Ben Sasse

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  • Republicans’ media strategy for health care: Hide, attack, and lie

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    On Sunday morning political talk shows, Republicans have deployed a three-pronged approach surrounding the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republicans who openly support the bill have mostly been hiding. In three weeks of major Sunday talk shows that have aired since the bill was released, only two Republican senators who openly support the bill have appeared on the shows to defend it. Meanwhile, the Republicans willing to defend the bill in public have been attacking the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and lying to make their case for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which is reportedly the most unpopular bill in three decades.

    1. Hiding

    Since the Senate bill was unveiled on June 22, there have been 15 appearances by Republican senators on the major Sunday morning political talk shows -- ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press. Of those appearances, only two senators expressed support for the bill: Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Other appearances by Republican senators included Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ron Johnson (R-WI), all of whom have publicly stated that they do not support the bill. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) also appeared on Sunday shows to discuss the bill, but gave no indication of whether they’d support it in its current form.

    For context, there are 52 Republican senators and, according to The New York Times, 17 of them have publicly said they would support the bill -- yet only two have gone on the Sunday political talk shows to defend it. It’s understandable why they would want to stay away from the shows; after all, the bill is incredibly unpopular.

    2. Attacking the CBO

    Republicans who have been willing to go on the Sunday shows to discuss the bill have borrowed a play right out of right-wing media’s playbook: attack the CBO. Days after the bill was released, the nonpartisan CBO published its report which stated that the bill “would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.” Amid the bad news, some Republicans took to the Sunday shows to lash out at the office.

    On the July 2 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, Sasse attempted to discredit the CBO’s findings, claiming that while the CBO is “good at certain kinds of analysis,” when “analyzing macro, long-term, highly complex dynamic social programs, they’ve almost never been right.”

    Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who helped pick the man who is now in charge of the CBO, suggested that the CBO did not “look at the entire plan” and left out additional reforms the Republican Party intends to offer (which the GOP have not articulated yet):

    This tactic of attacking the CBO has been employed several times by others in the Trump administration and its right-wing media cronies to drum up support for the bill.

    3. Spreading flat-out lies

    With their backs against the wall, Republican lawmakers have resorted to flat-out lying in an attempt to garner support for the bill. During his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Barrasso invoked the conservative media canard that “Obamacare is collapsing every day,” despite the fact that this talking point has been repeatedly debunked.

    Toomey also lied about the bill on Face the Nation, saying “The Senate bill will codify and make permanent the Medicaid expansion.” As Politico’s Dan Diamond pointed out, “The GOP bill ends funding for Medicaid expansion in 2024, and bill’s additional cuts projected to reduce coverage for millions”:

    Republicans are utilizing these strategies of hiding, attacking, and lying because they cannot defend it by telling the truth and arguing on policy merits; the bill is set to kick millions off insurance plans while giving a tax cut to the most wealthy. And other Republicans who are uncomfortable using these strategies have stopped appearing on TV. Journalists, especially on the Sunday shows, need to ask why Republicans can’t stand behind the bill they are trying to jam through the Senate, before it’s too late.

  • Wall Street Journal Invents Reasons For Trump To Gut Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Will Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Destroy The Consumer Watchdog Succeed Under Trump?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined Republican senators in urging the president-elect to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, for “a menu of reasons” ranging from the agency’s crackdown on racial prejudice in auto loans to the cost of building renovations.

    The CFPB was set up in the wake of the financial crisis as part of a new regulatory network constructed by the Dodd-Frank Act and has been a target of conservative media misinformation ever since, most of which has focused on the agency’s supposed overreach in protecting American consumers from predatory corporate behavior. The Journal’s editorial on January 9 calling on Donald Trump to fire Cordray “for cause” after Trump assumes the presidency followed calls for Cordray’s termination by Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Among the reasons the Journal claimed as justification for Cordray’s termination was the CFPB’s allegedly poor handling of anti-discrimination regulations, its supposed failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and reports of racial and gender discrimination from CFPB employees. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Meantime, Mr. Trump should fire Mr. Cordray for cause, and the President-elect has a menu of reasons. Take a CFPB auto-loan campaign, which involved guessing the race of a borrower by his last name, and then suing banks that seemed to offer better deals to people the government assumed are white. A House Financial Services Committee report detailed how Mr. Cordray and senior officers knew their statistical method was “prone to significant error” but hid that reality from the public.

    Mr. Cordray’s bureau routinely fails to show the reasoning behind its rules. In December the Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against CFPB for refusing to produce more than 1,800 pages of documents on how the agency came up with a regulation on arbitration. Such disclosures are required by the Freedom of Information Act.

    [...]

    An investigation of CFPB employment practices by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of black, Asian and female respondents reported that they had been discriminated against. About 10% claimed to have personally observed retaliation against another employee. The bureau neglected to fulfill seven Inspector General recommendations in this area. Mr. Cordray also stood by while a CFPB office renovation notched more than $100 million in cost overruns.

    The Journal’s supposed evidence that the CFPB is a “lawless and unprofessional agency [that] deserves a dose of political accountability” does not hold up to scrutiny.

    The Journal has attacked the CFPB before for standing up to discrimination in auto lending after the agency drafted new guidance on interest rate markups and facilitated compensation for American consumers who had been the targets of discrimination. In November 2015, the Center for Responsible Lending concluded that the CFPB’s regulatory changes had the added benefit of saving all consumers money. The Journal's complaint that CFPB is not forthcoming enough with FOIA requests specifically cites a lawsuit from Cause of Action, a Koch-funded front group. The editorial’s allegation of rampant discrimination at the agency also ignored that it was the CFPB that initiated a self-assessment of its employee evaluations, as part of the “standards for equal employment opportunity” mandated by Dodd-Frank, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report alluded to by the Journal actually found that the agency “has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.” Even the Journal’s accusation of mismanagement and cost overruns in the agency’s office renovation falls flat: The Federal Reserve Inspector General found that “construction costs appear reasonable” and that the agency’s building “costs are below the amount previously budgeted.”

    While the editorial attacked the CFPB, and Cordray, for problems that the agency took steps to fix years ago, it completely ignored the agency’s successes. According to a December 2, 2015, article in The New York Times, the CFPB has “seized upon its mission” to rein in abuses in financial services under Cordray, including cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges, arranging forgiveness of $480 million of student loans, and ordering the reimbursement of nearly $700 million to Citigroup customers swindled by illegal credit charges. Since its inception, the agency had “provided for $11 billion in relief for over 25 million customers,” according to the Times.

    The demands for Cordray’s termination mark the culmination of a years-long conservative campaign to undermine the agency. As New York magazine pointed out in a December 29 article, Cordray will be “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left after Republicans assume control of the federal government, and for conservatives, “Cordray’s success at enacting new regulations is a bug, not a feature.”