CNBC's Harwood Claims Public Doesn't Know Enough about Obamacare

CNBC “Squawk Box” co-hosts Joe Kernen and Becky Quick understand public opposition to Obamacare. Unfortunately, their colleague John Harwood, who covers Washington, D.C. for the network, doesn’t.


On Jan. 22, Harwood appeared on the program to give a status report on the current version of health care reform being negotiated in Congress and what it means in the aftermath of Scott Brown’s filibuster-proof busting election victory in Massachusetts on Jan. 20. Kernen suggested that the health care bill might have been forced through if not Brown’s election and the public fervor it revealed.


“I think it’s unbelievable that it would have gone through and they would have definitely jammed it through if this weird, serendipitous seat hadn’t opened up and if there hadn’t been a special election, 17 percent of the economy – based on what they wanted to do, based on what these elected officials wanted to do, against what the public wants – they would have just rammed it through, either way,” Kernen said.


Harwood interjected saying the public doesn’t know what’s in the reform package, which led Kernen to call out Washington correspondent for “talking down to the public:”


HARWOOD: Well, actually what you just said – against what the public wants.

KERNEN: If you can’t figure out at this point that the public didn’t want this, John. Come on.

HARWOOD: Joe, how much do you think the public knows about what’s in this health stuff.

KERNEN: Don’t start talking down to the public – the public doesn’t know what’s in there again, John.

HARWOOD: They don’t.

KERNEN: Well, if they don’t, it’s because it wasn’t done in an open setting and nobody knows what’s in it because it was all done behind closed doors.

HARWOOD: Joe, that is ridiculous.


Kernen reacted in disbelief suggested Harwood needed a little coffee to wake him up. However, Harwood – speaking more like he was rambling liberal talking points – claimed there was a disinformation campaign out there contaminating the public’s judgment. Although Harwood did admit most members of Congress were also ignorant on health care.


KERNEN: Have you had any coffee brewing there? Can you just take a little smell and wake up. Is there anyone brewing coffee in Washington for you?

HARWOOD: Joe, here is what the public knows about health, then we can talk about the bank regulations if you want. What the public knows about health care is that there’s this – we got a big deficit, 10 percent unemployment. They’re talking about this health care plan and they’ve heard some stuff on television that maybe they’re taxes are going to go up and maybe they can’t pick their own doctor and maybe their quality of care is going to erode. As to what’s actually in the bill, nobody has a clue. Most of the members of Congress don’t know what’s in the bill.

KERNEN: No one wants that much government involvement in – in, in that sector, John.

HARWOOD: Well look – [crosstalk] Do Americans want health care costs to be controlled? Do they?

KERNEN: Well that’s not in the bill anyway.

HARWOOD: We don’t know what will control health care costs. You and I have talked about this before, but the idea is that people who understand health policy think might work are in fact in this bill. OK – that’s first. Secondly, do Americans want people who don’t have insurance to have it?


Quick jumped in and suggested ignorance wasn’t the issue, but the public’s unwillingness to pay for it.


BECKY QUICK: It’s minimum funding. Yeah, they do but they don’t want to pay for it. I think there’s a lot of confusion when you start getting into some of the details.

HARWOOD: Guys, we’re talking about what makes this difficult, OK? It’s not easy to make change in American politics.

KERNEN: This is going back to square one, John. We’re going to go back in a bipartisan way and make sure that you can’t deny a person because of a pre-existing condition, cover a few more people, try and get costs under control, maybe get rid of the antitrust provision for insurance companies. That’s the best you’re gonna get.


Later, Quick admitted there were problems with the American health care system, butcalled the bill “overreaching.”


“It’s a broad, overreaching plan,” Quick said. “You could probably get people to say, ‘Yes, we need to get health care costs under control. John, you’re talking about something that people don’t understand. You said it yourself, Congress doesn’t even know what’s in this bill. I don’t know what’s in this bill and I’ve spent a lot of time in the details.”


Harwood showed his disbelief and asked Quick how she could possibly call the bill overreaching if she didn’t understand it. She replied that that was exactly the problem.


“Yes, it’s overreaching because it’s – there is so much stuff in it that we can’t even spread out what happens and what doesn’t. I can tell you about 15 different things that really bother me about the bill,” Quick said. “Would I like to see health care costs under control? Yes. Would I like to see more people covered? Yes. But, I think how you get there is impossible to bring both sides together to try and figure out.”