New information from major health insurance companies shows that most Obamacare customers have paid their first month's premiums, evidence that undermines the right-wing media's attempts to discount the unexpectedly high number of Americans who have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On April 17, the President Obama announced that 8 million people had been enrolled for health care coverage through the ACA exchanges, exceeding previous White House predictions. Right-wing news outlets worked to downplay the health reform law's success by claiming that the numbers were inflated because some people had not yet paid their first premium.
As the enrollment period drew to a close, Fox's Chris Wallace had questioned the high enrollment numbers because he claimed "they still have no numbers for how many people have paid for coverage," while Fox News hosts and radio personalities like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh even went as far as to claim the administration was "cooking the books" in order to inflate the number of enrollees. Fox News, The Blaze, and The Hill later trumpeted GOP data that was eventually acknowledged to be "incredibly rigged" to claim that only 67 percent of the total enrollees had completed the application process by submitting their first premium payment and that the numbers contradicted to the administration's announcement.
Contrary to these myths, new evidence from Bloomberg confirms what the White House has argued since the enrollment period ended -- insurance companies estimate that between 80 and 90 percent of people have paid their first premium:
Three large health insurers including WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Aetna Inc. (AET) say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.
As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the "low to mid-80 percent range," the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.
As the president of Washington consulting firm Avalere Health told Bloomberg, "What you have here is very solid first year enrollment, no matter how you slice it."
Following its protracted campaign to smear Hillary Clinton as a dishonest and untrustworthy leader, Fox News is working overtime to explain away its own polling revealing that the American people trust the former Secretary of State more than the Republican Party and the slew of potential GOP presidential candidates.
According to Fox News' most recent poll data, 54 percent of registered voters consider Hillary Clinton "honest and trustworthy," a higher percentage than potential Republican 2016 presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Christie Christie received. At 49 percent, her favorability rating is higher than that of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and all GOP 2016 contenders.
Fox hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy addressed Clinton's poll numbers on the April 17 edition of Fox & Friends by blaming liberal bias in the mainstream media. Doocy complained that Clinton was viewed as more trustworthy than Christie because the "mainstream media [...] beat the drum" against Christie rather than report on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, in an effort to "take him out." According to Hasselbeck, the poll could be due to a perception bias that favors women:
DOOCY: You know what's interesting about that poll is -- remember it wasn't too long before the whole bridge thing hit the mainstream media fan where Chris Christie was actually leading Hillary Clinton. But then the mainstream media -- and some cynics on the right would say, well they were just trying to take Chris Christie out because he posed the greatest threat for Hillary Clinton -- nonstop coverage on all the channels about that Bridgegate thing.
And when you think about the two potential candidates, you've got Chris Christie who, you know, a while back was involved, his administration put up 25 traffic cones in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and generated hundreds of hours of mainstream media Bridgegate television. And then far screen right you've got Hillary Clinton who ran the State Department which denied extra security for Libya and four Americans wind up dying. I mean that is quite a contrast. You've got 25 orange cones versus four dead Americans -- but you've got the mainstream media and they beat the drum for Chris Christie, against him, and nobody on the other side of the channel is really covering Benghazi, unless us.
HASSELBECK: Well, perception and reality are two different things. I think it is. In the past women have polled better in terms of trust when it comes to politics. But again, as you mentioned, you know, this is a woman who has been ridden with scandal in the past particularly recently when we talk about Benghazi and four Americans dead. She is still found to be more trustworthy at this point. Go figure.
It's understandable that Fox would prefer to discount these findings. The network has put a significant amount of effort into skewing public opinion of Clinton, pushing repeatedly debunked myths in an attempt to tarnish her image in expectation of a presidential bid in 2016. These efforts are in stark contrast with Fox's willingness to hide information that could hurt potential GOP presidential candidates like Christie, whom Fox personalities have previously showered with praise.
A Fox News contributor has accused Brandeis University of committing an "honor killing" by withdrawing plans to confer an honorary degree upon a controversial critic of Islam.
In an April 11 FoxNews.com op-ed, contributor Zev Chafets attacked Brandeis' decision to withdraw a planned honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a staunch critic of Islam, after protests from students and faculty of the university. Chafets claimed that the university "committed an honor killing" when it announced that Hirsi Ali would no longer receive the award at this year's commencement. Chafets equated the university's decision to a heinous criminal act:
Brandeis University committed an honor killing this week. The victim was a Somali woman named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Honor killings are depressingly common in the Middle East: punishment for women guilty of being raped, losing their virginity outside of marriage, adultery, dressing provocatively or simply embarrassing a male relative. These murders -- most of which go unreported and unprosecuted -- are usually acid-in-the-face, blood-on-the-floor affairs meant not only to salvage the good name of the dishonored family but to intimidate other women (and gay men) into abiding by the prevailing code of behavior.
The Brandeis commencement this year is conferring an honorary degree on Jill Abramson, the gifted and outspoken editor of The New York Times. Hopefully she won't let the occasion pass without reminding her hosts of who is absent from the podium: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman whose reputation is the victim of an honor killing, Brandeis-style.
Brandeis withdrew its invitation to Hirsi Ali after students mounted an online petition in protest. According to The New York Times, the American Enterprise Institute fellow has called Islam "a destructive, nihilistic cult of death." Frederick M. Lawrence, the president of the university, told the Times that although Brandeis had decided against conferring Hirsi Ali with an honorary degree, she "is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue." Ali has responded to the decision by accusing the university of stifling speech.
After Attorney General Eric Holder discussed his support for developing and improving technology that would allow guns to only be fired by authorized users, members of the right-wing media concocted a baseless conspiracy theory that the technology would be used by the government to spy on lawful gun owners.
Fox News used a misleading report from the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to accuse the Obama administration of "destabilizing the nation" by releasing undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds. In fact, data show that the Obama administration has met its enforcement mandate to prioritize the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions, which has resulted in a substantial increase of such deportations.
Fox News will air an attack on President Obama in a program called Surrendering America, which is premised on myths and falsehoods about the Internet, the defense budget, the changed mission for NASA, and U.S. fossil fuel production and exports.
Gun researcher John Lott, an economist well known for his thoroughly discredited "More Guns, Less Crime" theory, is the latest member of right-wing media to offer baseless attacks on surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy. According to Lott, one of the "good reasons" to oppose Murthy is that he supports doctors advising parents to safely store firearms so they are inaccessible to children.
In recent weeks Murthy has come under attack from the National Rifle Association and its allies in conservative media because, like the rest of the medical community, he believes gun violence is a public health concern. Murthy has said his concern about gun violence stems from his experiences as a doctor, but has also said that he would not "use the Surgeon General's office as a bully pulpit for gun control," and instead would make his top priority "obesity prevention."
Fox News "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow attributed Russian president Valdimir Putin's decision to invade Crimea in part "to the psychology of Barack Obama."
In a March 11 FoxNews.com column, Ablow claimed that Putin's motivations should not be dismissed as those of a "simple thug," but rather that "Putin's psychology is being directly fueled by that of President Barack Obama." Ablow criticized Obama as unwilling to assert both personal and nationalistic power, arguing that "Barack Obama apparently believes he was placed on this earth to be the most powerful person he can be, in order to restrain America in the expression of its power."
Ablow went on to imply that Obama's domestic policy was the catalyst for Putin's decision to invade Ukraine:
How then could Vladimir Putin fail to notice the remarkable presence on the world stage of an American counterpart (Barack Obama) who is as interested as he is in disempowering the United States? How could he fail to act on the remarkable symmetry of such a moment in history? To not test the possibility that God intends him to be the instrument of a new world order, based on Russia's manifest destiny, would be contrary to every fiber in his being.
To go further, I do not believe that Vladimir Putin would miss the fact that Barack Obama has imperiled the notion of individual autonomy (by seeking to disarm Americans, by seeking to make Americans dependent on unemployment checks and food stamps and by making it officially impossible to choose how to spend your own money, via the Affordable Care Act). Since giving each individual the right to power is not the goal of this American President, why would Putin believe that taking power from others would be opposed vigorously by this President's Administration?
Ablow concluded that "If Crimea becomes part of Russia or all of Ukraine does," Putin and Obama's psychology will share the blame equally.
The Heritage Foundation recently published a faulty report on the economic effects of the EPA's forthcoming carbon pollution regulations, and its findings have been repeated uncritically in conservative media despite the foundation's fossil fuel funding and the report's "deeply problematic" analysis.
The Heritage Foundation released their new report, titled "EPA's Climate Regulations Will Harm American Manufacturing," just as House Republicans have been ramping up their latest effort to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution regulations. On March 6, the House passed a bill that would heavily weaken the Clean Air Act and would "seriously cripple the Obama Administration's ongoing drive to curb dangerous carbon pollution," according to Dan Lashof of the NRDC (the bill is not expected to pass the Senate). This is part of the GOP's effort to curb what they call President Obama's "war on coal," a slogan the Heritage Foundation repeats in their report.
Many of the criticisms of the EPA's carbon pollution rules are misleading, but perhaps none are more so than those from the Heritage Foundation, an organization whose studies have previously been criticized by even the conservative American Enterprise Institute and libertarian Cato Institute. This time the organization released a report on the EPA with findings even more dire than its prematurely released data: that carbon regulations will reduce income, kill nearly 600,000 jobs including 336,000 manufacturing jobs in 2023 alone, cut a family of four's income by $1,200 a year, and cost the U.S. economy a total of $2.23 trillion. Their claims were repeated uncritically in the Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, and Politico's Morning Energy. But the entire report is "radically problematic" and has a "tenuous connection with reality," according to policy expert Michael Livermore in a phone call with Media Matters -- and here's why:
The benefits of clean air standards have been shown time and time again to significantly outweigh the costs. In fact, the Clean Air Act has already saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs, according to a cost-benefit analysis from the EPA.
And health experts agree. According to a press release from the American Lung Association (ALA), the carbon regulations would help prevent "more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030," due to lower levels of the particulate-forming pollution that comes from burning coal:
"Roughly half of the population in the United States currently lives in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution that is linked to serious illnesses, including asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Carbon pollution that fuels climate change will make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.
"Researchers have estimated that safeguards enacted now to reduce greenhouse gases - including carbon pollution from all sources in the U.S. - would prevent more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030. The lives would be saved as a result of reductions in the ozone, and particulate-forming pollution that is also reduced as carbon is reduced. Cleaning up carbon pollution from power plants is essential to saving those lives.
It seems the Heritage Foundation does not believe there will be any benefits to clean air, as they do not include any benefits in their analysis of the carbon pollution regulations.
Michael Livermore, Senior Advisor at New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, explained in a phone call that "even as a cost prediction, [the report is] very inaccurate because it doesn't paint a complete picture about how the economy is going to respond." He expanded (edited lightly for clarity):
One reason it overstates the cost is because it doesn't account for productivity gains that are associated with clean air benefits [...] They're only looking at ways in which productivity might be reduced because of energy prices but they're not looking at ways in which productivity can be increased because people are healthier and live longer.
In addition to that, they're not accounting for -- as far as I can tell -- the various ways that in a dynamic economy, labor markets and technology will adapt to the agency's greenhouse gas regulations.
They assume that any transitions that occur within the energy sector will propagate out to other sectors of the economy and basically act like a shock that's going to reduce employment everywhere. And again, that's not really accurate, that's not how labor markets work, they're holding things constant like macroeconomic policy and the business cycle, all of which are other compounds that are going to affect the employment rate. So their model has a very tenuous connection to reality in terms of anything that's going to happen that they're predicting, with any degree of accuracy in terms of employment.
And in fact, other models which are more empirically grounded find that when you impose regulatory requirements on firms they're just as likely to hire more workers as they are to lay workers off -- and these are in the most highly regulated industries -- because you have to hire workers to comply with environmental statutes. So for example, yes, it might be the case that some coal miners might need to be laid off and need to transition to other forms of employment, but there's also going to be work building new gas fired power plants and energy efficiency retrofits.
So those two countervailing effects, for the most part, most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero. That any of the employment effects are going to wash out. Because we don't know if there's going to be negative employment effects, but if there are, they're usually going to be associated with countervailing employment effects that are positive. And there's macroeconomic policy like interest rates, like government spending, like taxation, like trade, all of which are going to affect the employment rate far, far more than anything that's going to happen at the regulatory level.
In January 2014, Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonprofit that conducts independent research on environment and energy issues, published a report on the costs of carbon regulations under the EPA's Clean Air Act. They found, contrary to the Heritage Foundation, that the carbon standards will result in "very small changes in average electricity prices" as a likely outcome, and predicted "positive and large" net benefits in every scenario.
The Clean Air Task Force -- a public health and environment advocacy group comprised of engineers, scientists, and specialists -- similarly found in a February 2014 study conducted by The NorthBridge Group that a "highly cost-effective approach" to carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act is feasible:
Simply by setting performance standards that result in displacing electricity generated by high emission rate coal-fired power plants with generation from existing currently underutilized, efficient natural-gas power plants, the U.S. can realize significant, near- term reductions in carbon pollution at a minimal cost.
The analysis predicts that the CATF proposal will:
- Decrease by 2020 of 27%, or 636 million metric tons of CO2, from 2005 levels;
- Avoid 2,000 premature deaths and 15,000 asthma attacks annually as a result of the annual reductions of over 400,000 tons in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in 2020;
- Result in monetized health and climate benefits of $34 billion, which is over three times the cost of compliance;
- increase in average nationwide retail electric rates by only 2% in 2020 which, based on Energy Information Administration forecasts, should result in no net increase in monthly electric bills.
Finally, the Natural Resources Defense Council crafted a proposal to support the EPA's goal of reducing carbon emissions, resulting in net benefits that outweigh the costs "as much as 15 times."
Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.
A FoxNews.com article repeatedly misgendered a transgender California teenager who recently made her school's softball team in a report on a new state law that allows transgender students to participate in programs that match their gender identification. The article also relied on an anti-LGBT hate-group leader in order to attack the law.
In the February 14 article, Fox reporter Perry Chiaramonte attacked a new law in California that allows transgender students statewide to use facilities and participate in sports and extracurricular activities in a manner consistent with their preferred gender. Chiaramonte problematically identified high school senior Pat Cordova-Goff as a "high school student who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy's body:
A California high school student who believes he is a girl trapped in a boy's body just made the girls' softball team.
Pat Cordova-Goff, 17, a strapping senior at Azusa High School, in Azusa, an hour east of Los Angeles, can play with and against girls because of a September change in state law went into effect last month. The law requires that, "a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."
Goff, who is a cheerleader at the school, played freshman baseball when he considered himself a boy. He found out Friday that he made the cut.
In the article from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune which Chiaramonte linked to in his own article, Cordova-Goff specifically stated that she has identified as a transgender female for several years and uses female pronouns:
The 5-foot-8 Cordova-Goff has identified as a transgender female for several years. Thoughts of medical treatments or procedures are in the distant future, Cordova-Goff said.
"I can't afford a wardrobe and makeup and everything, so I don't have the resources to express myself the way I want to," Cordova-Goff said. "I'm really pushing myself to be myself, and I finally have started going by 'Pat,' started using 'she' and 'hers.' "
Fox's refusal to recognize Cordova-Goff's gender identity violates GLAAD's Media Reference Guide which calls on news organizations to refer to transgender people by their preferred gender pronouns: (emphasis added)
If it is not possible to ask a transgender person which pronoun he or she prefers, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person's appearance and gender expression. For example, if a person wears a dress and uses the name Susan, feminine pronouns are appropriate.
Fox's writing on transgender subjects is in direct contrast to other media organizations' decision to follow GLAAD's recommendations. Outlets like the Associated Press and The New York Times have instructed their writers to use a person's preferred pronoun and social media website Facebook recently expanded gender pronouns and identities -- though Fox News mocked that decision.
A day after civil rights organizations asked right-wing media to curb their misinformation and racially charged rhetoric, Fox News rejoined other conservative outlets in the smear campaign against Debo Adegbile, senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and President Obama's highly-regarded pick to head the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
In a January 31 report posted to FoxNews.com, legal correspondent Shannon Bream contributed to a post that cited mysterious "critics" of Adegbile's supposed "outside the mainstream" approach to the law. The report did not mention that the criminal defense work he did to overturn an unconstitutional death sentence on appeal has been commended by the American Bar Association, members of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). From FoxNews.com:
Adegbile has been described by critics as "radical," "dangerous" and "outside the mainstream."
Obama nominated Adegbile to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
However, he is now facing increased criticism for his role in getting convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence overturned during his time as a practicing attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1981 of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.
Maureen Faulkner says she's "outraged" by Obama's decision to nominate Adegbile to the post.
Maureen Faulkner isn't the only one casting doubt on the nomination.
The Fraternal Order of Police recently sent a letter to Obama opposing Adgebile's possible appointment.
"This nomination can be interpreted in only one way: it is a thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement officers," Chuck Canterbury, president of the police group, wrote in a letter addressed to Obama.
Fox News is attempting to revive the myth that the Affordable Care Act includes a secret fee to cover abortions to support the GOP's misleadingly titled "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."
On January 27, FoxNews.com highlighted an article from right-wing website Watchdog.org that was originally posted under the headline "Secret abortion fees hidden in Obamacare premiums." The post promoted the claims of "congressional leaders" who claimed "Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions" and claimed the Republicans' proposed "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would resolve the problem. The claim appeared again during the January 28 edition of Fox & Friends when co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham if it was "true that there's a hidden fee to cover abortions under Obamacare":
The right-wing media's "hidden abortion fee" myth is rooted in the original Senate version of the health care law. In 2009, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner posted a blog claiming "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee." Boehner's claim was picked up by right-wing media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, who read the press release verbatim on his show. The myth reappeared in 2012 when right-wing media figures claimed everyone under the ACA "will be forced to pay a dollar a month to cover abortion on your insurance policy."
The myth has always been built on a misrepresentation of how the ACA handles abortion coverage. In fact, despite the title of the GOP's bill, the provision that the right-wing media is hyping is an effort to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion. The ACA requires states to offer at least one health plan that does not cover abortions. Plans that do cover abortion, however, contain a surcharge that is assessed on consumers who opt in to that plan in order to prevent federal funds from being used, a violation of the Hyde amendment that prevents federal funding from paying for abortion except in case of rape, incest, or the woman's life being in danger. In a March 21, 2012, post, PolitiFact explained:
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates destroyed the right-wing narrative that his memoir attacks President Obama's approach to the war in Afghanistan, a narrative instigated by Bob Woodward and subsequently perpetuated by Fox News.
Gates' memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, caused widespread controversy preceding its January 14 release because of how Gates characterized the Obama administration's handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a January 13 interview on NBC's Today with co-host Matt Lauer, Gates explained that "what has been lost in the news media is that I actually agreed with virtually every decision President Obama made on Afghanistan." Gates opened the interview lamenting that the "book has sort of been hijacked by people along the political spectrum to serve their own purposes, taking quotes out of context and so on."
Following the release of excerpts from Gates' memoir, media figures seized on the selective quotes to attack President Obama. On January 7, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, a vocal critic of the Obama administration, characterized Gates' memoir as a damning critique of Obamathat "unleashes harsh judgements about President Obama's leadership" in Afghanistan. But Woodward's own accounts of the book's contents -- he acknowledged later in the piece that Gates believed "Obama was right" on each of his decisions regarding Afghanistan -- undermined his article.
Fox News personalities quickly followed suit. In a January 8 op-ed on FoxNews.com, Fox national security analyst K.T. McFarland used Gates' memoir to claim that Obama committed troops to a strategy he didn't believe in, saying, "Obama had concluded early on that the surge was a lost cause, but he went ahead anyway," a fallacious conclusion in light of Gates' comments.
In a January 13 column on FoxNews.com, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin echoed Woodward, claiming:
The former defense secretary offers the most devastating critique to come from an Obama insider. He paints the president as estranged from the very Afghan military surge he ordered and suspicious of and hostile toward top leaders of the armed forces.
On the January 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox military analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane claimed Gates' memoir showed "President Bush wanted to win and President Obama, simply put, wanted to get out."
Right-wing media responded to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) admission that his administration caused a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as political payback with praise for the embattled governor and used Christie's response to pivot to criticisms of President Obama including invoking the phony Benghazi scandal.