Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why does Trump claim that only Democrats commit voter fraud—including in pre-election polls?

Donald Trump again raised the specter of election fraud Friday, saying that the only way he would lose Pennsylvania is to Hillary Clinton is if “they cheat.”

The Republican nominee, speaking at a rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania, repeated his concerns about the fairness of the election.

“The only way we can lose, in my opinion — I really mean this, Pennsylvania is if cheating goes on and we have to call up law enforcement and we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everyone watching because if we get cheated out of this election, if we get cheated out of a win in Pennsylvania, which is such a vital state especially when I know what is happening here,” he said. “She can’t beat what’s happening here. The only way they can beat it in my opinion, and I mean this 100 percent, if in certain sections of the state they cheat.”

Trump: Clinton will only win Pennsylvania if ‘they cheat’, Tyler Pager, Politico, yesterday

One ongoing source of amusement for me in all the discussion of voter-ID statutes and such is the tacit claim that Democrats commit vote fraud but Republicans don’t.

Trump these days, though, does that claim one better.  He alleges that Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents commit polling-vote fraud.  On a massive scale, no less. And, of course, that Republicans don’t.

Every recent poll of Pennsylvania voters—and there have been several—has Clinton up in that state by 11 to 14 points; the gap grows slightly with each new poll, if I recall correctly.

What I think Trump confuses with majority voter support for him may be a flight-industry statistic from back in 1991-92 showing the number of passengers who traveled between eastern seaboard cities on any of the profitable airlines that flew those routes back then versus the number of passengers who flew on his shuttle. The latter number includes those whose transportation costs were paid to the airline as well as those who traveled for free as a courtesy from Trump, although those respective numbers appear to be the same.  But that wouldn’t cause the confusion, probably.

This is just speculation, of course.


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What Worries Me Most About Clinton: That she may not have the intellectual capacity to discern even critically important distinctions. Including glaring ones.

Update appended, 6/13 at 12:42 p.m.


“It should not take longer to start a business in America than it does in Canada or France. But that is the fact.”

— Hillary Clinton, during a small business discussion, Cedar Falls, Iowa, May 19, 2015 

Our antenna always goes up when a politician asserts a “fact.” Clinton made this remark in the midst of a discussion about the “perfect storm of crisis” that she said small businesses face in the United States.

She made a similar point in an article she posted on LinkedIn on May 21, but with an additional country added:  “It should not take longer to start a business in the U.S. than it does in Canada, Korea, or France.”

Clinton’s claim that it takes longer to start a business in the U.S. than in Canada or France, Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, May 22

My own antenna always goes up when I hear a politician assert as fact a generic statement that is intended to imply what I know is a falsity or that patently makes no sense.  In this instance, it was both, and, stunningly, was intended to imply a false fact that supports a key line in the Republican playbook: that federal regulation is keeping middle-class folks from starting or expanding a small business.

Marco Rubio claimed something similar in April—to which Martin O’Malley famously responded, when asked about it in an interview, “It is not true that regulation holds poor people down or regulation keeps the middle class from advancing. That’s kind of patently bulls—.”  And Jeb Bush hinted at it a couple of months earlier.

When I read about Clinton’s statements before I read Kessler’s post (I didn’t see the post until about a week after it was posted), I was absolutely dumbfounded.  As Kessler notes, Clinton complains about “red tape” in starting small businesses and says that the length of time in starting a business, caused by red tape, keeps people from starting businesses.  The claim startled me; most red tape in starting businesses is state and local red tape, not federal, and the amount and type of red tape depends almost entirely upon the type of business and factors such as whether it requires a trade license of some sort (e.g., beautician), or a liquor license, and whether a permit of some sort must be obtained.

Opening a restaurant, for example, requires local health department permits and adherence to health department rules.  It also requires procuring a physical space in which to have the restaurant, and usually also means obtaining a business loan.  Starting a home-based web-design business requires none of those things.  The incorporation process involves filing a short filled-out form with the state Secretary of State’s office and paying a fee.

Clinton doesn’t know these things?  Really?

So the generic breadth of her statement was stupefying.  She holds a law degree from Yale, was a partner in a corporate law firm, an active First Lady of a state and then of the country.  Did she really not know that most red tape in starting a business does not touch upon anything that the federal government regulates?  Or did she have something accurate and specific in mind, but rather than identifying it, indulged her penchant for talking in incoherencies apparently in order to avoid ever saying anything specific about, well, anything?

Kessler’s post answered that question.  She did indeed have something specific in question: average statistics for businesses that employ between 10 and 50 people within one month, having five owners, using start-up capital equivalent to 10 times income per capita and being engaged in industrial or commercial activities and owning no real estate.  In Los Angeles, where it takes an average of eight days to start such a business.  Whereas in Paris it takes only 4.5 days and in Toronto five days.  In New York City, though, it takes only four days.

Clinton lives near New York City and represented New York state as a senator.  She knows that New York City is in this country.

This information was taken from the World Bank website, which, Kessler says, provides statistics that “lets you compare the individual cities to countries, so New York ends up tied for 6th place — with Belgium, Iceland, South Korea, the Netherlands and Sao Tome.”  Los Angeles, he says,  is in 15th place, tied with Cyprus, Egypt, Madagascar and the Kyrgyz Republic, among others. Oh, dear. But he points to another World Bank report that notes that “the differences are so large because, in the United States, ‘company law is under state jurisdiction and there are measurable differences between the California and New York company law.’”

I knew that!  I should run for president in the Democratic primary. Every small-business owner and aspiring small-business owner knows that, so I’d have a natural constituency.  And I have the advantage of actually recognizing problems that do affect many small businesses and that the federal government can address, by regulation.  Including ones that recent Democratic congresses, together with a Democratic president, actually enacted.

Kessler comments, “So what does data about starting a business in the largest city have to do with small businesses in Iowa? Beats us.”  It surely also beats small-business owners and people who are seriously considering becoming one.  Including those who are fairly recent immigrants to this country and who don’t hold a law degree from Yale.

Kessler notes that even if Clinton were accurate in her claim that it takes longer, on average, throughout this country than in the other countries she mentioned to start small businesses generally, the difference would be a matter of a day or two.  He writes:

The World Bank’s database lists 189 countries in terms of the time required to start a business. For 2014, in first place is New Zealand, with one day. In France and Canada, along with eight other countries, it takes five days. (South Korea, along with six other countries, is listed as four days.) The United States, with 12 other countries, is listed as six days.

First of all, one extra day does not seem like much of a hindrance — so much so that, as Clinton asserted in the LinkedIn article, the fact signified the “red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

This is crazy.  What, pray tell, is her point?  To show that she’s too dumb to recognize distinctions between state and federal regulation, and between one type of small business and another?  If you’ve seen one small business, you’ve seen ‘em all?  And if you’ve seen state or local regulation, you’ve seen federal regulation?

Elsewhere in her LinkedIn letter she says that it takes longer to complete small-business federal tax forms than it is to complete multi-national corporations’ federal tax forms. Maybe so, but is that because the multi-nationals keep PricewaterhouseCoopers or Deloitte on retainer and the owners of the Thai food restaurant down the road probably don’t?  She doesn’t say. She thinks the ultimate in clever political rhetoric is to make some dramatic comparison; the accuracy and even the coherence of the comparison doesn’t matter to her.

Clinton does this conflation/sweeping-two-or-more-things-together-that-need-to-be-recognizated-as-separate-things thing regularly. In her brief comment in Iowa in April in which she said she would support a constitutional amendment, if necessary, to reverse Citizens United and get “unaccountable” money out of politics, she misrepresented that Citizens United bars election laws that would require super PACs to identify their donors, and corporations to report the recipients of their political largesse.  It doesn’t.  No constitutional amendment is needed to permit such statutes and SEC, IRS and FEC regulations.

I had planned to post on all this earlier but didn’t get around to it.  But two articles published in recent days, one in the Washington Post last weekend about the 2008 Clinton campaign’s gift of snow shovels to supporters in Iowa before the caucuses, the other a Washington Post column yesterday by Katrina vanden Heuvel, prompted this post.  The snow shovels article, by David Fahrenthold, begins:

AMES, Iowa — In Phyllis Peters’s garage, there is a snow shovel. A nice one: green, shiny, with an ergonomic steel handle. It came from Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And it plays a part in a modern-day political legend, about some of the strangest money a candidate has ever spent.

Eight years ago, Peters was a volunteer for Clinton’s first presidential run. She had been an admirer of Clinton since her time as first lady. But just before Clinton lost the Iowa caucuses, her staffers did something odd: They bought shovels for Peters and the hundreds of other volunteers.

“If you’re in Iowa, you [already] have a snow shovel,” the article quotes Peters as saying.  But she accepted the gift so as not to be rude.  “For both those who gave out the shovels and those who received them,” the article says, “they came to symbolize a candidate who never quite got their home state.”

Clinton grew up in a suburb of Chicago, then spent four winters in Wellesley, MA.  That was decades ago.  But, geeez.  She didn’t get cold-climate folks?

Vanden Heuvel’s column, titled “A new definition of freedom in America,” argues that the term “freedom” has had different meanings in different political eras, and that it’s imperative now that the Democratic presidential nominee, presumably Clinton, move aggressively away from the Conservative Movement definition of freedom as economic laisse faire, and reinstitute and expand upon FDR’s famous Four Freedoms. She writes:

This is Hillary Clinton’s historic opportunity. The greatest threat to freedom now is posed by the entrenched few that use their resources and influence to rig the rules to protect their privileges. She would do a great service for the country — and for her own political prospects — by offering a far more expansive American view of what freedom requires, and what threatens it.

Clinton should make it clear to Americans that in a modern, globalized world, we are in the midst of a fierce struggle between economic royalists and a democratic citizenry. If we are to protect our freedoms, citizens must mobilize to take back government from the few, to clean out the corruption and to curb the oppressive power of the modern day economic royalists.

But this requires a candidate who is both mentally quick enough and willing to respond, accurately and in specifics, to the Republican anti-regulation, supply-side-economics nonsense.  Clinton doesn’t seem like she has either of these attributes.

Clinton appears to think that all that matters is the generic ideas people have about what she stands for, and a few specific policy proposals all in good time.  She’s wrong.  She needs to respond, in full oral statements, using clear fact-based arguments, to the anti-government policy cant of the Republican sheep herd, from which her opponent eventually will come.  But I don’t think she can.


ADDENDUM: I posted a comment in response to a comment by Mark Jamison that says in part:

One thing that comes through loud and clear from her attempt to Sister Souljah small-business owners and aspirants, Mark, is that she thinks Democrats NEED a Sister Souljah moment for small-business owners and aspirants. Dick Durbin could educate her on that, simply by referring her to what’s known as the Durbin Amendment.

Another thing that comes across is that, just as she didn’t realize in 2008 that Iowans all have snow shovels, she apparently doesn’t recognize that small-business owners and aspirants want solutions to problems that they actually have, and that that requires knowing the specifics of the problem, including the cause.

I want to make clear that I think the concerns of small-business owners are very much appropriate issues for progressive Democratic politicians to address. And that progressive Democratic elected officials do address them–the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act being an example.  What Democratic candidates and officeholders should not do is create straw men for them to swat down.

Added. 6/10 at 5:41 p.m.


UPDATE: Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith yesterday linked to this post (thanks, Yves!), and the link spawned a surprisingly long exchange of comments there, started by reader Carolinian, who noted and linked to a Harpers piece from last year that makes similar or complementary arguments.

Carolinian notes in one of her comments in that thread that Clinton’s campaign is hellbent on getting across the claim that Clinton is a wonk–something that I’d planned to post on here at AB.  A day or two after I read the articles about Clinton’s federal-red-tape-is-discouraging-people-from-starting-small-businesses tack, I read two articles, one by Peter Beinart on The Atlantic website (I can’t remember where I read the other, or who wrote it), assuring readers that Clinton is a wonk. I remember thinking, “OK, got it. Clinton is a wonk.  It’s just that she’s a wonk who thinks most small businesses need permits or licenses from the federal government in order to open.  And just this morning I read two more along that line, one of them (in Politico, I think), which says that her staff is pushing the “wonk” moniker because it’s accurate: that’s what she is.

The gist of these articles is that she really cares about policy–the nitty-gritty of policy, especially how best to achieve a policy goal.  One problem with that, though, is that she keeps making sing-songy soundbite statements that are either inaccurate or misleading or irrelevant or downright incoherent.

Clinton and her staff seem to be misconstruing the meaning of “wonk,” which does including within it the ability to understand the meaning and implications of the statistics and other facts–and recognize the actual sources of those facts, as distinguished from the cliches that the Republicans are selling.  The problems that people have in trying to start a business almost never involve federal red tape.  By saying otherwise, Clinton’s now made clear that she’s no wonk.

Updated 6/13 at 12:42 p.m.


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Cynthia Lummis’s (Stunningly) Glib Fraud: A Follow-Up

Cynthia Lummis, a wealthy Republican House member from Wyoming, claims her husband passed away, thanks in part to Obamacare. Lummis cited the law as a major contributing factor to her husband’s demise. Instead of blaming her husband, who could easily have afforded the test (who elected to skip the necessary diagnostic), she blames the best thing to happen to millions of low income Americans, Obamacare.

From Addicting Info:

Cynthia Lummis is actually among one of the richest members of Congress. In 2007-2008, Representative Lummis’ financial disclosure forms reported a net worth between $20 million and $75 million… Obamacare wasn’t designed for people who have $20-$75 million. It was passed so the rest of us, who are either self-employed or have no access to insurance, can afford health care. It’s not the fault of the law that Lummis’s husband chose not to get a potentially life saving test – if he chose not to get the test.

Steve Doocy was desperately trying to dramatize her ‘poignant’ moment during these ridiculous hearings based on a pompous MIT economics professor speaking candidly. Lummis would not take the bait and blame her husband’s death entirely on the healthcare law. But she was willing to attribute a likely mistake in coverage to the passing of her husband. She believes men in general are easily dissuaded from seeking medical care, so any little glitch or problem will convince them to discount medical advice.

It’s truly disingenuous to blame a death on a law which is reliant on the insurance marketplace, as we all know insurance companies aren’t exactly cooperative and committed to the well-being of their customers. They are, like Republicans, only interested in financial gain and not human lives. Her husband’s choices and consequences should not deny insurance to the millions of poor people who finally have access to medical care. But they sure as hell will try their best to perpetuate the Republican Cult of Death and take away as much as they can from poor and needy Americans.

Cynthia Lummis Lies And Blames Obamacare For Her Husband’s Death, Crooks and Liars, yesterday


I can’t figure out which is worse. That this woman dragged her dead husband into this witch hunt to make a political point, or that she is so stupid to not realize that her story makes no sense.

And [Washington Post political blogger Nia-Malika] Henderson really needs to get a clue.

— EMichael, comment this morning to my post yesterday titled “Cynthia Lummis’s (Stunningly) Glib Fraud

The one thing I wish Crooks and Liars had added to that post was that Lummis mentioned that her husband was 65 years old.  He therefore was on Medicare–although Lummis failed to say that.* 

Indeed, that may well have been what caused the confusion when he sent in his claim to “Obamacare”; he turned 65 last January, and this might have been his first use of Medicare, and that might have someow complicated the matter.  But in any event the cost at issue would have been the difference between what Medicare paid for the various tests he had, and would have paid for the test he did not have, and the portion of the remainder of the charges that the “Obamacare” plan that Lummis and her husband purchased was supposed to pay for as Medicare supplement coverage.

Lummis is trying to get away with murder here—the murder of others.  I really, really would like to see one of the high-profile fact-checker blogs inquire into why Lummis was effectively claiming that “Obamacare” negated her husband’s access to Medicare coverage.  Nor was her husband even required under the ACA to have insurance beyond just Medicare, although of course the additional coverage was free, courtesy of his wife’s employment with the federal government.

Might the Washington Post’s own Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, be interested in pointing this out?

But the Cooks and Liars highlights a critical point: that the ACA is reliant on the insurance marketplace, and, as we all know, insurance companies aren’t exactly cooperative and committed to the well-being of their customers.  Thus the problems—of the sort that Lummis complained of and of the sort that virtually everyone else who complains about it, complains about.

Such as Catherine Keefe, whose op-ed published yesterday in the Washington Post, is titled “I’m an Obama supporter. But Obamacare has hurt my family.” The subtitle is “Obamacare has been far more frustrating than I’d ever dreamed.”  Chances are, I’d say, excellent that Keefe wrote the subtitle but not the title, since the subtitle accurately summarizes her piece but the title does not.

What Keefe’s complaint, like most other accurately stated complaints about the ACA are really complaints about this country’s for-profit, market-based healthcare insurance industry.  So were Lummis’s.  Keefe’s only actual harm from the ACA itself, as opposed to harm from the obnoxious insurance-industry-created provider-networks system—a factor now in most employer-based insurance coverage, although that’s rarely mentioned in the media—is that as a 56-year-old woman (her husband is 59), she should not have to purchase a plan that includes children’s dental coverage and maternity care.  Point taken, but that would be an easy fix.  (Missing from her article is mention of two benefits from the ACA that may matter to her husband: no annual nor lifetime coverage cap.  She does, though, note her gratitude for the ACA’s having ended the pre-existing-conditions thing, a big factor for husband, especially, but also for her.)

As for Lummis, what she’s really complaining about is that, thanks to an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Grassley (R. IA) to the original ACA bill as it was being debated in Congress, members of Congress and their staffs no longer are covered by the federal government’s famously generous and user-friendly healthcare coverage. They now must, like regular folk, deal with the for-profit, market-based healthcare insurance industry that she and her ideological cohorts claim to hold in such high esteem.

As I read Keefe’s op-ed yesterday, what struck me is how very ready huge swaths of the public are for Medicare-for-all. And how thoroughly clueless most politicians, political operatives and pundits are that this is so.  Lummis’s husband needed simply to schedule that final test and present his Medicare card when he arrived at the medical facility.  And that’s how simple and direct such things should be for everyone. Including the spouses of people whose financial assets don’t range between $20 million and $75 million.


*Post edited slightly to clarify that while Lummis mentioned her husband’s age, she failed to note that he had Medicare coverage–a key point I made in my earlier post.  12/11 at 1:07 p.m.

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Julie Boonstra Tells the Detroit News Why Her New Healthcare Plan Doesn’t Work for Her: It Requires Her to Read the Policy or Ask Blue Cross a Few Basic Questions In Order to Learn What the Plan Actually Covers and What Her Expense Cap Is.

Oh, dear. I won’t summarize this for you; you really have to read it in full.  (Or maybe just read Glenn Kessler’s article about it posted today.)

And to think I had thought Julie Boonstra’s only comprehension problem was with basic math.  Turns out she also has a problem with reading comprehension and with understanding explicit short answers to oral questions posed to, say, a Blue Cross representative. Or maybe just with recognizing that she could learn the specifics of her plan simply by doing one or the other of those things.

Hey, she could have done both!  But first she’d have to have figured out that reading her plan or asking a Blue Cross representative might provide that information.

Yep.  The Republican Party really is the party of stupid. Then again, maybe she knew all along, but thought everyone else is stupid. Okay, I’ll give in and quote this, from Kessler’s post:

Boonstra’s response to this report was that it “can’t be true” because she was worried about high expenses early in the year and because she thought one of her prescription drugs was not covered. A spokesman for Blue Cross told the News that all of her prescriptions are covered and her co-pays on the drugs would help with meeting her out-of-pocket maximum.

It can’t be true, because the truth exists not in reality but instead in her mind. Hopefully, this woman doesn’t fear a nuclear attack by Martians.  Or by the Koch brothers, although that might be prescient, if the attack is to be on, say, Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district.

Seriously, folks.  Does anyone really think this woman had no idea what her plan provided, if not when she purchased it, then sometime shortly afterward?  This new information brings into question the truth of her back-story about being unable for nearly three months to access the Michigan link at and gain information about available plans.  (It also raises questions about whether she is in fact receiving subsidies for her new in-any-event-lower monthly premiums, although of course there is no way to learn that.)

Let’s hear it for Detroit News reporter Marisa Schultz.  And, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Detroit newspaper market: Detroit has two longtime mainstream newspapers, the Free Press, which leans Democratic, and the News, which leans Republican, but both papers’ reporting staffs are journalists in the old-fashioned sense. They’re real journalists, not propagandists.

Yes, folks. The Detroit News leans Republican.

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Paul Ryan and Scott Walker Come Out for Repeal of Federal Child-Labor Laws, Because the Kids Insist. Coming soon: Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling.

Oh, my — not only was Paul Ryan’s hunger=dignity speech appalling on the merits, the anecdote he used to make his point was fake — a distortion of a real story with a completely different point.

I’m actually not happy with this discovery; the crucial point here should be that even if the story of the kid who wants brown bag lunches were true, it would be a terrible argument against school lunches and the social safety net in general. In a way it’s a bad thing to have the conversation shifted instead to Ryan’s failure to get simple facts right.

— Into the Mouths of Babes, Paul Krugman, today

Here’s what Ryan said yesterday in his speech to the CPAC convention, as related by New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait:

In his vacuous, sloganeering speech today at CPAC, Paul Ryan argued that “the left” — the term he used to describe not the actual left, but the Obama administration — offers Americans “a full stomach — and an empty soul.” What soul-emptying ways is “the left” filling people’s stomachs? Ryan has a story from his fellow Republican, Eloise Anderson:

“She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch — one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.”

Anderson is a longtime anti-safety-net crusader and currently a member of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Ryan was paraphrasing testimony gave to the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, last summer.  Greg Sargent details the controversy here, and links to Glenn Kessler’s and Wonkette’s investigative reports on it from last night.

I initially had the same reaction as Krugman: that this under-oath fabrication of fact by a witness at a congressional hearing who is a key member of Walker’s administration, would become the news story, rather than that Ryan used the anecdote to come out for repeal not just of the school lunch program but also of child-labor laws.

But upon reflection, I think the revelation that this Walker appointee gave fabricated testimony to a congressional committee–stunning, in itself–is a net plus, because it brings far more public attention than otherwise to the premise of this Walker appointee (and therefore of Walker himself) and Ryan: that children from poor families, including, presumably, infants and toddlers–these people want to kill the food stamp program, too–should work for their food.

This odd conflation of parent and child, by both Anderson and Ryan, is so weird and ridiculous–and so stunningly offensive, surely, to most Americans–that its mere verbatim recitation will, I think, be a gift that keeps on giving during this year’s campaigns.  But it also highlights this: that the Republicans appear to be unaware that a large percentage of school-lunch-program or the food-stamp-program (or both) recipients come from households headed by someone who works, often full-time, at a very low-wage job or at a combination of low-wage jobs.

Or else these pols are claiming that no one should work at very-low-wage jobs, and should instead find a way up the socioeconomic ladder.  In which case, they are saying that Walmart and the fast-food and hospitality industries should pay their employees more.  I mean, shouldn’t be able to find employees. (Not ones who’ve fed themselves and their kids, anyway.)

Paul Ryan and Scott Walker turn out to be pro-labor, after all!  Who knew?  We Dems need to start appreciating the annual CPAC conference for it’s, um, newsworthiness.

These people’s weird obsession with killing the social safety net is shared by–what?–15%-20% of the public? They themselves seem to recognize that outrageous that the people who want this is small, and the people who obsess over it and privilege it over all other policy matters, is really, really small.  Which presumably is why they keep fabricating stories.

This is part and parcel of the genre that until yesterday most recently featured as its top stars Julie Boonstra and Emilie Lamb.  What’s next? Talking polar bears pleading for more oil drilling?


As an aside, I think that if Walker is serious about running for president, he needs to fire Anderson.  She fabricated a story, under oath, at a congressional hearing.  That’s not a trivial matter.

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Julie Boonstra’s Follow-Up Ill-Woman-Who-Cries-Wolf AFP Ad Is Here!

Hmm.  Leukemia patient Julie Boonstra and Americans for Prosperity are up with a new ad in Michigan, Boonstra’s home state.  This time, she thinks people are too stupid to wonder why a healthcare plan that costs her less annually than her cancelled plan for identical care “doesn’t work for [her].”  And too stupid to wonder why she originally claimed that that plan is “unaffordable” even though her earlier plan for slightly more money annually was affordable.

“My plan doesn’t work for me,” she says, dramatically.  She just doesn’t say why.  Which is understandable, since we all know by now that her plan works just fine for her.

That’s right; her plan works just fine for her.  She just doesn’t want people whose plan doesn’t work fine for them, or who have no access to a plan at all, to have one that works for them.

She says early in the new ad that it was painful to her that Rep. Gary Peters, the Dem Senate candidate in November, challenged her credibility after her last AFP ad, in which she claimed that her new ACA-compliant plan was unaffordable because of higher out-of-pocket expenses than her own plan, and implied that she would be unable to continue to see the specialist she’d been seeing.

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FOLLOW-UP TO: “What Glenn Kessler–and I–Missed Earlier In Emilie Lamb’s Claim: That She SAYS Obamacare Caused Her Hospital and Doctors to Stop Gratuitously Forgiving Her Medical Expenses Above $1,000. That’s Palpably False.”

On Saturday I posted a lengthy post with an almost-as-lengthy title:

What Glenn Kessler–and I–Missed Earlier In Emilie Lamb’s Claim: That She SAYS Obamacare Caused Her Hospital and Doctors to Stop Gratuitously Forgiving Her Medical Expenses Above $1,000.  That’s Palpably False.

Following are two comments to it from readers Mike Myer and Mark, respectively, and my (lengthy) response to it in the Comments thread:


What if Lamb is telling the TRUTH?


Ms. Mann, check one more aspect of this story which might explain some of the discrepancies. I have psoriatic arthritis which requires some of the same medications as lupus. I take an infusion every five weeks and the negotiated cost is about $6000 of which I pay 20%.

My out of pocket max is $5000, so after 4 treatments I’m good for the year. However the drug company has a rebate program which pays all but $50 of my out of pocket expenses, most of which are the medication. There are several different rebate and subsidy programs. I suspect that in this case the doctors and hospital aren’t forgiving anything, the woman is in one of these programs and either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t understand how it works….


Mike and Mark, here’s the problem: This woman claims (1) that she was happy with her now-cancelled plan, even though that plan had NO out-of-pocket cap and had an annual total-coverage cap of $25,000; (2) that she was happy with that plan because–and ONLY because–her hospital and her doctors had agreed, year after year going back to 2007, to forgive all her uninsured costs totalling more than $1,000 annually; (3) that because of Obamacare she had only these options: a Bronze or Gold plan for about the same monthly premium cost to her but that has a $10,000 annual out-of-pocket cap and no annual coverage cap and that, unlike when she had her old plan, she would be forced to actually PAY that amount, and a more expensive Platinum plan with a $6,000 annual out-of-pocket cap and no annual coverage cap, and that unlike unlike when she had her old plan, she would be forced to actually PAY that amount.

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What Glenn Kessler–and I–Missed Earlier In Emilie Lamb’s Claim: That She SAYS Obamacare Caused Her Hospital and Doctors to Stop Gratuitously Forgiving Her Medical Expenses Above $1,000. That’s Palpably False. [UPDATED.]

“I was diagnosed with lupus when I was 27. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder. It’s dramatically affected my life. I voted for Barack Obama for president. I thought that Obamacare was going to be a good thing. Instead of helping me, Obamacare has made my life almost impossible. Barack Obama told us we could keep our health insurance if we liked it. And we can’t. I got a letter in the mail saying that my health insurance was over, that it was gone.  It was canceled because of Obamacare. My premiums went from $52 a month to $373 a month. I’m having to work a second job to pay for Obamacare. For somebody with lupus, that’s not an easy thing. If I can’t afford to continue to pay for Obamacare, I don’t get my medicine; I don’t get to see my doctors. I am very disappointed in Barack Obama as a president. He made promises he didn’t keep. And that’s disheartening.”

–Tennessee resident Emilie Lamb, 40, in an ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity

I posted yesterday about the odd claims in this ad and about Glenn Kessler’s exchange with her in which she told him exactly WHY she was so happy with her old policy, which, she indicated, had a $25,000 cap on annual benefits, and no limit on out-of-pocket costs, and that it would only cover generic medications. The reason: That her hospital, Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, and her Vanderbilt-affiliated specialists, were forgiving her payments, including for intravenous medications provided multiple times weekly, above $1,000 annually.

Kessler said she told him that in 2007, before she was diagnosed with lupus, she “fell off a horse, requiring seven surgeries at Vanderbilt Medical Center.”  And that one surgical bill was for $125,000, but that “after negotiations with CoverTN, the hospital agreed to reduce the charges to below $25,000. In the end she barely paid anything in hospital costs after her accident.”  She said, “Really after that, I was not worried about something catastrophic”–something that would exceed the $25,000 cap.

Kessler continued:

To put her [lupus] expenses in context, the American College of Rheumatology says that average cost per patient with lupus is between $14,000 and $28,000, though patients with one form of lupus have significantly higher costs – ranging from $29,000 to $63,000.

And then he provided more details from his communication with Lamb:

Once Lamb was required to go on Obamacare, she discovered she qualified for a $15-a-month subsidy, which could be applied to nearly 40 different options. She chose one of the more expensive options—a Platinum plan – because it limited out of pocket expenses to $1,500, as her doctor fees and blood tests would be higher under the Obamacare plans. She also considered a plan with a lower premium, but it would have meant higher out of pocket expenses. “Instead of paying $6,000 a year, I would have been paying $10,000 a year” with the plan with a lower premium, she said.

I titled my original post: Emilie Lamb was subsidized by her doctor’s largesse and by federal taxpayers and full-coverage-insurance policyholders.  She still will be.  She should acknowledge that, publicly. But today I reread Kessler’s post after I reread my own, and I realized that her claim is this: that pre-Obamacare, she had been subsidized by her doctors’ and her hospital’s largesse, but that because of Obamacare her doctors and her hospital were now requiring her to pay her full out-of-pocket costs–all her medical costs that are not covered by her new insurance plan.

The chance that this true is zero.  Its sheer absurdity is why, upon first reading or hearing her complaint, it doesn’t immediately register that that is its sum and substance.  She’s saying that when she had a policy that had no caps on out-of-pocket expenses, and an annual cap of $25,000 (probably well below her annual medical bills each year), her doctors and her hospital were willing to forgive all but $1,000 of those bills each year.  But that now that she has a policy that has no annual cap and has a $6,000 out-of-pocket cap-so that the hospital and doctors will receive much more of the amounts they bill than they were before–they’ve told her that she now has to pay in full that $6,000 a year. And that she chose a platinum plan rather than a lower-cost plan that has a $10,000 cap on out-of-pocket expenses because her suddenly uncooperative hospital and doctors would require her to pay the full $10,000 in annual out-of-pocket expenses rather than just the full $6,000 in full annual out-of-pocket expenses for the platinum plan.  Because of Obamacare.

No matter that Obamacare has a maximum annual out-of-pocket cap of about $6,500.

Because of Obamacare, her hospital and doctors said they would require full out-of-pocket payments from her rather than forgive the now-much-smaller amounts above $1,000 a year that her insurance plan will cover.  So because of Obamacare she chose a platinum plan rather than a gold or bronze one that was the same cost as her cancelled one.  No, she didn’t chose the platinum plan out of fear that her old tin plan would leave her bankrupt or unable to access the care she needs if her hospital and doctors suddenly withdrew their largesse.  Uh-uh. Because of Obamacare she suddenly needed a platinum plan.  So she bought one.  Even though paying for it makes her life almost impossible.

Reader Urban Legend posted this comment to my earlier post:

Besides the fact that her policy was crap, it appears there are numerous bronze or silver plans available in Tennessee to a 40-year-old for between $150 and a little over $200 (in Davidson County, Nashville, presumably the most expensive county in the state) . That is the overwhelming majority of plans, and that is without any tax credit assistance. Plans near $373 for someone that age are gold or platinum plans, some with $0 deductibles and out-of-pocket maxes at $1500 or less.

And presumably her employer is continuing to contribute the same amount as before. She was happy with her old plan, but would not have been happy with one for about the same cost as that old plan and that has better benefits, so that more of her medical bills will be paid by her insurer.  Her hospital and her doctors now want her to pay her full medical bills that are not covered by her insurance, and they didn’t before Obamacare.

Her hospital and doctors must be Republicans.  She shouldn’t have told them she voted for Obama, thinking that the ACA would help her.  They sure showed her!

And to think she had thought Obamacare would help her–by requiring her hospital and her doctors to provide free lifetime healthcare for her, saving her $1,000 a year.

Lamb, it turns out, was, like Julie Boonstra, a guest of her Tea Party Republican congressional representative at the State of the Union address.  And, like Boonstra, she’s a pretty cheap date.


UPDATE: Here’s an exchange between reader EMichael and me this morning, 3/2, in the Comments to this post:


I wonder what the financial effects on the hospital and doctors who are forgiving her debts?

And who pays for that forgiveness?

Another thought, I wonder if Ms Lamb has already been hit by the IRS for this past debt forgiveness, or will be hit now that she has gone public?


Hi, EMichael.  My earlier post on her did make the point that it’s the federal government (in very substantial financial assistance to hospitals for the very purpose of helping them cover the uninsured or the underinsured–an important purpose of the ACA), and her doctors, and people who do have comprehensive insurance, that have been footing her very large medical expenses.  In this current follow-up post, I make the point–which I originally missed and which Kessler missed–that she makes, in essence, a key claim to Kessler that surely is false: that her hospital and her doctors have told her they will no longer forgive her uninsured bills that total more than $1,000 a year, and that their reason is Obamacare.

And if THAT is false, and her hospital and her doctors have told her no such thing, then she was flagrantly lying by saying that she was happy with her old plan.  If she was happy with her old plan, which had NO cap on out-of-pocket expenses and a total annual cap of $25,000, because she felt she could continue to rely on the generosity of her hospital and doctors to forgive all but $1,000 a year, why would she have been unhappy with a bronze or gold plan that would have paid her hospital and doctors more than her old plan did?  Why did she believe that she now would have to pay out-of-pocket expenses of $10,000 annually under a plan that would have cost her and her employer–who presumably is still contributing the same amount as last year–the same as her cancelled plan did last year, and instead chose a platinum plan whose premiums are causing her to take a second job and making her life almost impossible in order to have to pay $6,000 a year rather than $10,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses?  Why is she suddenly no longer comfortable relying on the special $1,000 annual cap that her hospital and doctors were providing her, and why is she claiming that Obamacare is at fault?

I’m going to email Kessler and ask that he inquire further about this.  If Lamb refuses to answer, maybe he can ask the Vanderbilt Medical Center whether they’re now refusing to forgive out-of-pocket expenses because of Obamacare, and, if so, what it is in the ACA that has caused them to make that decision. If Kessler won’t do it, I’ll ask PolitiFact or even Greg Sargent to do it.

This is serious stuff.  This woman has so little concern for others who have serious chronic illnesses that she’s willing to baldly lie in exchange for a free trip to Washington.  Wow.  I mean, really.  Wow.

I’ll add that I’m pretty sure that the IRS does not consider a hospital’s or doctor’s forgiving of medical costs to a patient who cannot pay those costs taxable income. I certainly hope it doesn’t. It’s basicly a gift of medical services. But Ms. Lamb pretty much personifies the ultimate in chutzpah by claiming falsely that Obamacare has, rather than helped her, instead made her life almost impossible by causing her hospital and doctors to stop forgiving her uninsured medical bills of more than $1,000 a year because under Obamacare those uninsured medical bills will be much lower and because she chose to pay more in order to reduce those uninsured medical bills to $6,000 a year rather than to $10,000 a year–now that, thanks to Obamacare, she has access to private healthcare plans.

Several commentators have noted that the AFP ads curiously stage only middle-aged women who have chronic life-threatening illnesses, and who make “reasonable judgments” that they were harmed, based upon flatly false beliefs or representations.

So here’s what I suggest to the Democrats: Have a middle-aged woman who has a chronic life-threatening illness ask in an ad why the AFP keeps portraying middle-aged women who have chronic life-threatening illnesses as deeply ignorant, seriously math- or logic-challenged, or just plain easily manipulated.  In fact, of course, these women are knowingly propagating a fraud about what they, of all people, know is, for many, many others a life-or-death, or bankruptcy matter.

They’re con artists, pure and simple.

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Emilie Lamb was subsidized by her doctor’s largesse and by federal taxpayers and full-coverage-insurance policyholders. She still will be. She should acknowledge that, publicly.

“I was diagnosed with lupus when I was 27. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder. It’s dramatically affected my life. I voted for Barack Obama for president. I thought that Obamacare was going to be a good thing. Instead of helping me, Obamacare has made my life almost impossible. Barack Obama told us we could keep our health insurance if we liked it. And we can’t. I got a letter in the mail saying that my health insurance was over, that it was gone.  It was canceled because of Obamacare. My premiums went from $52 a month to $373 a month. I’m having to work a second job to pay for Obamacare. For somebody with lupus, that’s not an easy thing. If I can’t afford to continue to pay for Obamacare, I don’t get my medicine; I don’t get to see my doctors. I am very disappointed in Barack Obama as a president. He made promises he didn’t keep. And that’s disheartening.”

–Tennessee resident Emilie Lamb, 40, in an ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity

The Facts

Lamb’s old plan was provided through a public-private program aimed at lower-income workers called CoverTN, which split the premium costs between an employee, the employer and the state. That’s a big reason why Lamb’s premium was only $52 a month, but in an interview she said she would have gladly paid and could have afforded the full $156 a month.

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Julie Boonstra, Americans for Prosperity, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Trial

The Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity has now released its factual documentation for its misleading ad featuring Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman stricken with Leukemia who suggests Obamacare forced her to take on a new plan that is now “unaffordable.” The ad has been widely pilloried ever since Glenn Kessler discovered that her premiums had come down, likely making her overall costs a wash or even cheaper. Gary Peters, the Dem candidate for Senate in Michigan, had written to TV stations insisting on documentation.

The documentation provided by AFP, which was passed along from TV stations by the Peters campaign, doesn’t actually back up the ad’s key claim. But it tells us something interesting about how the AFP campaign — and by extension, the broader GOP strategy against Obamacare — really work.

To buttress the ad’s charge that Boonstra’s “out of pocket charges are so high, it’s unaffordable,” AFP cites a single Politico article reporting that “consumers may have to dig a little deeper into their wallets to pay for health care in the Obamacare insurance exchanges,” because the law could mean additional out of pocket expenses. Needless to say, that doesn’t shed light on Boonstra’s individual situation. And on that front, AFP’s documentation offers this (emphasis mine):

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