Media

Glenn Reynolds on New York Times' Subtle Bias: The Case of Obamacare

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Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writing in the New York Post details "subtle bias" at the New York Times. Here's a case in point:

Readers of last Sunday's front page, for example, were informed that "In Hopeful Sign, Health Spending Is Flattening Out."

Hopeful? Well, maybe. The article is full of caveats and to-be-sures like this: "The growth rate mostly slowed as millions of Americans lost insurance coverage along with their jobs. Worried about job security, others may have feared taking time off work for doctor's visits or surgical procedures, or skipped nonurgent care when money was tight." Or this: "Some experts caution that there remains too little data to determine whether the current slowdown will become permanent, or whether it is merely a blip caused by the economy's weakness."

But, we're told, "[M]any other health experts say that there is just enough data to start detecting trends — even if the numbers remain murky, and the vast complexity of the national health care market puts definitive answers out of reach."

At this point, an editor might have spiked the story, commenting that all we've got are dueling experts who admit that they don't really know what's going on amid their "murky" numbers.

While that might have been good use of editorial discretion, it wouldn't have advanced the narrative about cost declines, which is this: "If so, it was happening just as the new health care law was coming into force, and before the Supreme Court could weigh in on it or the voters could pronounce their own verdict at the polls."

There's your narrative:ObamaCare is working, and the Supreme Court should back off. Oh, and voters, don't be mean to the Democrats who rammed this down your throat.

Despite the fact that, once you've gotten through all the caveats and battling experts and murky data there's not much actual evidence of that — at best, some hopeful supposition, mostly from people with an investment in ObamaCare…"

Whole thing here.

Read Peter Suderman's analysis of this particular health care story.

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  1. Sometimes in a market, your customers don’t want to feel like they want what they really want.

    They want to buy cheap gas from an oil company that makes them feel good about what the oil company is doing for the world.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujR9K0cFNBE

    I suspect the NYT has something like that going on, too. Their customers want a slanted, left-wing take on the news, but they want it from a news source that makes them feel like it’s unbiased, as well.

    Fox News is “fair and balanced”, too.

    Neither of them are anything like unbiased, but if that’s what their customers want, then that’s what the market is giving them.

    I wish more people shared libertarian biases. Until they do, we should definitely bash the NYT’s and Fox News’ brands. I suppose fighting to get other people to share our biases is what it’s all about.

    1. There was a study published a few years ago out of UCLA (I think, I dont feel like looking it up) about media bias. They looked purely at news reporting, and left out opinion shows and editorials. They found that Fox News actually had the least biased reporting of any major media outlet. The most liberally biased was, surprisingly, the WSJ.

      1. People think the WSJ is conservative because of its opinion page. But the news coverage is pretty mainline left. And I have never gotten the insanity over Fox News. They are more populist tabloid than anything else.

        1. The WSJ has taken a nose dive off the quality cliff too, if you ask me.

          The reason they could charge a subscription fee when no one else could was because their quality was unusually high for a long time…

          Um…things have changed since Murdoch took things over.

          1. I used to read it cover to cover nearly every day. Now I find myself reading mostly Henniger, Toranto and the movie reviews.

          2. I subscribe to their weekend edition, which I read nearly cover to cover. Its mostly lifestyle-type stuff, but its really good, thoughtful lifestyle-type stuff. Hell, Dan Neill (the auto columnist) is worth the price of subscription all by himself.

            1. Seconded re Dan Neill.

            2. When I subscribed back in the ’90s, it wasn’t for the lifestyle section.

  2. Since most of OCare hasn’t gone into effect yet, including the bits that are supposed to control costs, why would anyone think it is responsible, at all, for the slower growth in costs the past few years?

    1. Penumbra effect. You’ll notice the Arab Spring happened after Obama took office too.

      1. Correlation something something causality?

        1. Exactly. Obama’s leadership is so skilled and masterful that things want to change, even if he has nothing to do with them.

          The only reason bad things still happen is because of obstructionist Republicans in Congress.

      2. The “emanations” ask, “What – no love for us?”

  3. Now, if only they could credibly massage those unemployment numbers down to an apparently acceptable 7.9%

    1. That is easy. Just a few hundred more thousand people give up hope and go on disability dropping out of the workforce and that number will be well below 7%.

      1. You just don’t want to see the truth, John.

        If Obama loses, he’ll be dying becasue of your sins, you know.

        1. From brief shinning moment in 2008 America rose beyond its shameful racial history only to quickly fall back into its old pattern sacrificing America’s greatest president in the process.

          1. You should be working for the New York Times!

  4. And don’t worry Nick. Something tells me that sometime around January 20th 2013, the New York Times will suddenly discover health care costs are exploding again.

    1. “Obama faces new challenges”

      1. As a former President. He is not going to win. Every day that becomes more clear.

        1. Because of Romney’s bold new vision for America, no doubt.

          1. LOL Not exactly. I believe the term for the Romney win is “win by default”.

  5. I wouldn’t use the term “subtle” to describe the NYT’s biases.

  6. I’d still like Peter or someone to say how much of the increase in CDHPs (high deductible plans) is due to them being required for pairing with HSAs by the Medicare Part D law that created HSAs. It is responsible for the high deductible plans being introduced in two places I’ve worked, I think.

    If so, then Peter (and that article) was basically arguing that the Medicare Part D law played a large role in bending the cost curve. I don’t think that rescues the law, but it is worth discussing as an effect.

  7. I’m a physician, but clearly not a “health expert”, as I see health care costs continually rising for my patients. Maybe mine are special patients, not representative of the nation as a whole? Some likely suspect “we might be starting to see a trend here” data showing a decline in overall health care spending doesn’t mean that health care costs less. It just means that people aren’t buying as much of it. That’s like saying that the cost of Bentleys is declining because fewer people bought a Bentley this month. Logic? Reason Screw that, New York Times.

    1. Reason? Question mark vanished into the ether.

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