Thursday, September 19, 2013

Those Obamacare Rape Ads Are a Scam on Conservatives, and That's Not the Worst Part

I suppose I have to talk about the creepy anti-Obamacare ads that everyone, or at least all the liberal bloggers, are talking about today.

Look, folks: this is a very obvious scam.

This is not about stopping the ACA.

This is about money.

Oh, for the donors, it's presumably about stopping Obamacare.

But for the people putting together the ads, unless they are incredibly stupid and naive, it's almost certainly about raising money from those donors. And, perhaps, making a name for themselves (or a bigger name -- I'm not looking to see who is responsible) within the conservative movement.

These ads could not be better designed to do one thing: to get condemned by liberals. Thus impressing easily scammed conservative marks, who tend to really believe that if liberals hate something, it must be terrific and effective.

This campaign is not designed to convince young people to "opt out" of Obamacare. It's part of a "campus tour" supposedly designed to convince those young people to go without insurance, but that's transparently a fraud; traditional-aged college students, the ones who are supposedly being targeted, aren't really the customers that matter (it's their older brothers and sisters...yes, some traditional-age college students may purchase their own insurance under ACA, more than was the case before, but it must be a fairly small group).

No, there are real efforts to undermine the law -- harassing the "navigators," pressuring the NFL and others not to publicize it, and more -- but this campaign isn't one of them.

Will it have any effect on actual consumer behavior? I doubt it. But it is worth noting that if it does "work" at all, it's going to work on the people who respond best to the affect evoked by the ads: in other words, people already primed and ready to hate Obama(care), people already primed and ready to hate the government of the United States, people primed and ready to suspect the very worst of the program. And do note: the way it "works" is by convincing them to go without health insurance.

So basically: if you're a rich conservative who isn't very smart about how you give your money, this ad is designed to pick your pocket. If you're a non-rich conservative, you might get duped into some foolish behavior, but that's just acceptable collateral damage. For everyone else, it's an occasion for (to be fair, entirely justified) outrage, I suppose, but basically it'll come and go without any real effects.

Hey, I know: we're not supposed to question motives. I believe that. So I'll say again: it's possible that these ads are not a scam, but a real political campaign undertaken by seriously naive and stupid operatives. Just as it's possible that the people doing the "defund" campaign sincerely believe that a government shutdown threat would achieve that, as opposed (as Jamelle Bouie and others pointed out) just finding it an effective money-raising tool). I have to admit, however: that's not what I think is going on.

15 comments:

  1. I still think this campaign and the broader campaign to tell conservatives to go without health insurance will backfire politically by Nov 2014. There will be horror stories across the country of conservatives going bankrupt in medical disasters, and some of them will turn on the people who led them astray, turning on them in the most public possible manner.

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    1. Those people (and the political types egging them on) will almost certainly blame ObamaCare, for "forcing" them to go without health insurance.

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  2. Is there political science (or other academic) research on the history of political parties as corrupt scam operations, whether in the US or in other countries?

    I suppose this would fall under a broader heading of political corruption, but it seems distinct here because it's not mainly the politicians and government officials enriching themselves. It's also not taking funds from public sources or from businesses in quid pro quos, but rather from willing, quasi-duped portions of the electorate. And that corruption is not called out, with any vigor, by party actors who sincerely believe in their party's cause and its future.

    I hesitate to think this is a dynamic that has only ever occurred in the US, so I'd be particularly curious about cases from other countries and about how political scientists think about this issue in general.

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    1. In most European countries, political tv or print ads are not allowed at all, so no. The political parties can send out brochures and put up posters, but that's it. It's not nearly as entertaining, but the turnout is higher.

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  3. Richard Viguerie's political heirs are laughing all the way to the bank just as he did/does.

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  4. All due respect, seems to me y'all are thinking about this all wrong. As we have discussed, one of the major vulnerabilities of Obamacare is that its financial solvency relies heavily on the contribution of young healthies, for whom - in the aggregate - Obamacare is a net negative. As someone who once consumed a ton of unexpected life-saving health care at a young age, I would certainly recommend that young people sign up. Based on my own experience, I doubt too many young people will see it that way.

    So if the right-wing sees the implosion of Obamacare as a once-in-a-generation, perhaps last-chance, opportunity to roll back the Great Society, the question is how to help it fail? Repeal votes don't do shit, they just establish you were on the right side of history...if history goes your way. Not many ways to attack Obamacare. The likely reticence of young healthies to carry their weight is one of the best opportunities for its opponents.

    So in judging creepy Uncle Sam, we should not be thinking about scams or fundraising suckers, but rather how creepy Uncle Sam furthers the goal of attacking Obamacare in one of its most vulnerable places. I guess the right could have found some conservative Chris Hayes type to explain the particulars of why the ACA is not in relatively wealthy millenials' interests on Fox News.

    Problem is, young people don't watch that crap. I don't know. I think I would have done Creepy Uncle Sam too. Not at all obvious to me that's a bad strategy for their ultimate goal.

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    1. Trying to get young people to not get health insurance is a good strategy at trying to cause Obamacare to collapse, but these insane video ads are really the wrong way to go about it it. As Chait pointed out today:

      "What makes the ads so distinctive, aside from their Ayn Randhead–on-acid gestalt, is that they abandon the predominant appeal conservatives have been making to the young, which centers on financial self-interest. Conservatives have been hammering home the “rate shock” story for months, arguing that young people will have to pay higher insurance premiums to subsidize worse insurance risks and would be better off going uninsured. The story is wildly overblown — it usually ignored tax credits, which drives down the cost of insurance, and likewise assumes that minimizing risk has no value in and of itself — but it does contain a germ of truth.

      The rape-clown argument, by contrast, is the product of sheer fantasy. In what world does giving people tax credits to offset the cost of private insurance subject them to the risk of some kind of dystopian federal intrusion?"

      I think that's right on the money. The best ally the GOP probably has in trying to destroy the exchanges is either behind the scenes bureaucratic attempts to make it harder for people working for the exchanges to do their jobs (which some states are trying to do) and the general nature of the under or uninsured as a dispersed and unorganized group.

      These types of ads won't convince anyone who wouldn't be convinced by any ad, and they will drive lots of young people that support Obamacare to get mad and potentially involved. Which is what I've seen people commenting about on my social media feed today.

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    2. I'm a small business owner who employees many people in the age group the GOP is suppose to be trying to discourage from joining up with this ad. I have never had ONE young female employee who wasn't concerned about having health insurance -- precisely because of their reproductive health care needs. If these ads are seriously aimed at that market, the thing they most demonstrate is that it is a market the ads creators know absolutely nothing about.

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    3. Thanks for the comments, I take both your points, in thinking about this a bit more it occurred to me that the best way for Obamacare to ensure young person compliance is to make signing up seem mandatory, either because non-compliance is perceived to be a crime or carrying a massive penalty. Obamacare is an insurance program, after all, which requires some group getting a (rawer) deal, in this case obviously the young relatively healthy and wealthy.

      I imagine the administration wants no part of this conversation, either from a Chris Hayes type of an insane Uncle Sam. Which makes the asploding of the liberal blogosphere so arch.

      "Can you believe these conservative groups are trying to convince young healthies they don't have to sign up in the exchanges using Creepy Uncle Sam? Man they're dumb!"

      The message spreads like wildfire, until it is heard by just about every young healthy, reasonably wealthy millenial: "You mean we don't have to sign up in the exchanges?"

      Man, those conservatives are stoooopid.

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    4. One other thing - I think I disagree with longwalk's conclusion about the best way to deter young wealthier healthies from signing up. Suppose the Koch Brothers had employed some conservative Chris Hayes type to explain the likely actuarial hurt to their target audience. In the process he would have had to remind his audience that, while they are healthy, they are certainly mortal, and they may need to avail themselves of health care. A lot of health care. Which, from a Koch perspective, is self-defeating.

      By contrast, going the Insane Uncle Sam Clown Posse approach virtually ensures that the outraged liberal punditariat will act as Trojan horses in carrying the message far and wide that "hey young people you really don't have to comply"...without going into much detail, which detail would be prejudicial to Koch interests.

      I don't know. I think the Insane Uncle Sam Clown Posse may have been just about the right way to proceed, for conservatives looking to topple Obamacare (and, eventually, the Great Society).

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    5. Yes, but ads? I'm not sure I'm on board with the idea that the ads, or any coverage of them, will move our young healthies one way or another.

      My perspective is that they're so unlikely to work, so why do them?

      I like JB's argument some.

      But, I also like the idea of this being a Hail Mary, and in more than one way. You throw a Hail Mary because you can't do anything else. But, you ALSO do it because it actually is a really direct way towards your goal (a touchdown), rather than progress towards it (yardage). If the only way to kill Obamacare is for young healthies to stay away, you go directly at that. Of course, it's a low percentage play.

      So, it could be a "scam." It could also be desperation out of really not liking it. The presence of the latter amongst people leads to the former being easier to do. I kinda like both explanations.

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    6. The whole rape aspect of the ad seems to contradict the message that people aren't forced to sign up.

      ACA proponents haven't really been pushing a "you must sign up for insurance or we will punish you!" angle to this. Obama himself was never excited about the mandate (to say the least), and neither the feds, the state or the insurance companies themselves seem to be running an "or else" campaign on this. (Nothing like the advertisements for state minimum auto insurance.)

      Maybe this is a mistake, but I don't think so--since you have to take positive action to enroll in the exchange, I don't think there's much hope for enrolling people under false pretenses. People are going to sign up for plans if they think its a good deal for them (given subsidies and penalties).

      There might be some conservatives who think they'll be forced to buy health insurance (and broccoli), though I don't think doing a bank shot off the liberal press was the best way to reach them.

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    7. Thanks for the comments, pretty interesting discussion. I think Matt Jarvis is right about the Hail Mary pass, and I take anonymous' point above about the bank shot off the liberal press...there's that multidimensional chess again.

      A direct appeal to the young healthies is a more logical approach for a Koch brother, but that's less likely to work than the Hail Mary pass bank shot. As a Koch brother, you want the young healthies to see Obamacare in light of its actuarial prejudice against them, you want them to think about it in the context of their perceived immortality...you really don't want them to think about their Obamacare hostility much at all.

      So if the objective is "Get young healthies to hate the exchanges without considering why the exchanges might be in their interest", well, you don't have a lot of quivers in your bow. Yeah....maybe Insane Uncle Sam? Its not something you'd recommend generally, but under these limiting assumptions, you could certainly do worse.

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  5. So, how many "young healthies" watch television?

    Yeah. If that's where the ads are, they aren't targeting young people.

    I see two things:

    1. Like I said before, as soon as my conservative sister finds out she can buy better insurance than she has now, currently a pricey $1000 a month, for $200, she will blame Fox News for lying to her. It will be, shall we say, a revelation.

    2. If the Koch Bros succeed in this endeavor, and get lots of poor conservative whites to forgo health insurance out of spite, how is that going to affect state budgets when the Feds start lowering their reimbursements for the uninsured?

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  6. I could be wrong, but even if a bill were to pass "defunding" Obamacare, the taxes and Medicare provider-side cuts that pay for Obamacare would stay in effect. So, if you're rich enough to be affected by the tax, defunding Obamacare doesn't get you anything but the satisfaction of knowing that none of your tax dollars will go to poor and middle-class people to help them buy health insurance. If you're not rich enough to be affected by the tax, as I suspect is the case with most grassroots contributors to these campaigns, you've just spent some of your hard-earned money left over after paying the confiscatory income tax to fund a gesture that will most likely turn out to be futile, but that even if it succeeds will not affect you one whit.

    So I'd like to see an ad with an actor in an Insane Koch Brothers Clown Posse mask (thanks CSH!) where he says "If you've got fifty bucks - or more if you want to be a Platinum level contributor* - would you rather keep it to spend on yourself and your family, or give it to me?"

    * In addition to the "I'm a Maker and you're NOT" tote bag available to all contributors at the $50 level, Platinum contributors receive their choice of a silver-plate speculum engraved with the full text of the Constitution or a proctoscope bearing the likeness of Friedrich Hayek.

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