Yesterday, Sen. Jeff Sessions waved around a new GAO report that proved Obamacare was all based on a big fat lie. "The report reveals the dramatic falsehoods that were used to push it to passage," Sessions said. "The big-government crowd in Washington manipulated the numbers to get the financial score they wanted."
I shrugged my shoulders when I heard it. It was pretty obviously some kind of fever swamp nonsense, and I didn't really look forward to diving into a GAO report to figure out what Sessions was up to. Luckily for me, Aaron Carroll took a look and described the actual conclusions of the report:
Let’s be clear about what this report says. It’s a worst-case-scenario. They looked at what would happen to the deficit if (1) we left in all the spending, (2) all of the cost control measures utterly failed, and (3) we removed all of the revenue streams/taxes. If you do that, then the bill raises the deficit $6.2 trillion over 75 years.
This is what Sessions asked the GAO to do. He wanted a report describing what would happen if all the costs of Obamacare stayed intact but all the revenues and savings measures didn't. To the surprise of no one, under those conditions the deficit would go up. You could pretty much plug any government program into a scenario like that and get the same result.
I don't get it. This is so obviously moronic that no one with a room-temperature IQ will pay attention to it. So what's in it for Sessions? He gets to wave around a report and hustle the rubes at CPAC, maybe, but what's the point of that? They already hate Obamacare anyway.
Are conservatives starting to notice that this kind of half-baked outrage-mongering is a waste of time? Matt Yglesias points today to a post from RedState's uberconservative leader Erick Erickson, who seems to have figured this out:
Conservatives are trying so hard to highlight controversies, no matter how trivial, we have forgotten the basics of reporting....The “Obamaphone” is a great example of this. Conservatives laughed out loud at the video of the lady saying Barack Obama had given her a phone. Conservatives used it as an example of all that was wrong with the expansion of the welfare state under Barack Obama. What many conservatives missed was that the program was a pre-existing program. In fact, the “Obamaphone” idea goes back to the Reagan Administration, but the present program was implemented in 2008 when George W. Bush was President. Government funds are not even used directly.
Focus on the Obamaphone by conservatives missed a number of key points and, in not covering the basic facts, sent conservative activists down rabbit holes. It would have been helpful if conservative reporters spent more time laying out the basic who, what, where, when, why, and how of the issue before exploring the necessity of the program and the fact that there are Americans who credit Barack Obama with giving them that phone.
....There are scandals to uncover and there are outrageous stories to be outraged over, but I would submit conservatives are spending a lot more time trying to find things to be outraged over than reporting the news and basic facts online from a conservative perspective....Conservatives must start telling stories, not just producing white papers and peddling daily outrage.
On a bigger scale, this also applies to Solyndra, Fast & Furious, and Benghazi!, but these kinds of things will always be part of the political world because they really do have the potential to produce genuine scandals if determined digging eventually uncovers something. Conservatives may have overplayed their hands on all of them, but in a way that's just an occupational hazard.
But even if the big-ticket items are here to stay, conservatives could still do themselves some good by spending less time on manufactured C-list outrages that are (a) transparently dumb and (b) do little except produce grist for scammers and hucksters. The GAO report that Sessions commissioned is a good example. After all, there are plenty of reasons already to dislike Obamacare if you're so inclined. It's self-destructive to waste time on things that just make you look dumb and don't really help your cause anyway. Smarter conservatives, please.