We’re pretty careful when we post something on this web page. When we see something in the news that we think is of interest and relevant to the Democratic perspective, we first try to make certain that it is accurate and verifiable before creating a blog entry. We also typically imbed links that serve as backup material for the statements we make. That’s because we expect our readers NOT to simply accept what we say here on blind faith, but to require that such statements be fact-based. It’s a standard we work arduously and proudly to uphold.
Not everyone, of course, adheres to this approach. Many political web sites, political advocacy groups and even major media outlets frequently run stories and ads that distort the actual facts, leave out critical details or are just simply untrue, delivering what their readers/viewers WANT to hear – WANT to be true – as opposed to what is actually true, complete and relevant. A few examples:
Last fall, at the beginning of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rollout, Sean Hannity had three couples on his show who were, in the host’s words, “feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck.” After these couples were contacted by (actual) journalists, none of their stories held up under scrutiny.
One couple stated that, “because of Obamacare, they can’t grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.” Well, it turns out that the company in question had only four employees. The only ACA requirement for such small companies is that they notify their employees of the existence of the Obamacare exchanges. Under the ACA, you would only be required to provide insurance if you have at least 50 full-time employees.
The other two couples both received cancellation letters from their current carriers and were quoted pretty stiff increases for Obamacare-compliant policies by those same companies. Both couples also refused to even check the exchanges for comparable policies simply because they “didn’t like Obamacare.” Journalists checking the web sites for them found that both could receive better coverage for less money. How can you claim something is bad – on national television, yet – when you haven’t even examined it?
In Louisiana, Americans for Prosperity, funded largely by the petro-chemical magnates, Charles and David Koch, is running ads against incumbent U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. The ads depict Louisianans receiving letters from their insurance companies that supposedly cancel their policies and blame the Affordable Care Act. Problem is, the ads not only feature professional actors instead of actual Louisiana citizens, but also, the producers concede, do not even reflect any specific individual cases. The events depicted are instead, according to the producers, “emblematic” of what is happening in that state. You will note that they did not support that claim by citing any real cases.
And, lastly, right here in little old San Juan County, the Republican web site has a post up claiming that, “OBAMACARE IS LITERALLY KILLING THE MIDDLE CLASS.” The post is simply a link to (yet another) Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity ad, this one being aired in Michigan. It features a woman who has leukemia and claims that Obamacare caused cancellation of her existing policy and that the replacement one has out-of-pocket costs that make her treatments unaffordable, a heart-rending story to be sure. The local GOPers clearly liked what this ad said so much that they simply neglected to check out whether it was accurate. But, that’s okay, the folks at the Washington Post did it for them. Turns out that the lady’s premiums for her old policy were about $1,100 per month. Those for her new policy under the ACA are about half that. The savings for that over a year almost exactly equal the out-of-pocket maximum payments under the ACA of $6,350, so the whole thing is pretty much a wash. Oh, she also gets to keep her doctor. The Washington Post gave the ad two Pinocchios for “Significant omissions and/or exaggerations.”
Research gives us insight into why these types of emotional appeals work irrespective of whether there is any rational substance behind them. Sadly, it indicates that political attitudes are largely formed by cultural, environmental and other factors, rather than as a result of information gathering and reasoned thought. One unfortunate consequence of this is that attempts to persuade people to change based on presentation of facts more often than not simply leads to a hardening of their attitudes. Despite this discouraging finding, we will continue to deploy factual information and rational analysis to our opinions on this page. A man can only deny the truth for so long.