The Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity has now released its factual documentation for its misleading ad featuring Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman stricken with Leukemia who suggests Obamacare forced her to take on a new plan that is now “unaffordable.” The ad has been widely pilloried ever since Glenn Kessler discovered that her premiums had come down, likely making her overall costs a wash or even cheaper. Gary Peters, the Dem candidate for Senate in Michigan, had written to TV stations insisting on documentation.
The documentation provided by AFP, which was passed along from TV stations by the Peters campaign, doesn’t actually back up the ad’s key claim. But it tells us something interesting about how the AFP campaign — and by extension, the broader GOP strategy against Obamacare — really work.
To buttress the ad’s charge that Boonstra’s “out of pocket charges are so high, it’s unaffordable,” AFP cites a single Politico article reporting that “consumers may have to dig a little deeper into their wallets to pay for health care in the Obamacare insurance exchanges,” because the law could mean additional out of pocket expenses. Needless to say, that doesn’t shed light on Boonstra’s individual situation. And on that front, AFP’s documentation offers this (emphasis mine):
[I]t has been widely reported that consumers are facing higher out-of-pocket costs due to the Affordable Care Act. Julie Boonstra is one individual whose old insurance plan was deemed illegal under Obamacare, forcing her to find other coverage options. She has made a reasonable judgment that the unexpected, unpredictable out-of-pocket costs associated with her new health care plan are unaffordable.
Note the sleight of hand here: AFP now claims the ad says her out of pocket costs are unaffordable, and defends that assertion. But the original ad was clearly designed to leave the impression that her overall plan is now unaffordable, thanks to Obamacare. AFP’s documentation doesn’t try to defend that claim. Indeed, the documentation doesn’t even engage on the fact that her premiums fell, making overall costs a wash. Instead, AFP is now implicitly abandoning the core premise of its own ad.
This is in keeping with the new ads AFP is now running in New Hampshire, which no longer make a claim about the overall impact of the law on its victims, carefully skirting the problem that got AFP pilloried over the Boonstra ad.
The bigger story here is that, in order to sell these Obamacare “horror stories,” AFP needs to either shield the full stories from comprehensive scrutiny or actively mislead about them. AFP’s indictment of Obamacare now rests largely on cancelled plans and the subsequent unpredictability people are now enduring, both of which are being used to create the impression that untold numbers of people are getting shafted by the law. Given that Obama did falsely claim people could keep their plans, perhaps Dems are vulnerable to this attack.
But the plain fact remains that these Obamacare horror stories simply don’t reflect a full accounting of the overall impact the law is actually having on its alleged victims. And this is crucial to the broader Republican “Obamacare horror stories” strategy, too — it is a feature of the strategy, not a bug.
* GOP GOVERNORS PAYING NO PRICE FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: A great point from Politico:
Conservative activists threatened revenge for Republican governors who boosted Obamacare. Now it looks like they were mostly blowing smoke.
Around the country, Republicans who defied the base and embraced Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid are better positioned for reelection than those who did not. None has garnered a serious primary challenge so far, and even Democrats have struggled to field strong contenders to take them on.
More on this later, but for now, the key point is that many 2014 GOP candidates continue to play to the base by advocating for full repeal — an unpopular position that could be problematic in general elections — even as these GOP governors are demonstrating that there is no price to be paid for accommodating this part of Obamacare.
* HOUSE GOP TO ROLL OUT TAX REFORM PLAN: The Post reports that House Republicans are set to roll out their long-awaited tax reform plan, which would reduce the number of tax brackets to two and lower top rates to 25 percent. But there’s also this:
In addition, the plan would impose a 10 percent surtax on certain types of earned income over roughly $450,000 a year. The surtax would hit many salaried professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, while dodging farmers and manufacturers — as well as the super-rich, whose income often is derived primarily from interest and investments.
However, the plan seems to be revenue neutral, resulting only in “a slight increase in the tax load only for filers at the top of the income scale, particularly those with annual incomes between $500,000 and $1 million,” even as it cuts top rates. It remains to be seen how the math works.
* HOUSE GOP WON’T ACT ON TAX REFORM PLAN: Meanwhile, Politico reports on why this tax reform isn’t going anywhere this year:
Republicans think they will expand their majority in the House — and perhaps take the Senate — by spending the remainder of 2014 concentrating on a still struggling-economy, cutting a raft of regulations and Obamacare’s woes. Many senior figures see no need to open up a new policy discussion in February of an election year without a partner in the Senate and White House.
And, of course, no need to act on immigration reform or the minimum wage, either, because #Obummer.
* PRESSURE MOUNTS OVER ANTI-GAY BILL: The New York Times reports that the pressure is growing incredibly intense on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill that would give business owners the right to refuse service to gays on religious grounds. Note this:
Barry Broome, president and chief executive of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said that leaders of four companies looking to relocate to Arizona had put his organization on notice, saying they might reconsider if the bill became law. The state’s image is still scarred by a divisive immigration law passed in 2010, which gave police officers the ability to stop people whom they suspected of being in the country illegally, and triggered widespread boycotts.
With civic leaders and business groups speaking out against the measure as bad for the economy, Brewer has an easy out here. On the other hand, vetoing the bill would make its dwindling supporters angry, so there’s that.
* KEEP AN EYE ON GEORGIA SENATE RACE: Bloomberg News has a useful overview of the state of the Georgia Senate race, with a focus on outsized comments by two of the Tea Partyers (GOP Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey) who are vying for the GOP nomination. As Bloomberg notes, “the fractures that have plagued Republicans for the past two election cycles are on full display in Georgia,” with Republicans worrying that a far right nominee could alienate independents and women in the general election.
If that were to happen, and Dems were to pull off a surprise pickup of this GOP seat, Republicans would probably have to oust four Dem incumbents to win the majority, making the task a whole lot tougher.
* MORE GOP HYPOCRISY ON OBAMACARE: Jonathan Cohn has everything you need to know about the hypocrisy of GOP attacks on Obamacare for cutting Medicare, given that Republicans voted for these Medicare cuts and have nonetheless attacked Dems over them for three years. As Cohn explains, when you combine this with attacks on the non-existent Obamacare insurance industry “bailout,” the overall GOP position become even more absurd.
My question: has anyone tallied up how much cash was wasted on GOP ads amplifying this line of attack in 2012? (Yes, yes, I know, 2010. It’s always 2010.)
* AND THE TWEET OF THE DAY, OBAMA DERANGEMENT EDITION: Dick Cheney says Obama would rather spend “on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops,” prompting this from liberal tweeter @LOLGOP:
Dick Cheney accused President Obama of preferring funding to help poor Americans eat over starting wars. Can you put him on TV every night?
The serious point here is that folks like Cheney remain trapped in the delusion that their preferred caricature of Obama — as a food stamp president who bows to enemies and foreign dictators — has resonance for anyone but themselves.