Some more powerful medications are clearly called for:
Why Friends Don’t Let Friends Cite The Atlantic’s “Business and Economics Editor”: Further to the Megan McArdle is Always Wrong chronicles: McArdle seeks to discredit Elizabeth Warren as a potential leader of the new Consumer Finance Protection Agency to be set up under the just-passed financial reform bill. To do so she tries to impugn both the quality and integrity of Warren’s scholarship, and she does so by a mix of her usual tricks... falsehoods... redacted descriptions... descriptions... that are inflammatory — and clearly wrong, in ways she seems to hope no one will bother to check.... [Y]ou find McArdle doing the respectable-society version of the same approach to argument that Andy Breitbart has just showed us can have such potent effect.
To see what I mean, you have to follow through two steps: how McArdle constructs her picture of a feckless, partisan and dishonest Warren — and then how she generalizes from it.... I’m going to focus on just one example where McArdle asks us to believe that her argument is strong and supported by the literature — without quite fessing up to what her supporting material actually says. As part of her sustained campaign to deny the significance of medical bankruptcy in the US, she writes,
A pretty convincing paper argues that the single best predictor of bankruptcy is simply how much debt you’ve accumulated–not income, job loss, divorce, or what have you. People who declare bankruptcy tend to have nicer stuff than others at the same income level.
The problem here is that the paper does not actually say quite what McArdle implies it does. She’s mastered here the trick Sally Field played in Absence of Malice — she’s managed to come up with a sentence that is accurate... but not truthful.... UC Davis finance prof, Ning Zhu... [writes] ”households with medical conditions are twice more likely to file for bankruptcy (33.5 percent) than households that do not have medical conditions (14.8 percent)...” And this: “Having medical problems increases the households’ filing probability by 7.6 percent and one standard deviation of increase in employment tenure is associated with an increase of 9.2 percent in the filing probability. Such changes represent 48.40 and 58.60 percent deviation from the baseline probability...” And this “our results provide qualitative support for both the adverse event and the over-consumption/strategic filing explanations.”
To be fair Zhu concludes that overconsumption — spending too much on housing, cars and credit cards account for more of the total burden of bankruptcy than medical events, divorce or unemployment, as McArdle wrote. But as McArdle completely failed to acknowledge, Zhu does so while using somewhat more stringent standard for counting medical expenses as a factor in bankruptcy than other scholars.... In other words: McArdle correctly describes one conclusion of this paper in a way that yields for its readers a false conclusion about what the paper itself actually says. And look what that false impression implies: if medical bankruptcy is a trivial problem, society-wide, then Warren can be shown to be both a sloppy scholar and, as McArdle more or less explicitly says, a dishonest one as well....
[W]hat we read in McArdle here is a genteel excursion into Andrew Breitbart territory... she misleads by contraction, by the omission of necessary context, by simply making stuff up.... And like Breitbart, she does so... first is simply to damage Elizabeth Warren as an individual, to harm her career prospects. Hence ad hominem stuff like this:
Her work gets so much attention because it comes from a Harvard professor. And this isn’t Harvard caliber material–not even Harvard undergraduate.
Which neatly sets up this punch line:
..this woman is now under consideration to head a powerful new agency. If this is how she evaluates data, then isn’t that going to hamper her in making good policy?...
McArdle is much more housebroken than many of her fellow travelers of course. She knows which fork to use (or perhaps better, that particular ocean margin from which the right people secure their salt). People who would not dream of taking Breitbart seriously still quote McArdle as a seemingly respectable source.... Caveat Lector.