The brazenness of the Obama administration never ceases to amaze. Try typing "Obamacare" into Google, and you'll find that the first entry is now the Obama administration's www.healthcare.gov. If you don't particularly like that result, you'll probably hate the fact that you're paying for it.
You'll get the same paid-for result if you type in "Obamacare facts," "Obamacare summary," "Obamacare info," "Obamacare overview," "Obamacare questions," "Obamacare explanation," "Obamacare basics," "Obamacare pros and cons," "Obamacare and elderly," and even "Obamacare and abortion." For each of these search terms, and many others, the Obama administration's site comes up first, as a paid entry. But it doesn’t come up if you type in "ObamaCare repeal."
Politico's Ben Smith, in a post entitled "HHS Buys 'ObamaCare,'" quotes an official from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who confirms that this clear attempt to influence what Americans read about Obamacare does, indeed, represent your tax dollars at work: "'We are using a bunch of search term[s] to help point people to HealthCare.gov. [It's] [p]art of our online efforts to help get accurate information to people about the new law (i.e. [we] also use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and webcasts),' an HHS official confirmed by e-mail."
The "accurate information" that Americans will glean about the massive health care overhaul from this HHS website is of the same sort that President Obama has supplied all along -- such as that Obamacare would lower health costs (only 17 percent of Americans believe this), increase the quality of care (only 22 percent believe this), and reduce deficits (only 17 percent believe this).
You won't find anything on the HHS site about how the Medicare chief actuary projects that Obamacare would bend the cost curve upward by $311 billion by 2019 in relation to costs in the absence of Obamacare; about how the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that, by 2016, in the non-group market, the average American family's health care premiums under Obamacare would increase by $2,100 per year in relation to what those premiums would be without Obamacare; about how the CBO projects that Obamacare would cost over $2 trillion in its real first decade (2014 to 2023) alone; or about how the administration's internal ("midrange") estimates are that more than half of all employer-provided health plans wouldn't be grandfathered in under Obamacare – and that, therefore, if you like your health care, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get to keep your health care.
For that sort of information, you'll have to consult sites that – because they don't use taxpayer dollars to pay Google to list them first – appear somewhat lower in the pecking order.
Using taxpayers' money to alter the results of search engines and to control the flow of information is disturbing on multiple levels. It's particularly disturbing when it's done to promote a massive expansion of government power, like Obamacare. And one wonders how – or if – it's even legal.
Perhaps the new House of Representatives will want to ask the unelected Secretary Sebelius to explain how, or why, she thinks such use of taxpayers' money to promote a particular -- and highly unpopular -- political agenda is legally or substantively justifiable.
UPDATE: As alert readers have discovered, the Obama administration is paying Bing with taxpayer money as well -- at least for "Obamacare," "Obamacare info," and "Obamacare overview."
UPDATE II: (January 4, 4:00 PM EST) Interestingly, the Obama administration now appears to have pulled its ad on Google -- or perhaps Google made the decision to quit running it. But the administration's paid entry still comes up first if you search for "Obamacare" through Bing, and it also comes up first (after "Stories") if you search through Yahoo! (On Yahoo!, "Obamacare and elderly," "Obamacare and abortion," and the like, also show up as paid entries.) In fact, when the playing field is evened -- that is, when the administration isn't using taxpayers' money to channel people to its site -- then www.healthcare.gov doesn't even crack the first 50 pages of Google's listings for "Obamacare."