CNN anchor Jake Tapper added his name to a growing list of journalists in the corporate media who set out to debunk progressives' calls for Medicare for All on Friday with a "Friday Fact Check" segment, promptly misrepresenting statements by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as the conclusions of a Koch Brothers-funded study.
In his segment, produced in partnership with FactCheck.org, Tapper played two clips of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez stating, respectively, that "Medicare for all would save the American people $2 trillion over a 10-year period" and that it is "actually much cheaper than the current system."
Tapper responded as though the two progressives had asserted that the system would be cheaper for the U.S. government—a claim Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez did not make—and ignored a conclusion of cost-savings that was buried in the study.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 17, 2018
Billy Gendell, a Sanders staffer, was among the critics who pushed back against Tapper's attempt to fact check.
The fun thing in this "fact-check" is when @jaketapper falsely states that AOC & Bernie are suggesting that Medicare for all will save the federal govt $. Both are clearly talking about national health expenditures. @jaketapper should take down the video and issue a correction. https://t.co/irXQSrxM7a
— Billy Gendell (@billygendell) August 17, 2018
Rather than arguing that Medicare for All would save money for the U.S. government—which was able to afford a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans last year and passed a National Defense Authorization Act this week allocating more than $717 billion to its military—single-payer healthcare advocates have generally focused on how such a system would save trillions of dollars in overall healthcare spending, including for U.S. families, 26 percent of whom report struggling to pay medical expenses.
As The Intercept's Ryan Grim and Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project, tried to make clear to Tapper:
Not to pile on, but everything hinges on whether Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez said that the study found M4A would save "the government $2 trillion." I've never seen Sanders or AOC make that claim. It's about overall costs.
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) August 17, 2018
The study cited in Tapper's segment and in a Common Dreams report last month was completed by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which has received millions of dollars in funding from the right-wing Koch Brothers.
Bruenig, a policy analyst who has been detailing the study for readers, has noted that its author, Charles Blahous, focused largely on the $32.6 trillion he found Medicare for All would cost over the next decade and buried "the money-saving finding in the report's tables."
But Blahous, and Tapper in his assessment, failed to mention the more than $3.4 trillion the U.S. currently spends on healthcare per year, a number that suggests that the country will pay at least $34 trillion to keep the current for-profit health insurance industry running for another decade—about $2 trillion more than Blahous's projection for Sanders' Medicare for All plan.
"That's right," wrote Bruenig in a piece titled "Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers on Medicare-for-All" earlier this week, "the same estimate with the scary $32.6 trillion figure they were promoting to all the journalists in the country also said that the U.S. could insure 30 million more Americans, virtually eliminate out-of-pocket expenses, and cover dental, vision, and hearing care for everyone all while spending $2 trillion less over the next 10 years."
As Tapper mentioned, CNN spoke with Blahous, who denied Sanders' and Ocasio-Cortez's conclusions about single-payer's savings.
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One social media user wrote, "Matt Bruenig so thoroughly exposed the Koch brothers' report as benefiting consumers that the authors of the study (who want to discredit the people citing it positively) are trying to squeeze good PR out of fact-checking and again by misrepresenting THEIR OWN report."
This is exactly what is happening. The report's goal was to get people to gawk at the federal expenditure figure. When they didn't do that and gawked at the overall savings, the author turned around and started selling fact-checkers that a table in the appendix is the real score. https://t.co/4dltCpjlGL
— Matt Bruenig (@MattBruenig) August 17, 2018
And the fact-checkers go "well the author says this study doesn't say that at all" because we talked to him, totally credulous that a fucking paid stooge is shooting them straight in his damage-control operation.
— Matt Bruenig (@MattBruenig) August 17, 2018
Despite numerous critics correcting Tapper's conclusion, the "State of the Union" anchor would not budge.
Hey @jaketapper: the claim you call false here is true. The $2 trillion savings is in the @mercatus tables & is part of the *very scenario they pitched to media outlets,* as @MattBruenig has repeatedly pointed out (see https://t.co/IxwKGh922y). Please make a corrected video. https://t.co/elNso0FcB8
— Ben Spielberg (@BenSpielberg) August 17, 2018
So we reviewed everything and we stand by everything i said in the video. I do however take issue with the graphic in the piece that says “False” since our conclusion was far more nuanced and i never said that word. So I’ve asked them to remove that graphic. Thanks —
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 17, 2018
Tapper is just the most recent corporate news anchor to show hostility toward Medicare for All advocates while relying on shaky reasoning. Earlier this month, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo pointedly asked Ocasio-Cortez how the country would cope with the "sticker shock" of Medicare for All, appearing surprised when she responded, "When it comes to tax cuts for billionaires and when it comes to unlimited war, we seem to be able to invent that money very easily."
Following Tapper's segment, Bruenig shared his concern that conservatives are likely not the greatest threat to the possibility of providing healthcare to all Americans.