Friday, August 14, 2009

Technology, $5 million. Credibility: priceless 

It was reported this week that George Soros has tossed $5 million into the battle over health care reform. So it would not be surprising that Move On is using its technology to engineer a letterwriting campaign. Call them astroletters. I received a copy of one of their emails last night:
Dear MoveOn member,

Right-wing mobs aren't just disrupting congressional town halls�their outlandish lies are now making their way into mainstream news coverage, too.

We need to set the record straight. The majority of Americans support real health care reform. And no wonder, given the incredible cost of inaction.

In Minnesota alone, 190 people lose their coverage every day. And for those with insurance, yearly premiums will hit $22,467 in a few years if we don't act.
We can't let right-wing extremists ruin the biggest opportunity in a generation to get real reform. Can you send a quick letter to the editor of The Saint Cloud Times�or another local paper�about the urgent need in Minnesota for Congress to pass health care reform with a real public option?

Click here:

Our tool makes writing a letter really simple. You can send the letter right from our website�it only takes a few minutes.

If you've never written a letter to the editor before, now is the time to send your first. The letters page is one of the most widely read�and most important�in local newspapers. Members of Congress and their staffs read it to understand how their constituents are feeling. And since members are all home in the district this month�and paying close attention to the health care debate in particular�your letter will make an even bigger impact.

Here are some talking points specific to Minnesota you can use in your letter:

� We can't afford to wait for reform: Each day, 190 people in Minnesota lose their health care coverage. And without reform, those who still have insurance will see their yearly premiums go up by $9,300 in the next decade�to a staggering $22,467.

� Reform with a real public option is key to expanding coverage: Under current legislation, which includes a strong public health insurance option, 363,000 people in Minnesota�and 37 million Americans nationwide1�will gain coverage by 2019.

� A real public health insurance option is crucial to lowering costs: With premiums projected to hit $22,467, we need to get costs down. By spurring competition, a public plan will help bring down out-of-control costs2 for individuals, families, and small businesses.

Can you send a letter to the editor of The Saint Cloud Times, or another local newspaper, as part of our "Real Voices for Change" campaign? Just click here to get started:

Thanks for all you do.
Real Voices for Change send you to a website that sends your letter for you, just point and click. You can cut and paste your talking points right into the letter! You can see from the site all your local papers, and how many have been sent. At the time I am writing this, one such letter had already gone to the Times ... and 60 to the STrib.

I have never seen this technology before, and I wonder if our center-right organizations are up to the task of deploying this technology. I'm impressed. But look at the talking points, which draw from left-wing groups like Families USA, a pressure group, or the left-wing think tank Center for the American Progress, which leads the HCAN network. The $22k number is a projection that health insurance costs will rise 9.3% per year for the next decade -- that's a forecast, not a fact. Both are part of HCAN.

The 14,000 a day number is also a specious argument. PolitiFact traced the report to a report from CAP, and called it "mostly true". But they note that the COBRA provisions in the stimulus bill should have reduced that number. And the way CAP did the projection is to extrapolate the split between unemployment in 2007 and the number without health care to say "if 4.7% meant x people without health insurance, then 7% means x+2,600,000, 8% means x+3,700,000 and 9% means x+4,800,000." Now they have an algebra expression, and they turn the crank.
Applying Holahan's calculations to the actual rise in unemployment from November 2008 to June 2009, we came up with 3.2 million people losing health coverage, or an average of 15,238 per day, so it is close to the 14,000 Obama cited.
But that means that for it to be true for July, when unemployment fell, the number of people losing health coverage was negative? And why the unemployment rate? If health coverage is tied to employment, why use the rate rather than the payroll number? It seems to me a terribly flawed metric.

I will credit them for the 37 million number, which is confirmed by CBO analysis. It's just that it costs $6000 per person (a number CBO says does NOT include any increase in administrative cost.) To pay for that Medicare gets squeezed. Somehow this did not make it into MoveOn's talking points. (UPDATE: It may well be, however, that there aren't 37 million uninsured to cover; see Keith Hennessey's point on this.)

So newspapers are receiving thousands of letters, generated by MoveOn technology, using specious claims from left-wing researchers and campaign organizations. Sound fishy to you?

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