Young: One anecdote is all it takes warp public opinion
March 19, 2014
Yeah, well I heard …"
Four words just about sum up vast seas of political insight about matters that matter.
"I heard about the schools handing out condoms."
"I heard about the Black Panthers intimidating voters."
One would think that in a nation awash with the desolation and despair from “Obamacare,” a pair of honest barkers like the Koch brothers would be able to find one example that would survive a rudimentary fact check.
"I heard that illegal immigrants can get Medicaid."
It hardly matters if the "I heard" is true, or if it is a speck of truth blown up into an asteroid. It only matters that "I heard."
Jon Stewart recently went nose-to-noise with Fox News for casting a net of generalities as wide as a continent based on one interview with a beach bum who said he bought lobster with food stamps. Stewart congratulated Fox News for "finding your food-stamp abuse Bigfoot." He then ridiculed the network for assuring appalled viewers that the nation is awash with comparable atrocities.
Of course, all it takes is one anecdote to affirm all that a target audience wants to believe. You know, the old Reagan-era "welfare Cadillac" ploy.
In his Bush-era book on red-state America, "Deer Hunting with Jesus," Joe Bageant ruminates on that alleged welfare luxury car. A man of the heartland, he grieves to see that the intellectual lives of a vast sea of Americans "exist on things that sound as if they might be true."
The better, he says, for moneyed interests to blunt anything, like health coverage for the working poor, that might benefit those whose labors are so commonly exploited.
Speaking of anecdotes, you might have heard what a disaster the Affordable Care Act is, based on a claim like the one made by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in December — that based on the cancellations of policies deemed inadequate under the Affordable Care Act, more people had lost insurance because of the ACA than had acquired it.
That was false then. It's particularly ridiculous now, as ACA opponents continue to cite it.
In January, long before the glitches of healthcare.gov were resolved and enrollment started to ramp up, a Washington Post analysis laid bare Rubio's falsehood.
The low-hanging fruit of rebuttal, explained the Post's Glenn Kessler, was the 3.9 million Americans who gained health coverage in states that expanded Medicaid.
Some people are challenging the 4.2 million signups attributed to ACA by mid-March. They wondered how many of these people were previously insured or had to switch because their companies dropped them.
The response to this is that movement is movement. Before the progress of the last three months, at the dawn of a new year, the rate of uninsured in this country dropped from 17.1 percent to 15.9 percent. We await Sen. Rubio's statement.
"Well, I heard that because of Obamacare, full-time jobs have been lost to part-time jobs."
Not true, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of February, the nation had added 2 million full-time jobs over the previous year, while the number of part-time jobs declined by 230,000.
Americans for Prosperity, a political hit squad funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has targeted key 2014 races by trotting out horrifying tales attributed to the ACA.
In one advertisement, a leukemia patient declares that her coverage was canceled because of ACA and the new policy will have out-of-pocket costs that put her life in danger.
Well, not exactly. The Post's Kessler found that because of subsidies, the woman will have lower premiums under ACA than before, which would more than cancel out her out-of-pocket costs.
One would think that in a nation awash with the desolation and despair from "Obamacare," a pair of honest barkers like the Koch brothers would be able to find one example that would survive a rudimentary fact check.
But, then, legitimate horrors are not necessary when all it takes is "Well, I heard …"
For as we all know, Bigfoot is out there.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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