Major media outlets are pushing the narrative that the United States Department of the Treasury could prioritize payments to bond holders and select groups of recipients in lieu of an increase of the federal borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling, beyond October 17. This ignores Treasury Department officials and other experts who explain such prioritization is unworkable and legally dubious, and that default would still happen.
Right-wing media are dishonestly blaming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the fact that Chad Henderson, a low-income college student, will "pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income," ignoring the fact that Henderson would have been eligible for subsidized health care if his state had not rejected the healthcare reform law's Medicaid expansion.
On October 3, several media outlets highlighted Henderson as an early ACA enrollment success story. Henderson, a 21-year-old student at Chattanooga State University, told Washington Post's Wonkblog that he had been without health insurance for 14 years but successfully signed up for coverage through one of the law's new online exchanges. Henderson will pay $175 per month in premiums, which he said fits his budget. Right-wing blogs later hyped the cost of Henderson's insurance plan to claim it's unaffordable.
The Blaze reported that "Henderson, who reportedly earns $11,500 annually, will pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income" and quoted the Cato Institute's Michael F. Cannon to claim that "it appears that Obamacare quadrupled Chad's premiums," citing an eHealthInsurance.com quote for a plan he could have purchased. Michelle Malkin's blog also highlighted Cannon's claim. A Washington Examiner article headlined "$175 premium for a young, healthy student? Thanks, Obamacare!" responded: "Ouch! Wasn't Obamacare supposed to lower premiums?" and on October 3, the Drudge Report promoted the Examiner story:
These reports failed to mention that Henderson would have been able to receive subsidized coverage under the health care reform law's Medicaid expansion if his state had not chosen to opt out after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states didn't have to expand their Medicaid coverage. From Wonkblog's story about Henderson:
Henderson is a part-time worker at a day-care center. He did not qualify for tax credits to purchase health coverage because his income is below the poverty line. Since Georgia is not expanding the Medicaid program, that meant Henderson was essentially responsible for his entire premium.
Fox News misleadingly claimed Senate Democrats were to blame for the government shutdown, ignoring the role Republicans in the House and Senate have played in refusing to negotiate over government funding.
On the October 2 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy attacked Senate Democrats for not showing up to a Republican photo opportunity, in which congressional Republicans including Sen. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) sat on one side of a table facing empty chairs. Doocy claimed, "none of the Democrats showed up to try to resolve the Senate shutdown":
Fox also hyped an October 1 tweet from House Majority Leader Cantor that claimed that House Republicans were "ready to negotiate with the Senate," criticizing the Senate Democrats in an on-screen graphic for leaving House Republicans "alone at table to compromise."
But House Republicans' October 1 offer to negotiate was little more than a photo opportunity since, as The New York Times pointed out, they have shown no willingness to back down from their "threat of blackmail." From The New York Times editorial board:
Finally, at the last minute, when there was still time to end the charade with a straightforward spending bill, Mr. Boehner made the most absurd demand of all: an immediate conference committee with the Senate. Suddenly, with less than an hour left, he wanted to set up formal negotiations?
For six months, the Senate has been demanding a conference with the House on the 2014 budget -- talks that might have prevented the impasse in the first place. But the House leadership has adamantly refused, knowing it would not succeed in getting all the cuts to taxes and spending that it demands. For Mr. Boehner to call for a conference near midnight was the height of hypocrisy.
Having let down the public, Republicans will now, inevitably, scramble to save their reputation. They are desperate to make it appear as if President Obama and the Democrats are the ones being intransigent, hoping voters will think that everyone is at fault and simply blame "Washington." Mr. Boehner even mocked the president on Monday for refusing to negotiate over health reform, as if he actually expected Mr. Obama to join in wrecking a law that will provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans under threat of blackmail.
Fox's newest attempt to blame Senate Democrats for the government shutdown ignores that the controversy is the result of an unprecedented effort by House Republicans to demand concessions in exchange for doing their job. As USA Today noted, the GOP's demands "are both preposterous and largely unrelated to budgetary matters" and "[n]o president of either party could accept that kind of badgering. No president should."
Though the media has repeatedly presented a false equivalence between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats' actions in advance of the shutdown, attempts to shift the full weight of the blame away from the GOP ignores the fact that threatening to shut down the government in order to repeal duly-passed legislation is a "dramatic break from the past." In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait highlighted the importance of remembering that "one party is pursuing this as a conscious strategy." The Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin also reported that congressional experts and historians agree that "[e]ven compared to the famous government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the current GOP bargaining position is unprecedented in its political extremism":
"It's unheard of to shut the government down because you want to repeal a law," said Tiefer.
"That seems quite beyond the pale," said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder.
Former Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress official Louis Fisher said he was shocked when he saw what he now recognizes as a foreshadowing of today's crisis, when Republican senators refused for two years to confirm Richard Cordray -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless President Obama agreed to change the bureau's structure.
"That is really amazing, to say you're not going to confirm unless the underlying statute is rewritten," Fisher said. "That was breathtaking to me."
"The Republican Party is caught between politics and its responsibility, as a majority party of the House of Representatives, for governance," said [University of Maryland professor of government and politics the Frances] Lee. "Governance always requires disappointing your base."
It's easier when you're in the minority, she said. "The party out of power can take advantage of its lack of responsibility for governing."
Today's GOP "wants to behave like a party that has no power at all, but unfortunately for it, it does," she said. "The politics of defunding Obamacare are great with its base, but it has an institutional role which it cannot evade."
Fox News host Steve Doocy jumped the gun to call the Affordable Care Act (ACA) a failure before its full implementation.
During the September 27 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy misleadingly suggested that the health care reform law had failed to insure many Americans who currently lack health insurance coverage:
DOOCY: Remember during the original argument about whether or not we should go ahead and pass the Affordable Care Act, also now known as Obamacare, very famously Karl Rove said on this program, he said, you know, 85 percent of the country has health care and likes it. So why blow up the entire system for 15 percent? There is a new poll out this morning that says that, take a guess, how many people in this country, what percentage have insurance now for the very first time because of the Affordable Care Act? How many? What percent?
CO-HOST ELISABETH HASSELBECK: I mean, I'd go 20. Let's go 20 percent.
DOOCY: One percent.
HASSELBECK: Oh, great.
DOOCY: One percent of the country now has insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.
HASSELBECK: That's it?
DOOCY: Yeah, we were told we're helping out 15 percent. But so far, just one.
But Doocy's critique completely misrepresented the timeline of the health care law's implementation. The public exchanges, which will offer new insurance coverage options to Americans who currently do not receive employer-sponsored health insurance, will not open for enrollment until October 1, and the new coverage won't begin to take effect until January 1, 2014. Expanded Medicaid access also doesn't take effect until January 1. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in May that, once it is fully in effect, the ACA's exchanges will help provide coverage to 24 million currently uninsured Americans by 2023, and the Medicaid expansion will cover an additional 13 million.
Doocy also ignored the many benefits that the law has already put into effect for individuals that currently have insurance. Nearly three years after the law's enactment, 6.1 million Americans with Medicare who reached the Part D coverage gap ("donut hole") saved more than $5.7 billion on prescription drugs. Additionally, 71 million Americans received coverage for preventive care in 2011 and 2012, and 78 million Americans saved a total of $3.4 billion on their health insurance premiums in 2012.
Fox News misleadingly claimed that the government is "sticking it to men" because some men's insurance premiums will rise under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's attack obscures the health insurance market's existing discrimination against women and the fact that the ACA bans the widespread practice of gender rating, which charges women more than men for insurance coverage.
Fox News misled on the current budget negotiations with the canard that President Obama was more willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani than meet with congressional Republicans, though Obama has said publicly that he will work with the GOP on reasonable budget proposals and it is not confirmed that he will meet with Rouhani.
On the September 23 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy attempted to obscure the debate over the looming government shutdown with a misleading analogy, citing reports that Obama might meet with Rouhani and contrasting them with Obama's supposed unwillingness to "meet with Republicans to discuss and negotiate over the debt limit." Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. repeated the allegation, calling the president's approach "topsy turvy" and claiming he needed to "focus on the real enemy." Fox then aired a brief clip from Obama's August 20 speech at the Ford stamping plant in Liberty, Missouri, claiming the speech demonstrated that Obama was more interested in attacking the GOP than working with them.
In fact, during the same speech, Obama emphasized his willingness to work with Republicans to find a reasonable compromise on the debt ceiling and budget:
Democrats and some reasonable Republicans in Congress are willing to raise the debt ceiling and pass a sensible budget. And I want to work with Democrats and Republicans to do just that.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also explained Obama's willingness to negotiate on reasonable budget proposals (emphasis added):
So I think what the President said goes to what we've been discussing earlier, which is, when it comes to reaching a broader budget agreement, the President has consistently been willing to seek common ground and to make reasonable concessions to Republicans and to their priorities. What he has not been willing to do is stick it to the middle class in order to achieve some of their ideological agenda priorities, and reach a compromise that benefits the wealthy and corporations, rewards insurance companies, but doesn't help the middle class -- in fact, hurts the middle class.
Furthemore, the Wall Street Journal reported on September 23 that Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the U.N., but suggestions that Obama may meet with Rouhani remain unconfirmed. As Reuters reported:
White House spokesman Jay Carney has deflected questions all week about whether the two leaders would meet during the U.N. gathering. On Thursday, he acknowledged a change in tone between Iran and the West since Rouhani took office and said a meeting was possible, though one was not scheduled.
"It's possible, but it has always been possible," Carney said. "The extended hand has been there from the moment the president was sworn in."
Even if Obama were to meet with Rouhani, the administration has been clear that Iran must abandon any nuclear program. From Reuters:
Carney reiterated that Obama would be willing to have bilateral negotiations provided the Iranians were serious about addressing the international community's insistence that Tehran give up its nuclear weapons program.
"That is the position we hold today," Carney said.
Fox News echoed a Republican plan to promote "rising stars" in the party, debuting a week-long Fox & Friends segment that shares a name with a Republican National Committee initiative to highlight new Republican voices.
On August 15, the RNC announced its new "Rising Stars" program, which would "regularly spotlight and actively promote Republican individuals who are new voices in the party." Fox's Sean Hannity was quick to highlight the RNC initiative, echoing RNC chairman Reince Priebus to note that it was "an effort to attract a wider range of voters by promoting new Republican individuals and talent within the party" and welcoming two of the RNC's new stars, T.W. Shannon and Karin Agness, onto the August 15 edition of his show.
A month later, Fox followed up on the RNC's initiative with its own week-long "Rising Stars" series. On September 16, Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck announced on Fox & Friends that "[t]his week, we are meeting some rising political stars on track to reshaping our nation's future." She then welcomed Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon -- who was listed as one of the RNC's "Rising Stars" -- as Fox's first featured guest. During the segment, on-air text promoted Shannon as a "new face of the GOP."
Fox's Stuart Varney deceptively promoted a Republican bill that aims to delay the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) individual health insurance mandate by hyping the proposal's projected deficit savings without mentioning that it would leave 11 million Americans uninsured in 2014 and result in higher insurance premiums.
On July 2, the White House announced a one year-delay in the ACA rule that required businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance to full time workers. Later that month, House Republicans passed a bill to also delay by one year the ACA's individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
Varney appeared on Fox & Friends on September 10 to promote the GOP bill by hyping a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that estimates the bill would reduce the deficit by $35 billion over 10 years, calling the bill a "lifeline" and "a way out" for President Obama and Democrats. Though Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked about the law's intent to "to give everybody health care," Varney evaded, saying that the situation with the law is "chaos" and remained solely focused on its narrow budgetary impact.
Varney's evasion obscured the negative impacts of the proposal. In fact, a year-long delay in the health care law's individual mandate would decrease Americans' health insurance coverage. As the CBO report noted, the GOP's proposed changes would deprive 11 million people of coverage in 2014, leaving a total of 55 million Americans uninsured that year compared to current law.
The delay would also lead to higher health insurance premiums for individuals. According to the CBO report, because insurers would still be prohibited from rejecting coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions, a disproportionate number of patients with high expected health costs would be likely to enroll, increasing costs for all enrollees -- though government subsidies would still incentivize more people to purchase individual health insurance, which would prevent "an unsustainable spiral of rising premiums."
A Wall Street Journal editorial pushed the myth that a Department of Justice lawsuit against credit rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) is retaliation for the company downgrading the U.S.'s credit rating, failing to note experts' explanations that the suit is likely a test case that may be used to bolster future action against other credit rating agencies and that the suit predates S&P's downgrade.
Fox News medical contributor Dr. David Samadi falsely claimed that he had only been "complimenting" women on their higher use of preventive health services than men when responding to criticism of his earlier call for higher health insurance premiums for women.
In an August 27 appearance on Fox & Friends, Samadi argued that women should pay more than men for health insurance because "they are using the [health care] system a lot more than we are, so they go through a lot of preventive screening, they give birth, they have the whole mammogram, pap smears." He also cited the fact that "women live longer" and that "women have the breasts, they have the ovaries, they have the uterus," while men "only have the prostate," as evidence for why women should pay more for insurance. After his appearance, Samadi was intensely criticized for his comments.
A week later, on the September 3 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade invited Samadi "to clear up" his previous statements about the difference in medical costs between men and women. Samadi misleadingly characterized his earlier comments as a "compliment" to women:
SAMADI: One of the things I said is women are excellent -- and this was a compliment to them. Is that they are very proactive and they go get screened. In my practice it's the women that bring men to our practice because they just -- men don't go get checked. So just like the mammogram, when U.S. task force said women, we don't want you to get mammograms, they went after, they fought for it, and they went ahead with mammograms. With men, when they said no PSAs, everybody said OK. Sound good to me, I'm gonna go watch my sports.
Samadi's explanation of his August 27 comments whitewashes his more outlandish points. Marie Claire blogger Maura Brannigan noted the ridiculousness of Samadi's decision to count the number of diagnosable body parts in determining appropriate health coverage costs, and Slate's Amanda Marcotte highlighted Samadi's evidence-free defense of his claim that women deserve to pay more for childbirth:
As Gretchen Carlson couldn't help but point out in reference to childbirth costs, starting a pregnancy takes two people, but bringing it to fruition only takes one. Samadi didn't really have a good rejoinder to that. "Not always," he said, creating one of those situations where you really wish a follow-up question was asked. Was he suggesting that the ridiculously small number of pregnancies created in single or lesbian women by sperm donors was justification enough to spare men the responsibility of sharing childbirth costs?