Part 1—To us, Hayes’ number seemed bad: How good a job do we liberals do at establishing a political agenda?
How good are we at persuading The Others that they should support our agenda?
When it comes to economic issues, we don’t go a good job at all. Consider:
Last week, we considered the way our corporate liberal news channel glossed and ignored the issues involved in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
On several programs, passage of “fast track” authority was treated as part of President Obama’s “best week ever,” even though the TPP is widely opposed by progressives and congressional Democrats. On the Maddow Show in particular, the TPP has been handled in a clownishly and highly selective way—basically, as a chance to serve worthless comfort food to liberal viewers at bedtime.
Within our journalistic tribe, the issues at play with the TPP have been almost wholly ignored. For today, let’s consider a presentation we heard last Friday night about the ACA—President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
First, a bit of background:
Last month, Chris Hayes was surprised by a weird presentation by Judd Gregg, the former Republican senator from New Hampshire. Gregg insisted that the ACA has done little to lower the rate of people who are uninsured. Over the next several days, Hayes showed that Gregg was wrong.
Last Friday, Hayes revisited the theme. In the process, he revealed new data about the nation’s insurance rates, which continue to improve.
Below, you see what Hayes said, all of which is accurate. We’ll dump the part where Hayes played tape of Gregg’s weird claims from last month:
HAYES (7/10/15): There’s some big news out today that should put to rest forever one of the weirdest conservative arguments against the Affordable Care Act. I’ll tell you what it is in a moment, but first, some context.To see all the Gallup data, click here.
There are some people who say that the Affordable Care Act, despite its design to cover more of the uninsured, actually isn’t doing that—that it’s failing at its chief mission.
In fact, former senator from New Hampshire Judd Greg was on this program a few weeks ago and we had an exchange on precisely that point.
Just a few minutes after that exchange, we pulled up this graph which is from Gallup, not Pew, and it’s a graph showing that the uninsured rate dropped to 11.9 percent in the first quarter of this year. You see that there, that sharp decline that some might even characterize as “plummeting.” That’s the data, the best data we have.
Well, today we got more data from the same folks at Gallup, who are the kind of gold standard of what the uninsured rate is. And you’ll never guess what’s happened after that. Between that show and now we’ve seen the uninsured rate drop to a new low, 11.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. And it’s dropping particularly among people of color and people of low income.
Now there are all sorts of ways to criticize Obamacare and all sorts of ways you can say it’s not restraining costs, premiums might be going up. But the one thing it very clearly is doing is reducing the percentage of folks who are uninsured. So let’s please let’s drop that line of attack.
Everything Hayes said in that passage is accurate. That includes his perfectly reasonable statement that “there are all sorts of ways to criticize Obamacare.”
Gregg was weirdly wrong last month. Hayes was right when he told Gregg that the percentage of people who are uninsured has significantly dropped because of the ACA.
Hayes was right and Gregg was wrong. Still, we were struck by what Hayes said last Friday.
In the current political cycle, the effort that produced the ACA began in 1991. At that time, several Democratic presidential candidates proposed systems of “universal health care.”
Bob Kerrey had taken the lead in making “universal health care” a central issue in the campaign. In December of that year, the New York Times’ Richard Berke reported a Democratic debate which took health care as its theme:
BERKE (12/21/91): Perhaps the most detailed plan was advanced by Mr. Kerrey, who has introduced legislation that would provide universal health care financed by a 5 percent payroll tax, a 2 percent tax on nonwage income and increased income taxes on the wealthy.Candidate Clinton ended up winning the White House. Famously, his health care proposal was defeated during his first term.
Mr. Kerrey vowed to push such a plan through Congress in his first 100 days as President. From then on, he said, patients will be asked, "Where does it hurt?" not "How are you going to pay for it?"
Mr. Harkin said his plan would emphasize universal coverage without raising taxes, but he did not make clear how it would be financed. He said it would also stress preventive care and more money for medical research.
Another candidate with few details was former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California. He sounded his recurrent theme against special interests, berating the health care industry as "greedy people who are ripping off the system." He said he favored a system of universal health care financed with public money.
The other major candidate, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, skipped the debate to attend a campaign fund raiser in Atlanta. He has said he supported universal coverage paid for by savings derived from Government-imposed cost controls and efforts to reduce billing fraud.
In Campaign 2000, Candidates Gore and Bradley battled over health care proposals which were perhaps more modest in scope. In 2007, the goal of “universal health care” emerged again, quite early on, as the focus of the Democratic campaign.
Robert Pear did the report in the New York Times, headline included:
PEAR (3/25/07): Candidates Outline Ideas For Universal Health CareObama won the Democratic nomination and the White House itself. He proposed the ACA, then actually got it passed!
Seven Democratic candidates for president promised Saturday to guarantee health insurance for all, but they disagreed over how to pay for it and how fast it could be achieved.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York assailed the health insurance industry and said she would prohibit insurers from denying coverage or charging much higher premiums to people with medical problems.
John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, offered the most detailed plan for universal coverage, saying he would raise taxes to help pay the cost, which he estimated at $90 billion to $120 billion a year.
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois appeared less conversant with the details of health policy and sometimes found himself on the defensive, trying to explain why he had yet to offer a detailed plan to cover all Americans.
''The most important challenge is to build a political consensus around the need to solve this problem,'' Mr. Obama said.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico offered a potpourri of ideas to achieve universal coverage, including tax credits to help people buy insurance and an option to let people ages 55 to 64 buy coverage through Medicare.
The candidates spoke at a forum on health care at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal advocacy group. Sponsors of the forum said they had also invited Republican candidates, but none attended.
Health care is emerging as a top issue in the 2008 presidential race, as businesses join consumers in demanding action to curb costs and cover the uninsured.
This ended a political cycle which we would date to Candidate Kerrey in 1991. Last Friday, Hayes was citing real statistics about insurance rates.
It was the third time in the past month in which Hayes has revisited Gregg’s weird remarks, which were at best absurdly misleading. These segments may make liberal viewers feel good, since it turns out every time that Our Guy is right on the facts while Their Guy was weirdly wrong.
Everything Hayes said was correct. As liberal viewers, we were encouraged to feel good about the fact that “we’ve seen the uninsured rate drop to a new low, 11.4 percent” and about the fact that “it’s dropping particularly among people of color and people of low income.”
In fairness, Hayes made a point of saying that “there are all sorts of ways to criticize Obamacare.” We don’t mean this as a criticism of Hayes in particular. Many liberals make the type of presentation he made last Friday night.
We don’t mean this as a criticism of Hayes. But looking back over a political cycle which started in 1991, we thought that 11.4 percent uninsured rate was just remarkably high.
Beyond that, we thought Hayes’ upbeat statement about insurance rates among people of color was almost as misleading as Gregg’s original foolishness. One of the analysts went even farther.
He called Hayes’ remark an example of the attitude an American statesman has sometimes called “the soft bigotry of low expectations!” Haughtily, we cuffed him back into his small wooden chair.
Under the circumstances, we thought that number—11.4 percent—was just remarkably bad. Beyond that, we thought the number says something bad about the political skills of us in the liberal world.
Why did we have such ridiculous thoughts? Tomorrow, we’ll look at some numbers as our insouciance about the TPP extends a bit farther afield.
Tomorrow: 29.1 percent! Also, 20.8!