Sunday, August 26, 2012

How Conservatives Win Arguments – Niall Ferguson Calls Fact Checking by Paul Krugman ‘Nit Picking’

It’s Okay, If Conservatives Had to Recognize Facts They Would Never Win a Discussion

At one time in U. S. history news magazines like Newsweek and Time were regarded as a reliable source of hard news.  In fact that’s why they called them news magazines.  Lately though they have joined the rest of the degradation of news, publishing puff pieces, writing extensively on entertainment and fashion and in some cases just making things up. 

Case in point is a lead article in Newsweek by Niall Ferguson.  Here is a summary of the problem by Paul Krugman.

There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek — I guess they don’t do fact-checking — but this is the one that jumped out at me. Ferguson says:

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.

Okay, that is a pretty damning fact, one that is certainly newsworthy in this election season.  Or would be if it were true.

Readers are no doubt meant to interpret this as saying that CBO found that the Act will increase the deficit. But anyone who actually read, or even skimmed, the CBO report (pdf) knows that it found that the ACA would reduce, not increase, the deficit — because the insurance subsidies were fully paid for.

Now, people on the right like to argue that the CBO was wrong. But that’s not the argument Ferguson is making — he is deliberately misleading readers, conveying the impression that the CBO had actually rejected Obama’s claim that health reform is deficit-neutral, when in fact the opposite is true.

Oh darn, that is a problem isn’t it.  But Newsweek has a response, and here it is.

In an in-house interview yesterday, Newsweek executive editor Justine Rosenthal said Ferguson's controversial and heavily criticized cover story about President Obama was an opinion piece and did not reflect the opinions of Newsweek.

"This is not the opinion of Newsweek, this is the opinion of Niall Ferguson," Rosenthal said.

And that’s an almost acceptable response, because obviously writing without factual support is opinion.  But then there is this.

The interview was posted around the time Ferguson posted his own rebuttal to Krugman. Ferguson responded to other critics this morning, standing by his work and dismissing they're (sic) fact-checking as "nit-picking."

Yep, requiring a position to be supported by facts rather than being counter factual is ‘nit picking’.  Well nits are the eggs of head lice, and we all think it is fair to say that people like Mr. Ferguson are infected with lice.  After all there has to be some explanation of their warped thinking.

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