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Reports from beyond

Jon Cohn reports from an alternative universe in which President Obama skipped health-care reform. I wonder if it's the same alternative universe I visited back in August?

By Ezra Klein  | October 29, 2010; 12:44 PM ET
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Great piece. Even if you don't agree with the argument you have to like it as a smack to pundits who think that we should believe any unsupported counterfactual they pull out of their behind.

Posted by: vvf2 | October 29, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The New Republic is a zombie that won't die because it is proped up with winger money.

You life would be better not hitting that link, Ezra. [The meme that they have some good writers to justify their existence is threadbare]

I keep expecting the good ghosts of TNR-past to rise up and smite the current controllers in righteous indignation, but Marty must have ghost-busters on the payroll, paid for by his heiress wife.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | October 29, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Cohn's counterfactual is that it's not a counterfactual at all. All he did was assume Obama didn't go for health care reform, and then didn't use the saved political capital for ANYTHING. The assumption of a counterfactual universe is that the saved political capital was used for something else -- a larger stimulus, cap-and-trade, whatever. To say Obama didn't push health care reform, but then passed the exact same stimulus package, is the easiest straw man of all to knock down. I don't think a single soul is saying instead of using media time or speech time on something other than health care, use it on the economy. The point is to use the political capital expended on health care legislation on additional economic measures.

Imagine a world where Obama, instead of using his political capital on health care, used it to secure a stimulus twice in size, a stimulus that consisted only of true Keynesian stimulus instead of a considerable portion on Dem pet projects and useless tax cuts, and to make a concurrent effort to reduce the long-term deficit problems. All I've seen are conclusory statements that Obama couldn't have possibly gotten a bigger stimulus. I have yet to see any coherent response to the most obvious question: if Obama succeeded to pass something that Dems have failed to do for six decades, in the face of low public support for the legislation, against virtually all political odds, couldn't he have just as well used the same political capital to achieve the double whammy of a bigger stimulus now balanced with phased in deficit cuts for later on?

Posted by: JamesCody | October 29, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

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