I've written before on how leftist propagandists and even mainstream media sources lie and manipulate facts to distort the truth and I can't pass up a great opportunity to illustrate how this is done from a source which many view as unimpeachable and above this sort of chicanery. In yesterday's New York Times there is an article by David Kirkpatrick called "Health Lobby Takes Fight to the States," which attempts to make the case that the reason why state legislatures are trying to pass laws to protect consumers in their states from federal health care legislation is that these legislators and these particular states have received disproportionately large donations from the health care and insurance industries and have essentially been bought off and are doing their masters bidding on this issue.
Of course the article completely ignores the fact that these various state proposals were largely initiated by citizen petitions and call-in programs arising entirely from grassroots activists from groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus and the tea party movement. It also doesn't consider the fact that in many of the states taking this action public opposition to the health care bills polls at over 70%. It also doesn't mention that consumer groups like Consumers Union, which absolutely do not work for the health care or insurance industries, are pushing legislatures to do this to protect consumers. None of that is featured in Kirkpatrick's article because it doesn't fit in with the left's official message that the evil corporations are trying to keep you from getting health care.
But let's put the part of the story they want to ignore aside and look at the misrepresentations in what they do actually say. Based on data from the anti-lobbyist group Follow the Money, which is far from impartial and as suspect in its way as any healthcare industry lobbyists, Kirkpatrick says:
"Over the last six years, health care interests have spent $394 million on contributions in states around the country; about $73 million of that went to those 14 states. Of that, health insurance companies spent $18.2 million, according to the institute."
Now consider those figures for a moment. $394 million averages out to $7.9 million per state. Then take the $73 milion the lobbyists spent in these 14 states and divide it by the number of states. That's an average of $5.2 million per state. So the national average spent per state was $7.9 million and the amount spent on these 14 states on average was $5.2 million, considerably less. Kirkpatrick's argument is that health care lobbyists used money to influence these particular states to oppose federal health care legislation, but if you check the numbers the truth is that these states which are raising objections actually received 35% less money from lobbyists on average than the states which are not challenging the federal legislation. So the math suggests that Kirkpatrick's thesis is exactly opposite the truth.
Then, discussing Florida which is he is using as his main example in the article, he goes on to say that:
"In Florida, where health interests have given a total of about $32 million over the last six years, the state medical association has become an especially important backer of the proposed amendment."
And again, although $32 million looks like a large figure, if you divide it by six years, it once again comes out to be about $5.3 million a year, very close to the average amount of lobbying money spent by insurance companies on a state by state basis. And given the large population in Florida and their particularly high level of health care spending, $5.3 million is actually substantially less than one would expect lobbyists to be spending if they wanted to have special influence there that they don't need in other states.
So what you see in this New York Tmes article is a classic example of a journalist throwing out large numbers and then claiming that they have a particular significance, when in reality if you do the math and check what those figures really mean, they actually disprove the argument which he is trying to make. The truth is that the states which are trying to protect their citizens from the federal health care plan are not ones in which insurance and health care lobbyists have been spending extra to buy off legislators, and other more legitimate forces like hostility to federal health care from concerned consumers are likely to be the real motivation behind these actions.
Kirkpatrick is an experienced journalist at a reputable paper. Most distressingly, this is not an editorial or a blog entry, but what is supposedly a straight news story. So you have to ask yourself is he really this careless and are his editors really this incompetent, or are he and they simply lying to you our of political partisanship? In either case, how much should you trust anything they tell you in the future?