Joachim von Ribbentrop Liveblogs World War II: June 22, 1941
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For the Virtual Green Room: June 22, 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. Republican claims that tax rate cuts invariably raise revenues: Rebutted by Diane Lim Rogers: "Here’s a really nice video interview of Bruce Bartlett.... [C]ertain tax cuts can do a decent job stimulating demand for goods and services in a recessionary economy, and certain tax cuts (usually other kinds) can do a decent job encouraging the supply of productive resources (labor supply and saving) in a full(er)-employment economy. But neither type of tax cut is likely to generate so much demand or so much supply that they pay for themselves (a la Laffer), even over the longer run. And once you get long enough into the longer run, chances are any credit you are giving to the tax cut itself is misplaced..."

  2. Greg Mankiw's claim that Ryan's Medicare plan is like the Affordable Care Act: Rebutted by a really angry Jonathan Chait: "Mankiw's Misleading Defense Of Paul Ryan: Former Bush economic advisor Greg Mankiw, writing in the New York Times, picks up the GOP talking point that Paul Ryan's plan to radically alter Medicare is really a pretty familiar bipartisan idea being blown out of proportion.... [L]iberals, who couldn't pass universal single payer health care, prefer giving people medical coverage through regulated private insurance subsidies than letting them go without coverage at all. That's why liberals support the Affordable Care Act vis a vis the status quo. But that is not the same thing as liberals agreeing that private insurance is better than single payer health care. Thus Mankiw's claim that the ACA demonstrates "agreement about the value of private competition" is clearly false.... Even if liberals did prefer to turn Medicare into a private insurance voucher, they would strongly object to his plan to make the vouchers grossly and increasingly inadequate to the cost of a plan. Likewise, conservatives agree that the rich should pay some taxes, but they would object to making them pay a 98% tax rate. Mankiw's logic would present this objection as hysterical partisanship -- we all agree the rich should pay taxes, so what's the problem?... Mankiw may share Ryan's ideological values and thus have reasons to wish to discredit critics of his program, but he should refrain from misleading people about the criticism."

  3. Republican claims that we can't afford to borrow now to build infrastructure: Rebutted by M.S. at The Economist: "I agree with the "it's insane" analysis offered by Matthew Yglesias of America's refusal to borrow money at historically cheap rates and spend it on infrastructure and other job-generating activities that will need to be undertaken eventually anyway.... [T]echnological change and globalisation have absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment in the construction sector. The people who build things in America will always be Americans, and there haven't been any revolutions in construction technology between 2007 and 2011.... The reason the construction sector is sitting on the couch playing with the Wii instead of out fixing America is that America isn't spending the money to do the fixing. America has a $2 trillion backlog of infrastructure maintenance, according to the Urban Land Institute. With the government able to borrow money at ridiculously low 10-year rates, it seems pretty convincing that we should be borrowing that money and spending it now, both to improve that infrastructure and to get the economy going. (Insert sub-argument: yes, but infrastructure programmes take a long time to get underway. Response: did you or didn't you say this was structural unemployment that will take many years to resolve?)..."

  4. Bernanke's claims that the Federal Reserve has done enough "extraordinary things in order to try to help this economy recovery": Rebutted by Joe Gagnon: "If Bernanke says the “little blip in inflation is temporary and it’s going to go back below target, and he says he’s very unhappy with the unemployment rate, then why isn’t he doing more? It’s really ironic. It’s a self- induced paralysis.”"

  5. RERUN: Republican claims that Medicare ought to be "means tested": Rebutted by Paul van de Water: "Even Greg Mankiw apparently did not realize a point I made in a post last month:  'while Medicare coverage is nearly universal among people age 65 and older and all beneficiaries are eligible for the same services, high-income beneficiaries already pay much more for those benefits'. Citing House Speaker John Boehner’s statement that we 'consider means-testing Medicare', Mankiw outlined the option of raising Medicare premiums for higher-income seniors. But, as I explained, upper-income people already pay higher premiums for Medicare’s Supplementary Medical Insurance (or SMI, the part that pays doctor bills) and the Medicare prescription drug benefit than other beneficiaries do.  High-income taxpayers also pay more for Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI). Policymakers may still want to raise Medicare premiums further.... But, in considering such a step, they need to understand that Medicare is already means-tested..."

  6. RERUN: Claims that out-of-control public program costs are our big health care problem: Rebutted by Austin Frakt: "[John Goodman] wrote 'he Congressional Budget Office has calculated excess cost growth in health care spending after accounting for GDP growth, changes in demographics and the age distribution and other factors. The CBO found that the excess cost growth in Medicare spending from 1975 to 2008 was 2.5 percentage points, on average, each year. Over the same period, the excess cost growth in Medicaid spending was 2 percentage points while the excess cost growth in all other medical spending was 1.8 percentage points.' 'All other' is not just private insurance. It also includes out of pocket spending, even by Medicare beneficiaries, and, crucially, the uninsured. No wonder the rate of increase in spending in that category is so low. It has been pushed down by the growing ranks of the uninsured. Medicare could achieve lower rates of growth too if it failed to cover everyone who is now eligible. It should be clear that this is a terrible set of figures upon which to base a conclusion that private spending has grown at a lower rate than that of public programs. The CBO agrees, writing, 'Consequently, the differences in excess cost growth between Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care spending should not be interpreted as meaning that Medicare or Medicaid is less able to control spending than private insurers'..."

  7. RERUN: 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."

  8. 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..."

  9. 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..."

  10. RERUN: 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..."

  11. 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."

  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: "At one table, a boy offered Romney a $1 bill that he had folded origami-style for good luck. The candidate happily accepted it, but then rifled through his wallet looking for money to give the boy in return. Romney had a $100 bill, but evidently did not want to give that away."