Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Will the health debate depend on the media?

I think the big issue in the health care battle is going to be the media. The media is simply refusing to report the facts of the issue because they’re too interested in covering – or fabricating – a mudfight. When the CBO did a half-baked, negative review of the reform plan, the media went from “reform is a done deal” to “reform is doomed because Obama screwed up” in a matter of days, although their storyline had no basis in reality – because the media wants the mudfight. Chris Matthews of the allegedly socialist MSNBC is wildly tilting the “debate” to the right; CNN won’t even run ads criticizing the insurers; the corporate goons are trying to silence Olberman; and they refuse to shoot down the incessant wingnut lies about Obama raising everyone’s taxes, eliminating private insurance, and killing off our grandmothers. Instead of shooting down the lies, they criticize Obama for not winning the battle by a mile, ignoring their own role in the process. They refuse to simply report the facts: that our current system costs twice as much, per person, as any other country anywhere; that the much maligned British and Canadian health systems regularly outperform our system; that almost half the personal bankruptcies in America happen to families which HAVE insurance but get screwed over anyway; that the CBO, after incomprehensibly scoring and publicly condemning an unfinished version of the plan, gave the finished plan, with lower costs, two thumbs-up assessments; that the so-called kill-granny provision is nothing of the kind, and was actually written by a Republican Senator; that Bush launched a much bigger expansion of “socialized medicine”, and unlike Obama he never bothered to arrange to pay for it. And so on. The media ignores the facts, which favour the Democrats, in favour of the mudfight, which favors the Republicans.

Likewise them media are entirely lackadaisical in reporting the truth about the “hecklers”. House GOP leaders and insurance lobbyists openly admit sponsoring the “spontaneous” good squads, and even Fox admitted the “spontaneous” hecklers were shipped in from out of town. They sent goon squads to attack Congressmen who dare to talk health care and hung them in effigy, and openly promised attacks unless the health reform package conforms to anti-abortion views. The wingnuts (who ironically include a great many seniors who already have the government-managed health care they want to deny to the rest of us) threatened to kill at least one House Democrat over the health issue. The Republican party, which cranked up all this nonsense, didn’t even have the balls to listen to complaints about the goon squads they send to attack pro-reform advocates: they hotwired all the phone calls to go to the Democratic party (which is illegal), so they wouldn’t have to address any complaints about their direct attack on the democratic process. Meanwhile an insurance firm ordered its employees to spam Congress with “spontaneous” anti-reform letters. But the media are essentially ignoring the real impetus behind all this – the special interests.

Also the media are ignoring the fact that the “debate” on Capitol Hill is a sham. The Republicans have no intention of allowing real reform. Four committees have already voted on health plans, and exactly zero Republicans voted for any of them. The Republicans said no to an independent insurance board, no to the public option, no to single payer, no to mandating employer participation, no to health care information technology, no to comparative effectiveness research, no to eliminating overpayments to insurers. Grassley admitted that the other Republicans were even pressuring HIM to kill the public option. Hatch walked out of the negotiations without even hearing the Democratic plan. DeMint openly admitted that the purpose of opposing health reform was to destroy Obama, just as Kristol admitted 15 years ago. Rob Portman admitted that the GOP has no plan on health care; and they have no plan to have a plan either. And in the middle of it all, GOP Senators brazenly attended a fundraiser where the insurers puts thousands of dollars into their coffers. But the media still reports mindlessly that real bipartisan debate is underway.

The Democrats may be able to goose things along: they are publicly calling out the Republicans and their paymasters in the insurance industry. Obama said he will pass health reform with or without the GOP; he is publicly demanding the public option, running ads in the districts of wavering Democrats, and accusing the “gang of six” Senators – both the Democrats and the Republicans – of trying to kill reform entirely. Obama knows that the American people, by huge margins, support reform, support the public option, and support taxes on the rich to pay for it. The key bottleneck will be in the Senate, where Obama has indicated his willingness to use, if need be, the reconciliation option (which needs only 60 votes). Baucus, facing criticism from his own constituents (in part because he himself takes insurance money) and public criticism from other Democratic Senators, now is singing Obama’s tune: he says he will report out a plan in mid-September with or without the GOP (possibly because the other four committees have already acted, and he may miss the bus entirely). This is long overdue because Baucus’ dream of getting the GOP on board is absurd. If the Democrats are actually willing to give up the doomed bipartisanship nonsense and come out fighting, perhaps that will become the narrative. If the media insists on a mudfight, let’s have a mudfight on the facts.

If the media do their job honestly, we will win, I think.

Perhaps while the wingnuts are hectoring their Congressmen, we should be hectoring the media...?

No comments: