Show Me the Numbers; or, My Response to “Tim”

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Health Care, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Introduction: I started to write an answer to a comment, then when it got a bit long I decided to turn it into a post. I am responding to a comment from Tim, which turns out to have been copied and pasted wholesale from Vox Populi. But here’s my response, addressing Tim:

Tim, there’s much here you don’t seem to understand. Let me see if I can explain it to you in plain English.

First, some background: Congressional Budget Office analysis of the badly named “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010” (PPACA), probably known to you as “Obamacare,” said it would REDUCE the federal deficit by $143 billion over ten years. I am providing a link to the CBO analysis so you can read this for yourself: I don’t have time to write a Cliff’s Notes summary or you to show you where the savings come from, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are as capable of reading and understanding it as I am.

Just don’t try to argue with me about this until you have read the analysis. I will know.

Also note that “That’s stupid; everybody knows it’s going to raise the deficit” is not an argument. You have to provide reasons and data to show that the points made in the analysis are wrong. And I require links to show where you are getting your data. Otherwise, you don’t have an argument. On this blog, you don’t get away with pulling some data out of your ass and make me do the work of figuring out where you got it so I can refute it. (See “debating rules for rightwingers,” item #8.)

You write, “The CBO’s revised estimate for health care reform, which does NOT include the Medicare fix, is $1,055 billion.” Obviously, there is a discrepancy between what you say and what the actual report, to which I linked, actually says. I couldn’t find the figure “$1,055 billion” in the actual CBO report anywhere.

And the Medicare fix is not included in the CBO analysis because the Medicare fix is an entirely separate issue from the PPACA. The Medicare fix issue has been with us for several years and is the result of legislation passed back in 1997, and it will not go away if “Obamacare” is repealed. I’ll come back to this point later in this post.

Now, the House Republicans have written a stupidly named bill called the “Repealing the Job Killing Health Care Law Act” — notice the link; you can see for yurself the title is about as long as the bill.

The CBO figures that repealing health care reform would ADD $230 billion to the deficit over ten years and result in 32 million fewer people having health insurance by 2021. Such a deal. You can read that report for yourself also, if you like.

House Speaker John Beohner dismissed the CBO analysis as “their opinion.” But in order to get you tools budget-conscious conservatives to support repeal, Republicans had to concoct their own analysis to show the opposite of what the CBO analyses show.

So, somehow, Republicans calculated that the CBO got it backward, and that PPACA would add to the deficit and repealing it would reduce the deficit. Several people, not just Krugman, have written that Republicans do this in part by claiming costs for the PPACA that are not in the PPACA.

And frankly, I have to take their word on this, because I’ve been all over the web looking for a Republican analysis that spells out costs and savings in the same way the CBO analysis does, and I can’t find it. So I can’t say for sure how they crunched their numbers. If you know where it is, send me a link.

Please note that a list of unsupported claims is not the same thing as an analysis. As my math teachers used to say, you gotta show the work.

But note also that House Republicans have decided to exempt the repeal bill from their own rule that any increase in spending be offset by cuts in other programs. This suggests to me they know good and well they are lying.

What Krugman is saying here is that the Republican analysis is a crock that adds items as “cost” that don’t have anything to do with PPACA and which are going to happen whether PPACA is repealed or not. For example, he says, Republicans have added the cost of the annual Medicare “doc fix” to the cost of PPACA, which is an issue entirely outside of PPACA.

Then, you write, “Krugman is assuming that the Medicare fix is as inevitable as a mortgage payment. . . . the possibility that doctors might elect not to see Medicare patients hardly makes increasing Medicare payments a necessity.”

First, you should be aware that in dismissing the Medicare fix issue, you are arguing AGAINST the Republican analysis. Krugman is saying that REPUBLICANS claim the Medicare fix as an inevitable cost of the PPACA, and they’re putting that into the secret analysis I can’t find to argue that “Obamacare” is too expensive.

But here’s what you’re not getting — the bleeping Medicare reimbursement rate shortfall was NOT CAUSED BY THE PPACA AND WILL STILL BE DRAINING MONEY OUT OF THE BUDGET IF PPACA IS REPEALED. That was Krugman’s point.

Righties have insinuated elsewhere that by repealing PPACA they’d be saving the “doc fix” costs, but they won’t, because the ‘doc fix” issue was caused by legislation passed back in 1997 and will not be affected if PPACA is repealed. I’ve written about this, um, prevarication in the past. See:

How the Game Is Played
Die Quickly for the GOP’ or, Righties Still Can’t Read

By the same token, if Congress wants to stop issuing the annual Medicare doc “fix” and allow physician reimbursement rates to drop by 23 percent, or more, they wouldn’t have to repeal “Obamacare” to do that, because it’s bleeping not in “Obamacare.”

So, essentially, your entire argument not only misses Krugman’s point, it also misses the point of GOP propaganda arguments. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t assume you are as capable of reading CBO analyses as I am.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Candide  •  Jan 17, 2011 @8:46 pm

    At the end of the day, I expect that the Republicans will not actually pass a bill to repeal the PPACA, but rather to “improve” it by, for example, taking all patients with serious pre-existing conditions and putting them on Medicare, Medicaid, or something similar, so as to protect insurance company profits, which of course benefits us, the little people, thanks to trickle-down economics. And if Congress does pass such an outrageous pro-industry bill, I expect Obama to sign it, in the name of “non-partisanship.”

  2. maha  •  Jan 17, 2011 @9:13 pm

    taking all patients with serious pre-existing conditions and putting them on Medicare, Medicaid, or something similar, so as to protect insurance company profits

    That would be horrendously expensive for taxpayers and the federal budget. Not that the GOP would put taxpayers ahead of corporate profits, of course.

  3. biggerbox  •  Jan 17, 2011 @10:11 pm

    I’m not sure what makes me sadder, that Tim’s comment was so stupid, or that, since he copied it from Vox Populi, he was borrowing someone else’s stupidity. I knew things were bad when he started with “Krugman’s column is based upon three assertions. Number one, that the large divergence in the cost of a mortgage versus an inexpensive dinner is comparable to the cost of future fixes versus the total cost of health care reform,” which completely misses the analogy at the heart of Krugman’s column.

    Do you suppose Tim actually read Krugman himself? I mean, PK writes pretty clearly for an economist, and it’s clear that his point was that a dinner out and his mortgage payment have NOTHING TO DO with each other, not that the ratio of their costs is somehow comparable to some other ratio randomly pulled out of an orifice somewhere.

    However, I did quite enjoy the bit where he advances the argument that the GOP isn’t a bunch of hard-hearted moralists because if they were, they would just not spend the money required for the doc fix, but instead are trying to count it as part of the cost of health care reform. Which of course they are trying to kill! So funny I laughed out loud. What really made that special was the rapid pirouette to accusing KRUGMAN of logical incoherence, with the special fillip of a drive-by claim that Medicare is unconstitutional.

  4. maha  •  Jan 17, 2011 @10:29 pm

    Do you suppose Tim actually read Krugman himself? I mean, PK writes pretty clearly for an economist, and it’s clear that his point was that a dinner out and his mortgage payment have NOTHING TO DO with each other, not that the ratio of their costs is somehow comparable to some other ratio randomly pulled out of an orifice somewhere.

    I keep saying that righties have the reading comprehension skills of refrigerator mold. But it’s like there’s something missing in their brains.

    You may have seen the link to the rightie debating rules, which are brilliant. But essentially all the rules are strategies for avoiding debate, or to appear to be debating without actually offering arguments. But it’s exactly what they do, and I think they honestly don’t know better.

  5. Swami  •  Jan 17, 2011 @10:48 pm

    Timmy should spend less time being a cut and paste artist and devote a little more time studying the preamble to the Constitution. To “promote the general welfare” is a fairly encompassing responsibility of government and I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss as unconstitutional any acts of Congress (like medicare) that promote the general welfare.

  6. Pat  •  Jan 18, 2011 @12:03 am

    I am loving this one. Good job.

    Also note that “That’s stupid; everybody knows it’s going to raise the deficit” is not an argument. You have to provide reasons and data to show that the points made in the analysis are wrong.

    Many kudos for that one. I spoke with an ostensibly sharp friend who’s had much success writing software and managing the development effort the other night when out fo the blue he expressed concern over both politicians and the teachers unions here in CA….claiming that the teachers pension takes “what? 30-35% of the budget.” Truth was that education comprises approximately that % of the budget and the teachers fund most of their pension.

    As my math teachers used to say, you gotta show the work

    Having taken years of analysis, a branch of math by which formal proof is used to prove the principles of calculus, we had a term for this. We called it “hand-waving” by which an ill-prepared student who’d not done his/her homework would try to bluff their way through part of a proof that they themselves did not understand in its entirety.

    Great care must be taken with the truth. Let’s hope others take the care you do. This is not some silly game. Integrity and respect for truth is required. Those who bluff do not deserve serious recognition.

  7. Swami  •  Jan 18, 2011 @2:06 am

    and it’s clear that his point was that a dinner out and his mortgage payment have NOTHING TO DO with each other,

    Exactly!
    Krugman was using a variant of the old question: Do you go to school, or by bus?

  8. LarryE  •  Jan 18, 2011 @3:24 am

    Just wanted the say thanks for the link – especially when one of the rules could be applied in context!

  9. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 18, 2011 @8:58 am

    Poor Tim.
    Spanked in public. Maha went through your idiocy like a slim-jim does a car door, Tim.

    I went to Vox Populi a couple of times years ago, and thought of it as more FOX Poop’s and Lies. Haven’t been back.

    Somehow, I don’t expect to hear back from Tim.

    PS: Maha, thanks for the rules link. LOL. I think it’s a pretty comprehensive list.

  10. Felicity  •  Jan 18, 2011 @2:05 pm

    maha – there’s nothing “missing in their brains.” What’s in their brains (and perhaps in Tim’s brain) is if there are any changes in the health-care system as it existed prior to HCR, I will lose my health insurance. It’s always been said of conservatives that they have a built-in fear of change of any kind – good, bad, indifferent, refuted by any facts – makes no difference, it’s always bad.

  11. Virginia  •  Jan 18, 2011 @2:55 pm

    Of course these people don’t know anything about taxes either, even though that is what they are always complaining about. Ask one of them to explain how marginal tax rates work and be surprised if you get a coherent answer.

  12. erinyes  •  Jan 18, 2011 @7:17 pm

    TIMMAH!!



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