Fox's latest conspiracy theory: Obama pressured independent CBO to give Baucus plan favorable score

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On the September 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, guest co-host and serial health care misinformer Peter Johnson Jr. suggested that Sen. Max Baucus' (D-MT) health care plan received a favorable score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) because the office was "taken to the woodshed by the president earlier in the summer, when they uncovered hundreds of billions of dollars of real deficits in the House plan." Johnson offered no criticism of the scoring by the CBO -- which analyzed the Baucus plan when it was introduced, not "after being taken to the woodshed" -- and which is an independent agency that reports to Congress.

Johnson baselessly suggests Obama pressure led CBO to score Baucus plan favorably

From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

JOHNSON: And now the Congressional Budget Office, after being taken to the woodshed by the president earlier in the summer, when they uncovered hundreds of billions of dollars of real deficits in the House plan, tells us that the Baucus health plan is going to earn you $49 billion.

Well, that's a lot of free lunch. Is that believable? It's about as incredible as the federal government opening up new government cooperatives in what may mean the end of private health insurance. As incredible as telling our oldest and sickest Americans that we will cut your health care by half a trillion dollars, but in the process you will lead healthier, longer lives. And sorry about all that death talk. Telling you that those unnecessary tests and surgeries and stents and hips and knees may make you feel better but not live longer, that father government knows best. Better than the doctor who has helped keep you alive for the past 10 years.

CBO: Nonpartisan organization, "provide[s] independent, nonpartisan analysis for the Congress"

CBO: Independent, nonpartisan organization that reports to Congress. The CBO states that its "mandate" is to "provide the Congress" with "[o]bjective, nonpartisan, and timely analyses to aid in economic and budgetary decisions on the wide array of programs covered by the federal budget." The CBO further states of the appointment of its director: "The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate jointly appoint the CBO Director, after considering recommendations from the two budget committees."

CBO's Elmendorf: "[W]e never adjust our analysis or conclusions to please our audience." In a July 23 post on his CBO blog about questions raised about "my participation in a meeting this past Monday at the White House," director Douglas Elmendorf wrote, "Across the range of topics we study, we deliberately spend a lot of time explaining our thinking to policymakers, because we believe that such openness is a responsibility of our agency and can help policymakers to reach better-informed policy decisions. But we never adjust our analysis or conclusions to please our audience (as the reaction to various CBO reports amply demonstrates).He further stated that the "CBO will continue to do what it has always done -- provide independent, nonpartisan analysis for the Congress, communicate that information as clearly as possible, and provide as much transparency as possible about our methodology and assumptions. A visit to the White House won't change that a bit!"

From Elmendorf's blog post:

In the past few days, I've received many calls and e-mail messages from people around the country commenting on my participation in a meeting this past Monday at the White House. Most of these people expressed their concern about CBO's ability to carry out its responsibilities with its traditional independence and nonpartisanship. I appreciate the interest in CBO's work, so let me try to allay those fears.

The President asked me, and other experts in the room, for our insights into possible ways to reduce the nation's health care spending. The very capable staff at CBO has thought a lot about this subject, and I shared those thoughts with the President. Although the audience was unique, my comments were no different from what we have said publicly on numerous other occasions. The CBO staff and I have offered our thoughts on this subject to the Congress and the public in published reports and letters, and we have discussed them in many meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs of both political parties. Across the range of topics we study, we deliberately spend a lot of time explaining our thinking to policymakers, because we believe that such openness is a responsibility of our agency and can help policymakers to reach better-informed policy decisions. But we never adjust our analysis or conclusions to please our audience (as the reaction to various CBO reports amply demonstrates).

CBO will continue to do what it has always done -- provide independent, nonpartisan analysis for the Congress, communicate that information as clearly as possible, and provide as much transparency as possible about our methodology and assumptions. A visit to the White House won't change that a bit!

CBO unchanged in view that House bill would increase the federal budget deficit by $239 billion over 10 years. In a July 17 cost estimate of the bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives, the CBO explained that its "estimate reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill's insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion, partly offset by net spending changes that CBO estimates would save $219 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years." CBO thus concluded the legislation "would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period." The CBO has not revised that estimate.

CBO submitted preliminary analysis of a separate bill September 16, after it was "provided by the staff of the Senate Finance Committee." In a September 16 letter to Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, Elmendorf stated, "The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have completed a preliminary analysis of specifications for the Chairman's mark for proposed health care legislation that were provided by the staff of the Senate Finance Committee."

Johnson advances "not scientific" IBD poll claiming that 45 percent of doctors may leave profession

JOHNSON: You lived through World War II and Korea and Vietnam, but step right up here and turn in your scooter at the Capitol in the name of the collective. You have COPD and diabetes and arthritis, but real Americans don't need wheelchairs. As incredible as promising 30 million more Americans coverage to be treated by 150,000 fewer doctors by 2025, around the same time my wife and I will be eligible for Medicare. And if the plan goes through, 45 percent of our doctors say they will consider leaving the profession.

IBD: "45% Of Doctors Would Consider Quitting If Congress Passes Health Care Overhaul." Johnson's claim echoes a discredited Investor's Business Daily poll -- frequently cited by Fox News hosts and gusts -- that indicated, in the words of a September 15 IBD article, "45% of doctors would consider quitting if Congress passes health care overhaul."

Nate Silver: Poll is "simply not credible." In a September 16 post to his blog FiveThirtyEight.com, Silver listed five reasons why the IBD poll should be "completely ignore[d]":

1. The survey was conducted by mail, which is unusual. The only other mail-based poll that I'm aware of is that conducted by the Columbus Dispatch, which was associated with an average error of about 7 percentage points -- the highest of any pollster that we tested.

2. At least one of the questions is blatantly biased: "Do you believe the government can cover 47 million more people and it will cost less money and th quality of care will be better?". Holy run-on-sentence, Batman? A pollster who asks a question like this one is not intending to be objective.

3. As we learned during the Presidntial campaign -- when, among other things, they had John McCain winning the youth vote 74-22 -- the IBD/TIPP polling operation has literally no idea what they're doing. I mean, literally none. For example, I don't trust IBD/TIPP to have competently selected anything resembling a random panel, which is harder to do than you'd think.

4. They say, somewhat ambiguously: "Responses are still coming in." This is also highly unorthodox. Professional pollsters generally do not report results before the survey period is compete.

5. There is virtually no disclosure about methodology. For example, IBD doesn't bother to define the term "practicing physician", which could mean almost anything. Nor do they explain how their randomization procedure worked, provide the entire question battery, or anything like that.

Silver added: "There are pollsters out there that have an agenda but are highly competent, and there are pollsters that are nonpartisan but not particularly skilled. Rarely, however, do you find the whole package: that special pollster which is both biased and inept. IBD/TIPP is one of the few exceptions."

Fox News previously aired an on-screen graphic calling the poll "not scientific." During Neil Cavuto's discussion of the IBD/TIPP poll on the September 16 edition of Fox News' Your World, the on-screen graphic indicated that the poll was "not scientific":

ibdpoll

Despite the admission that the poll was "not scientific," Fox News has repeatedly run with the poll.

On Fox & Friends, Johnson has repeatedly misinformed on health care reform

Johnson: Health care reform is "a subtle form of euthanasia." During an appearance on Fox & Friends, Johnson said: "Some people are saying, well, this is a health care reform, other people say -- maybe me -- that this is a subtle form of euthanasia. And when you start looking at the proposals, you say, God, what's happening? One of the proposals, Section 1233, talks about advanced care planning consultations. And that's a fancy term where a doctor goes to you every five years once you're 65, or more if you're chronically ill, and explains to you the benefits of so-called palliative care, of not giving active treatment." [Fox & Friends, 7/27/09]

Johnson: "Advanced care planning consulation is kind of our ... Soylent Green, 1984, Aldous Huxley kind of world." Discussing health care reform, Johnson asserted, "Advanced care planning consultation is kind of our 2009 Brave New World, Soylent Green, 1984, Aldous Huxley kind of world where you come in and see your doctor at age 65, and if you're chronically ill you come in every year, and your doctor -- who will be trained, and they will spend billions of dollars in training doctors to be counselors -- that, 'You have options. You don't have to go into a hospital.' " Co-host Steve Doocy then asked, "Are you saying these are the people that are going to determine whether you live or die?" and fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade subsequently characterized the provision as the "ultimate exit strategy." [Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]

Transcript

From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

JOHNSON: You know, I've been covering the ins and outs of health care overhaul. And we're about to end another week of health care madness and big-government confusion. The president becomes the talk show guest-in-chief this weekend to sell a plan for which the broadcast media, its cable little sisters, and the crumbling Eastern print oligarchy would like you to believe that you're not well-educated enough to understand, that you're too culturally and racially insensitive to want to understand, and you're just confused about health care.

Well, you're not confused; you're concerned. Because when you do the math, it doesn't appear to add up. It appears that you are disgusted at being played first, and then attacked as mindless tools of right-wing rabble-rousers. The proponents of big government-run health care publish a new and different set of numbers every day, and they're trying to convince 270 or 280 million Americans that they should blow up their health care in order to bring 30 or 47 million people to the health care table, depending on the latest spin.

They tell you that failure to walk lockstep with the president and the Congress is a moral defect of which you should be ashamed. That we can insure 30 million new people but, of course, not illegal aliens, and it won't cost you or the government a dime. And now the Congressional Budget Office, after being taken to the woodshed by the president earlier in the summer, when they uncovered hundreds of billions of dollars of real deficits in the House plan, tells us that the Baucus health plan is going to earn you $49 billion.

Well, that's a lot of free lunch. Is that believable? It's about as incredible as the federal government opening up new government cooperatives in what may mean the end of private health insurance. As incredible as telling our oldest and sickest Americans that we will cut your health care by half a trillion dollars, but in the process you will lead healthier, longer lives. And sorry about all that death talk. Telling you that those unnecessary tests and surgeries and stents and hips and knees may make you feel better but not live longer, that father government knows best. Better than the doctor who has helped keep you alive for the past 10 years.

You lived through World War II and Korea and Vietnam, but step right up here and turn in your scooter at the Capitol in the name of the collective. You have COPD and diabetes and arthritis, but real Americans don't need wheelchairs. As incredible as promising 30 million more Americans coverage to be treated by 150,000 fewer doctors by 2025, around the same time my wife and I will be eligible for Medicare. And if the plan goes through, 45 percent of our doctors say they will consider leaving the profession. As incredible as government mandates and fines for noncompliance and steep taxes, on even middle class health insurance policies. And as incredible as the staged public attacks on big pharmaceutical and the insurance industry while the White House privately agrees not to negotiate Medicare drug prices, and the Senate figures out ways to decrease your rate of reimbursement to be paid by insurance companies.

I say keep on doing the math. The next time someone tells you you're angry and confused, you tell them you've done the math, but it doesn't add up.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Peter Johnson Jr.
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
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