Before getting to the important stuff, as a member of “the single-payer left”, but also someone sees Obamacare as a substantial step forward, can I just say that I’m delighted to see a resurgence of skepticism among the “lamestream” press over the hysterical claims coming from Obamacare’s entrenched opponents?
First there was Eric Stern’s instant classic, “Inside the FoxNews Lie Machine”, where Stern fact-checked three sets of guests in a Sean Hannity interview. Then a couple of days ago Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post reported a story out of Rome, Georgia on a guy convinced his small business failing was entirely Obama’s fault. (By all means read through the comments section on that one.) Then yesterday we had Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times doing the same thing as Mr. Stern in a piece titled, “Another Obamacare horror story debunked”.
In each case the reporter was simply more professional journalist than “intrepid” or “hard-nosed”. They did nothing too tough, in other words. They just picked up the damn phone, called and asked the subject at hand what was really going on. And in all cases (the Post’s was more subtle) the stories took a dramatic turn from what was being hyperbolized on FoxNews and CNBC. (Remind me sometime to tell you my Maria Bartiromo story.)
Has the Obamacare website roll-out been an inexcusable mess? Yes.
Should Obama have repeatedly added the line, ” … unless the insurance you’ve got is crap and won’t cover a day in the hospital” every time he said, “If you like the insurance you’ve got you can keep it”? In a perfect world where the other side wasn’t telling voters a new health insurance plan was literally going to kill people, yeah, I suppose.
Is the Obamacare website Obamacare itself? No.
And, do the horrifying, tragic stories of hard-working (no doubt small-business owning) Americans being thrown off their beloved insurance plans and forced to buy “government insurance” at usurious rates being told by grandstanding Republican officeholders comport with any kind of reality? I’m thinking … not. Certainly not without ascertaining that apples are not oranges and that the “victims” made even a cursory attempt to help themselves.
So … amid all deflective, retaliatory, post-shutdown hyperventilating by the crowd who has voted 40-plus time to leave those same hard-working small business owners in the clutches of the UnitedHealths and Big Bob’s Robo-Insurance Super Deals of the world, it’s refreshing to see a few, as I say, professionals, do their job and set an example for covering a byzantine issue.
That said …
I developed a kind of addled fascination with this year’s “brand health” listing spit out by YouGov. The news point was that among Republicans FoxNews had fallen out of the Top 10 favorite brands. And by “favorite” You Gov means:
“YouGov BrandIndex’s entire universe of 1,100+ consumer brands were measured with its Index score, the chief measurement of brand health, which combines the average respondent scores for quality, value, general impression, satisfaction, reputation and willingness to recommend. All results were filtered for respondents’ political party affiliation. All respondents were adults 18+.”
There’s a whole post to write about why Republicans are losing faith in FoxNews. (As I said in the comment section, Glenn Beck’s ratings must be spiking.)
But the whole concept of ranking brands based on the criteria listed above fascinated me.
I mean, Craftsman tools? Clorox? Dove soap? WTF? And why is Lowe’s a big deal with Republicans and Independents? (Disclaimer on “independents”: The majority of them eventually vote Republican.) And The History Channel? Huh?
As one of those insufferable dorks inordinately proud of my shopping savvy and my shelf-full of Consumer Reports back issues, I got to thinking about the 10 brands in our consumer wonderland I value most, and why?
I came up with this:
1: Costco … I understand its effect on small liquor, flower and booksellers. But it is a reliably excellent value with superb customer service (have you ever used their Concierge phone service?) and a relaxed in-store atmosphere, thanks no doubt to being staffed with long-term, happy workers. It’s a first-rate big business model. I find it is also a kind of 21st century agora, or Rick’s Cafe. Everybody goes there.
2: Apple … I’m a recent convert, and I kick myself for not switching years earlier. Not only does the hardware run better (and longer without collecting glitches) there is nothing anywhere else on the customer service landscape that compares with the expeditious, patient service provided by AppleCare tech support. A gold standard if there ever was one. And AppleTV … la bomba!
3. Honda … We’re on our second CR-V and third Honda overall. If reliability is a primary criteria, Honda has engineered it in. The vehicles are simple, safe, fuel-efficient and acceptably comfortable. Although I have to say Honda’s dealer service, like all dealers, is absurdly over-priced and to be abandoned the second you’re out of warranty. (Full disclosure: I shopped long and argued hard for a used 6-speed BMW X3, but lost in a 1-to-1 vote with the Mrs.). Damned good lawn mowers and small engines, too. (I drive an Audi — design/interior comfort/immunity to rust/mid-life crisis. It’s my second, and I’m already lusting for a third.)
4: Samsung … Formerly a kneejerk Sony consumer, Samsung’s engineering, design and reliability have won me over in the past half-dozen years. The gamed-up price structure for iPhone service plus my satisfaction with the Android system will keep me attached to Samsung phones for a while longer.
5: The New York Times … Essentially the country is down to one fully-functioning daily print paper — meaning national and international coverage, with the steady addition of handsomely produced web content. Plus it features my old pal David Carr .. and Gail Collins.
6: NPR … I feel everyone’s pain when it comes to their coy treatment (at best) of big business. But in the real world comparison shopping is what makes the call, and NPR, and local affiliates like MPR are so far … far … superior to their commercial competitors … well, I’ve stopped even looking for another source of radio news. (I don’t have satellite radio.) This commendation very much extends to MPR’s pop music channel, The Current, with which I spend as much time as their “news service” … and yeah, yeah, OK I’ll write a check.
7: Bosch/DeWalt/Milwaukee tools … What is with this Craftsman thing? I’ve owned too many Craftsman power tools than were smoldering pieces of slag long before their time. Unless you’re one of those DIY gadget heads who has to have the newest and most lithium-powered gizmo of every kind, pay an extra 25%, get the good stuff and let it last 20 years.
8: Trader Joe’s … Here’s where frozen food is done right. Another place where value blends with imaginative product selection and vibe. I like being in the store.
9: Amazon .. Damn this thing. It works. And it is fast. And it is cheap. Need six half gallons of blood orange juice by Friday?
10: Kevin Drum/”Mother Jones” … Not in the Fortune 500. But the one blogger I read every day. Here’s Drum yesterday on the bogus-ness of Obamacare “rate shock”.
I guess I forgot Dove soap … .