FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Obama takes cues from the New York Times, tries to make 3.6 and -7.0 both equal -7.2
Fuzzy Math, Anyone?
The number of uninsured U.S. residents dropped by almost 2 million people in 2007, according to “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007(pdf),” a U.S. Census Bureau report released August 26.
In 2006, 47 million people, or 15.8% of the population, were uninsured. In 2007, that number fell to 45.7 million, or 15.3% of the population.
During that time, the number of people with health insurance increased by 3.6 million, from 249.8 million in 2006 to 253.4 million in 2007.
The difference between the 3.6 million more insured figure and the 1.3 million fewer uninsured comes, of course, from overall population changes during the time of the study, as Census Bureau researchers used data from the annual Current Population Survey of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in compiling their figures.
Apparently those figures — +3.6 million and -1.3 million — did a number (pun intended) on Barack Obama (D-IL), as the freshman Senator responded to the Census Bureau report by saying:
Today’s news confirms what America’s struggling families already know — that over the past seven years, our economy has moved backwards…
…an additional 7.2 million Americans have fallen into the ranks of the uninsured. This is the failed record of George Bush’s economic policies that Sen. McCain has called ‘great progress’”
Now, it’s no big secret where Obama is getting this number; after all, he simply had to lift it from the New York Times‘ editorial of the same day, which said:
A closer look confirms what Americans already know: most families reaped none of the benefits of the previous six years of solid economic growth. [Ed.-Well, the Times went one farther than Obama with its willingness to acknowledge "solid economic growth."]
The census offers [a] mirage when it comes to health insurance. While the overall number of uninsured dropped — from 47 million in 2006 to 45.7 million last year — that still left the number of uninsured Americans 7.2 million higher than in 2000.
What is clear is that economic growth alone will not cut it for most American families. The benefits must be shared more broadly. This means more progressive taxation, increasing access to affordable health care, investing more in public education.
President Bush was too busy cutting taxes on top earners to think about any of these priorities. The next president must do much better.
Though it makes for a good sound byte against President Bush and the Republican presidential nominee (especially when McCain’s “great progress” quote is taken so dishonestly out of its context), the attempt by Obama and The New York Times to compare the increase in insured over the last year to the increase in uninsured over the last seven years is a dishonest meme at best.
If we are going to compare the number of uninsured in 2000 to the total today, it is only right to do so with the number of insured.
As stated above, the number of insured in 2007 was 253.4 million. If 7.2 million fewer Americans are insured today than in 2000, then the number of Americans in possession of health coverage seven years ago must have been 260.6 million, right?
Of course that’s incorrect; after all, the same major change that caused the number of uninsured to drop by 1.3 million between 2006 and 2007, while the number of insured simultaneously rose by 3.6 million, is valid here, and is affecting these numbers.
That change is, of course, the constant increase in U.S. population.
In 2000, the U.S. population was 276.4 million (another census page shows us 281.4, but the former was the working number of the 2000 Census Bureau study on the uninsured). By 2007, that number had swelled to 298.7 million — an increase of 22.3 million people (again, bear in mind that the Census Bureau was using the previous year’s population and figures to conduct the study, which is why the population is listed at 298 rather than 301 million).
Simple arithmetic tells us that if the number of uninsured has risen by 7.2 million in the seven years between 2000 and 2007, and the population has grown by 22.3 million, then the number of insured Americans has should actually grown by just over 15 million, far outpacing the rise in uninsured.
And look at that! It has, based on the Census Bureau’s own figures of 237.7 million insured Americans in 2000 and 253.4 million in 2007 (an increase of 15.7 million)!
Of course, the mere fact that Mr. Obama is repeating the “7.2 million more uninsured” figure shows that he is getting his statistics from the editorial page of The New York Times, rather than from the Census Bureau. The 2007 report found 45.7 million Americans without health coverage; the 2000 version of that study found 38.7 million lacking insurance. Now, in my mother’s fifth grade class, 45.7 minus 38.7 equals 7 — meaning the increase in raw numbers of uninsured Americans over the past seven years should be 7 million even, not 7.2 million.
What’s a couple hundred thousand residents of flyover country to Barack Obama or to the Times, anyway? After all, there’s a meme to be propagated here, and no little 0.2 million number of insured Americans, nor any thoroughly insignificant increase of 15.7 insured Americans is going to stand in the way of that!
I am sure, based on the way the argument has been constructed to this point, that the Bush administration (and George III McCain) are to blame for that extra 200,000 Americans the Times and Obama forgot to count (too many live births in this country to keep up with…), as well as for the 7 million person increase in the uninsured total — but they are certainly not to blame (or, more correctly, to be assigned credit) for the 15.7 million-person increase in insurance-carrying Americans.