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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gail Collins, "Knowing When to Worry": Did Gail's Op-ed Violate New York Times "Ethical Journalism" Guidelines?

Shut down the US government unless Obamacare is defunded? The attempt by the US House of Representatives to kill Obamacare is draconian and apt to do more damage than good. Of course, Obamacare is a disaster, and there is a reason why the Obama administration continues to delay its implementation (see: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100959960).

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Knowing When to Worry" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/opinion/collins-knowing-when-to-worry.html?_r=0), Gail Collins mocks the effort by the Republican-controlled House to quash the Affordable Health Care Act. Collins drolly writes:

"The bill the House sent to the Senate on Friday doesn’t even make much sense. The 'defund Obamacare' part looks as though it was written by squirrels. If it became law, Obamacare would actually continue to exist. At most, the administration would be crippled in their early efforts to get younger uninsured Americans to sign up for health coverage. (This would presumably give the opposition more time to run those ads that show a young woman being given a pelvic exam by a monster Uncle Sam doll.) And, meanwhile, the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program would be thrown into chaos, as well as payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients."

But are the Republicans as loony as Collins makes them out to be? Have a look at Kathleen Parker's most recent Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Waiting for Obamacare" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-waiting-for-obamacare/2013/09/20/1eae4f96-2232-11e3-966c-9c4293c47ebe_story.html?hpid=z2), in which Parker makes the case that Obamacare needs to be delayed (actually, what is being done by the Obama administration) and not defunded. Parker observes in no-nonsense fashion:

"[T]he Affordable Care Act (ACA) is becoming increasingly unpopular. Only 39 percent of Americans currently favor the health-care program, compared with 51 percent in January, according to a recent CNN/ORC International poll.

Some of the reasons:

●Many companies are cutting worker hours to below the threshold (30 hours) at which they're required to comply with Obamacare. (SeaWorld is cutting hours for thousands of workers.)

●Others are cutting workers completely to avoid compliance or to reduce costs associated with the expanded coverage. (The Cleveland Clinic cited Obamacare as one reason for offering early retirement to 3,000 workers and hinting at future layoffs.)

●Many young people, unemployed or earning little, will have trouble paying premiums once open enrollment for health insurance exchanges begins Oct. 1. Even discounts won’t be enough for some, who then will face fines or have to turn to parents who face their own insurance challenges. List-price premiums for a 40-year-old buying a mid-range plan will average close to $330 per month, according to a recent Avalere Health study. For someone who is 60, premiums will run about $615 a month. Forget retirement."

Parker's conclusion:

"If we can delay sending cruise missiles to Syria pending a better solution, perhaps there’s some sense to delaying a health-care overhaul that creates unacceptable collateral damage to citizens and that is not quite ready for public consumption."

As acknowledged even by the Obama administration, as evidenced by its delays in implementing the law, Parker is right.

But let's go back to Collins. Did Collins's op-ed violate the "Ethical Journalism" guidelines (http://nytco.com/pdf/NYT_Ethical_Journalism_0904.pdf) of The New York Times? Item 6 of the handbook of the Times provides:

"[N]o one may do anything that damages The Times’s reputation for strict neutrality in reporting on politics and government."

Michael Calderone, the Senior Media Reporter for The Huffington Post, tells us in an article entitled "New York Times Editors, Columnists Met With Obama During Syria Push" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/new-york-times-obama-syria_n_3949419.html?utm_hp_ref=media), that Obama consulted on August 29 with editorial and op-ed staffers from The New York Times regarding his meandering Syria policy. It would appear that as a result of this "off-the-record" meeting, Obama suddenly decided to seek congressional approval for his proposed "limited" strike against the Assad regime.

The meeting, in which Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, not a particularly bright light (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2012/09/is-new-york-times-columnist-maureen.html), participated together with op-ed staffers, including Collins, and members of the editorial board, was not reported by the Times.

A simple question: Is it acceptable for the editorial and op-ed staff of the Times to meet with the president, offer their advice, and then opine - almost always favorably - on the president's actions? Can it be said that this advisory session deprived all of its participants of whatever was left of their impartiality?

What advice concerning Obamacare was given to the president during this shindig by New York Times staffers?

Care to answer, Gail?


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