April 9, 2014 · 0 Comments
Above: United States House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) (Photo from United States House of Representatives)
By Dean Baker:
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.