[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]
It’s really kind of a tedious thing. Every week or so, liberals come up with another allegedly scientific study declaring that conservatives are stupid, misinformed, psychologically abnormal or something. Today, it comes from an organization I never heard of before, called World Public Opinion. This study is being touted by the spectacularly misinformed TPM as proof that Fox News leaves viewers misinformed.
But the hilarious part is that the authors of the study themselves are misinformed. For instance, their first question is this “is it your impression that most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation: A) created or saved several million jobs, B) saved or created a few jobs, or C) caused job losses.” The first option is marked as correct.
Now first, that is an ambiguous question. Do they mean net or gross? In other words, do they mean the number of jobs “saved or created” numbered in the millions with or without it being offset by the number of jobs lost? Because it is self-evidently true we have lost more jobs than we have gained.
But here’s the funny part. Scroll down to the part where they allegedly prove what is the correct answer and read closely. They offer two pieces of proof of their claim that the first answer is correct. First they say:
“[The] CBO concluded that for the third quarter of 2010, ARRA had “increased the number of full time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 to 5.2 million compared to what those amounts would have been otherwise.”
But there are two problems with that. First, um, we are going to trust the government to estimate the success of the government on this? Really?
Second, that utterly fails to relate to the question, which is whether a majority of economists who studied the question believe this to be the case.
They do a little better with their second piece of evidence:
“Since 2003, the Wall Street Journal has maintained a panel of 55-60 economists which it questions regularly, in an effort to move beyond anecdotal reporting of expert opinion… In March 2010 the panel was asked more broadly about the effect of the ARRA on growth. Seventy-five percent said it was a net positive.”
Which is better, but again doesn’t prove the assertion. First, once again, there is no evidence that this represents the majority of economists. Second, there is no evidence they studied the issue—they could just be shooting their mouths off, or maybe even just trusting the CBO. Third, growth is not the same as creating (or, barf, saving) jobs. And fourth even then all they said was it was a “net positive” which lines up with answer B, not answer A, which they marked as correct.
They don’t fare any better with the next question: “Is it your impression that among economists who have estimated the effect of the health care reform law on the federal budget deficit over the next ten years: a) more think it will not increase the deficit, b) views are evenly divided, and c) more think it will increase the deficit.” Allegedly A is the correct answer.
And once again, they go to the CBO, which everyone knows was manipulated by being required to make assumptions, like that Congress would not pass laws (like the Doc Fix) it ultimately did pass, stating that:
In March 2010 CBO released an estimate of how the then-pending health care legislation would affect the deficit if passed. CBO calculated that the net effect through 2019 would be to reduce the deficit by $124 billion (this figure excludes the education provisions that were also part of the legislation). Beyond 2019, the CBO estimated that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit by roughly 0.5% of GDP.
But not only does that suffer from the same problem of having nothing to do with the opinion of economists who study it, but it’s also contradicted by later reports. For instance in August of this year, the Washington Times wrote:
The [CBO’s] latest projections suggest that the net increase in the deficit attributable to the federal health care law will exceed a quarter-trillion dollars over the next decade.
And meanwhile they don’t even bother to quote the WSJ (why not?), but instead quote from Medicare Trustees:
Regarding Medicare’s contribution to the overall budget deficit, the 2010 annual report of the Boards of Trustees of the Medicare trust funds stated that “The financial status of the HI (Hospital Insurance) trust fund is substantially improved by the lower expenditures and additional tax revenues instituted by the Affordable Care Act. These changes are estimated to postpone the exhaustion of HI trust fund assets from 2017 under the prior law to 2029 under current law and to 2028 under the alternative scenario” (a model that made harsher assumptions). The trustees assessed that overall, “The Affordable Care Act improves the financial outlook for Medicare substantially,” although “the effects of some of the new law’s provisions on Medicare are not known at this time.”
Which not only doesn’t support their assertion in any way, shape or form, but if anything tends to undercut their claims. If Medicare is in better financial shape does that suggest a reduction in spending? It seems to me that the more well-funded a federal program is, the less likely we are to see deficit reduction. Indeed an increase in spending necessarily results in an increase in the deficit unless it is offset by cuts somewhere else.
What this study is, is really a political paper pretending to be a scientific paper. Which shouldn’t be surprising given the list of supporters they have. Its funny how the same people keep turning up.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]