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Global Climate Change Economic Analysis Cage Match: Robin Robert Hansen Misreads Marty Weitzman

Ezra Klein Is Shrill!

He calls his post "Why Oh Why Can't We Have A Better Press Corps?" My work here is done:

Ezra Klein: Why Oh Why Can't We Have A Better Press Corps?: By the way, lets be really clear about what's going on in this Kit Seelye piece: In evaluating a policy debate between two Democratic candidates for president, Seelye went to a right wing think tank (AEI) and asked them to adjudicate. They picked the more conservative plan. Proof!

And the actual reasoning of the piece is, and excuse my intemperance, absolutely idiotic. It's so bad, that I'm betting Seelye misquoted the AEI guy, because think tank employees at least know how to sound rigorous. Here's how Seelye comes to the conclusion that Clinton's plan may cover more people than Obama's: First she says, "Mandates have not worked with auto insurance. While all drivers are required to have it, 15 percent of the nation’s drivers have none, according to the Insurance Research Council."

Then she wanders over to AEI where she hears, "Mr. Obama’s health plan could actually have a better compliance rate. The 15 million who would supposedly be left out equal about 5 percent of the population — a smaller portion than are going without auto insurance, said Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan[!] group."

So start with a fallacious comparison -- health mandates to auto insurance -- and assume perfect equivalency. Then, take the number without auto insurance, so a number from data set X. Then, take the number who'll possibly lack health coverage in Obama's plan, from data set Y. Then compare the two. I almost can't express how ridiculously innumerate the logic is. Suffice to say, Seelye could have called a fucking health care expert and asked what the modeling on the two plans showed. That she instead looked at auto insurance for one number and then health care for another is bad enough. But in evaluating Clinton's plan, she also pretended that the only relevant policy was the mandate -- subsidies, access, employer mandates, etc are all ignored. Probably because she's never read the policy and doesn't know how it works. She is, after all, a campaign reporter, not a policy expert of any type. But as an educated person, working with editors and fact checkers, somebody should have noticed that this would be like me comparing car crashes to bed wetting simply because both are called "accidents."

If I'd read her article on a blog, I'd assume the author a fool and never read it again. Instead, this is in The New York Times.

Paul Krugman points out:

Nonpartisan AEI - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog: I have a lot of problems with this Kit Seelye piece... this takes the cake:

Joseph Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan group.

Is it really possible for a veteran reporter to believe that AEI is nonpartisan? Not even a qualifier, like “right-leaning” or “free-market-oriented”?

I have swung around to the view that in the minds of people like Kit Seelye, "what I believe" or "what would inform the public" are simply not things that they think about; it's all "how can I please my editors?" and "how can I please my sources?"

Which is why intelligent and informed people increasingly rely on intelligent webloggers who have and care about their reputations, rather than on the Kit Seelyes, Tom Friedmans, and Peter Bakers of the world.