Friday, April 08, 2011

Unhealthy Obsession

I'm thinking I might need to add Steve Landsburg to my list of brilliant (or at least semi-brilliant) nut jobs. His latest unhinged attack on Krugman (link) really does seem to be showing signs of unhealthy obsession.

Before you suggest adding myself to the list, let me point out that nobody has ever called me brilliant (or even semi-brilliant).

In other nut jobbery, I learned today that Paul Ryan makes all his staffers read Atlas Shrugged. Not that I expect to be a Ryan staffer, but does that mean I will now have to read that junky's excruciating long (and if other reading indicates, excruciatingly bad) novel - just in a know your enemy exercise?

UPDATE: Nobody asked, but let me be more explicit. Let me list the Krugman that offended SL and an excerpt from his objection:


And then there’s the much-ballyhooed proposal to abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers that can be used to buy private health insurance…. …The House plan assumes that we can cut health-care spending as a percentage of G.D.P. despite an aging population and rising health care costs. The only way that can happen is if those vouchers are worth much less than the cost of health insurance.


Well, this is just plain illiterate. In fact, the only way that can happen is if the voucher system affects people’s health care choices. Which is, you know, the whole point. Krugman talks about “the cost of health insurance” as if it were an immutable number. But vouchers will affect health care choices (Do I really need to see the doctor every time I have a sniffle?

Let's stipulate that Krugman's final sentence is not literally true. I can imagine a number of scenarios where health care costs could fall despite an aging poulation. Jesus might choose to heal us all. A selective plague might wipe out all of us geezers quickly and cheaply. What I can't imagine is any scenario compatible with reasonable projections of health care costs and demographics that has that effect.

Ah but, says Steve - if you would just stop going to the doctor for every sniffle think of the money we could save. Not much, of course - that just a typical bit of Landsburg disingenuousness, or lying, as I usually prefer to call it. It is true that you can save money by denying care to the sick, especially the very sick, unless they happen to be rich. That's the effect of the Ryan plan, but contrary to Landsburg's claim it is not the whole point. The point of Ryan's plan, and it's other effect, is to filter several trillion taxpayer dollars through the hands of our friendly health insurance companies.