Charles Stross: Thinking About the Internet
Changing office hours for April 11, 2012 to W9-11 in 601 Evans

Heaven Mourns Each Day That the Washington Post Is Not Liquidated II: Health Care Cost Estimates Edition

Charles Blahous is… not careful with his work… and plays 110% for Team Republican. The Washington Post's reporter, Lori Montgomery, either doesn't know this or pretends not to know this. We will see if there is any internal pushback from the Ezra Klein insurgency…

Jonathan Chait:

The Bogus Obamacare-Deficit Study: The Washington Post has an apparent blockbuster story today. It reports that a new study finds that Obamacare will increase the budget deficit…. It’s not even remotely legit.

first thing to understand here is that this is not a study by a government agency. It’s a paper by Charles Blahous. Who is Charles Blahous? He’s a Republican policy guy…. [The paper] was published by the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded organization that produces some quality work as well as a fair amount of schlock…. This paper is an example of the latter….

Blahous… relies on a simple conceptual trick…. Blahous assumes that, when the trust fund reaches its expiration, it would automatically cut benefits… [as] the baseline against which [Blahous] measures Obama’s health-care law. He’s assuming that Medicare’s deficits will automatically go away. Therefore, the roughly $500 billion in Medicare savings that Obama used to help cover the uninsured is money that Blahous assumes the government wouldn’t have spent anyway….

That is a completely bizarre assumption. It’s not an assumption that any scoring agency ever applies in other situations. We assume that, in the absence of action, Congress will keep paying Medicare benefits. That’s why we have all these projections of future deficits. If Blahous’s assumptions are right, then we don’t really have an entitlement problem at all. Medicare can’t exceed its trust fund, so problem solved!…

There actually is a bit more in the paper, but it’s even less persuasive. Blahous suggests that Congress might… repeal some of the cost savings…. That’s not a way of saying Obamacare will drive up the deficit, it’s a way of saying that future legislation will drive up the deficit….

Indeed, the whole argument is so bizarrely weak you have to wonder, “What is this doing on the front page of the Washington Post?” Here is what I think is going on. The author of the Post story, Lori Montgomery, is the author of a recent debt-negotiation narrative that seems to have been spoon-fed to her by John Boehner. Montgomery inserts a few cautionary notes into the story, but basically frames it the way Blahous would like…

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?