“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 healthcare.gov, 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 healthcare.gov job.”
And today in his Fact Checker column (“How much did HealthCare.gov 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 healthcare.gov 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 . . .
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.”