Patterico's Pontifications

5/1/2011

WaPo’s faulty “fact-check” of RyanCare

Filed under: General — Karl @ 8:03 am



[Posted by Karl]

Washington Post “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler awards Rep. Paul Ryan two Pinocchios for statements like this:

There’s a lot of misinformation about what we are proposing and what we are not proposing. We’re saying: Save Medicare by reforming it for people who are 54 and below by working like a system just like members of Congress and federal employees have.

To claim that Ryan is misleading people about his plan, Kessler takes a page from the Politifact playbook, converting differences of opinion into factual disputes.

What’s Kessler’s beef?

Under a 1997 law, the government pays a set rate of 75 percent of the costs of the health plans selected by federal employees and members of Congress. The employee (and members of Congress) pick up the other 25 percent.

Ryan, in his quote, said the new Medicare would be “working like a system just like members of Congress and federal employees have.” But the comparison begins to break down once you consider the premium support payments. Ryan would peg the premium support to the consumer price index, a broad gauge that has been rising more slowly than have health care costs.

The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan arm of Congress, analyzed Ryan’s plan and estimated that by 2030, the government would pay just 32 percent of the health care costs, less than half of what the federal plan currently pays. The other 68 percent of the plan would have to be shouldered by the retiree. (The CBO estimated that if traditional Medicare stayed in place, the government would pay 70 to 75 percent of the costs.)

The CBO analysis also assumed that adding private insurance plans into the mix would raise administrative costs and would not keep medical inflation as low as traditional Medicare has done.

Kessler, in his role as “fact-checker” ought to understand that CBO estimates and assumption are not facts — they are estimates and assumptions. They are debatable:

Ryan disputes these assumptions. “We believe — based on experience — the competitive elements of patient-centered reform will exert downward pressure on the cost of a private plan, and that therefore the government’s share of the tab will be higher,” said Conor Sweeney, a spokesman for Ryan.

Sweeney said that the CBO overestimated the cost of adding a prescription drug plan to Medicare by 40 percent because its models underestimate the impact of competition and incentives. A recent study published by the Commonwealth Fund backs up this assertion, citing three examples, including the prescription drug plan, in which the CBO underestimated the savings from reforms.

“The agency has difficulty addressing the impact of multi­ple changes made simultaneously without historical precedent where there is an interaction effect among proposed changes,” wrote analyst Jon R. Gabel.

Kessler responds to the inherent uncertainties of projecting how complex policies play out this way:

Of course, some might argue that it is better for the official congressional scorekeeper to be conservative in its estimates, allowing for a pleasant surprise in the future, rather than leaving taxpayers with an unexpected bill.

At this point, Kessler is not checking facts or even assessing projections, but giving an argument about how the CBO ought to score policy. Moreover, Kessler’s argument does not account for how the CBO actually scores policy. For example, the CBO puts out an alternative fscal scenario, which most understand is more realistic than the budget projections it makes under the rules dictated by Congress. One might argue that the CBO frequently underestimates the cost of government entitlements and the savings to be achieved by more market-oriented approaches. But that’s an argument, not fact-checking.

In contrast, in assessing a January 2011 Congressional debate, here’s what the stalwart fact-checker had to say about the CBO numbers on ObamaCare:

In many ways, the focus on the numbers is silly. The CBO has a respectable track record, but CBO’s numbers are based on models, and models can be flawed. No one really knows exactly what the impact of legislative changes will be ten years from now, let alone how population growth, economic growth or other factors ultimately will affect the bottom line. It would be more logical to offer a range, but CBO is expected to produce an actual number.

Nevertheless, after downplaying the certainty of CBO’s numbers, Kessler later opined on GOP complaints about ObamaCare’s cost:

Dig beneath the numbers and Boehner and his Republican co-horts have a point that the figures are suspect. But this is a game that both parties have played, and crocodile tears now should not obscure the many times Republicans have resorted to the same tactics in the past. The CBO number is the playing field that both sides use. And Democrats (of whom Weiner is just one example) should not be perfoming such tricks with the numbers either.

There is something to be said for having a common playing field. However, the excessive gaming of CBO estimates to sell legislation will lead to a poisonous political process and likely to bad policy. As bad as it is for Kessler to confuse CBO estimates with facts, it is far worse when Congress does it.

Kessler ultimately gives away the game on CBO estimates of ObamaCare’s cost at the end of the January post:

The tenuous nature of these estimates makes it silly and counter productive to assert that the health care legislation ever was considered a deficit-reduction bill in the first place. It was a law designed to reduce the number of uninsured Americans and (with a little luck) rein in medical costs. Politicians should not pretend otherwise.

Of course, the entire Democratic establishment, from Pres. Obama on down, plus most of the media did pretend ObamaCare would reduce the deficit… and many still do. If you’re wondering whether the WaPo fact-checker addressed Democrats’ claims about ObamaCare before it was passed, wonder no longer: the WaPo fact-checker blog was on hiatus from the last day of the 2008 election campaign through January 9, 2011. Apparently, when the federal government is run entirely by a supermajority of Democrats, there is no need for fact-checking.

–Karl

50 Responses to “WaPo’s faulty “fact-check” of RyanCare”

  1. Is this a serious article? “He’s using an estimate of the future, which hasn’t happened yet, so he obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” So you obviously don’t know what you are talking about either, no?

    come on! (533ab8)

  2. Was #1 a serious comment?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  3. No he was just talking with obama’s sack in his mouth.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  4. Their desire to fact check seems dependent on the party they like. Karl does an excellent job showing how they scrap their alleged standards so they can make their political case. Come on is a joke and apparently incapable of reading.

    JD (b98cae)

  5. They say lefty godsend FDR covered up the attack on pearl harbor and rounded up the japanese to make himself look good.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  6. They say it, but it ain’t so. It’s been investigated every which way, and it’s about as certain as anything in American history that this just did not happen.

    One reason the rumour spread so wide was that he was unable to disprove it without releasing classified information in wartime. One of the greatest moments in American politics was when Wilkie was all set to campaign on this issue and FDR asked him not to go there, for reasons he was unable to disclose, and Wilkie promptly complied, without complaint and without demanding a private briefing. That would never happen today.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  7. Well i’am hearing something on the history channel saying that it is true.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  8. Well what I should have said he didn’t stop Japan from attacking Pearl Harbor.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  9. No, you shouldn’t have said it because it isn’t true. He couldn’t have stopped it because he didn’t know about it in advance, despite the rumours that circulated at the time, and despite anything the history channel may have told you.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  10. Who said, “If you like your health plan, you can keep it”?

    Arizona Bob (aa856e)

  11. Hitler was a national socialist which is similar to communism and wanted world dominance like the ultra-lefturd that they are.

    BTW Baracktard Obamalinsky if you want your vacation you can keep it permanently.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  12. “He couldn’t have stopped it because he didn’t know about it in advance”

    Milhouse – He may not have been able to stop the specific attack on Pearl Harbor, but our policies with respect to Japan in the Far East led directly to their attack on us.

    Back to the topic of the post.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  13. Amen not only that Hitler and his national commie socialist party attacked us thanks to our attacks on japan.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  14. Because they and japan were allies.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  15. Glenn Kessler was an ignorant fool on the middle east, so logically they moved him over to economic
    policy

    narciso (79ddc3)

  16. Redundant.

    Still agree.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  17. “We don’t mean to pick on Ryan, since this line is clearly from a set of GOP talking points, but he is the author of the plan.”

    TRANSLATED: We meant to pick on the GOP, since we all know “talking points” are an exclusively Republican phenomenon.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c19ffd)

  18. Only leftys would complain about talking points without a hint of irony.

    These people gravitate towards cheap lefty jews[pardon the redundancy] like Bernie Madoff.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  19. Brother Bradley! I love how their standards evolve, depending on their target. Did you like Rutten’s column where his is crying about no longer controlling The Narrative?

    JD (29e1cd)

  20. JD their tears are what keeps me hydrated.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  21. Main article.

    angeleno (2ffd38)

  22. _________________________________________

    They say lefty godsend FDR covered up the attack on pearl harbor

    I don’t know about that, but when it comes to a phrase that I think fits so many liberals to a “T” (ie, “limousine liberalism”—and one does not have to be wealthy to be guilty of that type of phony, two-faced behavior), I’m reminded of examples like the following:

    Taxhistory.org:

    Tax Analysts has recently acquired from the National Archives copies of the tax returns that Roosevelt filed between 1913 and 1937. And as a group, they reveal something striking: Roosevelt — a vicious and moralistic scourge of tax avoiders everywhere — had a penchant for minimizing his own taxes.

    Throughout his 12 years in office, Roosevelt was a frequent critic of Americans who tried to avoid taxes, even using legal means. “Mr. Justice Holmes said, ‘Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society,'” Roosevelt told Congress in 1937. “Too many individuals, however, want the civilization at a discount.”

    But Roosevelt’s tax returns reveal him to be something of a hypocrite. At various points, both before and after his election to the White House, he indulged in the sort of tax avoidance that he claimed to find so objectionable.

    During his first term in office, FDR repeatedly claimed that he was exempt from the high tax rates on personal income that Congress had enacted — and Roosevelt had approved — in the revenue acts of 1934 and 1935.

    ^ And that type of “do as I say, not what I do” reaction is evident in the healthcare debate. In particular, the pro-Democrat-Party, left-leaning unions, among other organizations, that have requested to be opted out of ObamaCare and received Obama’s blessings.

    Mark (411533)

  23. Is that gal a writer for think regress, angeleno? Ironically, her leftist bibble babble is based on the same type of flawed assumptions that Karl references above.

    JD (318f81)

  24. I can’t believe I saw the terms “WaPo” and “fact” in the same sentence.

    Dave Surls (9fcad1)

  25. ‘That word you’re using Dave, doesn’t mean what you think it does’

    narciso (79ddc3)

  26. angeleno @22 – That WaPo article is so funny stuff. How does a $1.35 trillion Bush tax cut turn into a $7 trillion debt problem? Answer – Using unrevised Clinton static CBO models. How do we know the two wars were financed with borrowing? We don’t. It could have been other spending that was financed with borrowing.

    Sweet, sweet, partisan journalism.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  27. angeleno @22 – The increase in spending after Democrats took over Congress in 2006 and the $1 trillion increase in baseline spending since Barcky took office? Not worth mentioning at all!

    Was that a serious article?

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  28. Did you like Rutten’s column where his is crying about no longer controlling The Narrative?

    I’ll give it a read after I’ve had a few drinks.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c775f8)

  29. Obama is ghetto trash he burned through all our cash

    there’s no getting way from it

    Ryan’s a superstar his plan will help fix the car

    bumble left for dead in ditch

    happyfeet (760ba3)

  30. Daleyrocks – those were the over-exuberant growth assumptions prior to the dot com bubble bursting that allowed them to predict future surpluses, no?

    JD (29e1cd)

  31. Bro Bradley – you had best reach for the strong stuff.

    JD (d48c3b)

  32. Crappyfeet is a sexist prick

    He deserves a dropkick.

    Not only that his mom was a dick.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  33. Sarah Palin can’t be an evergreen victimy martyr Mr. Biden without the good offices of people like yours truly

    you should bake me something tasty

    happyfeet (760ba3)

  34. colonel read somewhere
    that FDR was Harvard
    cheerleader snicker

    ColonelHaiku (cdd0f9)

  35. “Daleyrocks – those were the over-exuberant growth assumptions prior to the dot com bubble bursting that allowed them to predict future surpluses, no?”

    JD – Sure, so you compare fake future number with actual numbers to come up with fake increase = solid liberal analysis. Good enough for government work.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  36. Reading about the pathetic performance of Kessler & Co. is more discouraging than normal, since yesterday our regional Society of Professional Journalists convention was held in San Diego. Great speakers (and a not-so-treat speaker, moi), along great insight in how to be fast and accurate. If only we’d practiced what we preached . . .

    SPJ National President Hagit Limor gave an excellent talk. Her appearance was more newsworthy than originally anticipated, because she was in Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck.

    Here’s the first part of a video I made of her talk. She was interviewed by Dean Nelson, a journalism prof at Point Loma Nazarene University.

    And here’s the second part of her talk.


    Here’s the third part
    of Limor’s talk.

    And the fourth part of her talk.

    Stuff like this that gives me something to aspire to helps motivate me. It’s not all negative in journalism land.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c775f8)

  37. we have nothing to
    fear but back handsprings gone wrong
    and Hirohito

    ColonelHaiku (cdd0f9)

  38. I apologize for the amateur quality of the video, but no one else was recording Limor’s talk. . .

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c775f8)

  39. Stuff like this that gives me something to aspire to helps motivate me. It’s not all negative in journalism land.

    Ugggggggh . . . need more coffeeeekeeeeee…. mind not workinhg . . .

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (c775f8)

  40. RE : FDR & Pearl Harbor. Although we had “broken” the Japanese codes, that fact was so important that the warnings that were sent prior to Pearl Harbor cauld not be too explicit or the Japanese would realize that we were reading their mail. Also, Japan’s ally, Germany, might consider the possibility that their codes were also compromised. The advantages of “Magic” and “Enigma” to the Allied cause were so great that the information obtained about both Coventry and Pearl Harbor could not be used. When Marshall made a personal appeal, Wilke steered clear of the Pearl Harbor controversy.

    Michael M. Keohane (4e0dda)

  41. One reason the rumour spread so wide was that he was unable to disprove it without releasing classified information in wartime. One of the greatest moments in American politics was when Wilkie was all set to campaign on this issue and FDR asked him not to go there, for reasons he was unable to disclose, and Wilkie promptly complied, without complaint and without demanding a private briefing. That would never happen today.

    I’m a little confused. If memory serves, Willkie ran against Roosevelt in 1940. Pearl Harbor happened in 1941.

    angeleno (2ffd38)

  42. come on (1),

    The difference you missed is that I’m not pretending to know the future. And I’m not pretending that CBO estimates are facts that can be “checked” like the sunrise. Kessler is doing those things… but only to the extent it boosts the Left. When it comes to estimates of ObamaCare, it’s clear that Kessler (a) doesn’t care about estimates; and (b) doesn’t care that the Left relied on estimates that most consider unrealistic (if you check the link to alternative fiscal scenario, you’ll see why).

    Karl (385513)

  43. Another problem that I didn’t even get into:

    CBO assumes that Medicare, unchanged, would pick up 75% of costs.

    How realistic is that assumption 20 years out?

    Karl (385513)

  44. Angelino remembers Wilkie?! That explains some things.

    Mek (d63e61)

  45. My Bad, Angeleno. It was Thomas Dewey who was about to “break” the Pearl Harbor story that George Marshal persuaded, in the “national interest,” to remain silent. Forgot to fact check.

    Michael M. Keohane (4e0dda)

  46. Comment by Mark — 5/1/2011 @ 10:42 am

    At least FDR wasn’t so gauche as to claim a deduction for giving his drawers to charity (or did he, and that’s where they got the idea?).

    AD-RtR/OS! (4eede7)

  47. Willkie ran again in 1944, but bombed in the primaries.

    Milhouse (2e50ab)

  48. Oh my god millhouse you said he bombed in the primary you want to assassinate people who disagree with you with bombs.

    /sarcasm off

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  49. Turns out it indeed was Dewey. The exchange of letters between Dewey and George Marshall was published in the Dec. 17, 1945 issue of Life (an issue with a very fetching picture of Paulette Goddard on the cover).

    angeleno (2ffd38)


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