Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Does It Best?

The news is out this week that Toyota has fallen from its pinnacle of perfection in the eyes of those who test automobile safety. Seems theirs, and several other leading brands, failed to adequately meet a crucial – and common – test criteria, a partial head-on crash with another car or with a barrier. It was big news for one cycle of the evening news but is no longer a big deal. The Foxes are not yipping about it, demanding the resignation of the corporate executives.

Tylenol is quietly being returned to the shelves, even promoting itself again after a long hiatus caused by contaminated product nearly two years ago. NBC runs the new Tylenol ads but never mentions the corporate failure that caused the company to withhold its product from most pharmacies' shelves for so long. It is no big deal.

Apple released its new I-phone a year or so ago (now old already because a “new improved model is available) with faulty maps on its built in mapping software; a huge error on the part of its software-making partner. It was noted at the time that Apple had some egg on its face but Fox and NBC execs continued to buy I-phones and not once called for the firing of Apple’s CEO. It was treated as an opportunity to tweak a corporate giant – and corporate sponsor – gently and humorously.

What has gone wrong with our Media? Have they gone soft on public safety issues that affect the pocketbooks of millions of Americans and endanger the lives of millions more? Or is it favoritism toward this or that corporate sponsor that keeps the news muted, restricted to a mere nod before the story is shuffled to the bottom of the stack?

Ah no. They have saved their ire for the flaws in the government’s roll-out of “Obamacare”. They receive no advertising dollars from the government so they risk no loss of revenue – could conceivably even reap a lot of revenue if they can keep the story “hot” for several weeks – so they pour forth their astonishment, dismay, and contempt on those who are attempting to enroll millions of previously uninsured Americans in an affordable (with subsidies) health insurance program.

“How could you have not tested the program sooner?” “Who should be fired?” “Did the President know about the flaws in the system?” All good questions, questions that need to be asked, I suppose. And since it is a “government program” – we forget that it was private contractors that designed the flawed software that is causing all the problems, and it is private insurance companies that are frothing at the mouth awaiting the chance to charge higher premiums to those who do get the registration system to work – it is fair game to pile on, running critiques for news cycle after news cycle.

To hear the Foxes yipping, and the NBC peacocks squawking, you would think every insurance policy in the U.S. was in danger. Not so. Over eighty percent of U. S. citizens receive their health insurance from their employer or through a government run or supervised program like Medicare, Medicaid, or Veteran’s benefits. Most people on those programs are pleased with their benefits and with the smooth manner in which they are delivered. For all its clumsiness, even the Medicare Part D drug plan designed by the G.W. Bush administration – which by the way looks a lot like “Obamacare” – is clunking along, making billions of dollars for private enterprise, drug producers and pharmacies, and the News Anchors and Talking Heads never even take notice of it’s cumbersome design anymore.

So why all the surprise that there are some glitches in the design and roll-out of a program attempting to help millions of Americans improve their lives? Hey, it is private – for profit –corporations who designed – or mis-designed – the system. The same kind of private enterprise that makes Toyota’s that won’t pass safety tests. The same kind of private enterprise that takes two years or more to get its product back on the shelves after an embarrassing and hazardous contamination issue. The same kind of private enterprise that issues its latest and greatest I-phone with maps installed that get you nowhere, then corrects the problem by creating a newer, greater version to sell to you at full price. This clumsy roll-out of the Affordable Care Act wasn’t a government failure – it is a massive private enterprise failure on the part of those corporate software giants to provide to the government a workable product for the price initially quoted!

But we know why the media is expressing such angst. It has an easy target and an audience willing to join it in beating up on government bureaucrats. It is an old game like “Smack the Gopher” that Mitch McConnell loves so much. There is little to lose and much to be gained – from their profit driven perspective – by frothing over a “failed” government roll-out. But there is much to be lost if their daily ravings discourage those who desperately need insurance coverage from even attempting to get it. How much more good could our media accomplish by spending their time explaining the actual glitches and giving their viewers information about how to get around those glitches and get signed up for the affordable insurance the program is there to deliver?

Sadly our media are not about doing good. They are about doing whatever gives them a rating advantage over their competitor and thus increase their revenue stream. They regularly produce flawed data – especially at times of great crisis like the Boston bombing – even as they pose as judge and jury over the initiation of “Obamacare.”

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