Liveblogging World War II: June 20, 1941
Collapse of the Chicago School: Gary Becker Edition

For the Virtual Green Room: June 20, 2011

Rebuttals to right-wing talking-points misinformation that I want to have at the forefront of my brain--for when I am surprised, as I will be, by an unexpected question from an unexpected direction while talking to reporters, phone callers, passers-by, radio interviewers, cable TV interviewers, etc....

A baker's dozen:

  1. Fake Republican claims that the Affordable Care Act is being waived only for Democratic groups: Rebutted by Harold Pollack: "I’ve corresponded offline with Avik Roy about his column today titled “Obama Administration Says It Will End “Waivers for Favors”.... [H]is column and headline are unfair. GAO performed an actual audit study of this waiver program, finding that it operates as the administration stated it did, granting or refusing waivers based on objective and explicit criteria. One can agree or disagree with this waiver program. I myself find the waivers a distasteful short-term compromise to prevent large immediate rate hikes in plans that offer poor coverage. Still, I think the process has been conducted with integrity under difficult political and administrative circumstances. It’s not right to imply otherwise. But don’t take my word for it. Read Roy’s and Suderman’s columns and then the GAO report, and you decide."

  2. Greg Mankiw's fake claim that Democrats should be supporting the Ryan Plan because it is like the Affordable Care Act: Rebutted by Mark Kleiman: "Is Greg Mankiw really as stupid as he pretends to be?... Hummm … let’s see … that’s a hard one … gimme a second... Maybe – possibly – because subsidized access to the private insurance market is better than nothing but not as good as Medicare? The most valuable lesson economics teaches isn’t a proposition, it’s a question:  ”Compared to what?” Providing subsidized access to the health insurance market to those who had nothing was progress; pushing people who have Medicare back into the insurance market would be regress. No, of course Mankiw isn’t that stupid. He just hopes you are. And this is a senior intellectual adviser to the official “moderate” Republican candidate for President. And a tenured professor at Harvard. Feh."

  3. David Brooks's claim that the housing crash was Fannie Mae's fault: Rebutted by Kevin Drum: "It's absolutely legitimate to be mad as hell at what Fannie did. It's not legitimate, though, to pretend that Fannie was really a motivating force behind the financial crash. The evidence is pretty clear on this point: although Fannie (and Freddie Mac) expanded their share of the mortgage securitization market dramatically in the 80s and 90s, their market share plummeted just as dramatically at exactly the time when the housing bubble really started to take off in 2002. It was mostly the private sector that drove the declining standards in home loans during the bubble, with Fannie and Freddie playing catchup only years later after they had lost a big chunk of market share.... This is important. Fannie and Freddie screwed up badly during the tail end of the housing bubble.... They shouldn't be let off the hook for that. But did they drive the housing bubble? No. Wall Street is desperate for confirmation that they weren't really to blame for the collapse in underwriting standards and the securitization mania that followed in the early aughts, but they shouldn't be allowed to get away with this no matter how many conservative think tanks are in the bag for them..."

  4. Tim Pawlenty's claim that tax cuts pay for themselves: Rebutted by Bruce Bartlett: "[T]he only metric that really matters is revenues as a share of the gross domestic product. By this measure, total federal revenues fell from 19.6 percent of GDP in 1981 to 18.4 percent of GDP by 1989. This suggests that revenues were $66 billion lower in 1989 as a result of Reagan’s policies. This is not surprising given that no one in the Reagan administration ever claimed that his 1981 tax cut would pay for itself or that it did. Reagan economists Bill Niskanen and Martin Anderson have written extensively on this oft-repeated myth. Conservative economist Lawrence Lindsey made a thorough effort to calculate the feedback effect in his 1990 book, The Growth Experiment. He concluded that the behavioral and macroeconomic effects of the 1981 tax cut, resulting from both supply-side and demand-side effects, recouped about a third of the static revenue loss..."

  5. RERUN: Obama's claims to be restoring the rule of law in America:** Rebutted by Jack Balkin: "George W. Bush... sought legal justification for his decision to engage in... torture. Bush wanted above all to be able to deny that he was violating the anti-torture statute and other laws and treaties. So he found a small group of lawyers in the OLC, headed by John Yoo, and asked for their opinions. This short-circuited the usual process.... Obama routed around the OLC, asking for opinions from various lawyers, including the White House Counsel and the Attorney-Advisor for the State Department. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that from the outset Obama was prospecting for opinions that would tell him that his actions were legal, and once he found them, he felt comfortable in rejecting the opinion of the OLC.... By bypassing a careful set of procedures designed to produce careful legal opinions, George W. Bush... was effectively undermining the OLC's function as an honest broker of executive branch opinions. Obama also bypassed this same careful set of procedures by canvassing various lawyers until he found opinions he liked better than the OLC's. If one is disturbed by Bush's misuse of the process for vetting legal questions, one should be equally disturbed by Obama's irregular procedures..."

  6. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch's fake claim that Medicaid coverage is worse than none at all: Rebutted by Judy Solomon: "Studies that appropriately adjust for the fact that Medicaid enrollees tend to be both sick and poor, as well as other factors that can skew results, “have consistently found that Medicaid coverage leads to health improvements,” conclude the authors, who include noted health policy experts Austin Frakt and Uwe Reinhardt. George Washington University professors Leighton Ku and Christine Ferguson also point out that Gottlieb confuses causation and correlation: “Patients often become eligible for Medicaid as a result of being sick,” they write. “It is not that Medicaid enrollment causes ill health, but that ill health leads to Medicaid enrollment.” To be sure, adequate access to physicians — particularly specialists — remains a concern in Medicaid, as a new study notes. But Ku and Ferguson cite abundant evidence that people have much better access to health care when they have Medicaid than when they are uninsured..."

  7. RERUN: Republican claims that the economy does not need more quantitative easing: Rebutted by Joe Gagnon: "QE2 did work.... One element was of moderate importance, one element was of minor importance. The moderate one is that QE2 convinced markets that the Federal Reserve would not allow deflation or a double dip recession to happen.... While QE2 had good effects, it was too timid. A QE3 needs to be bigger than QE2 — you want to signal a larger amount. A trillion dollars sounds like a big number, but it isn’t like a trillion dollar tax cut. All it is is a swap of two different assets. Buying one kind, selling another..."

  8. RERUN: Republican fake claims that the stimulus was too large: Rebutted by former Reagan CEA Chair Martin Feldstein: "As for the "stimulus" package, both its size and structure were inadequate to offset the enormous decline in aggregate demand. The fall in household wealth by the end of 2008 reduced the annual level of consumer spending by more than $500 billion. The drop in home building subtracted another $200 billion from GDP. The total GDP shortfall was therefore more than $700 billion. The Obama stimulus package that started at less than $300 billion in 2009 and reached a maximum of $400 billion in 2010 wouldn't have been big enough to fill the $700 billion annual GDP gap even if every dollar of the stimulus raised GDP by a dollar.... Experience shows that the most cost-effective form of temporary fiscal stimulus is direct government spending.... President Obama allowed the Democratic leadership in Congress to design a hodgepodge package of transfers to state and local governments, increased transfers to individuals, temporary tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, etc. So we got a bigger deficit without economic growth..."

  9. RERUN: Fake Republican claims that discretionary spending has risen by 80% under Obama: Paul Krugman: "Politifact has now updated its work on the claim, universal on the right — and repeated often by Paul Ryan — that discretionary non-defense spending is up 80 percent under Obama. It’s completely false. As anyone who knows how to read federal statistics should have known, the real number — including the stimulus — is 26 percent. And it’s now in the process of falling off. The discretionary spending falsehood is a key part of the claim that Obama has presided over a vast expansion of government; as I’ve tried to explain, the only real area of rapid growth has been in safety net programs that spend more when there is high unemployment..."

  10. RERUN: Douglas Holtz-Eakin's claim that it would be better to default than to pass a clean increase in the debt ceiling: [Rebutted by] Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a top Republican advisor and former CBO director, [who] warned in a panel discussion this week that creditors would not be easily reassured after a default: "The idea that somehow it's a pro-growth strategy to raise interest rates on a permanent basis in the United States is just crazy," he said. "We need to grow at this point more than anything else."

  11. RERUN: Republican claims that Peter Diamond is unqualified to be on the Federal Reserve: Clive Crook: "Peter Diamond's decision to withdraw from contention for a seat on the Fed board is a very low moment in US politics. Diamond is an indisputably brilliant economist with no ideological baggage and highly relevant expertise--contrary to what his GOP critics say, and as he explains in his NYT article. It ought to be shocking, but it no longer is, that a man of his distinction could not get confirmed to the position. At times the US seems a country hell-bent on its own failure."

  12. RERUN: Mitt Romney's claim that we are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy: Buce: "[W]hen Mitt Romney says that we are 'only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy', you'd just have to write it up as an arrogant, insolent, baldfaced lie. Which is pretty much what they are calling it over at Politifact, the Poynter journalistic fact-checker (sourced, ironically, in large measure, to those bomb-throwing insurrectionists at the Heritage Foundation).... [T]he US ranks ninth from the top "freest") out of 179.... None of this is surprising to anyone of even mildly wonky sentiments, a group which clearly includes Romney himself. But here's an extra irony I hadn't noticed before: health care. Namely that every one of those top eight has some kind of universal public health care. And they virtually all get better results than the US has, and at substantially less cost.... I dunno, maybe Romney (who can clearly say anything with the same schoolboy grin) will soon be telling us that Singapore and Hong Kong (and Switzerland, and Denmark, and Canada, and Ireland, and New Zealand, and Australia) are just mired in post-Leninist purgatory. Others might say otherwise: they might say it shows that freedom can be enhanced (even on a Heritage definition) by the right kind of government intervention. Like, say, in Massachusetts..."

  13. SPEAKS FOR ITSELF: Ludwig von Mises: "It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history..."

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