Friday, November 5, 2010

Eugene Robinson Is An Idiot

His argument is that the GOP was only able to make Nancy Pelosi an issue because she was so effective a speaker. No, Mr. Robinson, they were able to make her an issue because she so effectively pushed through legislation that the American people did not want.

Pelosi did what was right for the country, and what's right isn't always what's popular.

Well, that's the problem, Mr. Robinson. You think what she did was right for the country. A lot of people don't. Moreover, that's why she's able to be painted as some effete liberal whose out of touch -- because she is. And so are you, which is why you feel for her.


Alan Howe said...

I'll bite. What was the legislation she pushed through that Americans did not want?

I don't think you can convincingly argue health care reform as Americans were split over it before the vote (see link) and are more positive about it since. And, health care reform alone would not seem to support your argument.

I think the election results speak to the findings of the Bloomberg poll below and Americans' continued failure to vote in non-presidential year elections.

FLG said...


There are more strongly opposed to health care, and I think that's a big part of it.

Also, on the economic front, I agree some people may have the facts wrong about short term effects of the policies, but for many it's about the overall trajectory of government spending. Those more focused on the long-term more closely resemble Ricardian Equivalence.

Alan Howe said...

I don't think the subjects of the Bloomberg survey have accurate readings of economic futures since their understanding of the current situation, upon which those readings would be based, are fundamentally flawed (i.e. up is down, left is right).

Boehner did not correct those misconceptions during the campaign season. Now that he is going to "listen to the people" do you suppose he is also going to educate them?

Alan Howe said...

Seven weeks before the election, four out of five Americans (81%) thought the CBO had concluded that the Health Care Reform will increase the budget deficit. Four out of five Americans have not been listening or have been successfully misled.

I shout again, Epistemology Matters!

Anonymous said...

Per health care:

"Why did Obama put his health plan so far ahead of the economy? To do what the Clintons couldn't? His rush to do it sparked a broad resistance that has only spread since the bill was passed. The public sensed that healthcare was a victory for Obama, and maybe for the Democrats, but not for the country—and contrary to Democratic hopes, public support for the measure has continued to drop to as low as 34 percent in some polls. A significant majority, some 58 percent, now wish to repeal the entire bill, according to likely voters questioned in a late October poll by Rasmussen." - Obama voter Mort Zuckerman.

Mrs. P

Alan Howe said...

Again, some misleading on health care reform is evident.

"But those who suggest — mainly for partisan reasons — that healthcare reform is like a ball and chain around the legs of Democratic candidates just aren’t acknowledging the nuances in the poll results."


Anonymous said...

Per Obama's nuances:

"As political analyst Charlie Cook put it: "Every month, every week, every day that Washington seemed focused on healthcare instead of the economy frightened people. It seemed out of touch." It also seemed tone-deaf to the public's concern with unemployment, the cost of government, and the sense that America was declining in its ability to compete in the world. It made Obama's behavior seem as if he headed the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party in Congress, particularly when he allowed the major policies of his presidency to be written not by his cabinet or the White House staff but by the congressional leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Then he accepted the lopsided bills that emerged and the political corruption that accompanied them—the very processes he condemned during his campaign and that are so much distrusted by a broad section of the American public. Eighty-five percent of Americans were concerned about the cost of healthcare, but the administration focused on extending coverage.

"The open purchasing of votes through the provision of special exemptions for five states and for unions, and concessions to many of the special interests
in the Democratic Party, especially trial lawyers, symbolized the corruption of our politics. The 2009 omnibus spending bill alone contained 8,570 special earmarks like those that had so enraged the American public in the past. When lawmakers had no time to even read the bills, it gave the impression that what was important was passing anything, no matter how ineffectual. Obama had promised he would change "politics as usual." He changed it all right, but for the worse. The list of his additional programs only provoked the public's distaste for big government, big spending, and big deficits.

"Today the polls indicate that the president has reached a point where a majority of Americans have no confidence, or just some, that he will make the right decisions for the country. There isn't a single critical problem on which the president has a positive rating."
- Mortimer Zuckerman, Obamavoter.

Mrs. P

Alan Howe said...

A perfect example of someone misleading the American public. Note he describes American fears about the cost of health care while doing nothing to correct them. Nowhere does he point out that the CBO found that the reform bill decreases the deficit by about $130B over the next decade and by the same amount each year after that. Rather, Zuckerman endorses that fear and, by extension, that ignorance.

I'll ask again: Do you suppose John Boehner will do the same (as he has been), or will he start leveling with his followers?

Alan Howe said...

Reality intrudes. The Republican pledge to "repeal and replace" health care reform is violated less than a week after voters endorsed their position. The idea that they could repeal the legislation was always a fantasy, but they encouraged people to believe it nonetheless.

FLG said...


"CBO found that the reform bill decreases the deficit by about $130B over the next decade and by the same amount each year after that."

That's true, but the CBO has to take the law as written. And there are some provisions, ones that are crucial to the budget numbers, that are very unlikely to hold up in reality. So, just because the CBO says it will doesn't mean that's the most likely real outcome.

Alan Howe said...

Of course, a future Congress could attempt to pass legislation that guts the revenue and savings side of the reform, taking away the positive effects on the deficit. However, which party would attempt that? How would they accomplish that? I have some trouble imagining that happening, so I am inclined to accept the CBO evaluation of the law as it stands today. A CBO evaluation of changes that reduce the deficit reduction I hope will attract more attention than their legitimate evaluation of the current reform.

FLG said...


This isn't "congress has the power to change the law. Therefore, it is within the realm of possibility."

No, this is there are things in this bill that were specifically put in to make the CBO score look good, but are unrealistic.

Why are they unrealistic? Because they deal with Medicare, and old people vote like nobody's business. So, yes, I think either party has a high likelihood of gutting the "savings."

Alan Howe said...

They would have to gut the savings by changing the law as far as I can see.

And, I don't think the CBO is quite that easily duped. They are rather experienced in rooting out misleading legislation. That's their job, after all.

And, I'm still not finding support here for your original argument. The folks who seem "out of touch" are those who don't understand the legislation (a majority I think I have proven), not Pelosi and the people who voted with her. Note, for example, that Chuck Grassley and others who claimed "death panels" could be found in health care reform, have not offered up a single amendment to remove those panels. Grassley, and those he led on this track, are out of touch with reality. So, too, are those who thought Republicans meant repeal and replace when they said, "repeal and replace."

FLG said...


This all goes back to time horizons.

No, there are no death panels in the bill. But that's not the point. The point is that the legislation leads us down a road that very well could lead to something like death panels. Whether it is in this particular bill or not isn't really the point. Yes, as a fact, it's not in the bill.

But if you lay down on railroad tracks to take a nap, and I say a train will come through, you can factually say, "I don't see one right now." That's a fact, but not a relevant one.

As far as the CBO goes, they have to score the legislation as written. So, if the congress puts some provision about magical cost savings or revenue increases ten years from now, then they have to score that. They don't make judgments about whether those cost savings will actually materialize.

Anyway, your point seems to be, let's look at what is definitive and tangible right now. That means no death panels and a budget deficit reduction. I'm saying limiting to empirical facts places undue emphasis on the short-term and neglects many things that incentives indicate will occur in the future. Things like undermining the cost reductions and maybe death panels, regardless of the actual bill passed.

Alan Howe said...

Your time horizons argument seems a naked attempt to say "my vision of the future is the only one that counts because I refuse to accept that you even have a vision of the future." It is bunk and a remarkably ironic position for a conservative to hold.

But, more important, your final paragraph says that besides empirical facts, we also must worry about bogeymen. It expresses a fear of the future that I can reconcile with a conservative viewpoint, but not one that I can reconcile with a privileged long-term view.

Death panels could come, without regard to foregoing legislation, if death panel advocates were to successfully pass such legislation. I do not understand, however, why people think bleeding heart liberals will write that into law. That fear is about equal to fear of bogeymen.

(Tone surely sounds more antagonistic than I intend as I expect you know.)

Alpheus said...

Alan: Those of us who fear "death panels" believe that they're already implied by the current bill. When the government undertakes to control prices without constraining costs or reducing demand, it's going to mean a shortage, and that shortage will lead to rationing, and rationing in the case of government-regulated health care means the government deciding who gets to live and who has to die.

I'd really like to hear a coherent liberal answer to this argument that doesn't amount to: "well, resources are always scarce." That's true, and it's tragic, but it's not a reason to (a) exacerbate the problem and (b)get the state into the business of deciding who's more and less worthy of continued life and health.

Alan Howe said...

Alpheus, "the state" that is, we, in our social contract, already have decided through social security, medicare, medicaid, SCHIP, and rules that prohibit the refusal of service at emergency rooms, among a host of other legislation, who is "worthy of continued life and health."

The reform means less rationing as insurance companies can no longer protect their profit margin by denying coverage contracted and paid for by the insured. And, why should we anticipate a shortage? Knowing that an additional 30 million Americans will soon have medical insurance ought to inspire some doctors or would-be doctors with an entrepreneurial spirit, wouldn't you guess? Doesn't demand for service spur supply? Or should we imagine the supply is fixed and rationing a certainty?

The Ancient said...

1) It's not a question of whether CBO was duped or not. That's never the question with regard to these long-term projections (which, in any event, are seldom worth the paper they're printed on). The question is whether or not CBO "behaves" in a way that is acceptable to the leadership. To see that this happens -- particularly with regard to out-year numbers -- there is a long, sorry history of confecting imaginary savings to be achieved by one thing or another that will not work, never happen, or be swamped by something else not as yet foreseen. This has nothing to do with health care and everything to do with long-term budgetary forecasts. They are nearly always simply worthless -- except as a political war dance meant to gather up the necessary votes.

2) Nancy Pelosi is the most hated figure in American political life. She's toxic. She's the Democrats' own Yoko Ono. If the Democrats had any sense at all, they'd replace her with Steny Hoyer or someone else further down the line who would be appealing to the majority of Americans, particularly Independents. Fortunately for the Republicans, that's not happening.

The Ancient said...

The reform means less rationing as insurance companies can no longer protect their profit margin by denying coverage contracted and paid for by the insured.

That's not a fact or even an analysis -- it's a prediction.

My prediction is that insurance company profit margins will stay essentially the same or even increase.

Alan, if you know some online gaming site where you and I can each wager $1000 on our respective predictions, I'm in.

The Ancient said...

And I agree with Alpheus -- I don't want to see "the state" drawn further into "the business of deciding who's more and less worthy of continued life and health."

All the wrong sort of people work for that part of "the state."

It's never going to affect me except through my tax burden, but I hate to see others tossed by the side of the road because some idiot who sleeps in Takoma Park thinks they're unworthy of medical treatment when compared to some more politically attractive class of "the needy."

Alan Howe said...

Ancient: Yes, predictions are always suspect, but why is the CBO's more so than others? I contend it is less suspect. Is there a study that examines CBO projections and actual outcomes compared to some other prognosticator that is not favorable to the CBO?

I did not predict insurance profits will decrease, I merely noted that the law prohibits denying coverage as they have done in the interest of protecting profits. That practice ends unless they choose to break the law. That is, indeed, a fact.

Who is being tossed aside and by whom? Bleeding heart liberals are the culprit in this? I'll need an example.

Finally, could not find a source to confirm your comments about Pelosi. I found this link:

What source are you looking at?

The Ancient said...

1) Regarding Pelosi, here's a recent example:

The poll shows that Republicans have succeeded in making a lightning of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Likely voters view Ms. Pelosi unfavorably by a two-to-one margin. Among independents, just 8 percent view the Speaker positively, compared to 61 percent who view her negatively.

2) My point about CBO was that it's no better than anyone else at doing long-term projections. Nobody seems to do it well; and one of CBO's special problems in that regard -- in addition to all the problems that beset everyone else doing projections -- is that is obliged to include patent fictions.

3) As for who winds up on the snowbank as a result of rationing, I don't want those decisions made through bureaucratic discretion. I accept that health care is already rationed by various means, as well as by wealth and income. But there is a great difference between programs (and rules) that operate more or less universally (Social Security, say, or emergency room admissions requirements) and programs that allow rationing choices to be made for reasons that are fundamentally discretionary, arbitrary, and even politically subjective. It's not that I think were going to have a small army of health care bureaucrats trained by Peter Singer. But discretion promotes corruption, not efficiency. And corruption comes in a wide variety of flavors.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at all this discussion of the *CBO* saying Obamacare is going to save us money. Short term memory is clearing in short supply. Have we forgotten how right after the *historic* vote that has delightfully put an untimely death to the careers of what 62? House Dems HHS Sec. Sebeius issued a negative report on the costs of healthc care and has basically adopted the posish of "we don't know how much it will cost?" By the by, the *historic* vote this past week put the lie to the notion death panels aren't in the health care.

The *problem* with projecting the cost of Ocare is simple - it's cheaper not to comply than to comply with the unconstitutional mandate be it a person, family or an employer. It will cost companies less to pay the fine for no longer offering their employees health care than it will to offer them health care. Most private sector employees will lose their health care and be dumped into the public system. A family of 4 will have to come up with an additional $14,000 (current estimate) if they want coverage. Since these are the types that usually see the value in having health insurance - you know the hard working types as opposed to those in entitlement land or 26 year old children still expecting Mom and Pop to take care of them - they'll want health care as it's something they've always had -but and this but is bigger than Michelle Obama's- will they be able to afford $14 grand a year for insurance? In our own specific case - no. So thank you Dems. and if this is not struck down by the Supreme Court or repealed I will probably never vote for a Democrat all my remaining days which thanks to the rationing that will *have* to be a part of OCare is much shorter than previously expected.


Anonymous said...

But if that is not enough for Mr. Howe to see he's in delusional land about the *real* costs of health care and continue harping on the old science of CBO numbers, maybe the recent assessment by Medicare's Chief Actuary will drop the scales from his eyes - the guy wasn't duped by the legislation as written - Ancient you'll like this as it backs up your points:

But then comes the report's final appendix, where Mr. Foster disowns the previous 280-odd pages. Mr. Foster has been Medicare's chief actuary for 15 years, and as such he is required to evaluate the law as written. But as he notes in his appendix, the law as written bears little if any relation to the real world—and thus, he says, the trustee estimates "do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range . . . or the long range." In an unprecedented move, he directs readers to a separate "alternative scenario" that his office drew up using more realistic assumptions.

Mr. Foster shows that the Medicare "cuts" that Democrats wrote into ObamaCare exist only on paper and were written so they could pretend to reduce the deficit and perform the miracles the trustees dutifully outlined. With the exception of cuts in Medicare Advantage, those reductions will never happen in practice.

One of the fictions Mr. Foster highlights is the 30% cut in physician payments over the next three years that Democrats have already promised to disallow. Republicans would do the same, we hasten to add.

Another chunk of ObamaCare "savings" are due to cranking down Medicare's price controls for hospitals and other providers that Mr. Foster says are also "extremely unlikely to occur." In the absence of "substantial and transformational changes in health-care practices"—in other words, a productivity revolution in medicine that has never happened—costs will simply rise for private patients, or hospitals will refuse to treat seniors insured by Medicare. Congress will never allow that to happen either.

In other words, under ObamaCare the "cost curve" will not be bent as the White House has advertised.

Under his more plausible outlook, Mr. Foster notes that Medicare's share of the economy will rise 60% between now and 2040, while under the trustees report that Democrats are crowing about it would "only" rise by 35%. Didn't President Obama tell us that health-care reform is entitlement reform?

Politicians have deliberately written the ObamaCare rules, as they have for all entitlements, so the real costs are disguised and hard for taxpayers to figure out. During the ObamaCare debate, Mr. Foster was honest enough from his Medicare perch to expose the plan's true costs, and his new Medicare demarche continues this public service. He ought to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, or at least some media attention. But in Barack Obama's Washington, his honesty will be rewarded with obscurity.


Anonymous said...

As for the John Boehner crack:

"I'll ask again: Do you suppose John Boehner will do the same (as he has been), or will he start leveling with his followers?"

John Boehner has pledged to do what the *people* want - not followers. If he does not come through on his pledge - he'll be fired.

As far as leveling with the people - I hope he holds hearing after hearing up on Capitol Hill with HHS Sebelius and he or one of his minions just randomly opens a page of the bill and asks her to explain what it means exactly. Just explain what the page means. And do this day after day with page after page and doing so will educate the American people on the bill NAncy Pelosi famoulsy opined that we needed to pass to learn what is in it.

Oh, and just for the record, the $100,000 reard for proof of Tea Parties calling the Black Congressional Caucus still remains unclaimed to date.

Oh and yes the tone of this entire comment was meant to be read in a dismissive manner.

Mrs. P

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.