Propaganda ills


Criticism of the Affordable Care Act by those who hate it and plot its demise has been unceasing. Opponents declared the law a wreck before the train left the station.

The rollout of the law this month has been disastrous, with millions of Americans unable to enroll on a flawed Web site. Then came the cancellation of policies of consumers in the individual market — a small fraction of the whole, but still a blow to the credibility of President Obama, who had promised that people could keep their old policies.

Yet these early troubles do not mean that the Affordable Care Act is intrinsically broken. If Americans give the law a fair chance, its advantages ought to become apparent — if the propaganda against it ever stops.

There’s little chance of that, though. From the beginning, critics warned that death panels and rationing loomed. They called Obamacare socialism and government medicine, even though the law rejected a single-payer system and included private insurers. After all the distortions about the plan, the greatest irony was the outrage expressed when President Obama was caught saying something untrue about part of it.

Propaganda cuts its opponents no breaks. But a Republican memo that provides a blueprint to sabotage the law is now public knowledge.

Born of closed-door strategy sessions in mid-October, the memo outlines a series of GOP talking points that emphasize using anecdotal horror stories from people who were adversely affected by the new law. Never mind that some previous stories of this sort have been debunked.

Some people will have to pay more for coverage, although the poorest will qualify for a subsidy and the coverage generally will be better. The problem with propaganda based on anecdotes is that the big picture is lacking.

The Affordable Care Act is designed to cover 30 million uninsured Americans. Under the old system, health care premiums went up steeply each year; one of the biggest reasons for personal bankruptcies was medical emergencies.

So why don’t Republicans work instead on fixing the health-care law? Why don’t they move toward the center and draw Democrats into the kind of congressional collaboration that has been all too lacking in Washington?

Any party can focus on saying no, but pretending that equates to doing the people’s business is the biggest myth of all.