Crowdsourcing the "Virtual Green Room"...
Possible Double-Dip Watch

For the Virtual Green Room: May 30, 2011

Things 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. On the Republican claim that Obama has increased nondefense discretionary spending by 80%: Paul Krugman: "The number comes from taking nondefense discretionary spending as reported — which rose 26 percent from 2008 to 2010 (Table 8.7) — and then adding the entire discretionary spending part of the stimulus.... [N]ot all of the stimulus funds were spent in 2010... [and] stimulus spending is already in those discretionary spending numbers. So this GOP talking point is a complete fraud; it’s based on counting the same spending several times over." This is not a mistake you can make by accident.

  2. On Peter Wallison's claim that Fannie and Freddie caused the financial crisis: Mike Konczal: "The conservative talking point: half of all subprime and other high-risk mortgages were held by the GSEs!... This zombie argument finally got fully dismembered by Center for American Progress’ David Min.... Wallison and Pinto... [make] up a confusing definition of “subprime-like."... The fun part of making up your own definition is that it can be whatever you want it to be.... The three-card monte trick is pretty straightforward once you know where to watch. There’s a lot of statements that go: “Fannie and Freddie made a lot of subprime loans and other high-risk mortgages. And subprime loans had a 25% default rate!” And you naturally assume that the other high-risk loans must also have a gigantic default rate compared to regular mortgages. Except they don’t..."

  3. On Senator John Barraso's (R-WY) claim that Don Berwick is Obama's health care rationing czar: Newt Gingrich: "Don Berwick at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement has worked for years to spread the word that the same systematic approach to quality control that has worked so well in manufacturing could create a dramatically safer, less expensive and more effective system of health and health care..."

  4. On Tim Pawlenty's claim that ObamaCare has added to the national debt: Igor Volsky and Pat Garofalo: "According to the Congressional Budget Office, enacting the Affordable Care Act 'will produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $143 billion over the 2010-2019 period'. Similarly, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) concluded that Medicare spending will decline $86.4 billion and that by 2019, it is projected to grow 7.7 percent—0.9 percentage point more slowly than if the law had not passed..."

  5. On Tim Pawlenty's claim that President Obama is setting up this false choice between default and raising the debt ceiling: Pawlenty claims "you can take away that false choice by ordering the Treasury to pay the obligations to outside creditors first..." Failing to pay people inside the United States to whom the U.S. government owes money has a name, Tim. It's name is "default." It's not an alternative to default, it's a type of default.

  6. On the claim that all approaches to curbing Medicare spending are unproven: Matthew Yglesias: "[T]he world has a lot of examples of health care systems that are more "statist" than Americans... the "statist" approach does in fact succeed in pushing costs down lower than what we experience in the United States.... [R]elatively "non-statist" approaches like the one they use in Switzerland lead to higher than normal costs for Europe... the "super-statist" approach of the United Kingdom leads to extremely low costs. Last, right inside the United States of America we conveniently have a single-payer health insurance system for senior citizens, and a more market-oriented one for non-seniors. And guess what? Medicare is cheaper. The administrative overhead is lower, and the unit cost of services rendered is also lower. The argument against a statist approach that needs to be taken at least somewhat seriously is the idea that statist approaches make health spending too low..."

  7. RERUN: On Mitt Romney's claim that uncertainty about government policy hobbles the recovery: Will Wilkinson: "The principal themes of Mitt Romney's speech here in Des Moines earlier this afternoon were that America's economy remains a wreck because Barack Obama's a rank amateur whose woeful inexperience, ignorance of the requirements of a robust economy, and faintly un-American taste for the public-policy fashions in Europe, has created a climate of economic uncertainty that has retarded recovery." One more time: uncertainty about government policy shows itself in: (a) businesses who say they are unusually worried about government regulation, (b) investors who are willing to pay unusually high prices for insurance against inflation, and (c) savers who demand unusually high rates of return before they will lend. We see none of these things right now--what we see is a simple shortage of aggregate demand.

  8. RERUN: On Glenn Hubbard's claim that Obama has "ruled out long-term entitlement spending restraint": Nancy Ann Min De Parle: "[T]he tools in the Affordable Care Act and other steps... already taken will save nearly $120 billion for Medicare over the next five yearss.... While we’ve made real and significant progress, there is more work to do... the President’s framework... includes reforms that would save at least an additional $200 billion for Medicare over the next decade. The framework would: (i) Bend the long-term cost curve by setting a more ambitious target of holding Medicare cost growth per beneficiary to GDP per capita plus 0.5 percent beginning in 2018, through strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). (ii) Reduce Medicare’s excessive spending on prescription drugs and lower premiums for beneficiaries without shifting costs to seniors or privatizing Medicare..."

  9. RERUN: On Joe Nocera's claim that Democrats should not scorn Paul Ryan: "While the Democratic Party might be well served in trying to use the Ryan plan to bury their political opponents, the country itself is not. The debate we need is not about whether Medicare should be reformed, but how.... It would be nice if we could treat the Ryan plan not as an object of derision but as a launching-off point for a serious debate..." It would have been nice if Paul Ryan had proposed a Medicare plan that could be a launching off point for a serious debate--the Medicare reforms in the Affordable Care Act are such a launching-off point. The problem is that Ryan didn't: instead, he proposed something that is rightly an object of derision. That's not a problem with the Democrats. That's a problem with Paul Ryan and the Republicans.

  10. RERUN: On Stephen Moore's claim that "in reality" the Democrats are proposing a 62% top income tax rate: Moore's op-ed is simply not reality-based. There is no such proposal for a 62% marginal top income tax rate, not from any Democratic office holder or advisor. Moore claims that "in the late 1980s, the U.S. was nearly the lowest taxed nation in the world, and a quarter century later we're nearly the highest." The U.S. today has a smaller tax share of GDP than every single other G-7 nation. The reason that the U.S. collects a larger share of taxes from the rich is that our incomes today are much more skewed toward the rich than those of other G-7 nations.

  11. RERUN: On the Wall Street Journal's editorial claim that "the regulatory tax on Americans is now larger than the income tax": The WSJ editorial board writes: "so-called independent agencies like the Federal Reserve... were a perfect 0 for 17 in failing to estimate costs as well as benefits [of regulation]..." Are they seriously claiming that the Federal Reserve has overregulated financial markets over the past decade because it hasn't been writing bureaucratic reports explicitly enumerating and comparing costs and benefits?

  12. RERUN: On Republican opposition to raising the debt ceiling: Right-leaning Clive Crook: "Tea Party true believers may be salivating.... Shutting down the government [by blocking the debt-ceiling increase is a button [Republicans] dare not press.... To do it in 2011, with the economy laid low and financial markets still twitchy, would be the limit of irresponsibility. It would be betting the recovery to make a point. This time, political annihilation might follow, and the party would deserve it..."

  13. SPEAKS FOR ITSELF: Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: The presentation [Republican whip Kevin] McCarthy and other top Republicans are giving to [Republican congressional] lawmakers is stunningly simple and illustrates just how unfamiliar House Republicans are with governing. On presentation slides viewed by POLITICO, McCarthy and other House leaders are using colored, flag-laden charts to show how much debt China and other nations hold. They are explaining to the members how Congress has raised the debt ceiling in the past — including as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and Democrats’ stimulus bill. Pushing back on conservative discontent, they are showing that both the conservative Republican Study Committee’s budget and the House Republican budget call for a hike in the debt ceiling. They have a slide explaining why California GOP Rep. Tom McClintock and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s plan to prioritize debt payments won’t work — although they don’t mention the lawmakers by name...