Thursday, August 23, 2012

Niall Ferguson Finally Renders Me Speechless

Kevin Drum writes Niall Ferguson Finally Renders Me Speechless. Ferguson and Krugman apparently debate in the lastest issue of Newsweek and Ferguson says the opposite of the truth, Krugman calls him on it and Ferguson says no he's technically right.

"Seriously? That's it? By accounting only for the costs of ACA — that would be the insurance provisions — and not for any of the savings, Ferguson concludes that ACA increases the deficit? And then uses the CBO to back up his claim?

I'm speechless. How do you even react to something like this? Ferguson is like some clever middle schooler who thinks he's made a terrifically shrewd point by inserting 'insurance coverage provisions' into his sentence so that he can later argue that it's technically correct if anyone calls him on it. You can almost hear the adolescent tittering in the background.

For the rest of us, the facts are simple: Covering 30 million people does indeed cost money, and Obamacare includes a number of offsetting savings to pay for that. This is what Obama promised to do: to pay for ACA. And CBO says he did. 'Altogether,' says their report, the various provisions of PPACA are 'estimated to increase direct spending by $604 billion and to increase revenues by $813 billion over the 2012–2021 period.' That's a net deficit reduction of $210 billion."

Ezra Klein has more, The worst case against the Obama administration. " I actually can’t recall running into a piece in which the argument is so carefully written as to mislead the reader without, in most cases, being entirely untrue."

He goes on to point out that Ferguson has made a number of wrong predictions in the last few years, that interest rates will go up, inflation will go up, the chinese will stop buy US debt.

"If Ferguson’s theory had passed its previous tests and we had evidence that the debt is what’s holding back our economy, perhaps that would be a reasonable prediction. But Ferguson’s theory failed its previous tests, and there’s no evidence that debt is what’s holding back our economy right now. Which is one more thing Ferguson never tells you.

And this is really a rather important point about the current crisis. There is a strain of thinking that argued, from the beginning, that Obama’s policies would fail because the required borrowing would send interest rates soaring. Ferguson was a member of this club, but so was the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which warned, back in May 2009, that the bond vigilantes “appear to be returning with a vengeance now that Congress and the Federal Reserve have flooded the world with dollars to beat the recession.”

It is no surprise that most of the folks who bought into this theory were early and enthusiastic backers of Paul Ryan. After all, he bought into this theory, too, and his initial budgets included deep, quick cuts. More so than any other politician, he translated this theory into legislation. But the theory’s primary predictions proved wrong. That has not, however, had any reputational impact on the people who believed those predictions, and their champion is now on the GOP’s presidential ticket, but neither he nor his backers appear to have rethought any element of their critique or of their program."

So how could Newsweek publish such falsehoods (okay, lies)? Well they don't have fact checkers. "Krugman is correct — the magazine, like many others, does not have a fact-checking department. "We, like other news organisations today, rely on our writers to submit factually accurate material," Newsweek spokesman Andrew Kirk told POLITICO."

Ta-Nehisi Coates points out The Atlantic does extensive fact-checking (though I'm not so sure on Megan McArdle). "When I arrived at The Atlantic in 2008, I was subjected to arguably the most thorough fact-checking procedure in all of popular publishing. That meant submitting an annotated version of the story with all sources cited, turning over all my notes, transcripts or audio, and the names and numbers of each of my sources, all of whom were called to confirm the veracity of my quotes. When I freelanced for The New Yorker, it was pretty much the same deal and the same level of scrutiny. (I think The New Yorker actually pioneered this particular version of fact-check.)"

And Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic provides A Full Fact-Check of Niall Ferguson's Very Bad Argument Against Obama.

And Krugman comments on being wrong and on the NY Times fact-checking policies in Kinds Of Wrong.

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