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July 23, 2009

AP Bends the Curve of the Narrative, Admitting Obama Is Kinda Blowing It

Just setting up his Triumphant Comeback. Or so they think.

[The struggles over health care are] all recasting Obama's image. The cool, crisp candidate who captivated voters last fall has been replaced by a president who is constantly calling for action, with little to show for it and his credibility at stake.

Democrats are putting on a brave face, noting that in Congress a legislative standstill can quickly shift into high-gear action.

"I have no question we have the votes on the floor of the House to pass this legislation," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday. But she hasn't scheduled a vote.

Around the country, doubts are creeping in. A majority of Americans — 56 percent — still think Obama can pull off an overhaul. But a new Associated Press-Gfk poll found that disapproval of how he's handling health care spiked in the past three months. Disapproval stands at 43 percent, up from 28 percent in April. Overall, just half approve of the way Obama is dealing with the issue.

Obama says it's not about him. "I have great health insurance and so does every member of Congress," the president said in remarks prepared for his news conference Wednesday night. "This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer."

But confidence in his approach is slipping. Independents, middle-of-the-roaders who were vital for Obama's election, are increasingly skeptical. Forty-seven percent disapprove of how he is handling health care, up from 30 percent in April, the AP poll shows.

What went wrong?

Obama meanwhile walks back his various no-higher-taxes-on-the-middle-class pledges by now only saying he doesn't want the costs of the expanding health care "primarily" or "completely shouldered" by the middle class.

As Kaus notes:

In standard Washspeak, this means Obama is open to a health reform that taxes middle class families as long as it isn't "primarily" or "completely" funded by taxes on middle class families. But 49% funded by taxes on middle class families? ... However you interpret these sentences, it's hard to see how Obama hasn't given a flashing green light to non-trivial tax increases on middle class families.

I noted in the liveblog that Obama is not giving a clear primary directive on his supposed "vision." Is he seeking to reduce costs of health care for individuals and businesses who purchase health care, or is he seeking to reduce costs of providing health care for the federal government?

Note they are not the same thing at all. For example, raising taxes on the middle class to pay for heath care (both the current schemes and the expanded scheme Obama has in mind) would reduce federal costs. But obviously such taxes will increase the net cost of health care to tax-paying middle-class individuals.

So which is it? Well, whenever Obama talks about the issue, he seems to claim, of course, that his primary goal is to reduce the costs to individuals, but most of his specific suggestions have to do with defraying federal costs. Further, when pressed to answer why we must pass this gibberish in two weeks, he offers the coming insolvency vis a vis the federal system as the doom we primarily seek to avert.

And both are actually disingenuous anyway, as his primary goal is to increase coverage, which will increase both personal and federal costs. His whole "bend the curve"/rationing crap is intended to provide some semi-plausible (but still quite implausible) mechanism by which the government can take on the burden of paying for the health care of tens of millions more people and yet somehow reduce both federal costs and costs to the taxpayer.

Buy providing access to the uninsured doesn't poll well, as taxpayers correctly deduce that this means no benefit for themselves, but rather higher costs and rationing to service the uninsured.

And so this doubly disingenuous sales pitch of doing all of this to reduce private taxpayers' costs, when he's really talking about reducing federal costs by increasing taxes and thus the actual costs to private taxpayers, and even that lie is itself a lie because his primary goal is to cover everyone without regard to cost or solvency.

This is why he is exhibiting no leadership on the issue, as that unnamed Democratic Senator complained. He's obfuscating on the actual primary goal here. His real primary goal is universal coverage, but he won't admit that, so he casts the primary goal as reducing federal costs, but meanwhile conflating that goal with reducing taxpayer costs. And when legislators beg him to choose between these competing and even inconsistent goals, he refuses, and votes present once again.

Obama's found a way to even lie when speaking his go-to prefatory clause, "Let me be clear."

Thanks to AHFF Geoff.

Note: I posted my own vid of Waterloo yesterday before Allah, but mine wasn't embeddable. Allah's version was embeddable, and I like it better anyway. (The costumes! The quite-appropriate sense of seventies decline and malaise!)

So I'll go with his.

Bonus: Gallup has Obama at his highest disapproval rate to date -- 39%. And I do believe his approval rate of 55% is the poorest showing on Gallup, replacing his previous worst approval rating of 57%

Also via AHFF Geoff.


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posted by Ace at 02:13 PM

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