The New York Times also seemed conflicted by what to make of the health care messages. The paper said it was “difficult to gauge” success or failure of the health care bill as a potent issue for voters. Said the Times:
Massachusetts already has near-universal health coverage, thanks to a law passed when Mitt Romney, a Republican, was governor.
It concluded that the national bill would have little effect on how many of its residents got coverage, “making it an unlikely place for a referendum on the health care bill.” As for the point Richard Parker was making, well, the Times missed it.
The PBS NewsHour didn’t stray far off the reservation either. It assembled a panel of its usual experts, The Washington Post’s Ceci Connolly and National Journal’s Amy Walter, and added Jennifer Nassour, chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party. Much of what they explored was predictable—are people angry; is Massachusetts as blue as everyone thought; what about those independents?
Massour did give some reasons for voter frustration, but no one connected any dots. She said that “Democrats in the [Massachusetts] House and the Senate decided that right now is a great time to increase our sales tax by 25 percent during a recession.” It’s reasonable to assume that people are unhappy about the tax, but the NewsHour show did not mention the reason for the hike: the state needed the money to pay for health reform. Massachusetts has no dedicated funding source for the subsidies it pays people to buy insurance, and the cost of those subsidies goes up because medical costs keep going up. It’s a shame the NewsHour didn’t link the tax increase to the lack of cost control in the Massachusetts law and the federal bill. How far that would have gone toward public understanding.
Gail Collins got it right yesterday in her New York Times column:
My positive thought is that we should appreciate what a good outlet democracy can be for public dissatisfaction.