that number has been greatly exaggerated by the rightwing

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

WE ARE SO USED to mas­sive gov­ern­ment spending that $678,000,000 is a rel­a­tively small number. Way too much to spend for a mal­func­tioning web­site, for sure, but still small in the scheme of gov­ern­ment spending. Until you look at it this way.” That number has been greatly ex­ag­ger­ated by the rightwing—of course. 1

That’s the opening to an­other viral rightwing email that I re­ceived this morning—and simply could not wait to share it with you!

Of course, that’s just the teaser; it gets better! So, here are more “facts” from the Bizarro world of rightwing­think from which this email orig­i­nated. 2


This ar­ticle is an updated—and there­fore dated—version of one pub­lished al­most four years ago.


The email is a fan­ta­sized con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Clint East­wood and Pres­i­dent Obama—with close-up pho­tographs of each!—concerning the ac­knowl­edged em­bar­rass­ment that the Af­ford­able Care Act’s sign-up web­site was during its first few months.

East­wood: “I hear you spent $678,000,000 on the Oba­macare web­site. Really?”

Obama: “That number has been greatly ex­ag­ger­ated by the rightwing.”

East­wood: “Sure it is. So how many cit­i­zens is this plan in­tended to cover?”

Obama: “All 315,000,000 in all 57 states.”

East­wood: “So you’re telling me that in­stead of building this site, you could’ve just given each of us $2,000,000?”

The $768,000,000: this is the latest in­car­na­tion of a number mostly made from whole cloth (it keeps get­ting fatter) being tossed around the RNM (Re­pub­lican Noise Ma­chine) or my pref­er­ence, the REC (Rightwing Echo Chamber).

The ob­ject is to make Mr. Obama look like a fool spend­thrift idiot liar. (I don’ know how or why they skipped the Muslim-Socialist tags.) That they chose East­wood for their foil is hilarious—and ap­par­ently de­void of the irony that it all but screams for.

The actor made a bit of the fool of him­self with his now-legendary lec­ture to an “empty chair” at the Re­pub­lican Na­tional Con­ven­tion last year.

Mr. East­wood is a fa­vorite actor and di­rector of mine, now and for­ever. But his some­what dazed, stam­mering, un­fo­cused “per­for­mance” last Au­gust made him ap­pear . . . what? drunk? stoned? old and con­fused? 3

The myth of the $634,000,000 website

But just how close to con­sen­sual re­ality is the figure above? Here is Eric Boehlert with a piece ti­tled “The Myth Of The $634 Mil­lion Oba­macare Web­site” for the Media Mat­ters for America web­site (Oc­tober 24, 2013).

“The life of the $600,000,000 figure ap­pears to be the latest ex­ample of how mis­in­for­ma­tion is fer­mented within the rightwing media and then adopted as quasi-policy by the Re­pub­lican Party.

After all, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dave Camp (R-MI) is holding a hearing specif­i­cally to de­ter­mine why the gov­ern­ment’s $600,000,000 health care web­site doesn’t work, even though the site didn’t cost $600,000,000.


The ac­tual cost of the ACA web­site would be be­tween $70,000,000 and $150,000,000—nothing re­motely like the fig­ures bandied about by the damn li­brull media.


The eye-popping figure was first trum­peted by An­drew Couts at Dig­ital Trends on Oc­tober 8, 2013 (“We Paid Over $500,000,000 For The Oba­macare Sites And All We Got Was This Lousy 404”). It pointed out that the Montreal-based com­pany awarded the con­tract to build, CGI Fed­eral, had re­ceived $634,000,000 in gov­ern­ment con­tracts re­lated to health care.

In­de­pen­dently, the Sun­light Foun­da­tion es­ti­mated that it cost $70,000,000 to build the much-maligned web­site, not $634,000,000. Of­fi­cially, CGI was awarded a $93,000,000 con­tract for the job.”

And today in his Fact Checker column (“How much did cost?”) Glenn Kessler con­cluded, ‘A con­ser­v­a­tive figure would be $70,000,000. A more modest figure would be $125-150,000,000.’ Kessler noted that the cost for the en­tire health care project be­yond the web­site would be at least $350,000,000.”

Huh? Glenn Beck telling the truth!

Even the bleeding Blaze, neo-righty Glenn Beck’s web­site, rained on the other righties’ pa­rade: “While the fed­eral web­site to signup for Oba­macare was rid­dled with er­rors and had a rocky rollout, it didn’t cost $634,000,000 to build,” wrote Liz Klimas (“Oba­macare Web­site Might Be Glitchy, But It Didn’t Cost $634,000,000” on Oc­tober 10, 2013). Ms. Klimas continued:

“An of­fi­cial at CGI told The­Blaze those saying the fed­eral health in­sur­ance ex­change cost $634 mil­lion are in­cor­rect. The of­fi­cial said this figure in­cludes all of the company’s con­tracts for a Health and Human Ser­vices De­part­ment pro­gram over the last seven years, cov­ering 114 trans­ac­tions. The cost of building was is­sued under this contract.”

As that award to CGI was made in 2011, then that seven-year, nine-digit figure (what­ever it ac­tu­ally is) and those 100+ trans­ac­tions reach back to 2003-2004.

What does that mean?

That mil­lions of those dol­lars were awarded to CGI by the pre­vious ad­min­is­tra­tion, the one that hired them in the first place.

You re­member them, yes?

George W. Bush, a Re­pub­lican if memory serves . . .

De­spite these glaring and damn near ubiq­ui­tous red flags all over the media and the in­ternet, the bloated fig­ures have been taken as fac­tual by the rightwing press and its usual re­lated and pun­dits, blog­gers, and just plain voters.

Like my friend . . .


ClintEastwood talking to chair 1500

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is taken from Clint East­wood’s em­bar­rassing at­tempt at . . . what? Humor? What few pun­dits pointed out was that, given the many op­por­tu­ni­ties at a snappy come­back that Mr East­wood’s ram­bling, in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­co­herent speech af­forded it, the chair had the grace to keep quiet the whole time.



1   The orig­inal title of this ar­ticle was “that number has been greatly ex­ag­ger­ated by the rightwing (or, where are all the damn lib­eral viral emails and why do I keep get­ting the rightwing ones in­stead? – part 2)” As clever as I may find that, I have learned that such wordi­ness woks against me in ti­tles on the Internet.

2   Wouldn’t it be great if rightwing rumors/bullschidt were like comic books and each one had an “origin issue.” Of course, how many such ori­gins could you read be­fore you tired of hearing about the RNC, Grover Norquist, the Cato In­sti­tute, FoxNews, etc.?

3   I orig­i­nally wrote, “If lucky, we fans will never re­ally know.” Un­for­tu­nately, Clint has ex­plained his speech and its in­spi­ra­tion: a line from Neil Di­a­mond’s also in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­co­herent song, I Am I Said. The line is, “And no one heard at all, not even the chair.”




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