an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Richard Primus raprimus at umich.edu
K. Sabeel Rahmansabeel.rahman at brooklaw.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
What the Media Isn't Covering in the Health Reform Debate--And Why It Matters
If you've been ignoring health reform news so far, now may be a good time to start paying attention. Theodore Marmor and Jonathan Oberlander have helpfully encapsulated the current state of play in an NYRB essay. Congressional resistance is growing, and the media are highlighting voices critical of current proposals, ranging from alarmists to prudentialists to beleaguered governors.
They are curiously uninterested in three topics:
1) There has been virtually no coverage of the views of those Americans who want more thoroughgoing reform than is currently on the table.
2) We hear very little about the $1.4 million dollars a day spent by lobbyists to water down or otherwise obstruct reform. As Ezra Klein notes, "At times, the efforts at influence peddling border on the comic: One June 10 meeting saw Max Baucus's aides sitting down with two of Max Baucus's former chiefs of staff, who were representing different groupings of health-care industry interests."
We therefore get superficial coverage of the issues and a rigged debate between bland moderates and an obstructionist right. That bias is a major reason for a big push on reform now, rather than later this fall or winter.
If the media were up to a real health reform debate, they'd complement every story relating skepticism about reform efforts with a careful investigation of where things are headed given the status quo. They routinely fail this basic test of fairness. For example, on Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory aggressively pressed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the possibility that reform would lead employers to drop private coverage because they could shift workers to a public plan. Gregory ignored the fact that employer-based coverage is eroding now. Similarly, media outlets persistently pair as sparring partners incrementalist academic experts with soi disant conservatives who in reality envision radical changes for tax treatment, risk pooling, and coverage determinations in health care. It's not a fair fight, and the longer it goes on, the more misinformation is likely to be spread about reform.
Most troublingly, journalists routinely let critics of reform take opportunistically partial potshots at legislation. Critics have perfected a "heads I win, tails you lose" strategy: they first complain about costs, then dismiss as "socialized medicine" any serious cost-containment strategies. Unwilling to investigate the many countries that somehow manage to avoid this Scylla and Charybdis, most journalists are incapable of moving beyond the ritual dance of cost-fright and socialism-scare.
If the media (or the "go-slow caucus") showed a genuine interest in the health policy issues raised by reform, I'd welcome a months-long Congressional debate on policy minutiae. Instead, we get endless coverage of political gamesmanship, relating perceptions of perceptions of who's up and who's down in the polls. It's no wonder the MSM is in crisis -- it "splits the difference" among viewpoints well to the right of the average American's views.
The longer the health care debate goes on, the more we can expect "dumbo journalism" about the hard issues at stake. We can rely on the elite media to translate their own frustration at trying to understand multiple, complex bills into reportage on an imaginary public's anger and skepticism about the same. In short, we can expect more Rush--and that's why there's a rush. Posted
by Frank Pasquale [link]