I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of the idea of balance in media. Often, journalists take this as a license to present both sides as equal, no matter if one side is clearly lying. Journalism should strive to present the facts, and that sometimes means one side gets more play than the other.
Still, sometimes there is clear bias in the media, and it deserves to get called out. Take Anna Wilde Mathews' article in today's Wall Street Journal.
In it, Mathews discusses who wins and who loses under Barack Obama and John McCain's health care plans. Complete with fancy graphics, the article makes the case that John McCain's plan would save people more money, touting the statistic that 41% of families making less than $100,000 a year would save $2,500. Under Obama's plan, Mathews says, most families would see "little effect."
The problem is where Mathews gets her numbers. She relies almost exclusively on a report released by the Lewin Group. Kudos to Mathews for explaining the extreme conflict of interest this group represents:
Lewin Group, a unit of insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc., said its analysis of the plans was performed with no input from its parent company and wasn't solicited by either campaign.
Let's get this straight, shall we? Mathews relies on a report from an insurance company that comes to the conclusion McCain's tax credits and insurance industry deregulation are better for America than Obama's expanded coverage. Who saw that one coming?
Now, there are problems with the Lewin Group's analysis, but that's not quite the issue here. The real issue is that many other studies have been done on the effects of the Obama and McCain health care plans, but Mathews doesn't mention them. The Economic Policy Institute has released a report showing state by state how much McCain's health care plan would cost and how many people would lose coverage. The Center for American Progress Action Fund has a report detailing the cuts McCain will have to make to Medicare and Medicaid to pay for his plan, as well as the increased cost to families. Health Affairs has detailed the 20 million that would lose coverage under the McCain plan. Why did none of these reports make it into Mathews piece?
The only caveats thrown into Mathews' Lewin Group stenography is to briefly mention that McCain's plan is better for the young and healthy (and that the elderly or sick will have trouble). And the only outside expert quoted in the piece is from the American Enterprise Institute, so you know exactly where he stands.
It's pretty astounding that Mathews drew almost exclusively on right-wing sources to write this hit piece. No effort was made for competing information, even when it comes from clearly non-partisan sources like Health Affairs.
It's too bad this article gets presented as journalism. It's not. It's clearly biased. The American people deserve better.