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November 04, 2013

Paul Krugman, on September 8th: The "Wonk Gap" -- the Difference Between Liberal Intellect and Conservative Stupidity -- Blinds the GOP from Realizing There Will Be No "Sticker Shock" At All

Before or after reading this, you might want to review Niall Fergusson's three-part take-down on Paul Krugman -- or, as he calls himself, "Krugtron the Invincible," the latter styling he gave to himself to honor his self-claimed track record of having been wrong only twice in his entire career.

Krugman reserves a special contempt for people who, in his words, "take a position and refuse to alter that position no matter how strongly the evidence refutes it, who continue to insist that they have The Truth despite being wrong again and again." He calls this "derping." The awkward thing for Krugman is that "being wrong again and again" perfectly characterizes his own commentary...

Yes, well. There's a reason for that: He's a narcissistic idiot.

So now let's look back at Krugman talking up "The Wonk Gap," the imagined gulf between progressive and conservative levels of competence.

Erm, he meant that progressives were much more competent and expert at policy matters and predictions about their likely impact.

The Wonk Gap


On Saturday, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming delivered the weekly Republican address. He ignored Syria, presumably because his party is deeply conflicted on the issue. (For the record, so am I.) Instead, he demanded repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “The health care law,” he declared, “has proven to be unpopular, unworkable and unaffordable,” and he predicted “sticker shock” in the months ahead.

What an idiot, huh?

So, another week, another denunciation of Obamacare. Who cares? But Mr. Barrasso’s remarks were actually interesting, although not in the way he intended. You see, all the recent news on health costs has been good. So Mr. Barrasso is predicting sticker shock precisely when serious fears of such a shock are fading fast. Why would he do that?

Well, one likely answer is that he hasn’t heard any of the good news. Think about it: Who would tell him?

My guess, in other words, was that Mr. Barrasso was inadvertently illustrating the widening “wonk gap” — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.

About health reform: Mr. Barrasso was wrong about everything, even the “unpopular” bit, as I’ll explain in a minute. Mainly, however, he was completely missing the story on affordability.

For the truth is that the good news on costs just keeps coming in. There has been a striking slowdown in overall health costs since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, with many experts giving the law at least partial credit. And we now have a good idea what insurance premiums will be once the law goes fully into effect; a comprehensive survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that on average premiums will be significantly lower than those predicted by the Congressional Budget Office when the law was passed.

Um, it was like 16% lower, and that was a reduction from the previously predicted very big premium increases. That is, they lowered their prediction as to how much higher premiums would climb under Obamacare. They were not, as Krugman dishonestly (or perhaps incompetently) implies, predicting a lowering from their pre-Obamacare levels. They changed their prediction as to how much of a sticker shock the public would experience, not that there would be no sticker shock at all.

But do Republican politicians know any of this? Not if they’re listening to conservative “experts,” who have been offering a steady stream of misinformation. All those claims about sticker shock, for example, come from obviously misleading comparisons.


Modern conservatism has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts.

Really? That's odd, because I was just told by a progressive writer named Todd S. Purdum that all of Obamacare's woes were due to a conspiracy of conservative saboteurs.

But I'm sure Krugtron the Invicible will be telling us shortly that that conspiracy-theory-created-to-dismiss-inconvenient-facts is actually a real conspiracy.

It’s all kind of funny, in a way. Unfortunately, however, this runaway cult controls the House, which gives it immense destructive power — the power, for example, to wreak havoc on the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And it’s disturbing to realize that this power rests in the hands of men who, thanks to the wonk gap, quite literally have no idea what they’re doing.

Yes. And speaking of arrogant juvenile ego-monsters who have no idea what they're doing, 33 days post-launch, still doesn't work, and neither do most of the state exchanges.

Let me introduce my own conspiracy theory-- I think that on a day when, as Gabe reports, virtually all outlets are reporting on Sticker Shock, the New York Times instead chooses to "go a different way"... could just be that the New York Times is seeking to spare its alleged "Economics Star Columnist" further humiliation over another huge error.

Furthermore, let me suggest that what Krugtron the Invincible claims the GOP is doing -- cocooning itself so that it doesn't have to confront inconvenient facts -- is the New York Times' key mission today.

In fact, it's the NYT's key mission every day. But check out that huge above-the-fold "Good News About Obamacare, Yay!" headline, and we can at the very least say the NYT is insulating its readers from discomfiting facts at least for today.

Via JammieWF.

digg this
posted by Ace at 11:21 AM

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