As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Selling The Drama

The media likes to create great stories, with twists and turns, ups and downs, major characters and minor villains. I don't know if they are secretly gleeful to see Barack Obama's health care plan fail, but they certainly don't mind seeing it in trouble. It creates a story that they can expound upon, connect to the history of health care efforts in the past, and they can chronicle every public comment (as opposed to any detail in the bill) to fill hours of cable news. This narrative doesn't have to be perfectly true - it just has to feel like it. Chuck Todd is skeptical about all of it:

TODD: Look, I absolutely believe that, I sometimes think we're getting played here a little bit. You know, we've created this drama that he's struggling to get this done. And there's no doubt, this is a tough road ahead for members of Congress. And they're struggling, and they don't want to vote for this thing, and they're nervous about it. They don't know what it's going to look like a year from now, and they're worried about explaining how, "Hey guess what, that health care reform bill we passed, well you're not going to feel it for three or four years." So they're nervous about this whole thing. But Chris, 15 years ago, we had industry spending millions. There was more money on TV being spent to kill health care than to pass it. We have the exact opposite now... more money has been spent advocating the President's health care proposal than defeating it. That environment makes it like, look they're going to get something. They're not going to do nothing. They're going to get something. Now what it looks like in the end, that's a whole other story.

I think that's right, but "what will health care reform look like" isn't an exciting enough story for the media, or at least not as exciting as pass/fail. So they try to set up a left-right continuum, although the two sides aren't on the same level, and Republicans need Democratic help to scuttle any bill. But they give substantially more weight to a Newt Gingrich and a Michael Steele, and on the other side, a Mike Ross, a conservative Democrats who refuses to listen to his own constituents back home. This part of the story rarely gets heard in Washington:

Rep. Mike Ross, who grew up in this tiny town of 3,600, represents residents like 62-year-old Sandy Barham, a restaurant owner with a heart ailment who can’t afford health insurance for herself or her employees.

"I can’t tell you the stress of living on the edge, just wondering, ‘Am I going to get sick?'" she said in an interview at the Broadway Railroad Café, where fried catfish with hush puppies is a popular feature. "I feel embarrassed, almost, when I go to the doctors and tell them I don’t have insurance."

Many people in and around this economically depressed town can’t afford insurance, even as the battered economy has made it harder for employers to provide coverage for workers. They're looking to Washington for help, and Ross, a conservative Democrat with a strong voice in the debate over health care legislation, says he’s on their side.

Yet Ross stands ready to try to block passage of a House bill that, its supporters say, would provide exactly what Arkansas needs: guaranteed insurance and a wider choice of coverage at competitive prices.

We only hear from people like Ross about the cost of health care, not the fact that they want to raise reimbursement rates for rural hospitals, which would INCREASE that cost.

If only we heard a little from Mike Ross' constituents instead of just Mike Ross.

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