Before I get into the details of this, let me just state that the NY Times knows exactly what it’s doing. You may think the manipulation and/or lies of the editors are transparent, but not for a lot of its readers. Propaganda works, or writers wouldn’t bother to compose it. You can lead your audience to certain conclusions by distortion, and then repetition of that distortion, and they read and absorb it without thinking all that much about it because they trust you as a source. And after all, most of your friends, and all the smart people you know and hear, agree.
It’s actually a lot of work to read something and challenge it as you read it and then after you read it. It takes more than intelligence, too; intelligence doesn’t even begin to cut it, although a certain basic amount is necessary. And “intelligence” is not the same as book learning or credentials. In fact, book learning—which in academia all too often means swallowing what some authority says and spitting it back in order to get a grade—can even be quite counterproductive, and conducive to the swallowing of propaganda if the source is a trusted one.
It takes not only work to question things you read, but motivation. We may ridicule the NY Times, and people often ask me why I bother with it, but my answer is always that for many many people, including many movers and shakers in the world, it is still the great authority with all the news that’s fit to print, and challenging it proves to them that the person who does so is a crackpot.
So without further ado, we have the Times on the topic of President Obama’s newly-announced 2-year extension of the delays in cancellations of the non-Obamacare-compliant individual policies. The temptation is to include the entire thing and fisk it line by line, because it’s a true masterpiece. I mean that; I’m in awe of the editors’ skill at doing what they can with the mess they’re facing—doing what they can to explain that (a) the Republicans made Obama do it; (b) everything will be just fine with Obamacare; and (c) Obama and the NY Times know much better than you do what’s good for you.
Here are a few high/lowlights of the editorial, with my comments in brackets and highlighted in bold:
The Obama administration announced a new policy on Wednesday that will allow many people to renew their existing insurance policies for two more years even though the policies don’t provide the comprehensive coverage and consumer protections [much of which is useless and unneeded and unwanted by the person purchasing the policy, and responsible for raising its price] required by the Affordable Care Act. The move is designed to provide political cover for Democratic senators facing tough re-election campaigns in Republican-leaning states where the president is especially unpopular [this seems like an admission of something negative about why the administration is doing this---for political reasons---but wait, the Times will correct that possibly negative notion later in the editorial and turn it around on the Republicans].
The Democrats have been hit with a barrage of attack ads from conservative political-action groups highlighting the cases of individuals who complained that they faced higher premiums when their old (less comprehensive) policies were canceled and they were forced to buy new (and better) policies on the health care exchanges established by the reform law [without actually saying all those people are lying, the Times is telling us that the new policies are better, whatever those misguided people might think. Of course, if they're better, why postpone them? Why not have people experience them, so the Democrats can make ads with people saying how they loved their old policies and thought they were better, but now that they've experienced the new ones they realize how much more comprehensive and better Obamacare really is? The better plans will speak for themselves, and convince the foot-draggers---won't they?] Now the last date for renewing the old policies has been pushed past the 2014 midterm elections, reducing the likelihood of complaints on the eve of voting.
This policy change had the immediate, unfortunate effect of giving Republicans another convenient excuse to bash the Affordable Care Act as a failure that should be repealed [it's "unfortunate" when Republicans tell the truth, if the truth hurts the administration, the NY Times, and the Democratic Party. Oh, and by the way, Republicans don't just "criticize," they "bash." Nasty bashers.] In truth ["in truth" means that we have to emphasize that we're about to tell truth, because the veracity of the next few points we're about to make is especially shaky], it poses no threat to health care reform and will have no impact on the vast majority of Americans, who are covered by employer plans or public programs. The impact on people who buy their own insurance on the individual market is hard to gauge but is likely to be small and vary from state to state [just a few million, no problem at all---and by the way, if the impact would be so very small, why are Obama and the Democrats so worried about the effect that the change in policies would have in the 2014 election?]…
There are drawbacks to allowing continuation of these policies. For starters, some people who have skimpy coverage may be in for a rude shock if they develop a costly illness [ignoring the fact that "some" people---perhaps many more---would get a similar or even worse shock on Obamacare. Note also that the Times assumes an abysmal ignorance on the part of the consumer who has purchased the original individual policy and in some cases has had it for many years, an assumption by the Times that needs neither to be proven nor justified nor quantified, merely stated]….
There’s much, much more, but I’ll skip to what I think may be the most masterful part, the ending:
Ideally, President Obama would not have extended the period for retaining the less-comprehensive policies, but in the current political environment, he opted to take a step to protect health care reform against a Republican takeover in the Senate [he didn't want to do this, but the Republicans made him. It's too bad that Republicans make him compromise his ideals and those of the NY Times, forcing them to write this crummy editorial.].
Extending the old policies will allow some individuals more time to look at the options on the exchanges. They may be pleasantly surprised at the comprehensive coverage and the availability of subsidies for people with modest incomes ["they may be"; even the Times sounds uncertain about that one. Of course, the editors push the ideas of the subsidies---that's Obamacare's big selling point---without going into the knotty question of where that money comes from. The editors also ignore all the "you can keep your doctor, keep your hospital" issues that come with the new policies and are part of the reason that even people with "modest" incomes, eligible for subsidies, may be in for a very rude surprise. Another surprise might come from the high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs of these wonderfully "comprehensive" and "better" polices. And again, if the policies are so wonderful, why not force people into them and have them see for themselves how great they are? Just think of the great pro-Obamacare ads that could be made if that were to happen!].
Although I’m mocking this editorial, it’s a dark humor on my part. I have deep respect for the skill of its writers and their ability to take the sow’s ear of what’s happening with Obamacare and make it into, if not a silk purse, then an artifact convincing enough to pass for one with a lot of people.
Will it be good enough to allow Democrats to hold onto the Senate in 2014? I freely admit that I don’t know. But it was enough to allow Obama to be re-elected in 2012 despite his abysmal record, so I don’t rule anything out.