Once upon a time, political finger-pointing was left to floor debates and campaign rallies.
Media’s been included in the mix in recent years, though, and dominantly in favor of conservative claims that are completely incorrect.
And 2013 was, of course, no different, with most of the blatant lies and falsehoods sharing the common theme of mistakes on the part of the federal government that were caused and/or supported by the president, and even flip-flops on fault for congressional errors.
Here are the four fallacies that stand out most:
Obamacare Website Isn’t Accommodating Needs
Complaints about registration on the government-operated website have been rampant since it kicked off on October 1, and even major media quickly became the soundboard for complaints. The www.healthcare.gov site wasn’t operating as it should, national news reported.
There are a lot of facts that most media aren’t telling, though; while the site isn’t perfect, it’s been doing its job pretty darn well.
The declared goal of the Obama administration is to enroll 7 million Americans into medical insurance policies, and in six months ending March 31, 2014. It had a slow start, registering only 36,000 in the first week, but over 2 million were visiting the site on its very first day. That high traffic jammed the site, making it work very slowly. Many groups were fervently working to jam and even hack the site, too.
But in the third week, it registered almost 400,000, and over 500,000 registered in the fourth week. It’s maintained this rate since then, and the goal of 7 million can be met weeks before March 31.
Even when the healthcare.gov site was operating slowly, it was still faster than private insurance websites. During the very busy first week of the site, when news media kept saying how difficult it was to register for Obamacare, someone filmed a comparison of online registration. It took him 49 minutes to register at healthcare.gov; he then went to a private insurance company website, where it took him two hours and 16 minutes to register. (See the video here.)
The website is just one of four ways to register for Obamacare, too. Registration is also being done by telephone (1-800-318-2596), by regular mail (see bit.ly/PaperApplication) and in person (see LocalHelp.healthcare.gov).
Democrats Caused the Shutdown
Beginning the same day that healthcare.gov was initiated for insurance registration, the U.S. government was officially shut down by disagreement in the House of Representatives, which failed to pass legislation for operating funds.
Republicans were quick to blame their Democratic Party opponents for the high-cost inconvenience.
“Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have shut down the federal government to protect ObamaCare,” wrote Mike Shields, Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee, in an email seeking donations.
This October 1 shutdown didn’t occur due to debate or votes against the bill, though. Neither the president, the Senate Majority Leader, nor the House Minority Leader brought it about. And the bill had nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act, either.
The shutdown happened because Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Mo.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) didn’t allow the budget bill to the floor for a vote.
Just one day earlier, the Republican-led House Rules Committee changed a long-standing rule, applicable only to the budgetary extension bill of question, that prevented it from coming to a vote without approval of the House Majority Leader.
If it had been brought to order, the bill would have passed; 28 Republicans in the House verified they would have voted for its approval along with 200 Democrats, collectively surpassing the majority needed to allow the budget extension.
The 16-day shutdown caused 800,000 temporary layoffs, and closed many offices that provide much-needed service to millions of Americans, including the Administration on Aging, the National Council on Disability, and the Civil Rights Commission.
Somehow, though, the GOP and RNC’s Shields found it okay to claim “House Republicans continue to stand strong on the side of the American people, but they are facing a united front of Democrats and the mainstream media.”
Obamacare is Harmful to Small Businesses
Requirements of employee insurance coverage have been maligned by claims of dreadful effects on mom ‘n pop stores and the independently employed. These small businesses will have to assume very high costs due to new requirements that they provide health insurance to all employees, according to popular arguments.
The claims are faulty, however, and for numerous reasons that seem to be dependent on public ignorance.
To begin with, in the United States “small business” is defined by the government as “an independent business having fewer than 500 employees.” Less than one percent of all U.S. businesses aren’t “small,” then. Media seem to allow misinterpretation of the term, apparently to instigate negative public opinion of the Affordable Care Act.
Next, the ACA is only applicable upon businesses with more than 50 full-time employees. That’s only about 200,000 companies, or three percent of all enterprises.
In following, only four percent of applicable companies do not currently offer insurance, and only one percent of all small businesses will be required to offer (or improve) health insurance coverage for employees.
Even better, the insurance for small businesses under ACA costs less than what was originally expected.
Finally, the cost of that insurance is not only quite affordable, but tax-reducing for these companies, too, with deductions of costs ranging from 25 percent to 35 percent.
(More information about the benefits of the program to small businesses is available at Obamacare Facts.)
Distortions about the Act continue, unfortunately, meaning that many will only learn the truth when they can directly witness its benefits of healthier employees, fewer sick days, and improved productivity.
Food Stamp Program is Abused, and it’s Obama’s Fault
Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) grew dramatically in recent years, but not for the reasons many conservatives continue to holler.
Some claim it was policy change by the Obama Administration that increased the number of recipients to over 47 million, for example, and others claim its abused by fraud that the government knows of and won’t correct. Another even tried to use the topic as a campaign tagline, referring to Obama as “the food stamp president.”
These claims are twists of facts, however, often accompanied by complete fallacies.
The American Recovery Act, signed by Obama on his first day as president, did increase eligibility for SNAP benefits, and the number of recipients has grown by almost 50 percent since.
The Recovery Act is only responsible for about 20 percent of the total increase, though. The remaining 80 percent of growth in number of food stamp recipients is due to many other factors.
Low income continues to be another major factor. While unemployment has declined, Americans are earning much less in their new jobs. Average income is notably less today than it was when the recession started in 2007 (and income growth has been stagnant for over a decade). As a result, eligibility for food stamps for many Americans has remained.
Food costs have escalated, too, mostly due to increased costs of the fuel needed to deliver products to stores. Those higher gasoline costs, combined with inflated prices on many other product fields, reduced how much Americans could spend on food, and which further increased need for SNAP benefits, as well as their dollar amount.
Conservatives have attempted to hold Obama directly responsible for the growth in food stamp recipients, but selectively ignore prominent data. While the number of SNAP recipients grew close to 50 percent under Obama, they almost doubled under Pres. George W. Bush.
Conservative media also ignore great improvements in efficiency of the SNAP program. Its accuracy rate (regarding overpayments and underpayments) is at an all-time high of 96.2 percent, which is far superior to other government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Earned Income Tax Credit.
And as for abuse of the program? A recent USDA study reports that trafficking of food stamps, which once was as high 3.8 cents per dollar in 1993, dropped to only 1.3 cents per dollar since 2009.