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A trip inside Richard Cohen's head.

• "Instead of treating CBO estimates like the Ten Commandments, we should treat them like the informed wild guesses they actually are."

Basic facts: They're important.

• Speaking of basic facts, I'd like to see Martin Feldstein's response to this.

A five-year-old covers Johnny Cash.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 28, 2009; 6:56 PM ET
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Next: The Central Problem in Health-Care Reform


The CBO is good for small, incremental things, but they're absolutely worthless on important pieces of policy.

Seriously, imagine how they would have scored the interstate highway system? (Remember, when it was passed, containerized shipping hadn't even been invented). There's no way they could have scored it as a net gain. But regardless of how we all feel about the consequences of global warming, I think no one can seriously deny that it's generated economic (and social) returns that far, far, far outweigh any of the costs CBO would have reasonably scored against it.

There's a certain "venture capital" aspect to pieces of major policy. Bizarrely, we are able to tolerate this "high risk, high return" approach for things like war (which is historically a very LOW return enterprise)--but not for things like infrastructure, human investment, or public works like healthcare. Which is insane, because historically these kinds of things have pretty good track record. I mean, Erie Canal? Social Security? Post office?

Just, oy on the CBO.

Posted by: theorajones1 | July 28, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Krugman pointing out deficiencies of Feldstein after his 'hit man job' on Blue Dogs! That is hilarious. Pot calling kettle...

Krugman did bad job in the first place when he attacked Blue Dogs needlessly, without much of substance. Just because Blue Dog founder became Republican and Blue Dogs backed fiscally irresponsible bills in past do not mean demand of Blue Dogs to pay for Health Care Reform is wrong. Krugman is actually weak on Fiscal Responsibility - he never bothered to put forward some serious thoughts about how to balance the budget nor he has come up with a solid plan to pay for the Health Care Reform. He seems to keep the company of Rangels of this world - tax and spend.

So this Krugman is faulting Feldstein. Irony is Krugman is right in his criticism. Feldstein wrote utterly 'trash' article without bothering facts. His argument about negative consequences of taxes on millionaires to pay health care may have some merit. But everything else in the article is futile and not convincing. He simply refuses to accept the regional variations in Medicare spending; essentially denying Atul Gawande's research. Next, for him unrestrained spending of Medicare is not a problem to be addressed at all. He never talks about that. He continues to maintain that insurances are competitive and offer best or next to best deals at present to consumers. That is a canard. Finally, apart from supporting COBRA and removing interstate regulations on insurances; he does not have any plan what soever to address this issue.

The questions is as Krugman asks - will WaPo ask for 'correction' from Feldstein? WaPo better do that. Otherwise these intellectuals are getting away with throwing too much of rubbish on general public.

Posted by: umesh409 | July 28, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

1. The truble with Valdeck's column is that he doesn't go far enough. He should look at ALL long term economic projections that youse guys use as forcasts without mentioning the assumptions. I've written so many comments on this I getting sick of it. Let me just say, as usual, that we'd do better with a shaman, a goat and a sharp knife.

2. I have also been ranting about basic facts for months, but the Post still spends 90% of its articles, columns and editorials talking about process. When are we gonna have some analysis of how much for profit insurers waste on overhead and compliance costs? What about drug marketing. How about Medical Loss Ratios? How about some investigation? How about some reporting of the facts? How about some analysis? How about some discussion?

And so on.

Posted by: lensch | July 28, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

"A trip inside Richard Cohen's head."
Reminds me of sightseeing a large cave at the spanish island Mallorca as a teenager. Of course, the huge cavity was impressive at first sight, but after a very short time I realized there was nothing really interesting in it and it became very boring.

Posted by: Gray62 | July 29, 2009 6:12 AM | Report abuse

A small quibble: Aren't ALL of Cohen's columns a trip through his head?

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 29, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what Klein's erstwhile collegues have to say about Cohen's column!

I'd love for Klein to write a column about the value of an op-ed page that consistently runs essays such as these.

Posted by: rick1977 | July 29, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

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