By Denise Tessier
“Cooking the books” is a sizzling charge against anyone. The Albuquerque Journal, via a column by Bloomberg News columnist Megan McArdle, levied that claim Friday against the president. (“Census books cooked to boost Obamacare? ” April 18)
The style of the column was off-putting enough. McArdle referred to herself with the word “I” 18 times over 13 column inches – “I’ve been saying…,” “No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was,” “I just don’t get it.”
Beyond that, and perhaps in part because of that, the premise of the column raised red flags that it might warrant some background checking. The Journal itself had not provided background by way of a news story from which one could gauge the column’s merit.
As stated in her column, McArdle’s piece was a response to The New York Times’ (April 15) report, “Census Survey Revisions Mask Health Law Effects ,” which is worth a read in its entirety to understand what McArdle is railing against.
In her defense, her original column appeared as a blog that not only linked to the Times piece for reference but included whole block-quoted paragraphs from the article that ran in the Times.
As a column atop the Op-Ed page in the Journal, however, there was no news story to refer to, and even the blog-quoted Times’ paragraphs were excised, leaving it strictly as opinion response.
Readers of her blog might have thought McArdle was raising an interesting point about the timing of changes at Census, because it had context, which would give some credence to the provocative premise in its headline, “Is Obama Cooking the Census Books for Obamacare?”
But readers of the Journal were likely left with just the railing part – and saw blame left solely with President Obama. Using essentially the same headline as the blog, the Journal included a sub-headline that offered this summary: “A good way to judge ACA is to look at census data, but the White House has made the information unavailable.”