[My Thursday column from this past week, re-posted here in full.]
As I write this column today, the Supreme Court could, at any moment, hand down its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. I don’t feel particularly hopeful about this one, given the crap-on-a-stick precedent of Citizens United and the penchant for the conservative justices to simply decide against something because it’s what all the crazy right-wingers are doing these days.
But the fact that the healthcare reform law and Citizens United made it to the Supreme Court tells us something rather important to nearly everything we talk about here. The conservative movement, however cartoonish and contradictory, knows how to win big fights. The ACA, or “Obamacare,” is the central focus of anti-Obama hatred.
Not only have they coordinated a massive legal effort to carry the alleged unconstitutionality of the law all the way to the Supreme Court — and just two years or so since it was passed — and with a solid chance of the Supremes overturning it — but they’re spending massive amounts of cash in an ongoing disinformation propaganda campaign against the ACA. In fact, they’re out-spending the government, specifically Health and Human Services, which is trying to educate the public about what’s in the law.
Conservative PACs and activist groups have spent at least $235 million in a coordinated effort to mislead the public about the ACA, and that doesn’t even count the daily lies and silliness that’s been injected into the discourse since before the law was even passed.
[The success of the law's opponents] may stem in large part from more than $200 million in advertising spending by an array of conservative groups, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($27 million) to Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ($18 million), which includes the billionaire Sheldon Adelson among its donors, and the American Action Network ($9 million), founded by Fred V. Malek, an investor and prominent Republican fund-raiser.
In all, about $235 million has been spent on ads attacking the law since its passage in March 2010, according to a recent survey by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. Only $69 million has been spent on advertising supporting it.
No wonder the ACA is suffering in the polls in spite of what’s in it.
Once again, the conservative movement has managed to out-hustle the rest of us, including the U.S. government, in its campaign to get as many voters as possible to support policies that run contrary to their own social and economic best interests.
Consequently, there are way too many Americans who are utterly clueless about what’s in the law, and, instead, they believe in hooey like “death panels” and insist that “Obamacare” costs a bazillion dollars — both things are clearly false, of course, beginning obviously with “death panels” which were vented like a toxic whoosh of gas from the hole in Sarah Palin’s walnut-brain and, more importantly, the law reduces deficit and pays for itself. None of that matters because the nickname for the law has “Obama” in there so it has to be destroyed.
Put another way, if President Obama is responsible for the law — any law — it must be the product of his socialistic, “anti-colonial” (??), secular, Kenyan worldview. Most conservatives, as with the details of the ACA, don’t know what any of those words actually mean, but they sound sinister so they must be crushed with extreme prejudice. It doesn’t matter that the people who are screeching the loudest, senior citizens, also happen to be the people who current benefit most from the ACA. Plus, if you roll into that equation the wide variety of middle class red state Americans who would receive considerable subsidies to pay for health insurance, as well as broader and better care for their premium dollar, and yet hate the ACA with the hate of all hates, it’s easy to observe the results of this right-wing campaign of lies with crystal clarity.
(Just now, the Supremes postponed their ruling and announced that a decision will be handed down next week.)
Given the conservative efforts against the ACA and the Obama administration, including its re-election chances, it’s a miracle when anything good sticks to the wall. But as quickly as conservatives destroy things like the Clinton surplus or as thoroughly they sabotage the economic recovery, they perpetually seek awful things to drop into the void. All of that aside, the truth and reality continues to have a well-known liberal bias. We just have to do a better job letting people know.