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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Reports Republican Misrepresentations Without Comment

NYT Reports Republican Misrepresentations Without Comment

Thursday, 03 April 2014 04:12

It is not responsible reporting to report without comment statements from prominent politicians which are almost certainly not true. For example, if President Obama said that Speaker Boehner has blown up the Washington monument, it would be irresponsible to simply report the assertion without noting that the president has no evidence for this assertion and that the Washington Monument is still standing.

In the same vein, it was irresponsible for the NYT to quote without comment Speaker Boehner saying:

"The president can go out there and tout all the people he’s signed up, but how about the young man I talked to last week out in California whose premiums have doubled? His co-pay and deductibles tripled, and his wife’s hours got cut to 29 hours. .. My insurance premiums nearly doubled. My co-pays and deductibles tripled under Obamacare."

The Republicans have produced a number of Obamacare horror stories about people facing soaring premiums or losing good insurance policies that on subsequent investigation turned out not to be true. It is highly impluasible that the Speaker Boehner actually talked to a young man in California who both saw premium double and his deductibles triple. Insurance companies were not in the business of losing money prior to Obamacare. It is unlikely that they were offering policies that were much better and cheaper than the ones now being offered under the program.

The assertion about cutting hours to 29 per week has nothing to do with Obamacare. Presumably Boehner is referring to the employer sanctions which apply to large employers who do not insure employees who work more than 30 hours a week. Since this will not take effect until 2015, if an employer actually cut back a worker's hours this year to 29 per week it was not due to Obamacare. A serious news article would have pointed this out to readers.

The piece later tells readers:

"It [the Ryan budget] cuts Medicaid by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, food stamps by $125 billion, education programs by $145 billion."

Of course these numbers are almost completely meaningless to the vast majority of NYT readers as the paper has itself acknowledged. This is a silly fraternity ritual that budget reporters do that has nothing to with informing readers.

If the point was to inform readers it would have said the Ryan budget would cut Medicaid by roughly a third over the next decade. As noted in BTP's comment on the NYT's April Fool's Day budget piece, the cuts to the food stamp amount to 16.4 percent of projected spending on the program. Since Ryan's proposed cuts are first applied to years after 2019 they amount to 33.3 percent of projected spending on food stamps in these years, reducing total spending by 0.5 percent in these years. The cuts to education would reduce spending by roughly ten percent over the next decade.


Note: linked added, thanks to John Wright.


Comments (12)Add Comment
written by Tom, April 03, 2014 6:10
Maybe I should go visit Boehner and let him know there is a couple in Maryland aged 60 and 52 who have not had insurance for over a year due to its unaffordability who now have insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Whereas in the past a not very good insurance policy for us was over $1000 a month, now is $850 a month and only costing me a more affordable $391 a month. Thing is, I kind of doubt Boehner would mention me in any news conference.
For those who don't read BTP...
written by Ryan, April 03, 2014 6:27
... let's just hope that most readers will think "Gee, they hit the trifecta of rising premiums, rising deductibles and copays, and fewer than 30 hours of work," and think this couple is too unlucky for this to be true.
written by Ron Alley, April 03, 2014 6:54
The roar of anti-ACA hype has been deafening. I was shocked by Minnesota Public Radio anti-ACA hype I heard on March 31. On that day I did a lot of driving and listened at various times. The coverage began at about 9:00 am and apparently continued throughout the day. Every time I switched to MPR (sometimes NPR programming), I heard the host ask a speaker about the website issues. At times the speaker would answer the question and speak of the number of people who had signed up for coverage. The host would ignore the response and reformulate the website issue question. I wondered whether Rupert Murdoch had acquired public radio.
written by djb, April 03, 2014 7:25

NYT will publish articles that allow comment, and ones that do not allow comment

there seems no particular reason why some allow it and some do not

but from a psychological perspective, it is obvious that if a person chooses to not allow comment on their article

the message is clearly that they don't want to hear feedback

perhaps they know deep down that article is not on firm ground??
written by DFS, April 03, 2014 7:30
NPR/PBS are now official sockpuppets donees of the American corporacracy, Nova funded by a Koch brother? That is a rich irony.
Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?
written by Larry Signor, April 03, 2014 8:23
"The assertion about cutting hours to 29 per week has nothing to do with Obamacare."

Quite correct, but small business (which will feel no bite from the ACA) is using this meme to try and alienate their employees and the ACA. The "let'em die in the streets" crowd is using every tool of misdirection imaginable. The indignation they feel at having lost, significantly lowers their moral and ethical bar .
Link to the actual NYTimes article
written by John Wright, April 03, 2014 10:16
written by liberal, April 03, 2014 12:00
Larry Signor wrote,
The indignation they feel at having lost, significantly lowers their moral and ethical bar .

My vague impression is that the "small business class" is always and everywhere extremely reactionary. I'm not entirely sure it's true, but if it is, I posit that it's because small businesses often have relatively high labor:capital ratios, and thus are strongly anti-labor. Also, because they're small, they have little economy of scale with which to deal with state-mandated regulations.
small business owner
written by Small business owner, April 03, 2014 2:40
Larry's statement that small business owners are reactionary and anti-labor is ridiculous. We have had a small business for many years and have paid the most we could afford, bonuses, and paid vacation. We joined a coalition of other businesses so we could offer health insurance. Some pay periods we went without a paycheck so we could cover staff pay. Don't label all small businesses alike. Oh, and, we vote Republican.
A Golden Unicorn?
written by Larry Signor, April 03, 2014 5:17
They do exist. We have a healthcare business (est. 1985) which employs 60-70 people full time. We supply health insurance, vacation, sick leave and pa/maternity leave. Perhaps "Small business owner" is a golden unicorn. The ACA does not really come into play in our business model so we have supported it. The point I was trying to make (perhaps ineptly) is the amount of misunderstanding that exists among small business owners which is then communicated to employees as fact. Not good for anyone.
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
written by jpc1591, April 05, 2014 12:44
I thought the same thing when I read The Times piece. First of all, Boehner didn't identify the man, and apparently The Times reporter didn't ask, thus no chance to confirm the facts. We know from the last six months that Republicans have paraded out a succession of supposed "victims" of Obamacare, only to find out what they were claiming was not true. My guess is the young man Boehner spoke of did not actually have his premium double and his co-pay and deductibles triple. It would have been nice if The Times checked the veracity of Boehner's statement on that. Then there was Boehner saying "My insurance premiums nearly doubled. My co-pays and deductibles tripled under Obamacare." That doesn't sound accurate either and it should have been easy to verify. To date I have not seen anyone take on that task.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.