« A Thomas Friedman movie clich&eacute retrospective | Main | Was the budget deal an overreaction to the election? »

April 08, 2011


Brendan, thanks for the Canadian election post in your feed. I was an uber-nerd in college for following Canadian politics, and even did a symposium presentation on it.

Yglesias' anlysis of the Heritage Study is flawed. First of all, he says by the end of 2009, payroll employment in the United States was back down to 2001 levels. That's only true, if one considers a million more employed people to be at "2001 levels." More importantly, if one looks year by year, one sees that employment did indeed rise sharply after the Bush tax cuts, reaching 146,047,000 in 2007. That's an increase of over 9 million jobs from 136,933,000 in 2001.

Employment plunged in 2009, perhaps due to Democratic Congressional actions and the fear of Obama/Pelosi/Read policies -- a fear that turned out to be justified.

Based on his (incorrect) analysis of one Heritage study, Yglesias deduces that everything Heritage does or has done is totally worthless and Heritage are hacks. If a missed projection is the standard, no liberal organization has credibility. Liberals have misprojected many things. E.g., the cost of Medicare was off by a factor of 10. Head Start has had virtually no lasting effect on academic performance. LBJ was going to eradicate poverty. Obama's stimulus plan was projected to prevent the unemployment rate from reaching 8%. Etc, etc. etc., as the King of Siam might say.

Brendan, I don't think your link about NPR bias and the Groseclose/Milyo study is working. All I'm getting is a webpage with a giant blowfish.

Hmm. There may have been a problem with the link shortening service. Here is the full URL: http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2005/12/the_problems_wi.html

I sgree that the study showing that Medicaid does more harm than good is a flawed study, especially because of selection bias. However, policy studies are in general do not meet scientific standards. For that matter, the political science studies done by Brendan and reported by him would not meet the standards used by my wife in her biostatistics studies. The political science studies have inadequate sample size to draw causal conslusions, inadequate analysis of alternative explanations, the lack of true consistency over time, etc.

I don't mean to say that political science studies are worthless. They're done as well as possible and they offer useful guides. I feel the same way about the study of Medicaid. It's a good guide, suggesting that even if Medicaid isn't really counter-productive, it provides worse medical care than we would like it to.

This quote from the NE Journal article shows the authors' bias:

If Medicaid's critics were seeking to raise its reimbursement rates and increase spending on the program, we would join their chorus.

In other words, the studies they criticize are too flawed to justify policies they disagree with, but those studies are good enough to justify policies they favor.

P.S. IMHO the comment quoted above is naive on policy grounds. Of course, Medicaid would provide better care if it had more money. However, given today's enormous deficits, increased spending on Medicaid (or any other program) must also be justified by comparing it with the cuts it would require in other programs. There's isn't enough money for the government to do every possible beneficial thing.

The comments to this entry are closed.