Winners & Sinners: Health Care Reform Edition
Winners & Sinners / Health Care Reform Edition
Overnight is a long time in politics; a week is forever.
–FCP’s favorite American Political Proverb
The Obama administration was spiritually and substantively reborn yesterday when Barack Obama use twenty-two pens to sign the most important piece of legislation into law in four decades. (why did Stolberg and Pear say “20” in the Times??)
As always, the media did a wildly un-even job of understanding and explaining the significance of this extraordinary moment.
The Biggest Winner: David Leonhardt got right to the heart of matter, with a point I didn’t see made anywhere else: “The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago… Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan…The bill is the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965. It aims to smooth out one of the roughest edges in American society — the inability of many people to afford medical care after they lose a job or get sick. And it would do so in large measure by taxing the rich.” Of course, FCP believes it doesn’t do nearly enough to tax the rich–but at least it is a beginning.
The Biggest Sinner: Brian’s Williams’ NBC Nightly News last night devoted 53 seconds to a favorable account of the president’s bill signing–followed by 3 minutes and 7 seconds of Republican soundbites attacking the bill, 1 minute and 50 seconds about the Republican Attorneys General who have filed an almost-certainly doomed suit to overturn the law in Federal Court–and 1 minute and 55 seconds to an utterly clueless small business owner and his wife, who admitted they had no idea whatsoever how the bill would affect them–but still managed to repeat several of the most well-worn Republican sound bites. And if you actually wanted to know anything about what was in the bill? “Go to our website”–that was the anchor’s sole contribution to his viewers’ knowledge about that. One of the shoddiest reports about an historic event FCP has ever seen on a network newscast.
Winner: ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, which not only managed a much more balanced report, but also was the only network evening newscast to report the most relevant poll result of the day: Gallup found that 49 percent of Americans believed the bill was a good thing, and only 40 percent did not. On the other hand, the ABC broadcast reported just one Democratic congressional or party office had been vandalized; on MSNBC, the always much-more-thorough Rachel Maddow found five sites of vandalism across the country, as well as the ex-militia man in Alabama who claimed credit for inciting all of the violence.
Winner: The CBS Evening News (Harry Smith was sitting in for Katie), which actually managed to describe some of the specifics in the bill–including tax savings of up to 4 percent for small businesses.
Sinner: The always-awful Kathleen Parker for repeating the bold-faced lie that the health care bill “expands public funding for abortion” and then attacking Bart Stupak for finally doing the right thing by voting for the bill. Parker wrote that the Congressman “will forever be remembered as the guy who Stupaked health-care reform and the pro-life movement.”
Winner: FCP’s colleague, fellow Hillman Prize Judge Harold Meyerson, for writing the clearest column in The Washington Post about the president’s action: “With the enactment of health-care reform, the often hapless, sometimes hopeless Democrats have transformed themselves into something America has not seen in decades: a governing party. By passing the most significant social legislation since the ’60s, they have ended the policy gridlock dating to the middle of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. They have revalidated the almost quaint notion that – despite the ever greater role of money in politics – elections have consequences, too…Obama and Pelosi became a legislative force that Democrats have not seen since Lyndon Johnson. Pelosi’s contribution, no less than Obama’s, is one for the history books.”
Then Meyerson laid out the rest of the necessary road to victory in the fall:
“To continue as a governing party beyond November, Democrats must apply the lessons of their health-reform victory to more popular causes. They need to establish a powerful consumer protection agency and rein in bank speculation – causes that some congressional Democrats decline to embrace. They must pressure those Democrats relentlessly, as they did those who wavered over health reform. They need more job legislation, beginning with California Rep. George Miller’s bill to save the teaching and public safety jobs on numerous states’ chopping blocks, and with Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s bill to establish an infrastructure bank to revive our construction sector.
Sinner: Ruth Marcus, also in The Washington Post, for boldly stating the obvious–we don’t know exactly how the one of the most complicated pieces of legislation ever enacted is going to work–and then casting doubt on its effectiveness with this factoid: “A study… by Richard Kronick, a former health-care adviser to President Bill Clinton, found ‘little evidence to suggest that extending insurance coverage to all adults would have a large effect on the number of deaths in the United States.’
Note to Marcus and Kronick: Nothing will ever have any effect on the “total number of deaths in the United States”–except for the total number of births, and immigrants.