Of Krugman and Cows • Ricochet

Back in the 1970s, my father was visiting a Florida feedlot that was promoting its innovative new methods for feeding cattle. Scrutinizing their data, Dad noticed something amiss: there were no dead cows.

This was, to put it mildly, unusual. Any time you have a large herd, there will be cattle that randomly die. It’s not necessarily a sign of any systemic problem, just a result of the large numbers of animals involved. You’ll always lose a few for miscellaneous reasons. When he asked about the aberration in the statistics, he was given a simple response: “We just don’t count those.”

That practice of looking only for data that confirms preconceptions — and discounts anything to the contrary — is intellectually sloppy and undermines the validity of any claims it produces. It probably shouldn’t surprise us, then, that that’s exactly the approach being used by Paul Krugman in today’s New York Times.

Perhaps there was a time when Krugman actually deserved to be referred to as an economist, but he now seems oblivious to the direct costs of regulation, as well as the very real opportunity costs they impose. In the Times column, Krugman essentially argues that it’s a myth that anyone has been hurt by Obamacare:

Even supporters of health reform are somewhat surprised by the right’s apparent inability to come up with real cases of hardship. Surely there must be some people somewhere actually being hurt by a reform that affects millions of Americans. Why can’t the right find these people and exploit them?

The most likely answer is that the true losers from Obamacare generally aren’t very sympathetic. For the most part, they’re either very affluent people affected by the special taxes that help finance reform, or at least moderately well-off young men in very good health who can no longer buy cheap, minimalist plans. Neither group would play well in tear-jerker ads.

Unfortunately for Krugman, his column appears the exact same day that the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section features Ralston College President Stephen Blackwood’s column about his mother’s fight with cancer:

 … [I]n November, along with millions of other Americans, she lost her health insurance. She'd had a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years. It was expensive, but given that it covered her very expensive treatment, it was a terrific plan. It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.

And then, because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing. Her old plan, now considered illegal under the new health law, had been canceled.

 As a result, Blackwood’s mother had to sign up for a new policy, which the enrollment agents told her would cover the cost of her cancer medications. They were fuzzy on the details, however, and told her that she’d have to enroll in the plan to actually find out what was in it (irony alert). Prior to going into surgery earlier this month, she found that the plan wouldn’t actually cover her medication — including a drug that cost $14,000.

Blackwood’s situation is not unique. Ricochet members have read about how Obamacare contributed to the death of Melanie Graham’s sister. They may also have heard how it cost Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who’s currently fighting cancer, coverage for his oncologist. Krugman, for the record, referred to the Coburn story as “garbage.”

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Paul Krugman doesn’t think there are any Obamacare horror stories. He just doesn’t count those.

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