Krugman writes the same (good) column!


We have the same (key) reaction: Paul Krugman has written the very same column again.

That said, it’s a very good column. It starts out with an accurate claim about the so-called “death tax:”
KRUGMAN (2/24/14): Health Care Horror Hooey

Remember the “death tax”? The estate tax is quite literally a millionaire’s tax—a tax that affects only a tiny minority of the population, and is mostly paid by a handful of very wealthy heirs. Nonetheless, right-wingers have successfully convinced many voters that the tax is a cruel burden on ordinary Americans—that all across the nation small businesses and family farms are being broken up to pay crushing estate tax liabilities.

You might think that such heart-wrenching cases are actually quite rare, but you’d be wrong: they aren’t rare; they’re nonexistent. In particular, nobody has ever come up with a real modern example of a family farm sold to meet estate taxes. The whole “death tax” campaign has rested on eliciting human sympathy for purely imaginary victims.
Krugman has started a hundred columns in similar ways. As usual, we had the same reaction:

Why is this information found in an “opinion column” on page A17? Why isn’t such information found on the New York Times’ front page, reported as actual news?

We’ll grant you this—the disinformation campaign about the estate tax dates back many years. Krugman cites it as a type of practice which is being extended as disinformation is now being spread concerning Obamacare.

That said, has the New York Times ever reported the disinformation campaign about the estate tax as front-page news? It’s possible that the paper has, although we found no example in a quick check of the Nexis archive over the past five years.

More generally, this simply isn’t the type of thing our big newspapers treat as news.

In his column, Krugman goes on to discuss, again, the misleading examples now being churned concerning Obamacare. Will the Times treat this new disinformation campaign as front-page news?

We’ll guess the answer is no.

In one policy area after another, disinformation has driven the discourse over the past forty years. Big newspapers ignore this phenomenon. It’s treated as a force of nature barely worth discussing.

In today’s column, Krugman discusses some very basic news. In a standard bit of irony, you have to read an “opinion column” to learn it.

The best we could find (which isn’t dispositive): Early in 2001, the New York Times published a front-page news report concerning President Bush’s proposal to phase out the estate tax.

The report focused on wealthy Americans who thought this was a bad idea.

The front-page report did not discuss the long disinformation campaign to which Krugman refers today. Disinformation campaigns are news, except in our biggest newspapers.


  1. Here is a professor's response to the Kristof editorial, asking why professors are not public intellectuals. It also concerns education in general, and how those who might be interested in that dialog are being shut out, except for the NY Times and other press. I think this illustrates the way the NY Times serves monied interests, not its readership.

    1. I think it also illustrates how full of bull Kristof was and Bob as well for singing praises for and repritning the bullroar.

      And thanks for linking to it.

    2. Yes, thanks very much for the link. mch

  2. James Taranto points out that Krugman has overstated his case. Such cases are not non-existent, although they are rare.

    This is from a July 2005 study by the Congressional Budget Office, titled "Effects of the Federal Estate Tax on Farms and Small Businesses":

    "The vast majority of estates, including those of farmers and small-business owners, had enough liquid assets to pay the estate taxes they owed. However, estates involving farms or small businesses were less likely than the average estate to have sufficient liquid assets to cover their estate taxes. In 2000, about 8 percent (or 138) of the estates of farmers who left enough assets to owe estate taxes faced a tax payment that exceeded their liquid assets, compared with about 5 percent of all estates that owed taxes. For estates claiming the QFOBI [qualified family-owned business interests] deduction, the corresponding figure was about 34 percent (or 164 estates)." (scroll down to 2nd item.)

    1. If you were to divide 164 or 138 by the number of family farms and small businesses in the nation, would the number be so vanishingly small that the percente would be rounded to zero (nonexistent for all intents and purposes)? Do we make national laws for 138 farms and 164 small businesses? Are these numbers large enough to be the public face of this issue? If not, why are you disagreeing with Krugman? Because he rounded an exceedingly small percent to 0?

    2. The FET exemption for 2000 was $675,000, with any amounts above $675,000 taxed at 57%. The FET exemption for 3013 is $5.34m, with any amounts above $5.34m taxed at 40%.

      So, if you're saying that Krugman overstated the lack of effect the FET has (present tense) on small businesses/family farms by using year 2000 numbers, you are either ignorant or mendacious.

    3. "you are either ignorant or mendacious." Why not both? Also, I'll note that this refers to the tax bill exceeding liquid assets. Krugman says "In particular, nobody has ever come up with a real modern example of a family farm sold to meet estate taxes." Which is still true. Nowhere does it say the farm or business was broken up to pay the tax liability. There are other means of obtaining money to pay tax liabilities.

  3. Anon, yes, Krugman would have been correct is he had said that the number was vanishingly small. I'm disputing Krugman's use of the word "non-existent."

    The main point of Krugman's column is to dispute the many reports of people losing their insurance coverage or having to replace it with worse coverage than they had. His evidence for this claim is inadequate. One piece of his "evidence" is by that in one series of TV ads, professional actors are used. But, the use of actors in a TV ad doesn't disprove the claims in that ad.

    His second "evidence" was a Republicans claim that Bette in Spokane was paying $700 per month more in premium. Well, according to Krugman's source, she is paying $700/month more in premium. That source says she could have bought cheaper policies, but it doesn't say whether these cheaper policies would provide coverage as good as what she had.

    His other "evidence" is Julia Boonstra who claims to be paying higher out-of-pocket expenses. His confirms that she is indeed paying higher out-of-pocket expenses but speculates that her net cost might or might not be higher than her previous policy, depending on how much use of it.

    Krugman goes on to blame Republicans for not finding more and better examples of people losing out under Obamacare. In this point, he tacitly acknowledges his partisanship. It's not his job to worry about sick people whose health care isn't as good as it used to be. Krugman's job is to defend Obama.

    However, since Krugman asked for examples here's one. You can get the full details at the link. In summary:

    This is a woman who had an affordable health plan that covered her condition. Our lawmakers weren't happy with that because . . . they wanted plans that were affordable and covered her condition. So they gave her a new one. It doesn't cover her condition and it's completely unaffordable.

    1. Krugman has a bias for the factual, which, as is evident, has a liberal bias. Sorry I didn't follow your link. Does it go to a white supremacist web site?

    2. It goes to the source of those voices emanating from his dental work.

    3. How is it that they gave her a plan when everyone else gets to choose among multiple plans?

    4. I suggest reading the link, there are indeed other such reports. The Affordable Care Act will indeed be wonderfully helpful to several million people, but the ACA will be a problem in turn for millions who are not covered or poorly covered and we should understand that and strengthen the ACA.

    5. deadrat, the link goes to the Wall Street Journal. It is written by the Stephen Blackwood, President of Ralston College in Georgia. It concerns his mother, whom, be writes, has carcinoid, neuroendocrine cancer which ws treated Sandostatin, a drug covered under a policy she had with Blue Cross which Blackwood says was cancelled by ACA. She got a new polcy with Humana she thought would cover the drug, but it is being denied. He says the drugs cost has be $14,000 since January 1.

      Mr. Blackwood never gives a reason why the Blue Cross Policy was cancelled. He also gives no reason why Sandostatin is so expensive. He says it is "a drug that slows tumor growth and reduces (but does not eliminate) the symptoms of fatigue, nausea and gastrointestinal dysfunction." The manufacturer
      says its effects on tumor growth and metasteses "has not been determined."


    6. KZ, thanks. But it is distressing to know that literal mindedness isn't confined to earth.

    7. We lose our literal minds the moment we leave your gravitational field.


  4. Krugman's may have a "bias for the factual", but his bias for partisanship is stronger. Otherwise, he'd criticize Obama for his non-factual claims that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan." and "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." Not to mention Obama's claim that Health Reform would save $2,500 per family.

  5. "Why is this information found in an “opinion column” on page A17?"

    Becuase it's one of those Republican talking points that nobody other than you and Paul Krugman pays attention to. The Republicans keep saying it and everyone keeps ignoring it. News media seldom to never prints it, and Paul Krugman is the only one who ever bothers to talk about it.

    David in Cal: falsehoods only count when Republicans utter them.

  6. Only a fool thinks that Obama's claim of keeping your health insurance is invalidated because people claimed to like insurance that didn't cover anything.

    Obama made a prediction that on average and compared to trends in 2008, a family could save $2,500 a year in coming years. This was obviously a mistake because of "statisticians" like you who believe that premiums would nominally drop $2,500 for every family in 2014.

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