Amy Menefee Payne
Latest from Amy Menefee Payne
Be on the lookout for media coverage of the new Medicare brochure. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out this glossy piece this week to more than 40 million Medicare recipients telling them that with ObamaCare, everything is dandy!
In fact, the CMS mail piece - which likely cost $8 million at the least - wildly exaggerates claims of patient security and ignores what CMS itself has declared to be true about ObamaCare.
The mailer gushes that "Medicare is strong and solvent" and that beneficiaries will see "better access to care."
"This brochure provides you with accurate information about the new services and benefits to help you and your family now and in the future," it says.
Today the chairman of the FCC is announcing the agency will move to regulate the Internet, despite the fact that it doesn't really have the authority.
As Americans for Prosperity's Phil Kerpen has explained, the FCC intention - to classify the Internet like an old-fashioned telephone system so it can regulate - requires twisting history. It marks a major policy shift that could affect all Americans.
Strangely, just three days ago, The Washington Post reported (using mostly unnamed sources) that the FCC was going in the opposite direction. Tech reporter Cecilia Kang wrote:
The Washington Post launched an interactive page this week to profile President Obama's record on his campaign promises after one year in office. The Post put promises into three categories: "To Do," "In Progress" and "Completed."
Based on the president's record, most people would be surprised to learn the Post put most of the promises in the "In Progress" category -- and didn't even include a "Broken Promises" category. Many recent promises made as president would belong in that category.
"In Progress" according to the Post includes "reversing" the Bush tax cuts, while the "To Do" list includes "enact a windfall profits tax" on oil companies.
James Valvo, government affairs manager for Americans for Prosperity, offers the following additions to the Post's analysis:
When you claim that a grassroots group isn't a grassroots group -- beware of actual grassroots activists.
That's the lesson reporter Sharon Male of Parade Magazine learned when she attacked Patients United Now, the health care project of the free-market Americans for Prosperity Foundation, in the July 12 magazine. Under the headline "Are Grassroots Activists for Real?" she claimed that some "so-called grassroots campaigns" "are actually sophisticated marketing campaigns financed by businesses and special interest groups." Male cited the leftist Public Citizen's accusations of "astroturf" campaigns led by "ultra-wealthy individuals who have little in common with regular Americans," and the reporter bemoaned the fact that "grassroots movements are unregulated."
AFP Foundation let its members know Parade was questioning their existence, and they responded by overwhelming Male and her editor with nearly 5,000 e-mails.
Journalists, consider yourselves warned.
Columbia Journalism Review worries government-run health care might not come to pass; indeed, ideas for consumer-driven health care could "seep" into media coverage.
CJR's Trudy Lieberman announced it was "ominous news" that a government health insurance plan might be delayed:
"Ezra Klein over at The American Prospect’s blog was right on point last week when he sent along some ominous news. Klein, quoting a story in Congressional Quarterly, said that John McDonough, the former head of a Massachusetts advocacy group who now works for Ted Kennedy, seemed to be backpedaling on the public option..."
On the other side, Lieberman warned, "right-wing think tanks" are "on the march," illuminating problems with a government-controlled approach to medicine. She noted The Heritage Foundation's criticism of a federal health board, a top idea of Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle. Lieberman's warning:
Is the Massachusetts attempt at universal health insurance "centrist"? That's how the Boston Globe described it December 19. Citing its "national appeal," the article noted support from Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is expected to lead the Senate effort on health reform.
"To those who say these challenges can't be met, I say, 'Look at Massachusetts,'" he said in a statement.
But as the Galen Institute's Grace-Marie Turner points out, the Massachusetts mandate has been fraught with problems.
In addition to the worsening of a primary care doctor shortage and long patient waiting times, costs continue to be a major problem with the system.
The Oct. 26 New York Times took on Sen. Barack Obama's elusive health insurance mandate for employers -- the "play-or-pay" rule that would force businesses to pay a new tax if they didn't contribute a "meaningful" amount toward their workers' insurance. In the debates, Sen. John McCain asked more than once how much businesses would be fined, and Obama declined to say.
Now we know why. Just 'cuz.
“We made a decision even before the plan was rolled out not to decide,” David M. Cutler, a Harvard economist who speaks for the campaign on health care, told the Times. “It’s not that there’s a decision out there that we’re not telling. It’s literally that we’ve decided not to decide.”
Believe it or not, The Washington Post and CBS News.
That's right -- if you've been seeing Obama's ads accusing McCain of cutting Medicare benefits to pay for his health care plan, you're not alone.
The Post awarded an Obama ad called "Your Golden Years" three Pinocchios for its "significant factual errors." It even gave the source of Obama's numbers: "How did the Obama campaign come up with the claim of an $800 billion cut in Medicare (described in another Obama ad as an $882 billion cut)? Answer: some back-of-the-envelope calculations by a liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress.”
CBS's Wyatt Andrews also explained the facts, pointing out that Obama has claimed he'll deliver similar savings to fund his own programs.
We've all heard of them -- the nameless "critics." Journalists often use "critics say" to make sure they're including whatever criticism they deem necessary for their stories, even if that criticism isn't attributed to anyone.
After listing some of the provisions of McCain's plan, Michael Hiltzik and Lisa Girion launched into what unnamed critics had to say about it. But when they listed tenets of Obama's plan, they didn't bother to question it.
They failed to tell readers what "critics say" about Obama's play-or-pay mandate for employers or his National Health Insurance Exchange that would regulate private insurance.
One statement left a door wide open for a critique: That in Obama's plan, "Private insurers would have to compete with a federally sponsored national health plan that would resemble coverage currently offered to federal employees."
Sen. Barack Obama's campaign has put out three new ads in the last few days attacking Sen. John McCain's health care plan, two of which focus on the proposal of a tax credit.
The Obama campaign is telling viewers McCain will tax their health benefits. Sen. Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, told viewers of the October 2 debate the same thing. The mainstream media aren't correcting them.
Tried reading the Boston Globe two days in a row?
One day its editorial page says Obama's health care plan is superior to McCain's; after all, it's sort of like the Massachusetts plan, and look at the state's high rate of insurance coverage now! Next day: Mass. residents waiting 100 days for primary care.
Unfortunately, coverage mandates don't solve the underlying problems in the health sector, whether we're talking about doctor shortages or costs.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) continues to accuse Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) of hitting middle-class Americans with a tax increase. The frightening warning: "He wants to tax your health benefits."
As with any distortion by omission, that leaves out the second half of the proposal: to give you a tax credit as an offset.
McCain's plan is not a massive middle-class tax hike as Obama portrays it; instead, it's designed to give people a tax credit to put toward choosing their own insurance.
Kudos to CBS's Wyatt Andrews for his September 15 "Evening News" report (text and video available here) explaining this.
Andrews consulted Len Burman of the Tax Policy Center, who said, "It's mostly a tax break."
ABC's "Good Morning America" isn't afraid to call 'em like they see 'em.
On health care, Chris Cuomo set up his resident health expert to deliver an outright insult to the American people. Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) advocates more patient choice and flexibility in buying health insurance, but ABC’s medical editor, Dr. Tim Johnson, scoffed at that notion in a September 5 story.
“The idea that individuals are going to have enough knowledge and enough savvy and enough insight and, frankly, enough guts to make choices all by themselves is pretty much a pipe dream,” Johnson said.
ABC’s Web site touts Johnson as “one of the nation's leading medical communicators of health care information.”
Fresh off its controversial Iwo Jima cover with Marines raising a tree, Time magazine's May 5 issue celebrates with an Earth Day roundup. The cause for celebration? That in 2008, "every day is Earth Day," exulted Nancy Gibbs.
Gibbs celebrated, among other things, the banning of DDT, which led to millions of preventable deaths from malaria. "Back in 1970, there was ... poison in our pesticides," she said, but after the Environmental Protection Agency was created, "DDT was banned."
Perhaps she missed the fact that DDT was reinstated for use in malaria-ridden countries by order of the World Health Organization in 2006.
Another part of this year's Earth Day roundup: "Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales told the U.N. that 'if we want to save our planet Earth, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system.'" Meanwhile, Gibbs wrote, "capitalists polished their image to a green sheen."
There are credit cards out there for subprime borrowers, too - it's not just mortgages. That means a new class of supposed victims for reporters like ABC's Chris Cuomo to defend.
Cuomo's segment on the March 27 "Good Morning America" hammered away at the credit card industry, claiming consumers were "getting sucked in by attractive offers" and being "trapped" by "fee-laden cards." He said to him, the whole thing seemed "wrong" and that companies were "squeeeezing" (he drew out the word) cardholders.
"But with these fees - account management, and all these clever names you have for them - that's not about borrowing," Cuomo accused. "That's about squeezing it out of them before the game even begins. Isn't that unfair? Isn't that past the line?" Cuomo pressed Chris Stinebert, president and CEO of the American Financial Services Association.
The story centered on 19-year-old Celina Alvarez, who got a credit card to pay her college tuition but then discovered her purchase wasn't the only charge.
"I didn't understand it to begin with," Alvarez said. "But then when I saw all those little small charges, I was like, that's ridiculous." According to the ABC story, the card included an "$100 origination fee" and a $10.95 charge that Cuomo called a "monthly maintenance fee."
Who's watching the watchers? Well, the Media Research Center, and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz says he's "sort of like the internal affairs cop." But just how tough is he? You can be the judge reading his column.
"We try to hold them accountable, exactly what they do to politicians - why did you do that? Why did you make that mistake? Why did you jump the gun?" said Kurtz, who's also the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," in a March 12 appearance on "The Colbert Report." Kurtz was on to plug his new book, "Reality Show," about television news.
Host Stephen Colbert baited him: "The three big anchors still really matter, and I agree. ...Who are they, again?"
Remember when more than 400 scientists were revealed as "skeptical" about global warming hype? The New York Times's Andrew Revkin blogged about it, saying the "perennial tug of war" was actually "a distraction from fundamentals that are clearly established."
Of course, 44 Southern Baptists who buy into the green agenda received a respectful print story in the March 10 Times, widely quoting the church leaders saying things like: "when we destroy God's creation, it's similar to ripping pages from the Bible."
Journalists often fret about Big Business. Yet their coverage leans so pro-union that they won't give the business side of the story - even when they ARE the business.
The writers' strike has cost the networks millions in lost ad revenue from the lack of new primetime and late-night shows. But now that late night lives again, the coverage is all about "awareness" of the writers' guild and the strike.
Once the late-night comedy shows returned January 2, a new controversy arose: guests who dared to cross the picket line to appear on the writer-less shows. One of those was Baptist preacher and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
"I don't think Jesus would cross the picket line, no, I'm almost positive Jesus would be on our side," one striking writer said to CBS's January 3 "Early Show."
It was the ultimate in Al Gore adoration, all the way from Oslo, Norway, via The Washington Post's Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.
Scottish singer KT Tunstall gushed over Gore's "expressive, arched, well-groomed" eyebrows. Actress Uma Thurman said watching the "Inconvenient Truth" pedagogue "following his calling" was "like watching a beautiful racehorse run."
Can the media talk a recession into existence? I wrote yesterday about journalists' endless repetition of the prediction. They've been mentioning it almost once a day for the past month, despite the Federal Reserve's declaration that '08 would NOT see the r-word.