Creating Your Own Private Internet Intellectual Elysium

Should-Read: Brad DeLong (2012): Ahem! Niall Ferguson Fire-His-Ass-from-NewsBeast-Now Department: Niall Ferguson writes:

Paul Krugman Is Wrong: In my piece I say: "The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period..."

I very deliberately said “the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA,” not “the ACA.” There is a big difference.

  1. The "But" at the start of the second sentence in the quote tells readers that Obama has violated his pledge—that he promised that the ACA would not increase the deficit, but that it did.
  2. The rest of the second sentence explains how Obama violated his pledge—by including insurance-coverage provisions that have a net cost of nearly 1.2 trillion dollars over 2012-22

A reader who trusted Ferguson--and I hope no such readers will exist by the end of today--would tell you that Ferguson's quote says:

  • Obama pledged that the ACA would not increase the deficit.
  • Obama broke his pledge.
  • The ACA increased the deficit by $1.2 trillion.

Now comes Ferguson to tell us that his "But" at the start of the second sentence in the quote is completely, totally, and deliberately false.

Now comes Ferguson to tell us that he knows damned well that his "but" is a lie to mislead his readers—that it is a false claim that Obama broke his pledge and that the rest of the second sentence will tell us how Obama broke his pledge.

Now comes Ferguson to tell us that he knows that Obama kept his pledge to pay for health care reform.

Noah Smith (2012): Noahpinion: Niall, the British Empire is over. Accept it: "much of the rest of the article is devoted to a hagiography of Paul Ryan...

...which I will not touch on other than to mention that, surprise of surprises, Ferguson utterly ignores the deficit-ballooning aspects of Ryan's budget plan, repeating the-can I call it a lie? pretty please?-mantra that Ryan is a fiscal conservative and deficit-cutter. So basically, what we have here is a pedestrian, poorly written, poorly-thought-out, self-contradictory, often counterfactual anti-Obama screed. But it is not enough for me to simply point this out. Instead, I want to examine why Niall Ferguson has thrown away the ancient Western traditions of logic and reason in a frenzy of partisan animus...

Should-Read: Matthew Yglesias* (2012): Affordable Care Act Denialism Strikes Again: "Another quick point on the Niall Ferguson article I mentioned below...'s a prime example of a syndrome I like to call Affordable Care Act Denialism where people criticize the recent health reform law for not doing things that it absolutely does do:

And then there was health care. No one seriously doubts that the U.S. system needed to be reformed. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 did nothing to address the core defects of the system: the long-run explosion of Medicare costs as the baby boomers retire, the “fee for service” model that drives health-care inflation, the link from employment to insurance that explains why so many Americans lack coverage, and the excessive costs of the liability insurance that our doctors need to protect them from our lawyers...

Should-Read: Scott Lemieux: Hacktacular!: "There are indeed a substantial number of erroneous arguments in Niall Ferguson’s profoundly embarrassing op-ed...

...but I thought I’d focus on this one:

Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.

There are people willing to assert that the only taxes people pay are federal income taxes. There are people who have some business being paid to write essays. And there’s certainly no overlap between these two categories.

I could proceed to talk about his ridiculous claims that the ACA did nothing to address Medicare costs (oddly, the candidate Ferguson favors seems unaware of this), or his foolish assertions about Paul Ryan, but really, after that addressing his argument further would be superfluous. It’s a Renew America column with a marginally larger vocabulary.

Incidentally, Ferguson shows up in Annie Lowrey’s piece about conservative “intellectuals” who are bowled over by Paul Ryan. It seems odd that a transparent fraud like Ryan could get the reputation as some sort of wonk, but when you see what passes for an intellectual in Republican circles it starts to make sense...