By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
The New York Times is at it again. In a front page story in Tuesday’s print edition, the Times is dishonestly pushing an argument that they hope will result in a favorable Supreme Court decision for President Obama’s so called Affordable Care Act. The mantra repeated over and over again is this: those four words in the Obamacare law—“established by the state”—were actually an accident, a drafting error. And those words, according to the Times and all of the sources they chose to comment on it for the article, are being misinterpreted by some who want to, shall we say, “degrade and defeat” the law.
The plain language of the law is that subsidies were only meant for those who purchase their plans through exchanges set up by the individual states. But that’s not what the Times and their sources want you to believe. Even if the Times were to admit that is the plain meaning based on the language in the law, their argument is that it still wasn’t the intent of the lawmakers and staffers who composed and approved of the legislation.
So now comes the Times, a month before the Supreme Court is planning to announce its decision, with a front-page article that is dishonest on many levels. If you are doing a news story, as opposed to a not-so-carefully disguised editorial, you would seek opposing points of view. In reading this article, you find that there is not one person among those interviewed who even knew that there was an issue regarding subsidies as they related to state exchanges versus the federal exchange.
First, the Times posed the questions: “Who wrote [those four words], and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges?”
Then it states: “The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as ‘inadvertent,’ ‘inartful’ or ‘a drafting error.’ But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia.”
If this were a real news story, and not a front-page editorial disguised as a news article, these reporters would have sought out the opinion of people who disagree with those “more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law.”
I cited the evidence in a column last March when the King v. Burwell case was being argued, and the same narrative was being pushed at that time by the Times and other liberal news organizations. I linked to a National Public Radio (NPR) article that had actually practiced journalism by talking to one of the plaintiff’s lawyers in this case; he pointed out that regarding this supposed drafting error, “those words are in the bill 11 times.”
I also cited an article published in Politico, two months before the bill passed in 2010, that cited then-Senator Ben Nelson’s opposition to a federal exchange: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Monday that he would oppose any health care reform bill with a national insurance exchange, which he described as a dealbreaker.” If that isn’t clear enough, Politico added this: “Nelson could have deprived House Democrats from securing what they have increasingly viewed as a must-have—a national exchange rather than a series of state exchanges.”
My column cited an American Spectator piece that details Nelson’s position on this issue. And then there’s Jonathan Gruber. As I wrote at the time: “And don’t forget Jonathan Gruber. He was one of the architects of Obamacare, and a close adviser to President Obama. He received millions of taxpayer dollars, from various states and the federal government. Gruber is the person who said that passing Obamacare depended ‘on the stupidity of the American voter,’ and that it was ‘written in a tortured way’ in order to deceive the voters about all the taxes they would have to pay. Regarding the subsidies being paid only to state exchanges, Gruber said that was ‘to squeeze the states to do it [to set up exchanges].’”
So there you have it. After reading what Gruber said, what Politico wrote months before the bill became law, how NPR reported it, and what Sen. Nelson told Greta Van Susteren, it becomes clear that the Times is editorializing, and not reporting, in a front-page story intended to influence a Supreme Court decision.
I suppose it’s possible to read the Times article, and read the evidence cited in my article, and conclude that the Times is telling the truth, and respecting its readers’ ability to hear two sides of this story and decide for themselves. On the other hand, maybe not.