OK, so the Obama Administration really, really, really messed up the rollout of the new health care law. But the law is more than a failed web site, more than legal quibbles, more than tangled red tape. Much more. And the media should remember that as they trash it with such unabashed glee.
They probably won’t, of course. Like chickens in an overcrowded pen, they instinctively gang up on the sick or wounded. They have become a mob.
The self-satisfied glint in Wolf Blitzer’s terrier-like eyes, the superior sneer on Morning Joe’s lips, the disdain in Bill O’Reilly’s voice… These are the symptoms of a primitive human trait, the instinct to pile on the fallen.
Like former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, I was not originally a fan of the new law. I wish President Obama could have won Congressional approval for something simpler and more direct. But it’s an enormous improvement over the old system, in which health insurance companies were free to abuse and exploit the American public.
And as Governor Dean pointed out on TV the other night, the formula is working in Massachusetts, where Republican Mitt Romney introduced it.
The media seem to have forgotten that Obamacare’s problems are due in large art to the relentless sabotage by Republican governors and state legislatures – and to the Republican majority on the US Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court gutting the provision that mandated participation by states and with most Republican states refusing to participate, the law’s language may leave it open to legal challenges. Apparently, the law provides for federal subsidies only in states that have set up exchanges, which would’ve meant all states if the court hadn’t changed the law.
And some pundits – those on Fox News especially – are even inventing damaging “facts” to support their attacks.
The mob assault on the law has become so vicious that the Tampa Bay Times has launched a special project to “regularly check statements found in newspaper columns, blogs and websites, as well as the claims made by guests and hosts of TV and radio talk shows.”
The Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund (created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar) are contributing more than $600,000 over two years to fund the project.
Fact checking people like the Fox pundits might give the Times a nice, warm feeling, but I doubt that it will deter the critics. The distortions and downright lies will probably keep on coming.
It would be a shame – make that a disaster – if the media frenzy kills health care reform.
I can only hope that the public will see through the fog of biased criticism and embrace the law’s very real benefits. The flaws can be addressed over time.