very worst aspects of the health care debate: misleading half-truths that neither educate nor compel. If the Times is looking to boost revenues, it should rent out Brooks’s column space to an advertiser. At least they could then afford to fund more investigative journalism.
Much has gone wrong during the health care negotiations, so it’s downright odd Brooks willfully evades the fact that Obama met privately with the pharmaceutical companies, and agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to bargain for lower drug prices, import drugs from Canada, and not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, which would cost Big Pharma billions in reduced reimbursements. That seems like a huge “uh-oh” moment to avoid if we’re making a list of Shit That Went Wrong during the reform process.
With Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul stalled on Capitol Hill, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview that Democrats would try to act first on job creation, reducing the deficit and imposing tighter regulation on banks before returning to the health measure, the president’s top priority from last year.
No! Bad White House chief of staff! Bad!
Look, I agree that jobs are a good thing. I even welcomed President Obama and his cabinet to the party when they too realized people enjoy being employed. But why separate healthcare and jobs? Why set one aside on the back burner — allowing it to lose any heat and momentum — to solely focusing on the other?
Back in the day, Candidate Obama told a touching story about his mother’s struggle to pay her medical bills while battling cancer. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53, an event Obama said in part inspired him to tackle healthcare reform.
But what kind of coverage would Dunham receive today under the Senate bill as it stands right now?
In this experiment, Dunham is still 50-years-old (her age in 1992 when she received her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii). She is the single mother of two grown children, so she no longer has dependents. In this model, she has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
She is employed as an anthropologist with USAID, the United States federal government organization responsible for most non-military foreign aid. In 1999, the federal government starting annual salaries for anthropologists were $37,744 for persons with a Ph.D., so for the sake of this experiment, I’m going to assume that she earns an annual salary of $37,744.
Joe Lieberman has been telling anyone who will listen that he was previously planning to vote against cloture on any bill with a public option. The garrulous Senator seems to have now changed his tune.
Sources say Lieberman has reached a “private understanding” with Majority Leader Harry Reid that “he will not block a final vote on healthcare reform.”
Erm, okay. What the hell is a “private understanding,” and was there another way to phrase this to make it seem more like a triumph of compromise and pragmatism, and less like some shady backroom deal that will ultimately fuck the American people?
We’ll have to see what this compromise looks like. Hopefully, Reid calmly explained to Lieberman just how angry the torch-wielding mob that shall hunt him across the land will be after Joe becomes the poster boy of healthcare reform failure. Maybe Joe rolled over on his own after that.
The incorrigible “liberal media” has been practically marinating in its own saliva as it obsessively tracks the decline of Obama’s popularity. The declarations from corporate desk jockeys, who appear to get a sexual thrill from declaring Obama’s “wax wings” have melted and the President is currently plummeting toward earth, are probably premature. A little over half of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance, according to Rasmussen. That represents a one point improvement since his Wednesday night speech and is the President’s best rating in three weeks.
However, one does have to acknowledge that there has been a slow, gradual decline in Obama’s popularity over the past eight months. Though it’s exaggerated immensely by Comrade Krauthammer, an agent of the liberal media, the descent is definitely there as demonstrated by the latest Gallup poll:
In addition to the hasty DOA declarations, the media is also misdiagnosing the cause of the President’s mild slump. Much air time is devoted to the hissy fit-throwing Republicans like Joe Wilson, and the avalanche of concessions made by Democrats in the spirit of securing the votes of Republicans, who aren’t going to vote for the final bill anyway. Meanwhile, the media consistently pretends as though Democrats, Independents, and Progressives happily continue to support the President even as he abandons the beloved public option.
“My job is to point out where the holes are,” Trudy Lieberman explains to me during our phone interview. I called Lieberman to get her opinion of President Obama’s health reform speech, and I also asked her to grade the media’s performance in explaining the issue of reform to the American people.
A veteran journalist, who has reported on health care and consumer issues for over thirty years, Lieberman is a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review, has taught in the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University and the journalism program at Columbia University, received numerous honors and awards, and is the author of five books, including the Consumer Reports Guide to Health Services For Seniors, which was named one of the best consumer health books for 2000 by Library Journal.
With over three decades experience covering health care, Lieberman has amassed a wealth of knowledge with which she hopes to arm average citizens. Her job is to “point out where the holes are” when politicians talk about health reform, and Lieberman spotted several holes in Obama’s speech last night.
For months, CJR and Lieberman has been “hammering away at [Obama] to be a little more articulate about what this whole reform effort is about,” says Lieberman. Last night, in her opinion, Obama came closer to defining his message when he said his plan would meet three basic goals: provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance, provide insurance to those who don’t have it, and slow the growth of health care costs.
During his speech before a joint session of Congress, President Obama called for the creation of insurance exchanges, a system designed to allow consumers to see varying prices and programs so they can comparison shop. Obama only mentioned the P-word once, and even then the public option name drop was immediately followed by the caveats “We should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal,” and the public option is only a “means to an end.” Read: It’s a nice idea, but drop it.
Elsewhere, Obama recycled the usual reasons for why single-payer healthcare, the Progressives’ other favored solution, just isn’t possible right now (at the mere mention of single-payer sporadic cheers broke out in the audience.) “I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch,” said the president. This dismisses Marcia Angell’s idea of a gradual expansion of Medicare, a slow transition that wouldn’t have violently jolted our beloved system of privatized healthcare.
But nevermind. Back to the insurance exchange idea. Obama means citizens will be required by law to purchase their coverage from private insurers. Similarly, Max Baucus’s disastrous recent proposal calls for mandates that will literally force individuals and families to purchase insurance from the enemy — and one of the great culprits of the entire reform debate — Big Insurers. Without a serious public option (and not the “I’m humoring them, have they shut up yet?” approach Obama seems to be suggesting,) the insurance industry has a captive market, the American people, who will be held hostage in a for-profit health insurance scheme.
In anticipation of President Obama’s speech tonight before a joint session of Congress, Sarah Palin has resurrected the “death panels” myth. Writing in the Wall Street Journal (one of the last forums willing to spread her misinformed hate other than Facebook,) Palin asks, “is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats’ proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their healthcare by—dare I say it—death panels? Establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many Americans.”
Here, Palin confuses “rang true” for “rang the bell of terrified dread.” Though it’s a blatant lie, hearing the term “death panels” is scary enough to concern Republicans, especially old Republicans.
There has been much speculation over what Obama will say tonight in his speech, or what he should say, or what he definitely should not say. Many want him to fight for the public option by clearly defining what it means, and finally squashing the rumors of “death panels” for all time.
I would suggest Obama not run from the term “death panels” because it has, unfortunately, firmly joined the popular vernacular. Instead, I hope he does talk about death panels, namely what the nation’s largest group of nurses calls California’s “real death panels” where private insurers deny 21% of filed claims.