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Blame the Insurance Companies


This is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in political journalism. Juan Williams, one of America’s least interesting political writers when he was at NPR, went to Fox News after he was let go. Anyone could see what was coming — churn out a couple “the party left me” pieces as lazy as your previous work, and happily cash your fatter paychecks.

What seems to have happened — and I can’t explain it, but would be very unfair of me not to acknowledge it — is that Williams has been jostled into writing stuff that’s actually liberal and smart, while challenging the premises of his bosses:

But some people losing their current policies [and being offered better coverage] are going to have to pay a higher price. Taking crocodile tears to a new level, ObamaCare opponents are now rushing to their defense and calling the president a liar.

These critics include Republican politicians who did not vote for ObamaCare; these are Republican governors who refuse to set up exchanges to reach their own citizens; these are people oppose expanding Medicaid to help poor people getting better health care; these are people who have never put any proposal on the table as an alternative fix for the nation’s costly health care system that leaves tens of millions with inadequate medical coverage and tens of millions more totally uninsured.

The fact is if you are one of the estimated 2 million Americans whose health insurance plans may have been cancelled this month, you should not be blaming President Obama or the Affordable Care Act.

You should be blaming your insurance company because they have not been providing you with coverage that meets the minimum basic standards for health care.

Let me put it more bluntly: your insurance companies have been taking advantage of you and the Affordable Care Act puts in place consumer protection and tells them to stop abusing people.

Well, damned if that isn’t both right on the money and a perspective you’re unlikely to see very often in the mainstream media. Fox News actually adding value — who would have predicted that would ever happen?

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  • Epicurus

    Cue Williams taking “some time for personal reasons” in 3-2-1…nice catch, and maybe, just maybe the scales have fallen from Mr. Williams’ eyes. Doubtful, but not impossible.

    • howard

      i have a distant memory bell ringing that says that there was some specific element that led juan williams to reconsider the ways in which he was pissing away a halfway decent reputation by turning into an “even the liberal juan williams,” but i don’t have the time to try and track the bell down right now. maybe someone will beat me to it, maybe i’m imagining it, or maybe i’ll get back to it after a meeting and find the reference.

      • I think Juan Williams has always just been a somewhat heterodox liberal.

        Ideological media loves heterodox folks from the other side. You will see Michael Steele and Steve Schmidt on MSNBC for the same reason. Those guys are not liberals– but they are people who will criticize “their side” sometimes and therefore add value to MSNBC.

        Williams sometimes criticizes liberals; Fox News therefore wants him on the payroll. They are willing to put up with him taking the liberal position on some issues to buy that “credibility” when he doesn’t

        • EH

          In other words, concern trolls for their own side, displayed for the other. Kind of a self-flagellating role, I guess.

          • Without defending any of these guys specifically, it’s worth remembering that just because something is widely condemned on the Internet doesn’t mean it has no value. It just means that the type of people who spend a fair amount of time communicating on the Internet tend not to like it very much.

            Real life “concern trolling” could very well have real value. Some people won’t listen to a reasoned critique if it is given by someone who is clearly on the other side. We can certainly think of some names of people on the right that everyone here would agree are pretty bad people, and then honestly ask ourselves, how would we respond if they made a legitimate argument or a decent point? For instance, if Sean Hannity is right about something, would we listen to him? In contrast, that same point, made by someone with legitimate left-liberal credentials, might merit greater consideration.

            The other thing about concern trolls– and this probably applies to these guys specifically– is at least the sincere ones do expose people on the other side to arguments that they don’t necessarily hear from other sources. Having heterodox people out there is a way to fight epistemic closure. Fox News won’t host someone like Matt Yglesias or Scott Lemieux on their website or their air– but they will host Juan Williams, and that means that their readers and viewers will be exposed to at least some liberal arguments they wouldn’t otherwise hear.

            • Pseudonym

              Now you’re concern trolling about our not appreciating concern trolls?


        • Pat

          Isn’t it also possible that Ailes & Co. are really, really annoying to work for? I mean, if you have a clue and all?

      • panda

        I’m guessing that you are thinking about the one time when Newt Gingrich harangued Williams to the wild cheers of a South Carolina audience when he challenged Gingrich about his ‘let poor kids clean our schools’ jobs plan during a 2012 debate. That kind of thing must rankle anyone with any shred of dignity.

  • sibusisodan

    Wow. Bang on!

  • Jordan

    “Fox News actually adding value — who would have predicted that would ever happen?”

    Well, apparently they also posted this today

    • anthrofred

      I’m alarmed by the “Maverick Sea Lion” apparently running amok at WWDC.

      • ajay

        “Negative, Ghostrider, the oceanarium is full.”

      • DrS

        But this is great news for John McCain!

  • parsimon

    A little weird that Williams would be allowed to put that principally at Foxnews.com, apparently. He also has a forum at The Hill.

    But — hasn’t there been some news recently that Fox’s popularity has been declining? Perhaps more Juan Williams from time to time is called for. On this particular topic, the public is frequently torn between hatred of government and hatred of corporations.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    that was the message I got when the cancellation notice arrived

    I was always kind of surprised when Obama would say, “if you like your insurance, you’ll get to keep it”, because I never knew *anyone* who “liked” their insurance

    • TribalistMeathead

      I just assumed it was a response to the assertion that Obamacare represented a government takeover of health care. If so, it could’ve been better worded.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        re: insurance in general – the only thing worse than having it is not having it. we’ve always had a lousy attitude that’s kind of summed up by a Monty Python (or possibly a Python knockoff) skit where the punchline, delivered in the most matter-of-fact English manner, was “but the insurance never pays, now does it?”

        • njorl

          It’s from “The Bishop”

          You see, you unfortunately plumped for our ‘Neverpay’ policy, which, you know, if you never claim is very worthwhile…but you had to claim, and, well, there it is.

          Being in the UK, it had to be about car insurance. A lot of people with individual policies in the US had “Neverpay” health insurance. They probably didn’t even get a nude lady.

          • Chuchundra

            But he did get the naked lady!

      • Hogan

        It was a response to the fact that according to surveys, roughly 80% were content with the insurance they had (in a “could be worse” kind of way) and needed reassurance that healthcare reform wouldn’t force them to accept something worse. And it hasn’t, but it is forcing some of them to accept something better at a higher price. (Which is still an improvement over the old system, where insurance companies and employers could force you to accept something worse at a higher price.)

        • catclub

          of course, that 80% was the 80% with medicare or employer sponsored health insurance.

          “If you like your insurance, you can keep it. Since everyone hates their insurance, a null set.”

        • Ed

          There are a few who lucked out under the old system who will be less well off under the new. And some employers have revamped their plans in a response to Obamacare (not for the better). As for insurance premiums, time will tell. All of this could have been anticipated and I assume was anticipated by the Administration. Very strange of Obama to make such a categorical statement and do so repeatedly. Another self-inflicted wound, I’m afraid.

    • Warren Terra

      The estimate is that perhaps 3% of policyholders will lose their current policy because of the ACA, and the vast majority of them will be significantly the better for it. All this tearing of hair and rending of shirts that some people are losing policies with a lifetime cap of a buck-fifty and a 120% co-pay makes me ill.

      • Sherm

        Link for that 3% figure by chance? I got stuck on the treadmill at the gym the other day next to some old lady who had the tv on faux news, and she started complaining about obamacare. I tried to explain what you just wrote, but she would hear none of it due to the great “investigative reporting” which fox does.

        • TribalistMeathead

          I heard “approximately 5%” will either lose their current policy or see dramatic increases in premiums on NPR last week.

  • TribalistMeathead

    And of course, if the ACA had mandated that insurance companies provide the same level of coverage at the same price, that would’ve been a hell of a lot closer to socialism than anything that actually appeared in the ACA.

    • DrDick

      And a far better deal. But then actual socialism generally is.

  • Joe

    Isn’t Shephard Smith designated for the quote of reason over there?

    Eh. I don’t watch the channel myself. Likely to have a bit of reason now and then. It can be cited whenever challenged.

    • MAJeff

      Isn’t Shephard Smith designated for the quote of reason over there?

      Only once a year. And, since Gawker sought out his boyfriend and has again brought Shep’s homosexuality to the surface, this can’t be that one time per year. The crazy old people couldn’t handle the truth if they were aware a homo brought it to them.

      He’ll go back in the closet, and in a few months he’ll have his annual moment.

  • …and Greta doing a better job of interviewing the “Obamacare victim” than Jan Crawford (not hard, I know, but still), and finding out her old policy was worth a piece of used T.P. Maybe the 4 horsemen are out having a ride, and we don’t know it.

    • Another Holocene Human

      Greta actually used to have a shred a respectability until she humped the Bush II admin and got a move from CNN to FOX and continued to hump the torturing war mongerers forever and ever the end.

      • joel hanes

        Greta is a high-ranking Scientologist who believes that her body is composed of the unconscious spirits of dead space aliens that were killed by Xenu trillions of years ago, and that she and her fellow Operating Thetans can alter reality by focussing their will.

        • JoyfulA

          She may very well be made up of spirits of dead space aliens, from that massive facelift between CNN and FOX. She used to be so interesting looking, trustworthy, and competent.

          Well, she might be back to the face I preferred by now. I don’t think I’ve seen her in a decade or more.

      • You do realize that Greta’s husband used to ride the Quittah from Wasilla gravy train, right?

  • Maybe he just is a curmudgeon who gets annoyed by whatever orthodoxy everyone else in the office has. I can kinda see that.

    • Another Holocene Human

      True, he may be one of those pissy people who thinks he is smarter than everyone else and when he’s not, compensates by being the contrarian. On FOX he must be utterly wading through DERPHERPDERP which makes it easy. On NPR he must have had his bile rising a lot because there are no end of journalist’s journalists pitching very serious third way neoliberal foofaraw and Mara Liasson probably got more effusive creepy fanmail.

      • witless chum

        I can see being driven to Slate-ry by constant exposure to the Nice Polite Republicans and then woken back up by exposure to the real thing at Fox.

  • BobS

    Maybe Juan Williams is hiring better assistants to write his column these days.

    • somethingblue


  • Reasonable 4ce

    Now if only EvenTheLibrul CBS would pull the plug on the concern trolling and misinformation.

    • Reasonable 4ce

      Oops. Linky no worky.

    • DrDick

      Yeah. I have been rather disgusted with the coverage in the MSM. Corporate hacks flock together, I guess.

  • LittlePig

    Breaking News! Juan Williams aids in curbing global warming – Hell has frozen over.

  • To reuse an old line- Juan Williams leaving NPR for FOX News raises the average of intelligence of both groups.

  • Brian

    Your post gets it wrong.

    Juan Williams didn’t go “to Fox News after he was let go.” He worked at both outfits simultaneously for many years. Those on the Right never formed a movement to kick Williams off Fox, but Lefties hounded NPR for years, until NPR buckled and let Williams go. Because those on the Left generally are less tolerant of diverse opinions than those on the Right (e.g., see what happens when a conservative/libertarian tries to give a speech on a college campus.)

    • MAJeff

      derp! derp!

    • Malaclypse

      Because those on the Left generally are less tolerant of diverse opinions than those on the Right (e.g., see what happens when a conservative/libertarian tries to give a speech on a college campus.)

      Or we could see what happens when a front-pager here uses a common metaphor.

    • anthrofred

      Where’s the evidence of “hounding NPR for years”? Williams was let go by NPR after he made inflammatory statements about Muslims. There’s no conspiracy here, as much as you may try to invent one.

      • Brian

        You’re correct that William’s statement about Muslims was what we might call the precipitating cause. But that was a fig leaf for caving to the demand of liberals – disproportionately the listeners & donors of NPR – who were indeed hounding NPR to boot Williams for years. If the topic interests you, Google will confirm this, including NPR officials talking about the large number of organized complaints. (No one is claiming that Juan Williams is an oppressed victim. He makes about 2 million a year at Fox News.)

        The objection that Williams violated some rule by being an opinion commentator on Fox News was always a ruse. No one ever had a problem with Nina Tottenberg expressing her opinion on a variety of TV shows. The difference is that Nina is a safe, comfortable, ultra-predictable liberal, while Juan Williams is a liberal with occasional dissenting views, who dares consort with The Enemy (Fox News).

        • witless chum

          You’re right, I think, in that Williams’ real crime was consorting with Fox News. You’re wrong in that you think it’s political. The people who run NPR really believe they’re an outfit with high journamalistic standards. My impression is that they care about that identity of NPR moreso than they could ever care about political ideology. Williams going on Fox taints him because of Fox’s horribad journalism, not it’s rightwing politics.

          Also, y’know, it’s not that hard for NPR to find a news opiner who doesn’t express his prejudice against Muslims outloud.

    • MAJeff

      Because those on the Left generally are less tolerant of diverse opinions than those on the Right

      This must be why the universally-popular ENDA is sailing through Boehner’s TeaBagging House. Those bigots love them some diversity of opinion.

    • stepped pyramids

      Juan Williams and Mara Liasson were criticized because they were appearing on Fox News as pundits while simultaneously working as purportedly neutral news analysts on NPR, which is against NPR policy.

      • catclub

        And they did it for years.
        Hounding took a long time to have an effect.

        • Joey Maloney

          They were very small hounds. And, being liberals, they had to stop baying every few minutes for a self-criticism session.

    • Pseudonym

      On the other hand, Liberty University is well-known for its ideological diversity in campus speakers.

      • Brian

        You made my point for me.

        Liberty is not your typical University. Colleges and Universities in America are about 1,000 Liberty Universities of the Left. BTW, Liberty would likely not invite a dissenter, but if a speaker there started uttering heterodox thoughts, he would be treated civilly. That group does not deal in intimations of violence.

        • Hogan

          Yeah, when you have ever heard of Alan Dershowitz being allowed to speak at Harvard?

          • Malaclypse

            You must admit, it was tragic the way Stanford treated Victor Davis Maximus Butthurt Hanson, and the way John Yoo was hounded – hounded, I say – out of Berkeley just for helping out with some war crimes is the greatest injustice since someone put ketchup on a steak.

        • J R in WV

          That group is uberpolite to all.

          Except for promising that I’m going to burn in agony for all eternity for not beliving in their god that loves to torture the vast majority of mankind! For all eternity, also too.

          Other than that, always polite…

    • JL

      You must not have encountered the phenomenon of student papers on liberal college campuses having opinion sections full of centrists, libertarians, and conservatives.

      My university has this phenomenon in spades.

  • joe from Lowell

    Who the hell is this guy, and what has he done with Juan Williams?


  • RobW

    Seems like the relevant question to ask here is “the minimum basic standards for health care” as decided by whom? Williams’ entire logic springs from a misplaced paternalism that is fueled by smart people thinking they can design complex systems in intricate detail.

    • Computers


    • Nathan of Perth

      Not really, some of these policies were little more than bare-faced fraud.

    • witless chum

      The fact that insurance companies can devise complex systems in intricate detail to avoid paying claims suggests to me that devising a system to force them to do the opposite might be possible.

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