A Question For President Obama and His Campaign: Why Lie?

I have an iron-clad rule for all Presidents, regardless of party, ideology and political philosophy: Don’t use deception as a tool of governance. I have a related rule for Presidents who get elected by pledging honesty and transparency in government: Especially you!

The President’s health care law, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” whatever its merits, was probably the most dishonestly sold, packaged and passed major law in U.S. history (if someone has another candidate, please submit it.) Not all of the dishonesty was due to President Obama’s personal efforts–he didn’t tell its House and Senate not to bother to read the various versions of the bill, for example, or submit to the CBO patently manipulated assumptions to ensure its projection of a net budget surplus from the law immediately prior to its passage, assumptions that were substantially revised later. He is the one who pledged over and over again that if you liked your current coverage, nothing the law did would stop you from keeping it, a promise that seemed dubious at the time and that has in fact proven to be either mistaken or deliberately misleading.

Still…the law was passed. Utilitarian justifications and rationalizations for various tactics and maneuvers to get it passed are unnecessary now. So why does the President and his campaign team feel that they have to skirt the truth in their public relations and re-election efforts?

The Tom Hanks-narrated Obama campaign film “The Road We’ve Traveled” has already been charged with truth fouls by objective analysts on many points, including Obamacare. In the assessment of FactCheck.org, the best and most objective of the various political fact-checking websites, the film dissembles regarding, among other things...

  • “The film says ’17 million kids could no longer be denied for preexisting conditions,’ implying all of them were being denied care before the federal health care law was passed. But that’s the total number of kids who could potentially be denied coverage or charged higher premiums if they sought coverage on the individual market.”
  • “It also implies that Obama has reined in the costs of health care premiums — which ‘had been rising three times the rate of inflation,’ as the film says. But the law hasn’t reined in premiums, which still rose three times more than inflation last year. In fact, experts say some of the recent growth was caused by the law, which requires more generous coverage.”
  • “The film suggests that Obama refused to compromise on health care. Obama did hold out for a comprehensive bill, but there was compromise along the way, including the decision to drop the “public option” that he once championed. Later, he called the law ‘nine-tenths of a loaf.'”

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s “Fact-Checker” has called the Obama campaign on an even more blatant misrepresentation. From the film:

Narrator Tom Hanks: “He knew from experience the cost of waiting [on health care reform].”

President Obama : “When my mom got cancer, she wasn’t a wealthy woman and it pretty much drained all her resources”

Michelle Obama: “She developed ovarian cancer, never really had good, consistent insurance. That’s a tough thing to deal with, watching your mother die of something that could have been prevented. I don’t think he wants to see anyone go through that.”

Hanks: “And he remembered the millions of families like of his who feel the pressure of rising costs and the fear of being denied or dropped from coverage.”

Kessler points out that this is, to be blunt (blunter that Kessler is willing to be), an outright lie, an attempt to make the audience believe something that is not true, and a portrayal of events that the President and the people making the film knew and know isn’t true.


“…The sequence, in fact, evokes a famous story that candidate Obama told during the 2008 campaign…During the 2008 campaign, Obama frequently suggested his mother had to fight with her health-insurance company for treatment of her cancer because it considered her disease to be a pre-existing condition. In one of the presidential debates with GOP rival John McCain, Obama said:

 “‘For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”

“But then earlier this year, journalist Janny Scott cast serious doubt on this version of events in her excellent biography, “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s mother.” Scott reviewed letters from Dunham to the CIGNA insurance company, and revealed the dispute was over disability coverage, not health insurance coverage.  Disability coverage will help replace wages lost to an illness. (Dunham received a base pay of $82,500, plus a housing allowance and a car, to work in Indonesia for Development Alternatives Inc. of Bethesda, according to Scott.) But that is different than health insurance coverage denied because of a pre-existing condition, which was a major part of the president’s health care law.

“Scott writes that Dunham, who died in 1995 of uterine and ovarian cancer, had health insurance that ‘covered most of the costs of her medical treatment…The hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.’

“Dunham had filed the disability claim to help pay for those additional expenses. The company denied the claim because her doctor had suspected uterine cancer during an office visit 2 ½ months before Dunham had started the job with Development Alternatives, though Dunham said the doctor had not discussed the possibility with cancer with her. Dunham requested a review from CIGNA, saying she was turning the case over to ‘my son and attorney Barack Obama.’

When Scott’s book was published, the White House did not dispute her account. ‘The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago,’ a spokesman said.

“Now let’s look at what the movie does with this story. It does not directly repeat the claim that Obama’s mother was denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, fighting for treatment in her hospital room. But look at what it does say:

“1. Hanks says the president knew the cost of waiting on reform. (Though disability coverage was not an issue in the health care debate.)

“2. The president says cancer ‘drained all her resources.’ (Health insurance paid for most of her bills, so this is not the case of someone being bankrupted by tens of thousands of dollars in bills. Her salary of $82,500 in 1995 was the equivalent of $123,000 today, but Scott says she had little savings.)

3. Michelle Obama says Dunham “never really had good, consistent insurance.” (It is unclear what she means by this, except maybe that Dunham had different jobs, some of which did not provide insurance. But Dunham had good health coverage when the cancer was discovered.)

4. The first lady also suggests the death “could have been prevented.” (Again, it was not an insurance issue. Before going overseas, Dunham was too busy with work and had skipped an important test recommended by her U.S. doctor, dilation and curettage, that might have spotted the cancer earlier. Then an Indonesian doctor diagnosed her problem as appendicitis and removed her appendix. By the time the cancer was finally discovered, it was third-stage.)

5. Hanks says that Obama’s family felt “the pressure of rising costs and the fear of being denied or dropped from coverage.” (Maybe for disability, but not health insurance.)

“In the end, the impression left by the film, especially if you watch it, is very similar to Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric: His mother was denied health-insurance coverage, draining her resources, and with better coverage she might have lived longer. The film suggests this experience helped inspire the president to keep fighting for the health care law, even in the face of advice from aides that he accept a less-than-satisfactory compromise.

“Note that none of the quotes in the film actually use the words “health insurance” or “health insurance coverage.” Instead, the first lady says “insurance” and Hanks says “coverage,” which could just as easily mean disability insurance. But that would not be as evocative—or as motivating.

“Asked for a response, the Obama campaign referred us to the previous White House statement on Scott’s book.”

The last line is pretty damning. The “previous White House statement” when the author’s research showed that Obama had misrepresented what happened to his mother in the 2008 campaign made the reasonable excuse that the President had misspoken and that his recollection of the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death after 15 years was imperfect. Fine. But that isn’t a satisfactory, reasonable  or truthful explanation now, for an intentional misrepresentation in a campaign film that was scripted and produced after the President was made aware of his previous error—even if it really was an error.

Kessler’s parentheticals add up to three unavoidable conclusions:

1. The death of President Obama’s mother had absolutely nothing to do with a denial of health care coverage, and thus are completely irrelevant to his quest for health care insurance reform.

2. The film intentionally aims to make a viewer believe otherwise. When one uses a misrepresentation of known facts to make someone believe something other than the truth, it is called lying.

3. The President approved an intentional misrepresentation of the facts in his campaign film.

My questions are simple ones: Why? Why was this necessary? How can this be a respectable and fair way to communicate with the public?

Surely the argument can be made that Obamacare is a good and necessary law without lying about Obama’s mother’s cancer. Can’t it? Whatever Democrats feel about what they believe are unfair and misleading attacks on the President and his signature achievement, sure they can rebut them without resorting to lies and deception…can’t they? What does it say about President Obama’s integrity that he would agree to launch his re-election campaign with a slick, celebrity narrated film containing intentional misrepresentations and untruths?

Why lie?

48 thoughts on “A Question For President Obama and His Campaign: Why Lie?

  1. Jack, your question to President Obama is: “Why lie?”
    The answer is simple: Obama’s life is an inconvenient truth and truth presents an impediment to acquiring the power required for his insurgency against our republic and the liberating engine of a free market economy.

  2. Yes he lied. But politicians lie. There is no excuse. But health care is expensive and if you don’t have the insurance or the money your care will be substandard. Isn’t everyone entitled to the best healthcare? I don’t get the care I need. I don’t think it’s fair that I don’t get the care I need and I don’t think it’s fair to my kids. I can’t work. I want to, but I can’t. The stress and anxiety is unreal. I don’t want a handout but I want to be able to live too. And COBRA doesn’t count!

    • Isn’t everyone entitled to the best healthcare?

      People in countries with socialized medicine do not get the best healthcare.

      Quadriplegics in those countries are not treated with cyborg technology a la
      , for example.

      • I didn’t say socialized medicine is the answer. I’m saying we are in a pay to play society. If you can’t pay…..it’s death or bankruptcy.

        • On top of that I worked for an employer who had company controlled health insurance and they were the ones who deemed what was necessary and unnecessary treatments. How is that different than government controlled health care?

            • Getting a different job would be a great answer if it wasn’t the only place for my profession in my locale. I could move, but it isn’t feasable. At least my wife has a decent job.

              • Okayyyy … then back to — If you don’t like government health coverage, you can’t get another government. Why do people think that socialized medicine will somehow bring about MORE and BETTER options to healthcare? It’s implausible to believe such a thing!

                • Okay….if the Republicans or a Republican President would have legislated a similar bill, they would have been spun it into people would have to be responsible in getting health insurance or pay the fine or tax. Many people use the emergency room, urgent care, or free clinics ( and they aren’t free; someone has to pay for it) without paying for the treatments they receive. Who pays for that? The tax payers? The insurance companies? The hospitals? That seems more like socialized medicine to me. Obamacare makes people accountable for their own health care. I thought that was what conservatives want. Personal reponsibility. Isn’t taxpayer funded health care more like socialized medicine? Wouldn’t paying a mandate force personal responsibility?

  3. Since Obama has been in office Medicaid insurance covering optical and dental has been cut.
    Obama has lied about more than this. I believe he is completely dishonest. If he told the truth he knows the people would be all over him like white on rice.

    • Without America’s compliant and sycophantic media, Obama’s back-story would have, at best, restricted him to agitating in Chicago for the rest of his life. Obama survives on the arrogant ignorance of the brainwashed graduates of the Ivy League.

  4. Okay, here’s this. How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving. (I know it’s an old joke). But health care reform was needed and long overdue and compromise was and is needed to institute reform. Some of you need to study some history before singling out Obama.

    • An old joke and a stunningly dumb comment. If you tolerate pols who lie, that’s what you deserve. There is no excuse for the President deceiving people, especially in a campaign video when there is no need whatsoever. What does the need for health care reform—and by the way, what is needed is cost controls, and this “reform” didn’t do a thing about that— have to do with the President lying? You’re saying that a leader in a democracy is justified lying to the public to get laws passed under false pretenses? What in the world is the matter with you? Your lazy and absurd attitude is why we can’t trust our leaders. Good job!

      I know my political history and Presidential history extremely well, pal. And the fact that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were liars doesn’t excuse Obama in the least. I’m not singling out Obama…he’s the President, right now…the only one. That’s single enough for me.

      You lack sufficient ethical comprehension to comment on a blog with ethics in the title. Sorry…I don’t have excessively high standards for commenters, but this doesn’t come within a mile of them.

  5. The story about Obama’s mother just seems deceptive. And the idea that Obama refused to compromise (if that’s really what the film says — I haven’t bothered to watch it myself) is just ridiculous. The process was full of compromise from the git-go (and arguably that’s not a bad thing).

    OTOH, some of your policy claims, Jack, seem a little dicey to me.

    …or submit to the CBO patently manipulated assumptions to ensure its projection of a net budget surplus from the law immediately prior to its passage, assumptions that were substantially revised later.

    I have no idea which assumptions you consider “patently manipulated,” or how you define that, but it’s absolutely necessary to make some assumptions when submitting a bill to the CBO. Contrary to what you claim here, there haven’t been any revised assumptions that have changed the CBO’s findings of a net budget surplus. (Overall, the CBO is now projecting a slightly bigger surplus than they were predicting when the ACA passed.)

    The major assumption that has changed is the CLASS act; Democrats thought it would be workable, Republicans thought it wouldn’t be workable. After a couple of years, the Obama administration concluded that it wasn’t workable, so they canceled it (as the legislation allowed them to do). That was embarrassing, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it dishonest; it was in fact the responsible call to make under the circumstances.

    I’d like to see your source for the claim that Congress did not read the bill before passing it. Do you mean that not every individual member of Congress read the bill? No doubt true, but pretty inconsequential; Congress members have far too many bills to read every one, and have to rely on staff. That’s not unusual or dishonest, so you can’t use it to claim that the ACA was passed in a dishonest fashion.

    If you mean that members of Congress read the law they passed but not the legal mark-up version, yes, that’s true, but it’s also perfectly standard procedure for all bills — so, again, not unique to the ACA.

    Regarding “cost controls,” it’s true that the ACA didn’t include direct government price-fixing, so if that’s what you meant, you’re right. But there was no way in the world direct cost controls could have passed Congress. If you’re saying that the ACA doesn’t include anything at all to “bend the cost curve”, then you’re plainly wrong.

    • 1. Obama claimed that the individual mandate was not a tax, and now, before the Supreme Court, is arguing that it is one.
      2. The stated “you can keep your plan”, which the latest reports say will not be the case for millions.
      3. Nancy Pelosi’s “This is a jobs bill.”
      4. The cost estimate, which was obviously low-balled, has just vastly increased.
      5. The presumptions of the added Medicare taxes to pay for Obamacare is patently dishonest.
      6. The flim-flammery around the appointment of Kennedy’s successor, after he had personally worked to change the Mass law so there would NOT be an appointed temp, until the health care bill became an issue.
      7. The inducement of Sen. Spector to betray Pennsylvania voters by switching parties.

      That’s a few off the top of my head.

      Barry, I can’t find a single proponent of the law who has admitted that he or she DID read the entire bill. True, it was unreadable—I read one version, and it nearly killed me, and made no sense at all. But the fact that this happens a lot is not an excuse. Staff reading and summarizing a bill is not a substitute for it being read by the elected rep who is supposed to pass judgment on it. If the bill is too long and involved to be read and understood, then it shouldn’t pass. Simple as that. How can you or anybody defend voting for a huge and expensive law that the rep or Senator doesn’t completely understand and know exactly what they are voting for? That’s unconscionable, common or not.

      I vividly recall how Bob Packwood killed Hillarycare by READING it on the floor of the Senate. he knew it cold, and could point to its problems.

      • It’s interesting that you don’t mention the Republican contributions to Obamacare at all. Lies from conservatives (like “death panels,” “full federal funding on abortions,” “largest tax increase in US history,” etc etc) either don’t make your list, or are repeated on your list as if they were true (such as your number 4). But those lies have real effects, and contributed to shaping the final legislation; for instance, the “death panels” lie caused a provision to have Medicare pay for voluntary end-of-life consultations to be removed from the bill.

        1. Obama claimed that the individual mandate was not a tax, and now, before the Supreme Court, is arguing that it is one.

        The person representing the Obama administration in today’s arguments was Solicitor-General Verrilli, and he argued over and over that the mandate is not a tax. (For example: “Congress has authority under the taxing power to enact a measure not labeled as a tax, and it did so when it put section 5000A into the Internal Revenue Code.”)

        The person arguing to the Court today that the mandate is a tax was Robert Long. Long doesn’t represent the Obama Administration.

        There are some more interesting issues here, which I think goes to a more substantial criticism of Obama. In the current environment in DC, we have a situation — largely created by Republicans, but enabled by Democratic cowardice — where talking about raising taxes on middle-class Americans, ever, is off the table. (Both parties have proposed to do so, but in cloaked and indirect ways, rather than openly.) That’s stupid, and childish. The government does things, those things have to be paid for, and cuts alone won’t do it; therefore, tax increases need to be on the table.

        Obama shouldn’t have given in to that childish environment. This is a problem for the ACA — it would have been much better to just use a tax, rather than this word-parsing workaround — and also a problem for many other policies.

        2. The stated “you can keep your plan”, which the latest reports say will not be the case for millions.

        I think this was a foolish promise; the Federal government simply doesn’t have the ability to keep everyone’s insurance in stasis, with or without the ACA. Change is constant and inevitable.

        Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear that the ACA was crafted — at great inconvenience to the policy — to keep that promise as much as possible.

        Could you please link to what you mean by “the latest reports” if you’d like me to comment on them?

        3. Nancy Pelosi’s “This is a jobs bill.”

        Pelosi’s statement was optimistic, but being optimistic is not being a liar. Essentially, if you believe that the ACA is going to work — and Pelosi probably does believe that — then it’s reasonable to believe the added efficiencies will free businesses to do more hiring.

        Your double-standards are very striking, Jack. You defended Sarah Palin’s claim that “my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care”; according to you, that wasn’t a lie, just “sincerely expressed hyperbole” with “some validity.”

        Far from having validity, it is the most demonizing, vicious lie ever said by one major US political figure about another in my lifetime. Palin wasn’t just lying about the policy (although she was); she was encouraging her followers to view Democrats as inhuman, evil monsters. That you defend Palin’s reprehensible accusations, but attack Pelosi’s infinitely more reasonable claim, says a lot.

        4. The cost estimate, which was obviously low-balled, has just vastly increased.

        As I’ve already pointed out, this isn’t true. My source for saying it isn’t true is the CBO. What’s your source?

        5. The presumptions of the added Medicare taxes to pay for Obamacare is patently dishonest.

        I’m not sure what this is referring to. Medicare taxes were raised for individuals earning over $200000 a year, and married couples earning over $250000. What about that is “patently dishonest”?

        I agree with you about 6. No comment on #7; I don’t live in Pennsylvania and didn’t follow that closely.

        Regarding not reading the entire text of every bill, you may or may not consider it honest, but that’s irrelevant. The point is, it’s not unique to the ACA, so you can’t logically or fairly cite it to support your claim that the ACA was the most dishonest bill evah. (I strongly suspect Ron Wyden read the entire bill, btw.)

        How can you or anybody defend voting for a huge and expensive law that the rep or Senator doesn’t completely understand and know exactly what they are voting for?

        You’re letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. In a perfect world, Senators would have infinite time to read every bill in detail, and/or the problems of lawmaking would be so small and simple that we wouldn’t need many bills per year. But in reality, the USA is large and complicated, and we have a system of representative democracy that — for all its many advantages — means that there are hundreds of cooks with their spoons in the pot, which naturally makes things more complex.

        Other than dictatorship (which is very simple, but also a terrible governing system, as I’m sure you’ll agree), I don’t see how the rulemaking for a country as large, diverse and complex as the US could be as simple as you say it should be. And I don’t accept that acknowledging reality is unethical.

        • [Jeez, what a good, thoughtful and well-researched comment! If it wasn’t tangential to the original post—that is, it doesn’t address why Obama feels it necessary to lie his head off in his campaign film—I’d post it separately. Thanks.]

          I care more about the bill-reading issue than all the others combined. It’s not letting the “perfect be the enemy of the good”, it’s a case of making the bare minimum be the enemy of the outrageously lazy. These people are legislators, and their job as legislators is to know what they are passing. What is amazing is that the culture on the Hill has rotted to the point that a rational, rigorous observer like you could shrug off the refusal to meet the failure to meet most basic responsibility of lawmaking–to know what the law is before they pass it. Too long a bill? Find—don’t pass such complicated laws. That would help everyone. Not enough time to read them all? Find—don’t pass so many laws….or spend less time raising money. Representatives can’t understand the bills? Fine—elect smarter Senators and Congressmen.

          We’re not talking about some boilerplate, “let’s make this National Dildo Day” vote here—we’re talking about one of the most wide-reaching, important, expensive laws there has ever been on a crucial, life and death issue, literally. Again, I find it frightening that anyone supports the contention that reading a bill like this isn’t a bare minimum. If the member doesn’t read it, how does he or she know that the staff isn’t giving a biased or manipulative interpretation? How does he know little bombs and goodies haven’t been slipped in along the way? Again, I find it disturbing and remarkable that asserting that US members of Congress actually do what their job says they are supposed to do is considered a revolutionary sentiment.

          As for some of the others:
          4. Well, here for example. I know that the CBO’s latest gobbledygook was interpreted to both increase the cost and not, depending on who does the interpreting…which just reaffirms the fact that that the real costs, whatever they were and are, were intentionally obscured.

          5. “Added Medicare taxes” was incorrect phrasing, so its understandable that you didn’t know what I was taking about—I mushed together the main assumptions I was referring to and ended up with one that doesn’t exist. I was referring to the bill’s three big assumptions underlying the cost and revenue estimates: 1. the excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” health care plans that would begin in 2013; 2. the reduction in physician payment rates for Medicare and other rate cuts for Medicare providers; 3. the implementation of an advisory board that would implement cost-saving measures to reduce Medicare spending, unless rejected by subsequent legislation. Obama-flacks claim that these are good faith assumptions that will really happen; opponents of the bill argue that they are wool over the eyes, and independent and realistic observors are skeptical that they will happen as promised, since they impose obligations of future spineless legislators. I agree with the last group, and the second one. I believe that these were put in to lull the inattentive public into believing something other than what the legislators themselves believe.
          3. I don’t think Pelosi is capable of making an honest statement that doesn’t have political motives behind it. As Speaker of the House, he opinion is supposed to be trustworthy. There were no estimates or projections that showed the AHCA creating significant jobs beyond larger regulatory bureaucracies. She just said it because the Tea Party was agitating about jobs and deficits. It wasn’t a considered opinion…surely you know this.
          1. Oh…is the Administration back to arguing that it is NOT a tax? (I missed the oral argument yesterday.) Because in at least three of the lower court cases, it argued that it WAS, after swearing during the debate that it wasn’t (because the public doesn’t like taxes.) At least one lower court judge specifically reprimanded the Administration in its opinion for a bait and switch. The NYT, hardly and Obama critic, mocks the Administration for arguing both ways depending on the setting: “In other words, the Justice Department is essentially arguing that the penalty is not a tax, except when the government says it is one.” You don’t think that’s an intellectually dishonest and misleading approach?

          As to the GOP, there’s no double standard. The Democrats and the proponents of a huge, budget busting, over-sold bill have the burden of proof, not the opponents. The fact that opponents of the Iraq War were claiming absurd things and worst case scenarios in the debate before the US attacked doesn’t justify the Bush Administration over-hyping its evidence. The fact that anti-global warming fanatics deny that the earth is warming or that man has no role in it can’t justify scientists over-simplifying their findings, glossing over problems in the data and pretending legitimate, qualified dissenters exist. I said that the law was dishonestly sold and passed (I didn’t even get into the Parliamentary tricks, which had never been used on a bill of such magnitude to avoid proper procedures), which is true. If you’re saying that dishonest opposition justifies lying to get a bill through, I disagree. The Democrats were afraid to be candid about what the law really would do (Pelosi’s disgraceful “Pass the bill to learn what’s in it” argument) because they feared public opposition if the truth were clear. That much of the GOP rhetoric was misleading, dishonest and over-the-top isn’t the issue, just as a criminal defense attorney’s efforts to confuse the jury don’t justify a dishonest prosecution. Similarly, the GOP opponants should read the bill too (and virtually none did), but “I didn’t read it” and “I can’t understand it” and “it’s too long and complicated” are all good reasons NOT to vote for a huge law. They can never be a legitimate reasons to vote FOR it!

          • Jeez, what a good, thoughtful and well-researched comment! If it wasn’t tangential to the original post—that is, it doesn’t address why Obama feels it necessary to lie his head off in his campaign film—I’d post it separately.

            Thanks! 🙂

            I think why Obama (or his campaign) lies, in this case, is very obvious. It’s a campaign film: He’s puffing up his accomplishments and trying to overlook what hasn’t gone well. He’s doing this because this is overwhelmingly what politicians believe they need to do in order to get re-elected.

            I don’t think Obama’s lies and deceptions are justified, but I also don’t think Obama is unusual for a major politician. If you want things to change, ask how our system could be organized to give politicians different incentives.

            Regarding reading bills:

            Obamacare was in fact better read and better understood than most bills Congress passes. Every interested member of Congress had more than ample opportunity to understand all the important points (and those who claim otherwise are doing so for opportunistic reasons), and it’s really not necessary to read the final mark-up (made by nonpartisan legal staffers) to do so; in fact, by concentrating on the pre-mark-up language, I’m pretty sure Congress members increased their comprehension. It was covered in enormous depth by many wonky sources for many, many, many months before passage; I cannot recall another bill that was as closely examined or written about before becoming law.

            The danger of things being snuck into law without congress’ awareness isn’t in big marquee bills that everyone’s paying attention to. It’s in small, seemingly routine bills that can pass in the dead of night with riders that almost no one has read. I would certainly favor sunshine rules to prevent that sort of thing from happening; but I think you’re mistaken if you think such rules would have led to any changes at all in Obamacare.

            You seem to be taking it as a matter of faith that there’s no actual need for Congress to do much or to for laws to ever have any complexity. (The total length of the Obamacare bill was about the same as a later Harry Potter novel, btw). I don’t believe your faith is justified by the reality.

            We are a large and complex country. Do you deny that?

            There are a limited number of days in a year, and an even more limited number of days that Congress is in session. Do you deny that?

            Our Constitution and government structure makes it inevitable that bills that pass will require the approval of, and thus reflect the input and needs of, many different constituencies. Do you deny that?

            If you don’t deny the above, then how can you imply that it would be possible for lawmaking to consist of only a few bills each year, all of them simple?

            * * *

            4. Well, here for example. I know that the CBO’s latest gobbledygook was interpreted to both increase the cost and not, depending on who does the interpreting…which just reaffirms the fact that that the real costs, whatever they were and are, were intentionally obscured.

            Jack, please read your link again. Kessler very clearly takes my side in this dispute, and says the argument you’re making is “less… than meets the eye.”

            When the same years are put side by side, you will see there are only slight differences in the estimates, mainly for technical reasons. For instance, in 2016, the original estimate showed gross costs of $161 billion; now it’s $175 billion. That’s a virtually rounding error in the federal government. The CBO even suggests that the “net cost” estimates (adding in items such as mandate fines) have declined slightly; its original estimate was $788 billion.

            The people who are “intentionally obscuring” reality, in this case, is the Republicans. What the CBO wrote was not “gobblygook”; they clearly, explicitly said that costs have not risen. They even provided an easy-to-read graph illustrating that estimated costs have not risen. Your OWN SOURCE explains that what you believe is wrong.

            What would it take to convince you that you’re in error on this point?

            5. You wrote:

            1. the excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” health care plans that would begin in 2013; 2. the reduction in physician payment rates for Medicare and other rate cuts for Medicare providers; 3. the implementation of an advisory board that would implement cost-saving measures to reduce Medicare spending, unless rejected by subsequent legislation.

            2. isn’t a problem caused by Obamacare; it’s a long-existing and completely bipartisan problem that precedes Obamacare by many years, and will still be going on in the future even if the SCOTUS completely revokes Obamacare.

            1. and 3. In both these cases, Obamacare has made the change into the default. That is, if Congress does nothing — which is the most likely outcome — then the excise tax on “Cadillac” plans will happen (although almost no one will pay it, but that’s by design — it’s meant to encourage lower premium growth, not to collect revenue), and any cost-saving measures recommended by the Independent Payment Advisory Board will happen. It is only if Congress can get over its spinelessness and pass new bills that either of these things would not happen — and that would probably mean overcoming the 60-vote barrier in the Senate.

            In particular, regarding the Independent Payment Advisory Board, Congress can only overrule the IPAB’s recommendations if they can come up and pass a replacement policy that would save just as much money as whatever the IPAB recommended. If Congress is spineless, as you claim, then we can be pretty sure that the IPAB’s recommendations will become law.

            In any case, I refuse to accept the view that Congress is incapable of making any positive change ever so anyone attempting to make a change is just a liar. That view is cynical and defeatist, and also factually wrong. History shows that change is difficult; it does not show that change is impossible.

            3. I don’t think Pelosi is capable of making an honest statement that doesn’t have political motives behind it.

            The question at issue is, is Pelosi capable of making good-faith statements when they are in accord with her political goals. There’s no reason to suppose she’s incapable of that, other than pure partisan rancor.

            There were no estimates or projections that showed the AHCA creating significant jobs beyond larger regulatory bureaucracies.

            This is simply not true; Pelosi was relying on “health system impacts of health reform proposals,” a study by Harvard economist David Cutler, and also this study from the RAND corporation. You may not like or agree with those studies, but they unquestionably exist, and Pelosi’s staff unquestionably cited them when they were asked.

            Again, that you call this statement from Pelosi a lie while defending Palin’s vile “death panel” lie as being “hyperbole” with “some validity” completely destroys your claim to be anything but a partisan on these matters.

            1. I think the criticism that the Administration has been trying to have it both ways on the “is it a tax” question is fair and correct. The only defense is that Federal law does, in fact, seem to have it both ways; that is, it seems to be true that Congress can pass laws under the taxing authority and nonetheless not call them taxes. Nonetheless, it would have been better if Obama had just called it a tax all along.

            Thanks for the discussion.

            • Barry: just three points, to avoid re-hashing, and you deserve the last word.

              1. My objection to the law is assuredly NOT partisan. It actually helps me personally a lot, as a small business owner who has no groups to but from. I object to it because 1) it does nothing to control costs 2) we can’t afford it as a nation 3) it was epically stupid to put an unconstitutional provision in the foundation of it 4) the process was a disgrace and 5) nobody read it. I’d feel the same way no matter which party was involved. I don’t see why the law should even involve partisanship, frankly.

              2. I admit to serious anti-Pelosi bias. I think she’s dishonest, crooked, vicious, arrogant, unprincipled, not very bright, and as close to evil as any recently elected official, recently meaning in the last 30 years. It never occurred to me that she might actually have a study to rely on that says the law could create jobs, and I am certain that if there wasn’t one but she could advance her cause by saying this anyway, she would have. Thanks for the reference.

              3. I LIKE death panels. I think they are unavoidable, and that Palin did everyone a service by forcing a discussion of them. And the panels in the law that review hospital decisions to give high cost, high risk care are, in effect, death panels. The Democrats were trying to hide the ball (if they in fact knew that the procedure was in there.) I do not think Palin was lying.

              • Let me put the bit about the death panels at the top, Jack, because it’s the bit that matters the most to me. It goes to the basic idea of if we’re going to have a debate based on truth and facts, or if we’re just going to feel free to make up our own facts.

                You said “And the panels in the law that review hospital decisions to give high cost, high risk care are, in effect, death panels.”

                First of all, even if you were right about that, Palin would still be a liar. What you’re describing is enormously different from bureaucrats making decisions based on “level of productivity” and choosing to let babies die without treatment, which is what Palin claimed Democrats wanted to do. (That you apparently can’t see why this is objectionable makes me despair. Even reasonable conservatives like you seem to lack all sense of decency; no lie about Democrats is too viscous for you to stomach, it would seem.)

                So even if you were right about the facts, Palin would still be a liar. But you’re not right.

                I don’t think you’re lying, Jack — I’m sure you believe what you’re saying is true. But someone has lied to you, and you’ve accepted the lie uncritically. There are no panels in the ACA legislation reviewing individual patient care. There are no panels reviewing high cost, high risk care in the ACA. Period.

                Where’s the link? Link to someone directly quoting the passage of the ACA with the “panels” you’re referring to, or admit you were wrong, please.

                Now for the rest…

                1. Because you benefit from the law doesn’t mean that your objections to it aren’t partisan. When Nancy Pelosi tells the truth; you call her a liar; when Palin lies, you call it the truth. I can’t imagine a more naked and obvious example of blind partisanship.

                Many of your claims — such as the claim that the estimated cost has gone up — are blatantly false. But because these lies accord with what you want to believe, you unskeptically accept them as true.

                1a) It does contain attempts to control costs — see this article in the New England Journal of Medicine. You’re even listed a couple those things earlier in this discussion — the IPAB and the excise tax.

                True, direct cost controls would do more — but direct cost controls could not pass through congress. We shouldn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the better-than-the-status-quo.

                1b) According to the CBO, in the long term the ACA saves the government money, so it’s nonsense to say we can’t afford it.

                1c) With the benefit of hindsight, I agree.

                But hindsight is 20/20. Two years ago, even scholars who didn’t like the ACA (including one or two who post on Volokh) thought that the Court was all-but-certain to find the mandate constitutional. The theory under which the ACA might be found unconstitutional — the distinction between “inaction” and “action” — is a new theory which AFAIK did not exist until after the ACA was passed through Congress.

                1d) If you didn’t object just as strongly to the far worse process by which the Bush tax cuts were passed, then becoming a process junkie just for this bill is opportunistic. Maybe you did object to that, in which case, good for you. But most political partisans are utter hypocrites on process issues, objecting only when it’s the opposite party working the rules to pass a bill.

                1e) I discussed this much more earlier in the thread, won’t repeat the arguments here.

                2) As you say, you’re very biased about Pelosi. If I were you, I’d consider not discussing her. Are there any major, genuinely liberal politicians who you think are good people?

                • Barry, I’ll deal with “death panels” up front too, and then get to the rest of your post a little later—I’m crunched. Please understand.

                  1. I have only discussed the phrase “Death Panels,” and not whatever dumb or exaggerated claims Palin has used to describe them. I never heard any “level of productivity” rhetoric. I presume hospitals make decisions about infants who have no long-term viability, and they should be allowed to die. That’s a legitimate death panel, and something akin to them must already be in place. I find the discomfort with Palin’s intentional bluntness intriguing, and it does lead me to think (not you) some advocates are trying to hide the ball.
                  2. The link, a good one, is here.
                  3. I think most of what Palin says and does is objectionable, because she’s so intellectually lazy and smug about it all. I still think she did a service by coming up with the phrase “death panels,” because health care rationing has to be discussed honestly. I see nothing partisan about that, unless one assigns with Democrats by wanting to keep the public in the dark “for their own good.” Call rationing what it is—deciding when scarce resources are not worth expending on lives that are inevitably going to be short, purposeless, painful and burdensome, which is to say, when facilitating humane death rather than prolonging futile life is the only responsible societal course. I’m very comfortable with calling that “death panels,” and many of teh health care versions included provisions that edge in that direction. Sarah intended the phrase pejoratively, but it still advances the discussion better than a 2600 page mess of jargon that nobody can read or understand.
                  4. Why would that position make you despair.
                  5. I am NOT a conservative. I’m just conservative compared to you. Steven Pilling thinks I’m a progressive.

                  • I’m crunched too (hence my slow replies), and I totally understand.

                    First of all, let me say I’m grateful that you actually define what you mean by “death panels.”

                    Call rationing what it is—deciding when scarce resources are not worth expending on lives that are inevitably going to be short, purposeless, painful and burdensome, which is to say, when facilitating humane death rather than prolonging futile life is the only responsible societal course.

                    Now we can ask: Is anything like what you describe above in Obamacare (also known as the ACA)? And the answer is, no. It’s not.

                    To support your false claim that Obamacare includes “death panels,” you provided a link to part of the Obamacare law regarding Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). In particular, you linked to the part of the law that says that the government is absolutely forbidden from “facilitating humane death rather than prolonging futile life.”

                    That’s what the link you provided meant when it said the law “CER cannot be used to assign a lesser value to extending the life of the elderly, disabled or terminally ill (as compared to the younger and healthier) in regard to treatment.” They’re not allowed to do exactly what you just said “death panels” do.

                    This is twice now, on a single thread, when you’ve linked to “evidence” supporting your view that actually supports my view. That isn’t a matter of opinion; it’s just a fact. The columnist you yourself linked to said, accurately, that the CBO found that estimated costs have not gone up; yet you linked that column as evidence that CBO’s estimated costs have gone up. The law you yourself linked to does not authorize “death panels”; it forbids “death panels.” Yet you linked that law as evidence of death panels.

                    This is why I despair. You look at evidence that says THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what you believe, and you cite it as if it supported your view. If you’re so certain that you’re right that you can’t even change your mind based on evidence that you yourself find reliable enough to cite, then what point is there in having a discussion at all?

                    * * *

                    I have only discussed the phrase “Death Panels,” and not whatever dumb or exaggerated claims Palin has used to describe them. I never heard any “level of productivity” rhetoric.

                    Perhaps you’ve misremembered? I just don’t find this believable, and I’ll explain why.

                    When you defended Palin’s “death panel” remark, you were criticizing Politifact’s having selected it as the “lie of the year.” In that article, Politifact accurately summed up Palin as saying that under Obamacare “the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care.” The same article also quoted Palin directly:”The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

                    It would not be possible to have that Politifact article without knowing what Palin wrote. But now you’re claiming that you never heard the “level of productivity” bit, even though it’s from the very same sentence as the “death panel” phrase. Did you honestly defend Palin’s “death panel” statement without even reading the sentence it came from?

                    Either you criticized Politifact for an article that you hadn’t actually read with any care, while you defended a Palin statement you never bothered to read. Or you did, in fact, know what Palin said when you defended her remark as mere “hyperbole,” even if you forgot about it since then.

                    • Thanks for nudging me on the earlier comment. You have me feeling like the Solicitor General on this..if you think of it, it would be helpful for me if you could take the longer comments and issue them in 250 word segment, even if they connected seriatim. I feel terrible that some of the best reasoned and carefully supported comments that have ever been contributed here end up being insufficiently addressed by me simply because the task of doing it right takes too big a block of time for a multi-processing,ADD,home-office, home-schooling uncompensated blogging fool. That’s not an excuse, just a statement of inadequacy.

                      To address the despair issue first (and I’ll try not only)…1) I don’t think the death panel dispute between you and me is substantive; I think it’s emotional, and perhaps fueled by Sara-revulsion. But I think the link I supplied clearly shows the provision—in a fair, objective, non-hysterical way–that sparks and supports the “death panel” principle and deserves public debate and attention. 2) I think your claim that the link about costs proves the disconnect on THIS part of the puzzle. The bill is so big and undigestible, the budget calculations are so complex, the accounting and hide-the-ball tricks so pervasive and inextricable, that even the CBO projections can be and are interpreted to mean opposite things, in good faith. Again, I think the link I used makes it pretty clear that Democrats fed the CBO fake assumptions to force a misleading analysis. Other links would make the case more forcibly, but less objectively…but maybe also more accurately. I honestly don’t know. Because the math and deceit are both so complex, I return to simple logic and history: no federal program or entitlement even close to this scale has stayed within miles of original budget projections, and for anyone to believe that this monster will be the exception requires, well, I don’t know what. It goes beyond confirmation bias to blind faith. This week, reports claimed that a previously unnoticed 17 TRILLION dollar unfunded expense was “discovered” in the law. I have no idea, after reading the articles, whether that figure is true, inflated, or imaginary. But are there such “bombs” in there that the CBO didn’t find, because they weren’t allowed to, or more likely, because the irresponsible representatives who rammed the bill through the process using every trick in the book and many outside it cared only about passage and not about content or long-term consequences? Of course!

        • Actually, Barry (feels odd to call you that …), the real demonstration that Nancy Pelosi gave regarding people not reading or even understanding the bill was when she say “We’ll have to pass the bill so (we’ll? you’ll?) know what is in it.” Even for the U.S. Congress that’s outrageous. You can make the case that it’s undemocratic. It’s certainly unethical.

          Anyway, hopefully the Supremes will see that the law is unconstitutional and on that basis kill it. If the Supreme Court permits a law to remain on the books because they think it’s a good thing to do regardless of whether it’s constitutional or not then we don’t live in a country where law rules, we live in one where people rule on the basis of what they think is good for us, and that’s the path to dictatorship (or an oligarchy, more likely).

          • Hi Ron.

            Pelosi’s statement was definitely a stupid thing to say; but was it a gaffe like Mitt Romney saying that he likes firing people (where his meaning was distorted by being quoted out of context and without a fair benefit of the doubt), or was it more like the etch-a-sketch comment (which meant just what it sounds like)?

            I’d argue that it was more like the former — which is why that famous youtube clip actually cuts her off mid-sentence, to prevent the entire context from being heard. See here for more info. She was saying that what the bill actually does is being obscured by the controversy and political back-and-forth.

            She was not claiming that people in Congress didn’t know what the bill does, or that Congress should pass it without knowing what it does.

            • This is in partial reply to our earlier thread.
              Last weekend, Glenn Kessler, who wrote one of the posts I linked to that you say proves the opposite of what I cited it for—that Obamacare was dishonestly projected by Democrats to be a net plus to the budget, when in fact it will add to it, wrote this: in the process of debunking GOP claims that Obamacare will cost twice what was projected: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/obamacare-twice-as-much-as-estimated/2012/03/26/gIQACSZncS_blog.html

              His ending quote: “The NRSC is absolutely incorrect to claim that the price tag is twice as much as originally thought, since the year-by-year budget numbers show little change in cost estimates.

              But Democrats sold the bill, even to their own members, as a $1-trillion, 10-year vehicle. It could well turn out to be a $2 trillion 10-year vehicle, as anyone with a calculator could have figured out at the time. In other words, the cost of the law may not be twice as much as estimated, but it is on track to be twice as much as touted”

              If that doesn’t show 1) the kind of deception I alluded to and 2) why the same link can support both you and me in opposite positions, I don’t know what will.

  6. I seem to remember Bill Clinton used his mother’s death for political advantage as well (used it during a speech defending himself against one of his many scandals). Precedent set.

  7. But he IS the benchmark for Democratic presidents and presidential candidates. If Bill could run today, Obama would not have a sure hold on the Democratic nomination. Those who don’t look up to Clinton hold JFK to be the benchmark. Not much better there.

    • It doesn’t help that the most ethical Democrat in the last 100 years was the worst President. Is there a more unethical bunch of Presidents than Wilson, FDR, JFK, Johnson and Clinton? What a group!

        • They were unethical people. Not all of them were unethical Presidents. Wilson was a virulent racist, who set civil rights back about 40 years. FDR was a great president, but he was as devious as any we have ever had, irresponsible, and essentially authoritarian…the closest thing to a dictator we ever had Johnson was the most ethical of the group, but a liar; Kennedy was a sociopath, and I personally think Clinton is as well. Kennedy took outrageous risks with the country’s stability with his womanizing, and Clinton warped the whole government and public attentions for a year to get away with his.

          • I agree with your list. I also include Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr.. And some these guys I actually like and voted for.

            • Unless you are considering being Republican unethical, this list makes no sense at all. Ford and Ike were extremely trustworthy and honorable in both private and public life. So was George H.W. Bush. Reagan exhibited courage and integrity; he doesn ‘t come within a mile of the 5 I listed. Bush the Second is a flawed individual. I question his judgment, not his basic ethics.

              Nixon, of course, is obvious. But I’d trust him before I’d trust Clinton or Kennedy.

              • Nope. My favorite 3 presidents are Republican. Ford should have never pardoned Nixon. Ike was nearly an alcoholic and played as much golf as Kennedy had women. Reagan didn’t lie, but he distanced himself away from the Iran-Contra scandal. He should have taken responsibility. That isn’t courageous in my book. Bush Sr. lied and itched to show U.S. military superiority to the world. He also pardoned men that were responsible in the S and L scandal besides the Iran-Contra scandal. Bush Jr. pushed for an unnecessary war besides so many other qualifying instances. Nixon is one of my favorites. He lied about several things but he was sick and paranoid. He did alot of good things. Watergate just overshadows those.

                • You can disagree with the decision to pardon Nixon, but it is 100% defensible ethically. It would only be unethical if there was some kind of deal that Ford agreed to….and nobody has ever uncovered any indication of that. His decision was courageous and principled, whether or not it was the right one. I have come to believe that it was.

                  • Not so much that golf is bad. But golf and adultery take billable hours. Obama gets slammed for playing golf and supposedly throwing Israel “under the bus”. Ike forced Israel to pullout of the Sinai P. Ike’s administration planned the “Bay of Pigs”. He also did nothing to oppose the “Red Scare”.

                    • None of these things have anything to do with ethics, but rather policy judgments you happen to disagree with or that in hindsight were unwise. None of my criteria rely on those elements.. (The Bay of Pigs, by the way, was an effort by Cubans, supported by the US, to take their country from a Communist dictator. It may have been misguided—my guess is that if Ike had been in charge, it would have worked—but it was not unethical by military and national security standards.

                      I don’t find Obama to be especially unethical at all—I’d say he’s one of the more ethical Presidents in my lifetime.

                    • Still Obama has lied. Transparency? I don’t mind Obama; especially seeing what the GOP has for possible candidates. The one guy I think would have been a good president–the Republicans didn’t trust.

      • What about Truman? Not the most ethical, but far from unethical by Presidential standards. I am assuming you were talking about Carter.

  8. Some people, including some presidents, resort to lies and obfuscation as a means to an end. Obamacare is an unpalatable melange of empty promises smothered in tyranny.

    Why does Obama lie? How else do you market to America the maggoted manure of Obamacare as health food?

  9. Pingback: Open Thread And Link Farm, I’ll Dig Out Your Eye Edition | Alas, a Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.