New enrollment for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) marketplace exchanges is ahead of schedule through the first six weeks of open enrollment this year, a strong rebuke to continued right-wing predictions that low enrollment and the closure of a few health insurance cooperatives would prove the law is a failure.
On December 9, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the latest figures on health insurance enrollments through Healthcare.gov. CMS reported over 1 million new customers have signed up for health insurance and that 1.8 million more renewed their plans through the exchange marketplace during the first half of this year's enrollment period. According to The Hill, CMS had only targeted 900,000 new insurance customers for the entire 2016 enrollment period, which ends on January 31. CMS administrator Andy Slavitt told The Hill "I'm a pretty conservative guy, and I'm encouraged by the start we've had."
According to The New York Times, interest in enrollment is high with six more weeks to go before the sign-up period ends and "call centers have been deluged with requests from others eager to enroll." While not everyone who signs up will ultimately decide to pay their premiums and receive coverage, early reports indicate that the health insurance marketplaces established by the ACA are on-target to meet their coverage expansion goals by the end of the year.
These positive early reports on enrollment numbers offer a stark contrast to right-wing media claims that enrollments this year would falter and that the law is failing to meet expectations. In November, several conservative outlets latched on to stories about the planned closure of a few health insurance cooperatives as proof that the president's signature health care reform law was in a "death spiral" and on the verge of collapse. In October, The Wall Street Journal responded to sharply revised 2016 enrollment estimates by claiming that Obamacare "won't survive." The Journal ignored that part of the government's estimate adjustment was the result of more people than expected staying on employer-sponsored health care plans as the uninsured rate fell to a record low of 11.4 percent. The Journal then used their dire predictions about Obamacare to push floundering Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's plan to repeal the law.
This is not the first time right-wing media have made false claims about the ACA or grim predictions of the law being a failure. During the 2014 enrollment period, Media Matters chronicled so-called health care "truthers" who suggested that participation numbers were too high and may have been made up. Fox's Sean Hannity claimed that the Obama administration was "cooking the books on this thing," and that millions of applications for enrollment had "appeared out of thin air," while other Fox personalities claimed insurance signups "magically" hit their enrollment goals. Right-wing media held so deeply to this false enrollment conspiracy that they confusingly declared victory and impugned Media Matters when, in late 2014, CMS announced that a minor accounting error for exchange-approved dental plans had overstated the number of enrollees by just under 6 percent.
Large portions of the federal government will shut down on December 11, unless the Republican-led Congress passes a long-term budget or short-term spending resolution to prevent a lapse in spending authority. In 2013, in the midst of a 16-day federal government shutdown that cost the American economy up to 120,000 jobs and $24 billion, major media outlets often neglected to report the toll Republican-led congressional gridlock took on American workers and families and misleadingly placed equal blame for the debacle at the feet of the Democratic Party and Obama administration.
Right-wing media figures criticized President Obama and Hillary Clinton for not saying "radical Islam" during remarks they made on December 6, claiming terrorism cannot be fought without using the term. However, others have noted the term alienates Muslims and aids terrorists.
In a November 23 post for the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog, Patrick O'Connor highlighted how the "anti-establishment" views of conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin "are informing the race for the Republican presidential nomination" as polls have found that "roughly a third of Republican primary voters strongly identify with conservative talk radio."
Right-wing radio hosts have repeatedly attacked 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, leading many in the media to assert that Bush has a "serious talk radio problem," and O'Connor noted that accordingly just 3% of "the most avid conservative talk-radio listeners" would vote for him. Conversely, O'Connor said right-wing talk radio listeners ranked Ben Carson and Donald Trump as their top choices, which is unsurprising given that the hosts have repeatedly supported the two candidates. Rush Limbaugh has praised Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, while Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have praised him as "refreshing" for being "willing to say things that no one else is saying." Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity have all repeatedly defended Carson amid the candidate's controversial remarks and inconsistencies in his autobiographical claims.
Despite the fact that Republicans once "touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters," O'Connor explained that "Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists." From O'Connor's post (emphasis added):
Consider the folks who regularly tune in to conservative talk radio. These listeners expect a steady diet of Obama-bashing, so it's hardly surprising that not one surveyed for a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late October approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.
That anger translates to how these Americans view the country as a whole. Some 98% think the country is headed in the wrong direction, a view regularly reinforced on the airwaves by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and other talk-radio hosts who don't have much nice to say about GOP leaders in Washington, either.
A decade ago, Republicans touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters. Democrats and liberal groups tried to replicate that success by building their own left-leaning television and radio stations, with far less success.
Now, the tables have turned. Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists, in part, because conservative radio hosts are almost as likely to rail against the party brass in Congress as they are to lament Mr. Obama's failings in the Oval Office.
The most avid conservative talk-radio listeners ranked retired neurosurgeon Ben Carsonas their top pick, followed by celebrity businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Just 3% gave the nod to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the heir to the party's longest-standing political dynasty, and only a third of these voters said they were even open to voting for Mr. Bush, down from half in September.
Republican presidential contenders would be unwise to write off this bloc; roughly a third of Republican primary voters strongly identify with conservative talk radio, about 10 percentage points higher than the share of GOP primary voters who consider themselves moderate or liberal, according to the survey conducted by the Democrats at Hart Research Associates and the Republicans at Public Opinion Research.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board championed a Republican-led effort to stop what it called an "outrageous regulatory campaign" by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which aims to facilitate compensation for Americans who may have been discriminated against by auto financing agreements that have been shown to charge higher interest rates to minority customers.
On November 17, The Wall Street Journal editorial board argued that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) should face additional administrative hurdles before making new rules on auto financing, dismissing evidence from the CFPB demonstrating racial bias in auto lending and financing agreements. According to The Huffington Post, numerous public interest groups in the United States are opposed to this attack on the CFPB which would "make it easier for car dealerships to overcharge people of color" through an interest rate manipulation process known as "markups."
The CFPB was authorized to reduce consumer exploitation in areas of banking and credit under the Dodd-Frank Act and is the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In March 2013, CFPB drafted new guidance on interest rate markups to stop racial bias in lending, proposing that banks end the practice in favor of a flat fee service or follow strict rules to prevent prejudicial lending. The Center for Responsible Lending found that ending the markup practice and replacing it with a transaction fee would save all consumers money while still paying auto dealers for their financial services.
The Journal ignored all of this when it joined with anti-consumer advocates pushing for Congress to roll back the abilities of the CFPB to protect consumers from this predatory lending practice:
On Wednesday the House is expected to vote down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's extralegal campaign against the nation's auto dealers. This is an important moment. Even Democrats are beginning to push back against the regulatory agenda crafted by President Obama and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Let's hope the dissident donkeys survive the experience. The consumer bureau has been forcing settlements on banks that provide financing via car dealers by claiming the dealers are discriminating with higher rates against minority borrowers. The bureau's standard procedure is not to offer evidence of bias. Instead, the regulators guess the ethnicity of borrowers based on their last names and where they live, and then demand cash payments if the people they guess are black or hispanic seem to be paying higher rates than the people they guess are white. Every time we write about this policy we have to remind ourselves we work for the Journal and not the Onion.
At the heart of the bureau's outrageous regulatory campaign is its March 2013 "bulletin" that effectively codified its policy against dealer discretion in setting interest rates. This Beltway diktat never went through the normal rule-making process.
But on Wednesday a bipartisan bill with 65 Democratic co-sponsors will come to the House floor. The measure would knock down this informal guidance and instruct the bureau to allow public comment and to publish its data and analysis online before issuing new rules on auto financing.
It would also require the bureau to study the costs of such a rule on various affected parties. Imagine that. As for the regulators, they've done enough imagining about this market. Let's hope next time they just stick to the facts.
Conservative media figures are attacking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's plan to revitalize coal communities by deceptively claiming Obama administration environmental policies that Clinton supports are responsible for "destroying" and "crippling" coal country in the first place. But these media figures are downplaying -- or outright ignoring -- more significant factors that have led to the coal industry's decades of decline, such as competition from natural gas and renewables, depletion of easily recoverable coal reserves, and advances in mining technology.
In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
Federal law allows for-profit colleges to access more federal funding by enrolling large numbers of military veterans, despite evidence that many of these schools do not prepare their students for the job market. In recent years, predatory recruitment of service members by several for-profit college chains has been exposed by congressional and media investigations, yet the Wall Street Journal editorial board continues to defend the schools' recruiting practices and advocates for fewer student protections at for-profit institutions. In honor of Veterans Day, here are some of the Journal's most misleading and inflammatory arguments defending failing for-profits that take advantage of veterans.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed declared that the World Health Organization's (WHO) recent statement linking red and processed meats to cancer was not actually about protecting public health, but "about fighting global warming."
The November 9 op-ed, headlined "The Climate Agenda Behind the Bacon Scare," claimed WHO's announcement "seems particularly well timed" to coincide with upcoming United Nations climate negotiations, where nations hope to achieve an international agreement to act on global warming. The writers dismissed WHO's conclusions about cancer -- which were was based on an assessment of "more than 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets" -- as "flimsy at best," and posited that its findings would be used by environmental activists or "doomsayers" who "want to take on modern agriculture" to reduce greenhouse gas-intensive meat consumption. The op-ed concluded: "In other words, meat is a double threat that governments should contain. Hang on to your T-bones and sausages, folks."
One of the op-ed writers, Jeff Stier, is described as head of the "risk analysis division" at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR). NCPPR has been given at least $445,000 from ExxonMobil, and has received over $300,000 from DonorsTrust, a dark money group that receives large donations from groups connected to the oil billionaire Koch brothers.
NCPPR has extensively railed against climate change efforts, including attacking the CIA for providing climate data to scientists, making the false claim that Pope Francis' climate stance could hurt the poor, and urging Apple to end their environmental initiatives.
Stier is also listed as a health and scientific policy expert at the Heartland Institute, which is known for its annual climate denial conferences and has received over $700,000 from ExxonMobil. Julie Kelly -- the co-author of the Journal op-ed -- was listed as a food writer, but she is also a food policy adviser for Heartland, according to National Review.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to protect Alaska's Bristol Bay, home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, from the adverse environmental impacts of a proposed mineral excavation project called the Pebble Mine. Proponents of the mine have been pushing an array of falsehoods, many of which are being propagated in the media as the EPA's process for evaluating the project was scrutinized in a November 5 Congressional hearing. Here are the facts.
Fox News promoted a misleading and debunked claim forwarded by GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina in a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting that women suffered disproportionate job losses during President Obama's first term.
In an October 26 Wall Street Journal op-ed riddled with misleading, outdated, and debunked claims, Carly Fiorina suggested that Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and President Obama were responsible for the economic distress of millions of women during Obama's first term in office:
While Mrs. Clinton touts her gender to bolster her campaign, 92% of the jobs lost during Mr. Obama's first term -- when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state -- belonged to women, according to the BLS. The National Women's Law Center reports that the poverty rate among women is 16.1% -- the highest level in 20 years -- and the extreme poverty rate among women the highest ever recorded.
On the October 28 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry cited Fiorina's op-ed as an example of legitimate "Republican pushback on the claim that the economy does better under Democrats," ignoring that the op-ed is replete with glaring factual errors. The specific job-loss claim was widely debunked when then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney first forwarded it in April 2012. PolitiFact rated his claim as "mostly false." The Washington Post's FactChecker labeled the claim "True but False" noting that it was based on cherry-picked data, and as The Post's Wonkblog correctly pointed out, "[t]he reality is that the recession has been easier on women than men." Even the right-wing Daily Caller called out the Romney campaign for its misleading claim.
As for conservatives questioning Clinton's suggestion that the economy improves when a Democrat occupies the White House, according to a July 2014 report by Princeton University economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, "There is a systematic and large gap between the US economy's macroeconomic performance when a Democrat is President of the United States versus when a Republican is." The authors attributed the differences in economic performance under the two parties to "mostly 'good luck,' with perhaps a touch of 'good policy,'" but still witnessed a "stunningly large partisan gap" in economic growth rates under Democratic and Republican administrations.
Watch the full clip from Fox News below:
HILLARY CLINTON (VIDEO): Though my Republican friends don't like it when I say it, you are four times more likely to end up in a recession under a Republican president.
ED HENRY: Well, Carly Fiorina, one of the Republican candidates of course, is not buying that at all -- that the economy is better under Democrats. She has a Wall Street Journal op-ed saying in part, "While Mrs. Clinton touts her gender to bolster her campaign, 92 percent of the jobs lost during Mr. Obama's first term... belonged to women." So, you see the Republican push back on this claim that the economy does better under Democrats, Gretchen.
In anticipation of CNBC's presentation of the third GOP debate, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina attacked the economic policy priorities of Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and the Democratic Party in a recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that was filled with inaccurate and misleading information. It was more of the same of what she did during the second GOP debate hosted by CNN, when the network's moderators let her use the stage to make baseless allegations about Planned Parenthood, which provides vital, affordable health care to millions of Americans. Will CNBC moderators let her be just as careless with economic policy facts?
On October 22, Hillary Clinton will testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi regarding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi and her use of a personal email address while secretary of state. In their relentless drive to find a scandal that doesn't exist, media have spent the last three years pushing numerous myths surrounding Clinton's alleged role in the attacks and her legal use of her personal email account.
Conservative media are defending the "right" of fossil fuel companies to knowingly deceive the public about climate change, after a group of climate scientists and members of Congress called for an investigation of such companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Contrary to claims by conservative media that these advocates are seeking to "shut down free speech," RICO would only apply to those who purposefully misled the public about climate change, with some Congressmen pointing to recent reports that ExxonMobil funded climate science denial for decades after discovering that fossil fuels drive climate change.
A Media Matters analysis of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal found that The Post dedicated extensive coverage to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was part of a partisan strategy that damaged Hillary Clinton's presidential chances. The Post featured 17 online or print articles or blog posts that mentioned or covered McCarthy's comments. The Times mentioned or covered the comments in five online or print articles or blog posts, and The Journal neglected to offer any print coverage, but had five online articles and blog posts that mentioned or offered coverage.