Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Perhaps Kathleen Parker's Problem is That She Doesn't Understand Honesty

At least if you're a Republican. Penning yet another childish screed about President Obama, Parker whines,
Moreover, people don’t like being insulted and misled, as many feel they have been by this administration. This is not just a feeling but a demonstrable fact, especially vis-a-vis the Affordable Care Act. And it’s not just the far-right fringe who object to the strategic misrepresentations along the way.
If Parker thought you had even a smidgen of intelligence, her next paragraph might cover some of the most outrageous lies about the PPACA. You know... like death panels. Or even some of the lesser Republican lies, like arguing that Obamacare would cover illegal immigrants, cause massive budget deficits, cause massive increases in insurance premiums, or involved the government taking over the insurance industry. Heck -- she, herself, is lying even as she writes about public sentiments toward the PPACA -- she knows that the key elements of the law, save for the mandate, are in fact supported by clear majorities of Americans, that it's the label that drags the law down. She probably giggles about the voters in Kentucky who praise Kynect and express their gratitude that it's not Obamacare, even though... it's simply the name Kentucky gives the exchange through which its residents can enroll in Obamacare.

What are the horrible lies that Parker attributes to Obama?
These obfuscations include telling the American people that they could keep the insurance they had if they liked it and also writing the law in such a way that the ACA’s mandate to purchase government-approved insurance was not a “tax,” despite the Internal Revenue Service’s role in policing its compliance.
Oh, the horror. An overstatement that was made in good faith, and run-of-the-mill machinations designed to get a better CBO rating. Politifact, the "fact-checking" outfit that made the declaration upon which the "lie" accusation is premised initially rated the statement as "true", making me wonder if they're producing a reliable analysis or if they're channeling an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Dean Baker has capably responded to those who want to hang their hats on the third (yes, in between declaring the statement "true" and "false", Politifact also rated it as half-true) analysis of the statement.
If Obama's pledge was understood as ensuring that every plan that was in existence in 2010 would remain in existence, then it would imply a complete federal takeover of the insurance industry. This would require the government to tell insurers that they must continue to offer plans even if they are losing money on them and even if the plans had lost most of their customers. This would at the least be a strange policy. It would be surprising if many people thought this was the meaning of President Obama's pledge....

On closer inspection, the claim that President Obama lied in saying that people could keep their insurance looks like another Fox News special. In the only way that the pledge could be interpreted as being meaningful, the pledge is true. The ACA does not eliminate plans that were in existence at the time the bill was approved.
Parker, of course, knows all of this, but anticipates that her intended audience does not.

Similarly, anybody who was following the debate over the PPACA knows that there was an absurd insistence that the law be revenue-neutral. They know that many compromises were built into the law, including significant delays in its implementation, to keep the books nominally balanced. Parker knows that the Republicans she serves would have shrieked like banshees had the mandate been explicitly enforced through a tax, as opposed to a penalty. Parker knows that the penalty is based on income and enforced by, you guessed it, the IRS. Within that context, her feigned surprise that the penalty could be characterized as a tax is quite revealing.

But wait -- there's more. Parker knows that her party and its supporters spent two years and spent vast sums of money litigating against the PPACA, and insisting through that litigation that the penalty was not a tax. If it was so obvious to everybody that the penalty was a tax, why spend years litigation the case, causing taxpayers to pour millions of dollars into its defense, only to reach the inevitable conclusion that it is a proper exercise of Congress's power to levy taxes? Why did the political right attack and vilify Chief Justice Roberts for joining the majority on that issue? What are we supposed to make of the refusal of Scalia, Alito, Kennedy and Thomas to join what Parker tells us was, at all times, a known and obvious fact? Parker later lectures,
This ruling, indeed, was the reason the ACA was able to go forward, which is why so many Republicans were apoplectic with Roberts’ siding with the liberals in a 5 to 4 ruling. In other words, Obama’s obfuscation was simultaneously revealed and rewarded by the court. And the American people were smacked with a health-system overhaul many more would have rejected had they known the truth.
If it is so blindingly obvious that the penalty is a tax, and if Parker truly believes that lying by politicians is a bad thing, why does she implicitly applaud the Republicans for lying about the mandate in order to perpetuate costly and divisive litigation? Why does she implicitly defend attacks on Roberts for accepting what she tells is is an obvious truth, rather than embracing a partisan lie in order to take down the law?

What inspired Parker's attack on the President? If you've been following the headlines, you already know. An economist who worked with the Obama Administration in developing the PPACA made an off-the-cuff comment that has been demagogued into the suggestion that the Obama Administration thinks voters are stupid. As a reference, Parker links to an idiotic screed against the PPACA, but fastidiously avoids introducing the facts -- that the statement she wants to attribute to "the White House" was made in an off-the-cuff manner by economist Jonathan Gruber, a non-politician who is long out of the Obama administration, and who most people wouldn't know from Adam.

Parker follows that absurd attribution with a sentence that starts, "Punditry aside...." It would appear that Parker believes that "punditry" and "demagoguery" are synonyms. Incredibly, after having linked to a diatribe that relies upon Gruber to suggest "", Parker then explicitly invokes Gruber,
Those who feel defrauded by their own government got third-party confirmation recently when remarks by one of the ACA’s chief architects, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber — invoking the stupidity of voters and lauding the political advantage of a lack of transparency in government — went viral.
Parker appears to believe that her readers are too stupid to click the links and find out that there's only one story.

Now, it is no surprise that Parker and her ilk feign deep offense at the most trivial impropriety, real or imagined, by a Democratic President. But really?
We also know that once trust is gone, it’s very hard to restore. Over time, and not just during this administration, we have lost trust in one institution after another. But when we have lost faith in our government, we have lost faith in ourselves.

At their core, the midterms were really about restoring that trust.
To Parker, it seems, having somebody once associated with the Obama Administration suggest that, as many voters aren't always informed on the issues and are inclined to latch onto labels instead of substance (you know, like "death panels"), it can be necessary to construct legislation that avoids certain "trigger words", is on par with Watergate. Parker, it seems, has no problem with such robust honesty as proposing something as a Social Security privatization plan, then objecting to any use of the term "privatization" as an unfair distortion. Or proposing a Medicare voucher plan then objectin to any use of the term "voucher" as an unfair distortion. Because, you know... that's her party. Let's ignore the $millions earned by Frank Luntz, coaching Republicans on how to mislead voters on issues ranging from the "death tax" to "climate change". When it comes to healthcare reform, Luntz kind of takes us full circle:
In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a "government takeover."...

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.
Yeah, that Kathleen Parker is horrified by dishonest politicians, and does nothing but overestimate the intelligence of her readers.....

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