By Michael Corcoran
Fairness & Accuracy in Media (3/15/17)
In May 2009, at the infancy of the healthcare reform battle that led to the Affordable Care Act, a group of nurses and single-payer activists were arrested for disrupting a Senate Finance Committee meeting chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D.–Mont.) (Democracy Now, 5/13/09). These activists had been ignored by politicians and corporate media for years (FAIR.org, 3/6/09), and hoped an arrest, or eight, would bring attention to their cause.
Despite the efforts of the “Baucus 8,” the New York Times did not report on the event. Nor did much of the rest of the dominant media. Not even mass arrests could get the corporate media to give voice to single-payer advocates, even though their position is supported by the majority of the public (Gallup, 5/16/16).
This is worth remembering as the media cover the GOP House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), the plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare. While even eight arrests couldn’t get attention to left-wing critics of the Democrat’s milquetoast health reform plan in 2009–10, today the far right is given thousands of words in the press, and plenty of air time on television, to air its ideological opposition to the current GOP plan.
Their argument: The GOP plan is insufficiently regressive. That’s right: In the eyes of these critics, Republicans are just too generous to those in need of healthcare. This despite the Congressional Budget Office’s determination (3/13/17) that the bill would cause 24 million Americans to lose their insurance, 14 million of them from the stroke of Trump’s pen.
After the GOP bill passed two House committees, the Washington Post (3/7/17) devoted three reporters and 1,500 words to an article that gave prominent space to right-wing critics of the bill, which include the Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America and the House Freedom Caucus, along with senators Ted Cruz (R.–Texas), Mike Lee (R.–Utah) and Rand Paul (R.–Ky.)—right-wing forces who are cited as characterizing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill as “Obamacare Lite.”
Right-wing critics of GOP health plan get near-constant media attention–while single-payer advocates’ challenges to ACA were never taken seriously
This was just one of several articles that amplified the far-fetched notion that GOP House plan is too progressive. The very same day, another Post article (3/7/17), headlined “‘Obamacare Lite,’ ‘RINOcare’: Conservatives Rebel Against GOP’s ACA Bill,” gave yet more attention to those who want to shred any remnant of a healthcare safety net. It quoted five right-wing critics of the bill, and not a single person countering their claims—not even a slightly less radical Republican.
“The House Republican proposal released last night not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them,” Heritage Action president Michael Needham told Post reporter Dave Weigel. The article also quoted FreedomWorks policy analyst Jason Pye, who said in a statement that the plan “creates a new entitlement.” The article even uncritically quoted radio host Mark Levin—most famous for persuading President Trump that Barack Obama wiretapped his office (Fox News, 3/7/16)—who also described the House bill as “RINOcare.”
The New York Times (3/7/17) also gave prominent voice to this “sudden revolt” from the right. “This is not the Obamacare repeal bill we’ve been waiting for,” said Senator Lee to the Times, which noted he was “was joined by a constellation of conservative groups” including “Charles G. and David H. Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.” These articles from the Post and Times were picked up widely in papers across the country (e.g., Houston Chronicle, 3/7/17; Albuquerque Journal, 3/7/17), illustrating their agenda-setting function.
This great debate about whether or not the AHCA is too redistributive was also on display during the Sunday talkshows. On Meet the Press (3/12/17), the narrative was “repeal, replace and revolt,” and put a particular emphasis on right-wing critiques …
Ralph Nader’s Open Letter To Dem Rep. John Conyers: Step Up to The Challenge For Single Payer
Congressman John Conyers
2426 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
March 10, 2017
Dear Congressman Conyers,
Some of us are wondering why the 64 members of the House who have signed on to HR 676 – the single payer/full Medicare for all legislation – have not individually or collectively put this proposal on the table. Since the media is all over the drive by the Republicans to replace or repair or revoke Obamacare, there is an obvious opening to make HR 676 part of the national and Washington dialogue. After all, this proposal is more comprehensive, more humane, more efficient and greatly simpler for the millions of Americans who are fed up with complexity and trap door fine-print. Your 64 or more cosigners come from around the country, where they can make news locally on a health insurance policy that is supported by about 60 percent of the American people, according to a recent Pew survey. When 60 percent of the American people can support single payer without a major effort to publicize and support it by the Democratic Party, that’s a pretty good start wouldn’t you say?
In today’s Wall Street Journal, no friend of single payer, the lengthy lead editorial closes with these words: “The healthcare market is at a crossroads. Either it heads in a more market-based direction step by step or it moves toward single-payer step by step. If Republicans blow this chance and default to Democrats, they might as well endorse single-payer because that is where the politics will end up.”
Do the Wall Street Journal corporatist editorial writers have more faith in the energy and initiative of the cosigners of your bill than the cosigners of your bill do?
At long last, let’s get going on HR 676 besides nominal support by its cosigners.
PO Box 19367
Washington, DC 20036