Kevin Drum is puzzled:
How Did the Media Blow it so Bad on Yesterday's CBO Report?I say this all the time -- I said it just yesterday -- but I'll repeat myself: This happened because the Republican Party and the right-wing media (which are really one and the same thing) respond to every political (or politicizable) news story exactly the same way, immediately and en masse: How do we turn this into talking points? What talking points will be most damaging to the Democratic Party and liberalism? Republicans -- officeholders and pundits alike -- don't even have to think about this anymore. They just do it on instinct, all agreeing to parrot whatever party line is going to do Democrats the most harm.
Yesterday the CBO released a long-term budget analysis that included a chapter about the effect of Obamacare. Among other things, the report concluded that in 2017 and beyond, it would have the effect of reducing employment by about 2 million jobs. This produced a gigantic raft of misleading headlines -- some from outlets like Fox News, of course, but also from a wide variety of mainstream news sources.
... lots of reporters and headline writers got it wrong. It's crazy. This is policy 101, not some deeply technical report that you need a data sherpa to understand. Obamacare doesn't kill jobs. It makes people more secure and thus less likely to keep a job they don't want or work more hours than they need to. It also, like all means-tested programs, provides a modest disincentive for poor people to work more hours, since extra income will be accompanied by lower subsidies.
This is easy stuff. How is that so many folks blew it? Obviously Fox News deliberately wanted to put the worst spin possible on this report. But why did everyone else go along? What's the deal here?
Right-wingers hone their instincts every day by looking at everything through the prism of propaganda, and by launching every conceivable attack in response to every exploitable news event. Go to Breitbart or Fox Nation or Free Republic or the Right Scoop or the Blaze and you'll see all the lines of attack, with new ones arriving every day. Many don't cut through the clutter and become part of the non-wingnut narrative. But when a news event is really exploitable, as this one was, the right gets there first and establishes the story line.
I'm sure plenty of pundits, wonks, and congressional and White House staffers on the Democratic/liberal side read the CBO report yesterday as soon as it became available -- but it seems not to have been anyone's job to scour it for data the right would exploit, so Democrats could get out in front of the story and set the terms of the debate. (It's not clear whether it was anyone's job to scour it for data for Democrats to exploit, for what it's worth.)
Mainstream journalists, of course, are used to having a perspective on news events spoon-fed to them. The GOP did that with the CBO report before Democrats knew what hit them.
This is why I get upset when pundits minimize the power of the right-wing noise machine. Do its efforts succeed every time? No, obviously -- but it launches so many negative meme-bombs that, inevitably, quite a few hit their targets and explode. And the relentless practice means that no one's better at bomb-making than the right.
After all, when your party has no ideas and you've given up on legislating, what else is there for you to do all day? Of course your skills in this area are going to be well honed.