Off-Topic: What the HELL is wrong with the Obama Admin's PR Dept?? (UPDATE)
On the one hand, this has nothing to do with the ACA whatsoever.
On the other hand, in a weird sort of way it has everything to do with it.
Last night, the town of Ferguson, Missouri turned into a warzone. I've never seen anything like it...at least here in the U.S. A few days after police gunned down an unarmed black teenager (possibly shooting him in the back) and the refused to release the name of the officer who shot him, I watched live video of the St. Louis County PD very much unallegedly demanding that the news media turn off their cameras, fire tear gas and rubber bullets into an unarmed, fairly peaceful crowd and people's yards and generally terrorize the very populace that they're supposed to be protecting.
And in the middle of this utter mess, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz decided it was the perfect time to tweet the following:
Readout of tonight's social gathering coming shortly - spoiler alert: a good time was had by all.
— Eric Schultz (@Schultz44) August 14, 2014
...along with issuing the following press release:
Tonight, the President and First Lady attended the birthday celebration for Mrs. Ann Jordan at an event at the Farm Neck Golf Club. There were approximately 150 guests in attendance.
Among the attendees seated with the Jordans and the President and First Lady were former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett and her mother Mrs. Barbara Bowman, Ursula Burns, Kenneth Chenault and his wife Kathy, along with other friends and family of Mrs. Jordan. President Obama honored Mrs. Jordan with a toast before dinner, as did Mr. Jordan and Secretary Clinton and others. The President and First Lady have known the Jordans for over twenty years, and were grateful to have been able to share this special evening with them.
The President and First Lady also were happy to have the chance to spend time with Secretary Clinton and former President Clinton.
A little color: in his toast for Mrs. Jordan, President quipped that he met Vernon and first, but liked Ann more. The menu consisted of surf and turf and pasta. The Obamas danced nearly every song. A good time was had by all.
Look, it'd be one thing if the Ferguson situation had just started this evening, but the White House has known what a potentially explosive situation could be developing in Missouri.
And no, I'm not saying that the POTUS was supposed to personally step in last night.
I'm not even suggesting that he shouldn't have attended the event at the "Farm Neck Golf Club", whatever the hell that is.
I am saying that his Deputy Press Secretary sounds just a LITTLE BIT on the tone deaf side by tweeting about what a star-spangled awesome time everyone had dancing the night away at the exact same time that the St. Louis County Police Dept. was going completely out of control.
(Note: It's my understanding that's it's very important to distinguish between St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis Police here.)
So, what does this have to do with the Affordable Care Act?
Tale of two Obamacares: States open with info, feds not much
...But nearly four months later, the federal government remains mum on several key questions about that online marketplace, which sells coverage in 36 states, and was built with hundred of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.
In sharp contrast to HealthCare.gov, the 15 health insurance exchanges run by individual states and the District of Columbia are, as a group, much more forthcoming with answers when asked those same kinds of questions.
...The federal government's lack of transparency on these questions has irked Obamacare supporters and critics alike.
Yes, this is from about a week ago. It didn't seem to merit mentioning until now.
...Gaba argued that HHS should be releasing official numbers during the special enrollment period for several reasons.
"For one thing ... the numbers are still going up," he said. Gaba added that Obamacare is such a big issue that the public deserves to know how the program is doing, without having to wait until open enrollment begins.
"The Democrats lost the House of Representatives over this ... it has certainly sucked the oxygen out of Washington for the better part of the past four years," Gaba said. "It's important to give updates on a fairly regular basis."
He noted that the exchange run by the state of Minnesota "is almost doing daily updates. It's like an odometer."
And Oregon's exchange updates its enrollment weekly.
"I wouldn't think it would be terribly difficult" for HealthCare.gov to give such regular updates, said Gaba, noting HHS' monthly Medicaid enrollment reports.
Gaba's estimates of the current enrollments reflect only sign-ups—not possible drop-offs. He acknowledged that even as a number of people sign up, some people—possibly more—will drop their plans because they can't afford them or for other reasons. But if HHS doesn't reveal its tally, then it allows Obamacare opponents to argue that the administration has something to hide.
"If you don't release the data, then the sky's the limit—they can say anything they want," he said.
I've griped about the HHS going Radio Silent during the off-season before. Hell, I wrote a lengthy screed about it the morning that the news broke, and a follow-up post the next day.
In fact, the first post was quoted extensively by, of all people, Michael Cannon...the "chief architect" of the Halbig v. Burwell case which threatens ACA tax subsidies for 5 million or so people on the federal exchange.
None of this is new, actually. Here's what I said way back on October 11th, 2013...the comment which eventually led to the ACA Signups project in the first place:
Seriously, though, HHS should really start releasing the official (accurate) numbers of actual signups for all 50 states (or at the very least, the 36 states that they're responsible for) on a daily--or at least, weekly--basis. I don't care if it's a pitifully small number. 100,000? 10,000? 100? 10? Even if it's in single digits, release the damned numbers. Be upfront about it. Everyone knows by now how f*cked up the website is, so be honest and just give out the accurate numbers as they come in.
Besides, that'll make it all the more impressive when those numbers start to (hopefully) skyrocket over the next 2 1/2 months.
The ACA is the single most important, sweeping, hard-fought, impactful and contentious law of his administration. He and the Dems sacrificed dozens of House seats and tons of political capital to get it passed, along with having to deal with everything from hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Koch Bros attack ads to bricks being thrown through their campaign offices and even the attempted murder of a member of Congress...all to get the Affordable Care act, warts and all, passed into law.
And, so far at least, it's a success.
The point is this: President Obama's campaign PR team did a remarkable job both in 2008 and 2012. However, his administration PR team can't seem to walk more than 10 feet without tripping over their own shoes.
You fought for this. You won it. It's working. OWN IT, WHOLEHEARTEDLY AND UNABASHEDLY.
'Cus to be honest, while I appreciate the attention, I'm getting a little tired of not having a good answer as to why the only one reporting off-season enrollments appears to be...me.
UPDATE: Just to reiterate, I'm not saying that President Obama is supposed to personally sweep into Ferguson and resolve the issues there. I don't expect him to be (as someone else put it) "President, Governor, Mayor and Sherriff of every state, county and city". For all I know, he could have been on the phone behind the scenes throughout the evening, quietly working the situation while keeping a cool exterior image. That's his style, and I'm perfectly fine with it. See my original statement above: I did not expect him to cancel the gala event or leave early.
What I'm saying is that his public relations people went out of their way to push a "Nero fiddling while Rome burns" meme. The tweet and press release were unnecessary. They were unforced errors.
By the same token, the HHS Dept's decision to not only refuse to issue off-season enrollment data but not to even explain why they refuse to do so is an equally unforced error. The off-season enrollment data isn't spectacular, but it's very good. There's no technical, logistical or even political reason not to do so, and every reason to relase it...yet they made a specific policy decision not to do so.
In any event. President Obama is planning on addressing the nation at 12:15pm regarding the Ferguson mess.