Monday, November 18, 2013

Obamacare Press Frenzy Stuff

Oy, Kraushaar. Oy, Galston. Oy, half the damn press corps. It's ugly out there, folks.

The two that set me off in particular today are Josh Kraushaar's massive overinterpretation of the events of last week, leading him to believe that Democrats are close to abandoning the ACA. And then Todd Purdom on the imminent collapse of "Big Government progressivism" if the ACA doesn't work well (complete with supporting quotes from William Galston). Anyway, here are some links to what I've written in response.

There's just a lot of nonsense right now. Which is pretty much what happens when these press frenzies get started, but it's very frustrating. As I wrote over at Salon over the weekend, a good comparison here is Whitewater, of all things; yes, there is a substantive story on health care reform here, but what the press are up to is mostly just fantasy.

Today, I took on Kraushaar's argument that the Upton vote was about Democrats turning against the ACA. As I said last week...no, it really isn't.

Oh, and then there's the "doom for liberalism" argument. On Friday, I pointed out that public opinion doesn't work that way.

I'll dredge up a couple of other relevant posts from a while back. At the beginning of the month, I argued that "repeal" really is dead; the status quo ante has been disrupted far too much to ever return to it. Whatever happens in the future, it will be building on the new, ACA status quo, not repealing it and returning to the past arrangements. And I've also been saying that the spin at this point is irrelevant; what matters is whether the law works.

23 comments:

  1. What were the three scandals in the triple scandal? IRS, NSA, and ? Was it Benghazi? That doesn't seem right. That broke before the election, didn't it?

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    1. It was the warrant the administration obtained to wiretap reporters, right?

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    2. The Benghazi story came back in the spring when Issa held a hearing with, I believe, the deputy chief of station and the regional security officer from the Tripoli embassy.

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  2. Yes, the AP scandal.

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    1. AP, IRS, and Benghazi!

      I had to look it up, too.

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  3. I saw this on Wonkwire earlier: http://wonkwire.rollcall.com/2013/11/18/healthcare-gov-fixes-make-good-progress/ Apparently there has been significant improvement over the last few weeks, I don't know if that reflects anyone's experience here though (is anyone here other than JB still trying to sign up?) But the fact that all the news stories have gone from people who actually have problems to the political fallout from the roll out leads me to believe that the problems themselves are getting better.

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    1. I'm still stuck at the same glitch. I suspect most single people with relatively simple incomes are sailing through by now.

      OTOH: that Wonk Wire item, which I saw too, is basically just the Administration saying it. So it's hard to know exactly what it means.

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    2. "I suspect most single people with relatively simple incomes are sailing through by now." So the young healthies are getting through! See, the system works. Oh wait...

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    3. As an example of personal experience, I'm one of those young healthies and I filled out the forms last night without any great difficulty. Trying to get back there tonight though had some difficulties though. The roll out really is disappointing me as an individual who really does want to like the law.

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  5. Part of it has to be the media's tendency to try generating controversy when there's no real news to report. But at the same time, lots of Republicans have said this is the issue they're betting on for next year's elections. It'd be tough to figure out, but I wonder how much of this is due to an above-average interest on the part of Republicans to push the story.

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  6. To quote Jon Chait: "The most common fallacy of journalism, and one of the most common fallacies of the human brain in general, is the assumption that whatever is happening at the moment will continue to happen forever."

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  7. Is it an attempt to pass off the most conservative possible spin on events as the most conventional of conventional wisdom? Then you're reading a Josh Kraushaar piece.

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    1. Unless you're reading a Ron Fournier piece.

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  8. Well, a few weeks ago the GOP was doomed, doomed, DOOMED-I-tell-you. Now everyone has forgotten about that, and the ACA rollout is worse than Iraq and Katrina put together.

    I only knows what would happen were Obama to actually get caught somewhere with his pants 'round his ankles...

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  9. Etch-A-Sketch. The end of the Romney campaign. For a day, anyway, until another day came along that went considerably better for Romney. Then other days, some bad, some good, but enough that its obvious now why Etch-A-Sketch didn't matter: it was superceded by like a million other memes.

    This is a key difference between the ebb and flow of a political campaign and the lifespan of Obamacare so far: where's the flow for Obamacare? Am I mistaken, has Obamcare not pretty much been all ebb up to here? Not entirely, of course, some people have signed up, others have gotten on their parents' plans, some cute girl was at a rally wearing an I HEART OBAMACARE t-shirt. But cute girls and other anecdata aside, the rollout of Obamacare has been staggeringly short of substantial wins.

    So when Kraushaar says:

    "Congressional Democrats don't want to be dealing with a drip-drip of news about premiums going up, patients losing their doctors, and a broken health care website...Unless the HealthCare.gov website miraculously gets fixed by next month, there's a growing likelihood that over time, enough Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise."

    He's pretty clearly drawing a distinction between the (pretty much) "All-bad-news, all-the-time" Obamacare rollout and a well-run campaign like Romney's, which can replace a horrid Etch-A-Sketch meme with something positive the next day.

    At the risk of terrible Plain Blog heresy, I think Kraushaar is exactly right in this.

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    1. @csh, Scrap the whole thing? Trust that this Congress will pass some replacement that will be good enough to win a fair number of Dems? That's the unbelievable part.

      Some Dems may long for an alternative, but there are plenty of sharpshooter in Congress that will shoot down anything, so "an alternative" isn't going to happen, alas.

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    2. Whoa, CSH, I like heresy as much as the next Lutheran, but come on. Here's the actual difference between Obamacare and a presidential campaign: the prez campaign has a single goal -- electing this person -- and a drop dead-date on which that goal is either achieved or not. (Yeah, some other goals -- building coalitions for the future and whatnot -- can piggyback on the main goal, but when you speak of "a well-run campaign like Romney's" you're referencing the operations geared toward the main goal.) Obamacare has neither of those limitations. It's like a Romney campaign that didn't have to end on Nov. 6 but could continue accumulating support, with Romney gradually becoming president a bit more each day.

      The "flow" of Obamacare has included (a) big Medicaid signups, (b) big reforms to the insurance market that are very likely irreversible, and (c) cost-containment measures that so far are paying off better than expected. True, much of this doesn't "flow" into the news cycle on any given day. But that's the whole point: the Krashauers of the world are confusing what turns up in the news cycle with what's actually going on. And what they're setting themselves up for, thus, is a big round of stories sometime in (I think) early 2014 when the press suddenly discovers that millions of people are insured who weren't before and the world is actually a better place than it was. These stories, you may be sure, will be written in tones of contrarian surprise.

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  10. I'm sorry, some Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise? That's pretty rich. This program is essentially a conservative think tank version of Romneycare. Remember? The only alternative, which most Americans favor, is single payer. Good luck getting any Republican to work with on that proposal. You couldn't get one Republican Senator to vote for their own plan.

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  11. @MP and nanute: "scrap the whole thing" is hyperbole; I meant that Kraushaar is exactly right in saying that Obamacare needs wins - soon - the kind that a normal campaign or news cycle provides more or less every other day.

    One other thing about reporters: it strikes me that, to be successful in today's competitive media landscape, when you see smoke, you have to report fire. If you wait, you'll be scooped or left behind. So the question: is there fire behind this smoke, or is the engine just sputtering a bit? At least for now, your answer will depend on your frame of reference.

    Classic example: the website. Is the website a complex IT undertaking, on a par with a Fortune 100 company transitioning data management from monkeys banging away on selectric typewriters by candlelight to a fully customized SAP suite? If so, serious problems are inevitable, and the byzantine nature of the ACA bill certainly supports this view.

    You know what's infinitely more byzantine than the ACA? The tax code. And yet firms like Turbotax, H&R Block, and (ahem) the US govt, among others are pretty much able to process virtually everyone's taxes online, every year, with a more or less spotless record of success. If the ACA website is several degrees simpler than the tax prep sites, its failure is not understandable (if inexcusable), but simply baffling.

    So baffling, in fact, that it seems inevitable that a much bigger story is to come on that front. Better to report on that sort of thing now, get your name on it before the tsunami hits.

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    1. Just remembered that, in the Administration's defense, the state-run websites have been plagued with problems too. Perhaps this will all blow over.

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    2. Better to report on that sort of thing now, get your name on it before the tsunami hits.

      Kind of a P.S. to what I said in the subthread above. In what sense is this "better"? It's not better for the public if it actually turns out to be wrong or misleading, and I don't see how it's better even for the journalist, since it's not like "There are problems with the Obamacare rollout" is some kind of scoop at this point. In fact, it's the opposite: it's an expression of the conventional wisdom of the moment. Is someone going to give Krashauer a Pulitzer for "breaking" the story of the troubles at healthcare.gov? Are people going to tell stories in their golden years about the way Krashauer's reporting did for Obama what Woodstein did for Nixon? I mean, what's the payoff for anyone concerned?

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  12. I tried using the healthcare.gov site as an experiment last week (I'm covered by my wife's insurance policy, thank god, so this was just to see for myself what the problems were). Couldn't create an account at all for the first five tries over three days. Then tried over the weekend, and I could. Just one anecdote, but perhaps a sign that the site is getting better. Obviously, one could sign up over the phone, presumably, but the site is supposed to be the quicker way of doing it, so...

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