As the dust settles around the new republican healthcare bill, either side of the political spectrum seems to be telling different stories about what the bill actually says. These commentaries both agree that this is, in fact, a healthcare bill, however, they paint very different pictures of its contents. The Heritage Foundation’s “The House Acts on Obamacare. Time for the Senate to Follow Suit” (written by Robert E. Moffit and Jean Morrow) provides seemingly strong and compelling evidence for its position, but with a closer rhetorical analysis the manner in which those arguments are made and supported can expose fallacy, and reveal the subtler reasons for writing the article.
The first thing I noticed in the Heritage Foundation’s article was the lack of established or invented ethos. In a critical reading of the article, I found myself questioning where the authors their conclusions and even after checking out their bio’s and credentials provided by Heritage Foundation itself, I still wasn’t completely confident in the expertise of either author. The only benefit of the doubt I felt could be afforded to the article was that the authors were trying to establish their ethos through their commentary itself (an invented ethos rather than situated). However, their arguments throughout the piece show a seemingly intentional pre-disposition toward republican ideals which would not inherently corrupt their credibility, but this mixed with the article’s selective use of data and information from the bill appears manipulative – thus calling their ethos into question.
Moffit and Morrow have a clear audience in this piece, and they appeal to that intended audience incredibly effectively. Their target is not moderate, or left-leaning consumers, but rather the already right-leaning readers that make up most of the Heritage Foundation’s consumer-base. This comes through loud and clear as the title calls for “the Senate to Follow Suit” – a rallying call for the senate republicans to now continue this work, and for republican citizens to support this bill. The title lays the framework for the article’s arguments. It takes the body of the article to elaborate on why the bill is good for republicans, and for the people; however, it has some noticeable flaws in its logic and credibility.
The article begins by making the claim that “the right policy is to liberate states from Obamacare’s insurance mandates” and that “This is a step in that direction”; however, this claim is supported by other Heritage Foundation analysts. These statements exhibit a confirmation bias with the heritage healthcare analysts being cited as a source that the healthcare reform is the right move for the country, but the author of this article, Robert Moffit, is one of Heritage’s senior healthcare analysts. In the next few paragraphs, Moffit discusses two of the amendments added onto the bill that outline how the AHCA breaks the regulations on the healthcare industry – an attractive ideal to any republican viewer. He lists giving states the freedom of exemption from Obamacare mandates, outlines the requirements for states to be relieved of those mandates: “In order to secure a waiver from these federal insurance rules, the amendment specifies that states must establish a high-risk pool for persons with pre-existing conditions, a program to stabilize those premiums, or participate in a new federal risk-sharing program designed to secure continuing coverage and market stability”. He also mentions that under the second proposed amendment, states will receive around $138 billion in subsidies to people who can’t afford their own healthcare. The concept of less federal intervention in healthcare, rather leaving decisions up to the states, would be attractive to republicans across the country; however, in this situation, Moffit conveniently doesn’t mention that through this change from the Obamacare mandates to the new plan, the Medicaid program is going to be de-funded over the next four years, losing a total of over $700 billion in that time frame, and because of this the CBO estimates that over 20 million Americans would lose health care coverage. The idea of millions of Americans losing health insurance is generally not an appealing situation to almost anyone, regardless of party affiliation. This complete disregard of very important data for the sake of appealing to the reader-base destroyed the last pieces of credibility Moffit and Morrow held in my mind as I read the article closely.
To the right, this article would have been incredibly logically sound: a source from a popular news outlet that’s appealing to the political ideologies of its reader base – a well-established ethos and pathos/logos combination; however, from a non-partisan standpoint, the article holds little to no value for accurately representing the contents of the AHCA and its potentially impact. The way that this subtle exclusion of detail in specific areas drastically affects the reader’s perception of the bill is eye opening to say the least. The article seemed to not be influenced heavily by the race, class, or gender of the authors, as the two authors are the same race, but are different genders and come from different classes, however, the article is not fully logically sound. The confirmation bias of the original premise of the article is a clear fallacy, but the article draws conclusions and generalizes about the parts of the bill the author wants to talk about, not the whole thing. This omission seems to be intentional and therefore deceptive in nature. Ultimately, the entire article seemed to be solely for the purpose of solidifying ideals of the people who were already on the right side of the political spectrum through detailing generally appealing aspects of the bill, while ignoring unappealing but arguably the more important impacts of those seemingly appealing parts of the legislature. The body of the piece was a battleground in which the authors attempted to establish an ethos that was neutral enough to not appear too polarized to opposing or neutral parties, yet still attracted and appealed directly to their like-minded readers, making it effectively a watered-down form of republican propaganda to generate support for the healthcare bill.
Facts (The Bill itself): https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1628/text#H92B205EA5A9249F49FA1C029782C5935