Thoughts on Matt Yglesias

Lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts

I am going to put two comments on Matt Yglesias’s blog here.  I am somewhat concerned.  My previous view on Yglesias is that I agree with him except on monetary policy (and the effect on asset price of Abe/Kuroda and of FOMC hints of possible tapering on asset prices particularly convinces me that he was more nearly right about monetary policy than I thought).

Now he seems to have gone on a pessimist contrarian trip.  I note that I began reading him partly based on enthusiastic praise which compared him to a young Michael Kinsley.  I won’t go there (yet) but you can guess my fear.

Post 1 “Obamacare sign ups way behind schedule” is a discussion of the results of the following solid quantitative empirical reporting ” the Department of Health and Human Services was targeting 500,000 signups by the end of October which seems—shall we say—unlikely at this point.”  Now I may be old fashioned but I expect a very definite and emphatic claim in the indicative in a title to be supported by evidence other than “seems”.  Also note that not counting any activity, there have been 185,000 applications for Obamacare just in the states with state set up exchanges.  Also it’s not Halloween yet.

I don’t think it is ideal to report a hunch as a fact.

Earlier Yglesias reported on the continuing resolution/debt ceiiling increase bill without, you know, reading the damn bill.

He asserts that the bill includes the following provision

  • Income verification under the Affordable Care Act will be beefed up.

This is absolutely 100% false.  The new bill does describe income verification under the Affordable Care Act.  It says that to find out what that means — read section 1411 of the Affordable Care act (AKA 42 U.S.C. 18081).  The bill could not assert that the law on verification is unchanged more be more firmly, spficically or undeniably.  The bill is at a more useful blog here.  It is explained here at that blog.   I excerpt the relevant bits of the bill  and comment here.

The only changes relate to “certification” that the ACA is being faithfully executed, a Secretary’s report on how it is being faithfully executed and an inspector generals report on how it was faithfully executed.  All these provisions add nothing to Congress’s oversight authority.  The majority of Issa’s comittee could demand all that without any agreement form Democratic Senators or Obama.

There is nothing there.

Now Yglesias does not consider the totally mythical beefing up of income verification to be a very bad thing except that  the precedent that the Democrats made a concession is very bad.  He falsely claims “And the reality will be that the strategy of sticking with the majority-of-the-majority principle until the eleventh hour and then passing bills with mostly Democratic votes is securing policy concessions from Democrats.”

The reality is and will be no such thing  But Yglesias correctly notes that the perception that Republicans secured a concession is bad for the country.  Loopy bloggers who claim that a non concession is a concession share the blame for that.  Harry Reid who included text which might appear to be a concession until you read it does not share the blame for that.

In politics perception is reality and journalists who don’t bother to do their jobs vitiate the triumph of a Senator who worked himself to complete exhaustion and won.

Yglesias is very hard working.  The amount of effort he put into his blog is extreme.  The problem is the ratio of effort to topics he tries to cover.  Now breadth is part of his charm and part of what makes blogs interesting.  But today he went too far.  I have a rude guess as to what is going on.  I can’t read his mind and inside baseball is dumb so here goes.  The word is that Yglesias and Klein are both interested in who is the number one alpha extremely young brilliant serious honest blogger.  I dismiss that on the grounds of who knows and who cares, except that it seems to me that Yglesias is trying to contribute as much as the whole wonkblog team all by himself.

He can’t. He’s not that smart.   The smartest person in the world isn’t that smart.  But I repeat myself.