Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Do We Know and When Did We Know It?

The New York Times, in conjunction with CBS News, issued a new poll. The poll

was released on Friday, September 25th. In that poll, 65% of Americans said they favored

a government-sponsored health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with

private insurance plans. Yet, over the weekend on all the corporate news programs, the

public option was characterized as fractious, divisive, unpopular; and one pundit, Republican

shill Frank Luntz, made the claim that 85% of Americans oppose a public option. How

could this be?

Two-thirds of Americans want a public option and yet the corporate media

paints a picture of an angry electorate frustrated by a possible government take-over of

healthcare. Corporate media made consistent references to angry town halls and the

healthcare initiative on life-support because of the Progressive Democrats insisting upon

capitalistic competition in the healthcare industry. After watching all the coverage, you

would have thought a public plan was one of the worst reforms ever proposed, instead

of one which is wildly popular. How do you explain such a clear disconnect between

what the public says it wants and how these desires are portrayed by the corporate media?

Why do they continue to claim a public option is the one idea which could sink any attempt

at healthcare reform? They saw the poll. They know what it said. Why did no one call

them on this? Why did no host throw this poll in the face of opponents of a public option

and ask them to explain how after a summer of misinformation and attacks it still enjoys

such high support numbers?

Two agendas appear to be operating here. First, the corporate media by definition

reflects the desires of their corporate bosses. Whether it is ABC shilling for Disney or

FOX for Rupert Murdoch, corporations do not want healthcare reform which would

mandate they provide insurance for their employees or face stiff fines. If corporations

have to provide health insurance in a competitive market, they lose a hammer they have

used on workers for years. More and more, workers are asked to choose between a pay

raise or an increase in health insurance premiums. Workers rarely ask for the pay raise.

Under Obama's proposal, with Senator Wyden's amendment, workers could opt for the

public option and take that hammer out of their corporate bosses hands. Second, the need

to generate viewers and profits drives news programs to seek out conflict. The reality is

two thirds of Americans agree on a public option, no denial for pre-existing conditions,

no cap on how much insurance will pay for an illness and insurance portability. These

are the key reforms proposed by progressives, but they are not contentious. They don't

generate lots of noise and heat; so the corporate media creates divisions where they

don't exist to gin up viewers who like to watch mud wrestling.

The poll also showed some other interesting numbers the corporate media

ignored over the same weekend. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe the Republicans

will oppose anything the President proposes. Yet, on program after program, interviewers

asked guests how they intended to pass a bill with bi-partisan support. Americans know

Republicans will never support whatever Obama or Pelosi or Rockefeller suggest; so why

do the corporate pundits continue to insist bi-partisanship is an achievable or desirable


You would think after listening to corporate pundits and the likes of Hanbaugh

and O'Reilly, the President and the Democrats and Progressives are intensely unpopular

and Republicans and Regressives have rebuilt their damaged brand. Already you hear

talk about all the great political gains they will achieve in 2010. They are on the rise.

Nothing the President has done nor Congress achieved can save the Democrats from a

disaster in 2010. The New York Times' poll has some interesting perspective on this

question. Only 30% of Americans view the Republican party favorably. Fifty-two percent

said Obama had better ideas on reforming healthcare than did Republicans. Despite all

the town yells, the tea bag parties, and the guns being carried to demonstrations, 47% of

Americans approve of the President's handling of healthcare. That number is up, Up! from

40% at the beginning of the summer. Did you see that mentioned anywhere? A couple

of other numbers of note...Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is viewed

favorably by only 21% of Americans and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is

seen even less popular. Only 14% of Americans like him. In contrast, both Pelosi and

Reid have favorability numbers in the mid-thirties. While not great, you would never

know Pelosi and Reid were more popular from the corporate media. Ironically, despite

it being their poll, there was no evidence of those numbers anywhere on CBS throughout

the weekend news shows.

Finally, some numbers show a very troubling tendency about news and how to

influence it. A few years ago, a study showed that the first information Americans hear

on a subject they will then tend to believe. In other words, they will retain a long term

bias. The study was based on Iraq and showed that after a year of concrete proof that

Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction and absolutely no evidence that Saddam

Hussein had anything to do with September 11th, over 50% of Americans still believed

these two lies told and reinforced by the Bush administration to move our country quickly

into war with Iraq.

Now we find a New York Times poll which shows 25% of Americans believe

healthcare reform would create "death panels" to cut off care to the elderly and at least

30% believe illegal immigrants will get new benefits from healthcare reform. More

misinformation! This means the corporate media has a huge obligation to vet what it

reports and what it emphasizes on important issues. Of course, vetting will never happen

because it would reduce corporate America's ability to create the impression of a fight

and thereby cloud important issues.

In spite of all this, the public option still enjoys huge support among the electorate.

Obama is trusted far more than the Republicans, his popularity has gone up when it comes

to healthcare reform and one more thing; there has been a 15% increase in the number of

Americans who think Obama's stimulus package has improved the economy. Have you

seen any of this reflected in the news you have been watching or listening to? Don't count

on it. It is time to rise up and drown out the naysayers. Bring down the fury of Progressive

America. Sixty-five percent of us want a public option and Democrats must be made to

fear our wrath. Call, fax, and email the Senate. Tell the moderates we will run someone

against them in every primary. Tell them they cannot hide on this vote. Inundate the

White House under a blizzard of protests. Tell Obama we voted for change and now it is

time to do what we elected him to do. Fight for better healthcare! Fight for a better future

for our children! Fight for full healthcare for everyone! Fight for progress! Fight!!!

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them


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