“GOP Like The Dog That Chases A Car”: Republican’s Can’t Do Better Than ObamaCare No Matter What They Would Like You To Believe
We are all familiar with the spectacle of a dog frantically chasing a car, which strikes us as stupid because, after all, what on Earth would the dog do with the car if it actually caught it?
That’s basically what we’re witnessing with the Republicans’ monomaniacal war on the Affordable Care Act:
The GOP’s message may well evolve between now and November, but the most tangible early indicator — advertising spending by conservative groups against Democratic candidates — shows how intensely it is focusing on the health-care law.
“It has been the predominant focus of both our grass roots and our advertising efforts,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the primary political operation of a donor network backed by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch.
Of the roughly $30 million the group has spent on ads since August, Phillips said, at least 95 percent has gone toward spots about the health-care law.
Democrats have been tracking that spending to help gauge what their candidates will be facing.
In Senate races, where control of the chamber is on the line, all but $240,000 of the $21.2 million that super PACs are spending on television advertising has gone into attacks centered on the health-care law, said Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The exceptions were ad buys in three states that criticized Democratic senators for supporting President Obama’s judicial nominees.
There is a lot of polling data about ObamaCare, and you can pick and choose which numbers you want to focus on. I like the fact that 57% of self-proclaimed independents think we should either keep the law as it is or make improvements to it, versus 33% who think it should be scrapped. I don’t like that 29% of voters say that they have been negatively impacted by the law versus 17% who say that they have benefitted.
Overall, you could fairly say that the law is slowly becoming less unpopular. This is a victory in itself, considering how much money the Republicans have spent on trashing the law, and how little money the Democrats have spent defending it. If the law were to become popular, the Republicans’ entire midterm strategy would collapse.
As I’ve noted in recent days, the Republicans are so focused on using ObamaCare as a weapon in the midterms that they don’t want to take on tax or immigration reform because either issue would divide their caucus and take the country’s focus off their war on health coverage.
But, I think the public is going to notice that they are like the dog that chases the car. If you elect them to dismantle ObamaCare, they will have no solutions. They can’t do better than ObamaCare no matter what they would like you to believe. Their proposed reforms would cost more money, insure less people, and take away plans from people who like their plans. Everything they claim not to like about the law, they would make worse.
So, while I am nervous about the differential in firepower and resources being dedicated to arguing about ObamaCare, I think the Republicans are putting all their eggs in one basket full of lies and distortion and that we ought to be able to outflank such a clumsy, plodding, charge.
By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, Washington Monthly, February 27, 2014
Politically speaking, here’s the thing about those melodramatic ads attacking the Affordable Care Act currently running on TV: In terms of actual policy, they’re as futile as the 40-odd votes to repeal the law that House Republicans have already cast.
GOP hardliners are like a drunk in a bar fight threatening to whip somebody twice his size if only his friends would let go of his arms.
It’s all over but the shouting.
Even if Republicans make big gains in the 2014 congressional elections, they can’t possibly win enough votes to overcome a presidential veto. What’s more, chances of capturing the White House in 2016 on a platform of canceling millions of Americans’ health insurance benefits appear so remote as to be downright delusional. Like it or not, the ACA is here to stay.
Indeed, governors and legislatures in previously recalcitrant states including New Hampshire, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia are considering Medicaid expansion they’d previously shunned. Despite early signup problems with the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, signups for individual private policies have increased to where it now appears the ACA will come close to meeting its projected goal of 7 million enrollees by the March 31 deadline.
Moreover, for all the predictions of actuarial doom heard on Fox News and elsewhere—supposedly caused by an imbalance of old, sick enrollees versus younger, healthier ones—the Washington Post reported last month that “the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market’s age distribution freezes at its current level—an extremely unlikely scenario—‘overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4 percent higher than premium revenues.’”
That’s a minor problem, but nothing like a “death spiral.”
In terms of affecting health care policy, then, the TV ads are largely symbolic — scripted melodramas calculated to arouse the partisan passions of the GOP “base” in states where control of the U.S. Senate could be determined this fall. Financed by Americans for Prosperity, the Scrooge McDuck-style front group controlled by the Koch brothers and fellow anti-government tycoons, they’re aimed less at killing the Affordable Care Act than convincing voters that Democrats are their enemies.
Maybe that’s why the ad campaign has proven so singularly unpersuasive to skeptics. In Lousiana, where Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is up for re-election this fall, AFP has run a commercial featuring a group of actors pretending to be ordinary Louisiana citizens whose health insurance was canceled due to “Obamacare.” But it’s make-believe; a scripted TV drama as fictive as a Viagra advertisment.
In Arkansas, virtually every news program features a pretty, AFP-sponsored actress plaintively begging viewers to remind Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor that health care is about “people,” and that “the law just doesn’t work.” More in sorrow than anger, it seems, because Pryor remains personally popular.
Pryor’s opponent, Koch-financed Rep. Tom Cotton, tells a touching tale about one “Elizabeth, from Pulaski County” whose premiums have allegedly risen 85 percent under the new law “simply because Washington politicians and bureaucrats think they know what’s best for her and her family.”
I found myself wondering what kind of insurance plan the otherwise unidentified Elizabeth used to have, or if she’s like one of those imaginary digitally enhanced hotties that Internet ads assure me are just a mouse-click away.
Supposedly factual AFP ads have proven even less persuasive to skeptical journalists. In Michigan, 49-year-old leukemia patient Julie Boonstra earnestly explained to viewers that her existing health care policy had been canceled due to the Affordable Care Act, implying that she’d also lost her doctor and been broadsided by ruinous costs.
Fact checks by the Washington Post and Detroit News, however, determined that Boonstra hadn’t lost her doctor at all. What’s more, her monthly premiums under the Affordable Care Act cost roughly half what she’d been paying ($571, from $1,100). Her out-of-pocket expenses almost precisely matched those savings — overall, a wash.
A determined opponent of the law, apart from her understandable anxiety about changing insurance carriers while fighting cancer, Boonstra turned out to have suffered no real losses. Not to mention that she now has a policy that can’t be rescinded due to a “previously existing condition.”
And so it goes. Los Angeles Times economics columnist Michael Hiltzik has made a minor specialty out of fact checking these successive tales of woe. It’s left him wondering if there are really any “Obamacare” victims at all.
“What a lot of these stories have in common,” he writes “are, first of all, a subject largely unaware of his or her options under the ACA or unwilling to determine them; and, second, shockingly uninformed and incurious news reporters, including some big names in the business, who don’t bother to look into the facts of the cases they’re offering for public consumption.”
Politically, however, printed facts rarely prevail against televised fictions. Anyway, repealing the Affordable Care Act isn’t the point. It’s inflaming the GOP base and defeating Democrats.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 26, 2014
Remember the “death tax”? The estate tax is quite literally a millionaire’s tax — a tax that affects only a tiny minority of the population, and is mostly paid by a handful of very wealthy heirs. Nonetheless, right-wingers have successfully convinced many voters that the tax is a cruel burden on ordinary Americans — that all across the nation small businesses and family farms are being broken up to pay crushing estate tax liabilities.
You might think that such heart-wrenching cases are actually quite rare, but you’d be wrong: they aren’t rare; they’re nonexistent. In particular, nobody has ever come up with a real modern example of a family farm sold to meet estate taxes. The whole “death tax” campaign has rested on eliciting human sympathy for purely imaginary victims.
And now they’re trying a similar campaign against health reform.
I’m not sure whether conservatives realize yet that their Plan A on health reform — wait for Obamacare’s inevitable collapse, and reap the political rewards — isn’t working. But it isn’t. Enrollments have recovered strongly from the law’s disastrous start-up; in California, which had a working website from the beginning, enrollment has already exceeded first-year projections. The mix of people signed up so far is older than planners had hoped, but not enough so to cause big premium hikes, let alone the often-predicted “death spiral.”
And conservatives don’t really have a Plan B — in their world, nobody even dares mention the possibility that health reform might actually prove workable. Still, you can already see some on the right groping toward a new strategy, one that relies on highlighting examples of the terrible harm Obamacare does. There’s only one problem: they haven’t managed to come up with any real examples. Consider several recent ventures on the right:
■ In the official G.O.P. response to the State of the Union address, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers alluded to the case of “Bette in Spokane,” who supposedly lost her good health insurance coverage and was forced to pay nearly $700 more a month in premiums. Local reporters located the real Bette, and found that the story was completely misleading: her original policy provided very little protection, and she could get a much better plan for much less than the claimed cost.
■ In Louisiana, the AstroTurf (fake grass-roots) group Americans for Prosperity — the group appears to be largely financed and controlled by the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors — has been running ads targeting Senator Mary Landrieu. In these ads, we see what appear to be ordinary Louisiana residents receiving notices telling them that their insurance policies have been canceled because of Obamacare. But the people in the ads are, in fact, paid actors, and the scenes they play aren’t re-enactments of real events — they’re “emblematic,” says a spokesman for the group.
■ In Michigan, Americans for Prosperity is running an ad that does feature a real person. But is she telling a real story? In the ad, Julia Boonstra, who is suffering from leukemia, declares that her insurance has been canceled, that the new policy will have unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, and that “If I do not receive my medication, I will die.” But Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post tried to check the facts, and learned that thanks to lower premiums she will almost surely save nearly as much if not more than she will be paying in higher out-of-pocket costs. A spokesman for Americans for Prosperity responded to questions about the numbers with bluster and double-talk — this is about “a real person suffering from blood cancer, not some neat and tidy White House PowerPoint.”
Even supporters of health reform are somewhat surprised by the right’s apparent inability to come up with real cases of hardship. Surely there must be some people somewhere actually being hurt by a reform that affects millions of Americans. Why can’t the right find these people and exploit them?
The most likely answer is that the true losers from Obamacare generally aren’t very sympathetic. For the most part, they’re either very affluent people affected by the special taxes that help finance reform, or at least moderately well-off young men in very good health who can no longer buy cheap, minimalist plans. Neither group would play well in tear-jerker ads.
No, what the right wants are struggling average Americans, preferably women, facing financial devastation from health reform. So those are the tales they’re telling, even though they haven’t been able to come up with any real examples.
Hey, I have a suggestion: Why not have ads in which actors play Americans who have both lost their insurance thanks to Obamacare and lost the family farm to the death tax? I mean, once you’re just making stuff up, anything goes.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 23, 2014
The Koch brothers* are hiring.
You’ll find job listings for campaign staff positions in Koch-funded groups in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. Some of the ads call for experts in social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, YouTube, Google, and OutBrain to effect a strategy that’s both agile and overwhelming.
And you’re already seeing $20 million worth of TV ads from the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) targeting incumbent senators in Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Louisiana for supporting Obamacare. Similar ads are now up Michigan and Iowa, where veteran Democrats Carl Levin (D-MI) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) are vacating their Senate seats.
Now Democrats are sounding the alarm to their donors in a moment that’s reminiscent of the note the Obama campaign hit with an email in which the president said, “I will be outspent.”
“Democrats need money at this early stage in order to fight back against the limitless spending from the Kochs,” Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The New York Times. “The limitless spending from the Kochs means we need Democratic donors to step up in a bigger way immediately.”
Republicans need six seats to take over the U.S. Senate and the Kochs are trying to expand the map to put even the states that twice voted for President Obama in play. And they’re building on a model that they perfected in 2010 when right-leaning groups hammered the president and Democrats in Congress for a year over the “failed” stimulus before it even had a chance to work.
With Democrats holding virtually every swing seat in the nation after the landslide of 2008, they defended on all fronts and avoided trying to nationalize the race, even though the choice was made for them. As the midterm election hit, in the midst of the worst job market in 60 years, Republicans won more elected offices than they had at any time since before the Great Depression.
The right tried to reprise this strategy in 2012 with dismal results. But in an off-year election, without President Obama on the ballot and with Obamacare disapproval soaring in red states, there’s a clear opportunity to use health care reform to define Democrats early.
And that’s what the Kochs are doing wherever they see an opportunity.
With former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land polling better than expected against her likely Democratic opponent Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), especially in polls that under-sample African-Americans, Michigan presents such an opportunity. Land supported Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in his plan to privatize Social Security and Medicare in previous budgets, but she’s unlikely to produce the sort of gaffes that cost Republicans Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, Nevada and Rhode Island.
Land recently touted outside groups supporting her run right as AFP’s ad targeting her opponent began a $1 million three-week run — even though collaboration between candidates and these groups is illegal. Wink, wink.
Democrats also hope to expand the Senate map to Georgia — where Obama only lost by 8 percent without spending a dime in the state. Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the state’s former beloved senator Sam Nunn, will likely be the Democratic nominee and could easily end up facing Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) who was voted “Most Likely to be the Next Akin.” His primary opponent, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) — who recently said that children would benefit from working — was a close second to Broun.
While Karl Rove is actively trying to influence Republican primaries to ensure the most electable candidates win, Americans for Prosperity retains its Tea Party credibility by aiming its fire only at Democrats and sticking to the issue that will preoccupy the right for the third national election in a row — Obamacare.
So if you’re in one of those 13 targeted states, expect to hear about #fullrepeal of a law that’s been on the books for almost four years now on TV, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email and anywhere the Kochs can find you.
*The Kochs go out of their way to obscure how they spend the millions they invest in Republican politics. Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4) social welfare group that doesn’t have to release the names of its donors — though we know David Koch helped to found the group. These non-profits, which are limited in the amount of resources they can apply to political efforts, were the subject of the controversy where the IRS used political keywords to identify conservative and progressive groups for extra scrutiny. Big groups like AFP and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS avoided such scrutiny, until recently, at least.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 15, 2014
You may want to sit down before reading this: Republicans aren’t being totally truthful about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As the 2014 midterm elections approach, conservative groups are beginning to hit the airwaves with spots targeting vulnerable Democrats and their support for the health law — and the ads are playing fast and loose with the facts.
Americans for Prosperity, the tax-exempt conservative action group created by brothers Charles and David Koch, took out two ads against vulnerable Democrats: Rick Nolan of Minnesota’s 8th District and Ann Kuster of New Hampshire’s 2nd District. Both focus on the health-care law, and they are important to dissect because they are the first trickles of what is sure to be a torrent of anti-ACA advertising.
The ad against Nolan features a middle-aged Minnesota resident named Randy Westby, who [http://youtu.be/-VVwc60M8zg]says he lost his health care plan because it no longer qualified for purchase in the exchanges. “I’ve had three heart attacks in the last six years. Health care is something that’s essential, and my life depends on it,” he continues.
The ad leans heavily on Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” designation for President Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” claim, and gives the strong impression that sick people are much worse off under Obamacare.
But was Westby able to find another plan? Four million to five million people probably had their plan canceled because of updated coverage requirements, but the administration believes fewer than 500,000 of those people are still looking for another plan. The ad doesn’t tell us if Westby is one of those people.
Nor does it note that he can’t be disqualified from any of the plans on the exchanges because of his preexisting condition — and three heart attacks in six years is one heck of a preexisting condition. Are the plans available to him cheaper than what he had before? How much better is the coverage? We don’t know, although given Westby’s medical history and apparent age, it seems he is exactly the type of person most likely to benefit from how the new individual market is structured.
The New Hampshire ad is more general and features an actress, but it relies on the same central and shaky claim that “millions of people” are losing coverage. Both ads hit the Democrats in question for voting to keep the ACA in place. (Aside from firing up the conservative grass roots, there was a good political reason for all those repeal votes in the House: to get vulnerable Democrats on the record, again and again.)
A focus on horror stories like these is the likely new Republican approach to Obamacare, as the New York Times outlines today. “It’s no longer just a piece of paper that you can repeal and it goes away,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told the times. “There’s something there. We have to recognize that reality. We have to deal with the people that are currently covered under Obamacare.”
But Westby may well be one of these people. And he may be getting better coverage. These will be the battle lines for the upcoming year: Republicans are gearing up to tell the horror stories, and Democrats will have to respond with stories of their own — the eight million to 10 million people who will be getting coverage under Obamacare by the end of March.
By: George Zornick, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 27, 2013