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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Issue of the Week: Health Care Reform Propaganda

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If you relied on the Journal Sentinel's front-page article about the impact of federal health care reform on Wisconsin, you might be worried. According to the article, which dutifully reported on a new study, commissioned by the Doyle administration but released last week by Gov. Scott Walker's Office of Free Market Health Care, you're going to pay more for health care if you're young and healthy, but less if you're poor or old. The article also states that if your employer provides insurance, it will likely drop you, a move at odds with President Obama's promise that if you like your health insurance package now you can keep it.

But that's just the doom-and-gloom spin brought to you by the Walker administration and the Journal Sentinel, which has repeatedly endorsed Walker throughout his political career.

The far more interesting version of events can be found in Madison's Capital Times, which, unlike the Journal Sentinel, actually followed up on the report. Turns out that the author of the study, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, claims that Walker is putting an unnecessarily negative spin on his findings.

"They picked out the most negative aspects of the report to highlight," Gruber told Cap Times reporter Shawn Doherty.

Gruber said Walker's press release omitted the whopping number of people who would gain insurance through reform—340,000—and the positive information about who would pay less for coverage once reform is fully implemented. Walker and the Journal Sentinel also failed to report that Wisconsinites will receive $729 million in federal subsidies to make insurance more affordable.

The release of the report during a press briefing last week was even weirder, Doherty reported. Fewer than 10 reporters were in attendance, and they could not quote Secretary of Health Services Dennis Smith or use cameras or recording devices during the press briefing. They were only allowed to quote from Walker's press release or use excerpts of one-on-one interviews with Smith or Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel following the briefing. Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig was kicked out of the briefing for attempting to attend the invitation-only event.

We're used to Walker using the instruments of government to advance his political agenda and career. But using taxpayer-funded state resources to manipulate and control the media through misleading propaganda is something that should outrage even his most ardent supporters in the press and the rest of the state.

Heroes of the Week

House of Peace Volunteers


Partially in response to the economic and civil unrest of the time, the House of Peace opened in 1968 as an outreach ministry of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Following its beginnings as a small storefront, the House of Peace (1702 W. Walnut St.) now provides multiple services to the needy in Milwaukee's central city. A nursing clinic headed by UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing staff, a legal clinic run by Marquette University Law School alumni and students, and an American Cancer Society "Loaning Closet" for patients in need are just some of the programs the House of Peace provides to the working poor, homeless, or newly unemployed.

Volunteers play a vital role in staffing the organization's food pantry and clothes closet, and preparing and distributing food baskets during the holidays. Readers interested in donating items or volunteering their services are urged to call the House of Peace at 414-933-1300. To learn more, visit www.houseofpeacemilwaukee.org.

In Memoriam

Dennis A. Shook

We were shocked and saddened to learn that journalist Dennis A. Shook died last week. Dennis had worked for the Shepherd Express and a host of regional newspapers in his long career and was much liked by everyone he met, from his co-workers to elected officials across the political spectrum. Dennis was always quick with a joke but also just as eager to get to the bottom of any story. In addition to his work as a reporter, editor and pundit, Dennis was a family man who adored his wife and children. We would like to share our condolences with his family and many friends during this difficult time.

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