Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sinclair Spokesman's Dishonest Argument about Healthcare

Mark Hyman’s recent commentary on healthcare is especially grotesque in its use of invalid arguments, misleading phrasing, doctored evidence, and flat-out falsehoods.

The argument being made is essentially that the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) is, at best, unhelpful and, at worst, deadly.

Hyman begins by saying “we have the greatest healthcare in the world”-- an example of the “glittering generality” fallacy—using nice-sounding words that don’t mean anything specific.

The truth? The United States has the best healthcare in the world by exactly one metric: the cost we spend per person.

The World Health Organization, using a range of metrics measuring actual health outcomes for a nation’s citizens, ranks the U.S. 37th in the world.

Hyman then says, “To suggest people are turned away from life-saving treatment over their ability to pay is just not true.”

This is an attempt to phrase the problem in a narrow way that obscures the reality. Yes, if you collapse due to a heart attack, you will be admitted to the hospital regardless of your insurance. However, if you don’t have insurance (or have bad insurance), you will not be covered for checkups, medication, and other preventative care that would keep you from having the heart attack in the first place.

In fact, the claim that no one dies because of lack of access to healthcare was rated as a “Pants-on-Fire” lie by nonpartisan Politifact when it was recently made by a Republican politician at a town hall event.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville Destroyed Hyman's Argument on Confederate Statues

I have been pokey in writing the response to Hyman’s commentary regarding the removal of Confederate statues, but the events of this last weekend shed new light on this issue. It almost seems beyond arguing how corrosive an effect these statues have on our nation now. Having said that, here’s my attempt to address Hyman’s pre-Charlottesville arguments.

The thesis of his commentary is there is a “fashionable” trend to remove of “Civil War monuments” (i.e. statues celebrating Confederate leaders/soldiers, although he intentionally phrases his remarks to make it seem like there is a move afoot to turn the Bloody Angle into a Chuck E. Cheese). This, Hyman argues, is to “ignore history.” Sure, that history has ugly aspects, but removing the statues will not change that. Rather, we should learn from our past.

Hyman’s claims are wrongheaded in any number of ways, not least of which is that he claims that by removing statues to Confederate leaders, there is an attempt to destroy or change history. But that’s simply false. No one is suggesting the name of Robert E. Lee or any other Confederate be stricken from history. Quite the contrary. The claim is that these statues themselves pervert history by holding up traitors as being worthy of communal respect and admiration as those who built the nation rather than ripping it apart.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Attempting to Take the Moral High Ground Leaves Sinclair in the Gutter

A recent commentary in which Sinclair’s Mark Hyman takes other journalists to task for ethical failings goes about as well as one might expect it to, given what viewers have long seen from Hyman himself.

The subject is an article in Politico from many months ago that quoted Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner as saying that the Trump campaign had struck a deal with Sinclair for interviews with the candidate.

(That Hyman is rehashing news from more than half a year ago is odd, although it’s at least possible it might have to do with the fact that between the recent John Oliver piece on Sinclair and rising objections to Sinclair’s attempt to purchase yet more TV stations—some even coming from fellow conservative media outlets—the company is feeling under siege.)

Hyman claims Politico—and several other news outlets that picked up the story—misrepresented the deal. The problem is that Hyman himself mischaracterizes the Politico piece, implying that it ignored information that “any fresh-faced reporter” could have found for political purposes.

Specifically, he suggests that the Politico piece suggested Sinclair made a deal with only the Trump campaign and did not offer the same deal to the Clinton campaign. He cites a retraction/apology from a blog written by a member of the Society for Professional Journalists who had based an earlier post on the Politico piece as outside, confirming evidence of malfeasance. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wherefore "Tax Extenders"?

The latest week in Hyman commentaries began with a rather trifling look at a nuanced issue: tax-extenders. These are temporary tax breaks that tend to get “re-upped” year after year.

Hyman chastises both parties for their use of these as leverage over lobbyists—as ways to shakedown interest groups. And there is undoubtedly some truth in that.
However, it’s also true that some lobbyists *want* tax breaks to be rolled into tax-extenders. Not only does it allow them to lobby for tax breaks that avoid the usual 10-year forecast necessary for permanent acts, but, as Politico notes, the fact that these tax breaks are continually being reconsidered (at least technically) keeps the lobbyists themselves in business.

It’s also worth noting that some tax breaks ought to be temporary (e.g. tax incentives for reinvestment after a natural disaster, etc.).

It also the case that Congress actually *has* done away with many of these temporary cuts, meaning that, according to the Tax Policy Center, “tax extender deliberations now have lower stakes than in recent years.”

All of which is to say, while tax extenders are probably, on balance, not an efficient way to do business.  They *can* be used and abused for short-term political gain (e.g. Mitch McConnell's pet tax break for racehorse owners).  But the issue is (shocker!) more complex than Hyman’s framing of it would suggest.

The likely motivation for this is that tax extenders have an effect on tax reform policy, and addressing them has been seen as a prerequisite for substantial changes to the tax code, the next thing on Trump’s “to do” list after the trainwreck that was his attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mark and Ajit, Sitting in a Tree . . . .

In our previous post, we noted that Mark Hyman recently used a “bait and switch” argumentative tactic, praising the Trump administration’s official ending of obsolete Y2K regulations as a way of implying the wisdom of Trump in going after all manner of consumer protections.

Hyman’s recent commentary on internet privacy is a logical follow up on this. In it, he argues that rules protecting consumer privacy and confidentiality regarding their online information were rightfully quashed by the Trump administration since they were unnecessary.

Key to his argument was that these protections were unfair because they applied only to telecommunications companies (i.e. internet providers) but didn’t apply to online services such as Google and Facebook. The federal agency charged with enforcing these new rules was the FCC, which, Hyman charged, was “playing favorites.”

Why Y2K? Classic Bait-and-Switch Argumentation

Last time around, we noted that a common rhetorical technique/fallacy is to attack one unrepresentative case as typical of the class to which it belongs. The same thing works the other way: praising a single example as a way of suggesting all others are just as good.

A case in point is Mark Hyman’s recent praise of the Trump administration’s elimination of regulations regarding the “Y2K” software glitch from days of yore.

Hyman notes that it is silly to have regulations/policies in place for something that happened 17 years ago (and didn’t do much even at the time).

Fair enough (although it’s largely a symbolic move, since apparently these regulations/policies are understandably ignored today). But if you think this is about Y2K, think again.