[FoRK] Spinning Granny II

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Tue Mar 16 13:17:08 PST 2004

...and the hat trick, again via FoES...


Begin forwarded message:

 From today's NY Times Editorials (this one also refers
to the administration silencing Richard Foster):


March 16, 2004

The Actuary and the Actor

An Orwellian taint is emerging in the Bush
administration's big victory last year in wringing the
Medicare prescription drug subsidy from a balky
Congress. The plan is being sold to the public through
propagandistic ads disguised as TV news reports, and
it turns out the government's top Medicare actuary was
muzzled by superiors during the debate about the
program's price tag.

Richard Foster, one of the government's foremost
Medicare experts, says he was ordered not to provide
requested information to Congress last fall when
doubts were being raised about the drug benefit's
cost. The administration denies this, but a ranking
former official has confirmed Mr. Foster's story. As
the bill was being considered, Mr. Foster privately
cautioned that its cost could amount to as much as
$600 billion, while the White House publicly stuck to
the Congressional Budget Office figure of $400 billion
over 10 years. The administration eventually conceded
a cost of $534 billion, but only after the bill was
safely signed into law.

With program in hand, the administration then
attempted to rally support — and take political credit
— with government-produced TV ads masquerading as news
reports. Actors were hired by the Department of Health
and Human Services to pose as television journalists
purveying faux upbeat "news" segments about the
expanded Medicare coverage. The hope is that TV
stations will air them as their own. In one version,
anchors are offered a script in which they promise
that "reporter Karen Ryan" — an actress — will explain
the details of the new drug plan.

This sleight of hand only deepens doubts about White
House credibility on a complex issue. The public
deserves straightforward information about the changes
in Medicare, and federal agencies should not be
engaging in political spin. This is no way to run a
democracy nourished by information and taxpayers'

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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