Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Three Times Interventionists Moved the Goalposts

Part 1 of 3

One of the most frustrating things in debate is when you decisively win the initial point of contention, only to have your opponent “move the goalpost” to a different claim. To be sure, this is a human failing, not unique to any particular political perspective. I’m sure I myself do this too. But I have certainly noticed it when people use it against me, and so in this series of posts I’ll review three times that interventionists moved the goal posts in a political debate.

Episode #1: Paul Krugman on the 2013 Budget Sequester

As part of the bipartisan compromise to raise the debt ceiling, a combination of tax hikes and budget cuts was activated in February 2013 when certain conditions hadn’t been met. At the time, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was aghast, calling the automatic measure a “fiscal doomsday machine” that would cost 700,000 jobs.
By April 2013, the economy didn’t seem to be in great shape. Krugman was confident that the budget cuts were taking their toll, even though the Federal Reserve had launched QE3 (in September 2012). Some economists—calling themselves “market monetarists”—had argued that easier money could offset the effects of the Republican austerity measures. But Krugman disagreed, writing in April 2013: ......To Read More...


Episode #2: Basing Climate Policy on the Peer-Reviewed “Consensus” Science

It is well established in the debates over climate change that people who question the orthodox views are denounced as “deniers.” The United Nations publishes a periodic report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that codifies the latest peer-reviewed results so that the public and policymakers can be informed by the genuine scientific consensus, rather than using cherry-picked authors or studies to justify their preconceived political views.

It’s also well established in the debates over climate change that the bare minimum humanity must do, is to take steps to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Indeed, the Paris Agreement (out of which President Trump recently pulled the United States) had, as its central component, a goal for all the participating nations of “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels...”.....To Read More....

Episode #3: The Oregon Medicaid Experiment

Back in 2008, the state of Oregon had the funds to expand Medicaid coverage for its residents, but not enough money for all applicants. Therefore the state government employed a lottery to see who would get Medicaid and who would be denied. It was a great setup for an academic study, because it was one of the few times when researchers would have a literally controlled experiment. An academic team—including MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, the (in)famous proponent of the Affordable Care Act—received approval to go ahead with a two-year study of 10,000 Oregon residents, some of whom received Medicaid and some of whom were denied.

Normally, studies of Medicaid are plagued by a selection bias, because the people who are on Medicaid would tend (for other reasons) to be in poorer health. Additionally, the states that can afford to expand Medicaid might do so because they have a booming economy, which itself might promote better health outcomes. In such a context, researchers may quibble over the relevance of the results because of the confounding factors. The absence of such factors is the reason Oregon’s lottery design was such a unique opportunity for researchers......To Read More.....

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