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Ann Wagner’s pushing the newest trumped up anti-Obamacare scare. From her Facebook page:

In 2008, President Obama said, “In an Obama administration, we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year. We’ll do it by the end of my first term as President.” A few days ago, we learned that the average family of four will face increased health spending of $7,450 under Obamacare. With premiums skyrocketing across this great nation on hardworking families, how is ObamaCare impacting you?

Wagner’s referencing this Forbes article by one Chris Conover. It’s caused quite a stir; it appeared yesterday, the Conservatorium jumped on it up to their knees, tweeting and Facebooking it all over the known universe – hence Wagner’s – and Billy Long’s and Blaine Luetkemeyer’s Facebook posts today. Doubtless it’ll make it’s way onto the Facebook pages or twitter feeds of the rest of our GOP congressional delegation soon – like lemmings, they prefer to make their mistakes in groups.

The article that has Wagner in such ecstasies is total twaddle, of course, and quickly became an object of public derision among many economic policy types because of its obviously incoherent statistics and confused analysis. Some of the clearest online discussions of the problems with Conover’s assertions are in Igor Volksy’s Think Progress piece, and an excellent discussion of Conover’s statistical crimes by Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis political science professer, Kenneth Thomas.

Read these articles if you want to know why Wagner et al. are full of it. There’s no point in repeating points that others have made more efficiently and clearly than I can. (However, I can’t resist pointing out that the $7,450 figure that GOPers are trumpeting represents Conover’s estimates of increases in costs over ten  years – he really only shows an increase of $745 per year for a “typical” family of four – and he’s wrong about that too. None of the Missouri GOPers who tout this article have made this distinction clear which in itself serves as a comment on their motivation, not to mention their honesty.)

After the criticisms began to appear, Conover updated his article several times, not to answer his detractors in a substantive fashion or correct his errors, but simply to declare that he was too right! In the process he referred to articles by Avik Roy, a conservative writer who, as Steve Benen remarked, seems to want to produce “content with a credible tone; he doesn’t fly off the rhetorical rails; and he genuinely understands the policy details.”

Nevertheless, as Benen lamented, Roy was recently guilty of the same type of blatantly dishonest and/or shoddy analysis on the topic of California’s successful Obamacare implementation.  While Roy’s assertions were, like Conover’s, quickly refuted (most notably by Jonahan Cohn, Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein), they will undoubtedly continue a zombie existence among those on the right where no idea, no matter how mistaken, is ever buried if it serves a partisan purpose.

The lesson that Benen took from Roy’s and other would-be conservative intellectuals’ consistent misfires – and which applies as well to Conover’s effort to bend statistics  into unnatural forms – is that there is what he calls a “wonk gap” between the left and the right:

… As Republicans become a post-policy party, even their wonks — their sharpest and most knowledgeable minds — are producing shoddy work that crumbles quickly under mild scrutiny.


I write often about the asymmetry in American politics, and the consequences of a radicalized party in a two-party system. But this wonk gap points to something related but different: it’s not just Republicans who’ve become more extreme and less interested in substance; it’s also conservatives who’ve allowed their intellectual infrastructure to atrophy and collapse.

Credible policy debates are rendered impossible, not because of the chasm between the two sides, but because only one side places a value on facts, evidence, and reason.

And this is why the winner-take-all and devil-take-the-hindmost political culture of the day is so frustrating to those of us who believe in the benefits of intellectual give-and-take. For such exchanges to take place, all the participants have to act in good faith. Kool-aid and fine wine don’t mix.