Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Saturday, March 22, 2003
That said... I don't feel the least bit guilty to confess that I thought of September 11 while I watched the bombing on CNN yesterday. I remember hoping that these images of shock and awe would overwrite that sector of the America's mental hard-drive where those shocking and awesome images of 9/11 have been stored all these months.
And I remember recalling a phrase spoken by a character in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, as I watched technologies that represent the greatest achievements of man's mind called into the service of a war of liberation -- and compared that to how on 9/11 mindless muscle had used stolen technology in an act of pointless murder:
They're slow learners. But I'll bet they're beginning to see the light.
>> Update... Arthur Silber disagrees, and thinks Andrew and I ought to calm down a bit.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:27 PM | link
So snippy exaggerations -- no, let's be frank here: libelous allegations against the Bush administration of bribery on a global scale! -- are okay, just so long as we insult Hispanics instead of blacks? Now doesn't it become a little more clear how Paul Krugman's columns and Maureen Dowd's columns and all those other dump-trucks of hate manage to get parked on the pages of America's "newspaper of record"? Imagine how bad it would be if the Times had a liberal bias!
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:23 PM | link
Friday, March 21, 2003
Here's Brenner's translation of the DeGaulle quotation, then the original French:
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:12 PM | link
One clever reader wrote, "Krugman should stick to just misunderstanding economics. Misunderstanding geopolitical issues is reaching too far for any one man." Indeed, and in his latest New York Times column published Friday, that's just what Paul Krugman is doing -- he's gone back to what he's really good at: misunderstanding economics.
For the Krugman Truth Squad, that presents a special challenge. Economics is Krugman's Tora Bora caves -- it's dark in there, he knows the terrain very well, and there are lots of places where he can hide. So stay close behind us today as we venture into the depths. Don't worry, we'll find him.
Krugman's Friday column smears President Bush for the forecasted budget deficits supposedly caused by his tax-cuts -- the cuts already enacted in 2001, and the bigger ones still pending. Krugman's story hook is a study published Wednesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The study compares the 75-year actuarial shortfalls of Social Security and Medicare to the 75-year revenue loss from Bush's tax-cuts. Here's how Krugman summarizes it:
Get it? If it weren't for Bush's tax cuts, then there would be no problems with Social Security or Medicare -- and probably no heartbreak of psoriasis, either.
Krugman makes this wild claim into an anti-Bush smear through several forms of innuendo suggesting an administration cover-up. For instance, he claims with no substantiation whatsoever that "The administration has tried to deny this conclusion, inventing strange new principles of accounting in the process."
But let’s set the baseless innuendo aside, and let the Krugman Truth Squad to get to work. First, just who is this Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that Krugman cites as an authority on these complex and controversial matters? Well, what do you know… it turns out that they are a liberal policy advocacy group. Of course Krugman doesn't honestly label them as such -- he doesn't label them at all -- but even a cursory once-over of their web site reveals where they're coming from.
Tom Maguire of Just One Minute pointed out to me that the first of the study's three authors is Peter R. Orszag, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution -- a well known left-tilted think tank. Orszag's other credentials include a stint at UC Berkeley (not exactly a bastion of conservatism), and various senior roles on Bill Clinton's economic team spanning four of that administration's eight years.
Now let's look at the findings of the study. Like most politically oriented statements about economic issues, it turns out that this study is little more than an exercise in making forecasts that are superficially defensible as objective, but are in fact skewed by arbitrary assumptions chosen to ensure the desired result. I suppose we could say that this study is challenged by various methodological issues. Or we could just say it's a pack of lies.
First, the study takes as its estimate of the actuarial shortfall in Social Security and Medicare the figures calculated by the programs' trustees in their most recent annual report. These calculations drastically underestimate the deficits in these programs because they give them credit for the principle value and anticipated interest earned from the Treasury bonds in the programs' trust funds -- the so-called "lockbox."
But as Matthew Hoy pointed out today on Hoystory.com, the true and far greater value of the deficit will only become obvious in 15 years when present payroll tax revenues will not be enough to meet present benefit payments. Then,
This is true because the bonds in the trust fund are nothing but promises from one unit of the government to pay another unit of government. To count these bonds or the interest on them as an "asset" of the programs would be the precise equivalent of writing a check to yourself and depositing it in your own checking account -- in a word, worthless.
Now let's turn to the study's claims about the tax revenues that would be lost under Bush's tax cuts. As David Hogberg pointed out today on Cornfield Commentary, the study estimates revenues losses in the same biased and unrealistic way that the Congressional Budget Office does:
An increase in economic activity would at least partially offset any revenue loss. Failure to consider this element is especially important when measuring the revenue loss from the elimination of double taxation on dividend income -- a centerpiece of Bush's current tax-cut proposal. By creating marginal after-tax incentives for capital investment, labor is rendered more productive and wages subject to income tax should be expected to rise. So dividend tax revenues may fall, but income tax revenues may well more than compensate.
You don’t need to be a die-hard supply-sider to see this point -- you don’t have to believe that tax cuts always and completely "pay for themselves" in economic growth. The point is that the study takes an equally extreme opposite position -- it acts as though government can raise and lower taxes at will, and workers and investors will never alter their behavior in response.
The study both understates the deficits in Social Security and Medicare, and overstates the revenue losses from the Bush tax-cuts. But when Krugman suggests that the lost revenue ought to be used to "top up" Social Security, he introduces an even more important methodological issue -- okay, a lie... the biggest one of all, when it comes to Social Security.
Krugman completely overlooks the fact that Social Security right now -- at its current level of tax inputs and benefit outputs -- already dictates a near-zero annual rate of return for the millions of younger workers now entering the system. If a Wall Street firm was out there marketing an investment this bad with the kinds of claims that the Social Security system makes to describe how wonderful it is, Eliot Spitzer would have marched them into the gas chamber long ago.
What Krugman so insouciantly calls "topping up" Social Security really just means throwing more tax dollars at it. In the end it doesn't matter whether those tax dollars are obtained by raising the payroll tax, by not implementing Bush's tax-cuts, or any other means. The result will always be the same: more money will get stuffed into the front end of the Social Security pipeline, but the same trickle will still come out the other end. That will take today's near-zero rate of return and drive it all the way into the negative zone.
For Krugman to cite this study as authoritative is an example of the garbage-in-garbage-out principle as applied to punditry. A third party source comes up with a subjective "conclusion"... the pundit subjectively chooses to cite it... and -- presto! -- two subjective things are suddenly turned into one seemingly objective thing. But having one guy write it and another guy cite it doesn't make it objective. And it certainly doesn't make it the truth.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:23 AM | link
JENNINGS PLAYS RAINES On our letters page: an alert reader catches ABC News anchor Peter Jennings doing a Howell Raines imitation, suppressing information about how the "Baghdad street" will welcome American liberation.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:17 AM | link
Thursday, March 20, 2003
And please... don't tell me that Gore is joining this board because he invented the Internet.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:53 PM | link
Of all the words in the English language that might have captured the purpose and execution of this mission undertaken by these highly trained and extraordinarily brave Americans, could executive editor Howell Raines have come up with praise any fainter with which to damn them than "flinging themselves into the Iraqi desert"?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:33 AM | link
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Great reporting -- but that's John Burns direct, unfiltered. In print, in a newspaper that spares no hyperbole for the anti-Bush agenda that executive editor Howell Raines wants to push, this moving message of a war of liberation was presented under Burns' byline today watered down into little more than fatalism:
And yesterday, the "quite candid conversations" with "many, many Iraqis" are reduced to "barely whispered."
Now if only the Times would let Burns write the way he talks. Good luck John -- my prayers are with you.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:23 PM | link
THE ALDOURI OP-ED THE TIMES REFUSED TO RUN There are some limits. Here's an anti-war op-ed that even the New York Times refused to run -- an eleventh-hour appeal by Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:23 PM | link
That's two I's and a my in the first nine words, in case you weren't counting.
Oh, and while I'm at it -- or rather, while we're at it -- later, mid-way through when the column drifts randomly away from the I thing and into an all-purpose smear of everyone surrounding the President, Dowd refers to Vice President Cheney as "Pluto, lord of the underground." That's supposed to be "underworld," of course.
Nobody fact-checks this stuff. But can't somebody please at least copy-edit it?
[OK, I couldn't sleep. So I read Maureen Dowd. Somebody has to. I feel sorry for her, looking up at me from that little square glam shot on the Times web site, with all that lipstick on -- and nothing to say anymore.]
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:13 AM | link
But the truth is right there in black and white, if you will just look at the numbers instead of the headlines. Just scroll down the page, and you'll see that this same ABC News/Money poll reached its all-time high level of confidence on January 16, 2000. Does that date ring a bell? That's two days after the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its all-time high at 11,722.98.
Get it? So stop worrying that people are worrying. When they stop worrying, start worrying.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:41 AM | link
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Want the whole fisking? Matthew Hoy's got the axe on this one.
>> Update... My friend Paul Philp writes with a good question. Krugman stated today,
Update II... Now Robert Musil has grabbed the axe, and he's swinging it hard.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:02 AM | link
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:56 PM | link
Today Friedman suggests that Bush should just hand the whole Iraq decision over to Tony Blair, while the US should supply the wherewithal to carry out whatever Blair decides. Why? Look past that long stretch in the first paragraph in which Friedman ridicules Bush for this choice of the Azores as the site for this weekend's summit, without explaining what's wrong with the Azores or why the location of the summit is important. The real reason is... because, almost ineffably, Friedman just feels it:
Can you imagine how the Times would ridicule Bush if he ever cited such a religio-mystical basis for foreign policy? Why, it would almost be as bad as if Bush invited the author of The Bible Code to brief the Pentagon on how to find Osama bin Laden.
But Friedman has the goods. Here's his proof of Blair's superior world-repairing capability:
So now Thomas Friedman -- apparently without a trace of irony or self-awareness -- has echoed Hans Blix, who publicly beshat himself earlier this week when he told MTV News -- that's right, MTV News -- that "I'm more worried about global warming than I am of any major military conflict."
Freidman just committed suicide as a public voice. As a reader just emailed me, it's time for Friedman to turn in his pad and his pen. While he's at it, he should turn in his Lexus and his olive tree, too, and throw them and himself in the dumpster along with the rest of the Times garbage.
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 6:20 PM | link
Never mind the lie that food stamps are "vital for most taxpayers." Never mind that the Times and its ilk have, themselves, brow-beaten the Congress into having to make unnecessary trade-offs by ceaselessly repeating the double lie that tax-cuts cause deficits dollar-for-dollar, and that deficits are evil under all circumstances. And never mind the Times' fourth lie -- that the proposed tax cuts benefit only the rich, when in fact they benefit all classes of taxpayers roughly proportionately. Let's take the Times at its word on these matters -- these are "vital programs;" cuts in them are necessary because tax-cuts cause deficits and deficits are bad; and the cuts benefit only the rich.
That brings us to the inescapable conclusion that the Times believes that the rich should be forced, willing or unwilling, to pay for what the Times decides are "vital programs." According to the Times, this is nothing less than "responsibility." To dare to disagree would be nothing more than "ideology."
What if we were able to take an instantaneous poll of "the rich," and ask them whether they would prefer a tax cut (and have these charities that the Times calls "vital programs" cut at the same time), or to continue to pay higher taxes (and leave the programs untouched). And let's say that "the rich" vote unanimously for the tax cut.
Or, let's even say that all "the rich" vote for higher taxes -- except one guy. Let's say his idea of charity is something different than that the Times, or even of all his fellow "rich."
On what grounds would that leave the New York Times in a position to override even one man's decision about how to dispose of his own earned income, to say that his decision is mere "ideology," to insist that it is "responsibility" to have his wealth taken from him by force and against his will, and transferred to other people whom the Times or anyone else designates?
Is it because the rich are only a "fortunate minority," as the Times says? What's up with that? Does that mean their property should be expropriated because they are "fortunate" (i.e., because they didn't really earn it anyway, they were merely lucky) -- or is it because they are a "minority" (we'll outvote them)?
Or is it just because it's George W. Bush who has proposed these tax cuts and these spending cuts?
Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:39 PM | link