A very important statement by Krugman!


This is the way the tribes learn: Yesterday afternoon, Paul Krugman wrote a blog post which helps define the working of our increasingly tribal culture.

Increasingly, we live in a world where two different tribes have two different sets of facts. In Bosnia, three such tribes came to great misery—the Muslims, the Serbs and the Croats.

In his blog post, Krugman described a misstatement—a misstatement which is widely believed by members of one of our warring tribes. He referred to “the alleged fact that the estimated cost of the [Obama health plan] has risen by a trillion dollars—which happens to be a complete lie.”

Krugman said “lie”—we’ll stick with misstatement. But according to Krugman, this is how a gross misstatement came to be widely believed:
KRUGMAN (3/19/12): The remarkable thing is how quickly the lie has become part of what everyone on the right knows. And even if some of the people citing this “fact” could somehow be convinced that it wasn’t so, they’d brush it off, because there’s such a pattern of liberal duplicity, demonstrated by lots of other supposed facts—all of which are also lies.

This is the reality of modern American politics: a large and cohesive bloc of voters lives in an alternative reality, fed fake facts by Fox and Rush—whom they listen to out of tribal affiliation—and completely unaware that it’s all fiction.
For our money, the key words are these: “completely unaware that it’s all fiction.”

Krugman describes a pattern which has obtained in our culture for at least the past thirty years. Sean and Rush (and others) pimp disinformation. Millions of people believe their misstatements, “completely unaware” that they’re false. (We will only add one small point: Increasingly, through our new liberal organs, we liberals behave this way too.)

A large bloc of voters are fed fake facts by Fox and Rush, completely unaware that it’s fiction! For at least a decade, we have begged liberals to look for ways to make the public aware of this pattern. When major figures like Rush make misstatements, that is news, we have said.

It’s news when Rush deceives the public. It should be treated like news.

The liberal world has made little attempt to make major newspapers see things that way. Nor have we tried to establish forums in which we try to inform deceived people that they have been deceived.

We do spend a great deal of time feeding our own state of fury, of course. (This is a change from the 1990s, when we simply sat napped in the woods as the deceptions advanced.) But how many people, outside our small circle, have ever heard this pattern described in the way Krugman does?

When Rush and Sean deceive the public, the New York Times should treat that as news! It should be part of a front-page news report. It shouldn’t be relegated to the status of an accurate blog post.

Having said that, ponder this:

Gail Collins enjoys telling the tale of a dog on the roof of a car. By now, she has mentioned this tale in at least three dozen columns.

Your assignment, if you should choose to accept it: How many times has this fatuous person mentioned Rush Limbaugh down through the years? Or is Limbaugh perhaps a little more scary than her tale of Mitt Romney’s strapped dog?

For fuller understanding: Krugman explained that misstatement—that "complete lie"—in this earlier blog post.

For his original column on this topic, go ahead: Just click here.


  1. Mr. Somerby writes: "When Rush and Sean deceive the public, the New York Times should treat that as news!"

    Yes, of course.

    Then Mr. Somerby can beat his breast and demand the paper of record follow every utterance of Louis CK, Bill Maher (whom he claims to love) et al since they, in Mr. Somerby's view, are the equivalent of Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest of the 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to-border right wing propaganda machine.

    Its funny how I've never seen anyone, not even the most rabid right winger, claim these comedians are able to get a lie into the public consciousness, yet Mr. Somerby sees no difference between them and those whose sole purpose is to do just that.

    1. t al since they, in Mr. Somerby's view, are the equivalent of Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest of the 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to-border right wing propaganda machine.

      Where has Somerby ever made this claim of equivalency?

    2. Here is Somerby (in a post of just a few days ago) explicitly rejecting equivalency, "For ourselves, we love Bill Maher. And no, he isn't Rush Limbaugh . . ."

    3. That's an old rhetorical trick. Deny you are saying what you are about to say. "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him."

      Go read "Three cheers for Kathleen Parker," in which Bob "proves" that misogyny exists in both "tribes" because Louis CK said some naughty things.

    4. The Real AnonymousMarch 20, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      "For ourselves, we love Bill Maher. And no, he isn't Rush Limbaugh . . ."

      It would be helpful if you didn't truncate the sentence in an attempt to prove your point.

      If Maher isn't the equivalent of Limbaugh then why bring him up in a conversation about Limbaugh's comments?

      Most of us would call that a distraction.

      Who cares if Maher has said worse things than Limbaugh, as Mr. Somerby has claimed several times, if they don't have the same effect ie they do not enter lies, excuse me a "powerful mantra", into our political discourse?

      This is the danger of accepting Limbaugh's explanation the way Mr. Somerby does: the outrage wasn't just about two words but the lies the accompanied them!

      These willful lies distort our political discourse.

    5. This stuff is getting really bizarre. Somerby has talked about the misogynistic things that Ed Shultz, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, and a raft of other left-wing figures have mentioned because he thinks (like me) that they are disgusting and wrong. He has never written that their statements are the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh's. I guess the takeaway from all of this is that you shouldn't criticize or point out misogyny on the Left because they are as influential/big-time as Rush Limbaugh? Or maybe that you get to invent in your mind what other people have written (a la other liberals criticisms of Glenn Greenwald). The mind reels...

    6. above should read "because they aren't as influential/big-time"

    7. The Real AnonymousMarch 20, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      "He has never written that their statements are the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh's."

      No, he claims they're worse, that MSNBC is "mysogeny central."

      Mr. Somerby accepts Limbaugh's explanation his sin was to sink to the level of his opponents.

    8. It was when HRC was running for president, it was when Chris Matthew all but called Al Gore a "fag" when he was running for president (and did it again when Gore came out against he war in Iraq), it was when Shultz called Laura Ingraham a slut, it was when Keith Olbermann all but called Carrie Prejean a "cunt" a few years ago. How are these incidents not evidence of a long running problem of misogyny at MSNBC?

    9. The Real AnonymousMarch 20, 2012 at 1:49 PM

      Indeed, there are examples of mysogeny across our entire culture and we deplore them all.

      That's not the point, unless you're trying to distract from the matter at hand: Limbaugh's lies and how they affect "American discourse".

      This is a blog about the "American discourse" isn't it?

      Does Mr. Somerby believe Fluke remarked she is having "so much sex" she needs other people's financial support to afford birth control as Limbaugh loudly claimed?

      We don't know since Mr. Somerby limits the discussion about Limbaugh's comments to an offensive two words, just like Limbaugh and the 24/7 coast-to-coast and border-to-border propaganda machine wants, and ignores how the fusillade of lies over three days affects public discourse.

      Mr. Somerby is loathe to admit the way Limbaugh's comments affected him was to talk about anything but Limbaugh.

    10. Be careful, Real. The right wing never "lies". They are only guilty of "misstatements."

      Bob has said so himself in toning down Krugman:

      "Krugman said 'lie'—we’ll stick with misstatement."

    11. Somerby has criticized Limbaugh for years on his blog, Somerby has criticized liberals in the mainstream press for years for not criticizing Limbaugh in their columns (why is it only now that there is boycott of Limbaugh, and not, say, two decades earlier?), Somerby has never treated Limbaugh as anything other than a figure for contempt and a serial distorter/liar. I am having a really hard time understanding what you are talking about. That Somerby doesn't exclusively focus on Limbaugh and other conservatives has always been a part of his work, in fact, it's what makes him stand out amongst his peers.

    12. Well then let me say it again for the umpteenth time.

      Somberby used to detest the "false equivalency" game that went something like this:

      George W. Bush could flat out lie about Iraq seeking enriched uranium from Nigeria. You point out that lie, and somebody on Fox would answer that a first-year, graduate assistant teaching freshman English at Bugtussle U. once said that Saddam Hussein was the second coming of Christ, and this is apparently what everybody believes who dares question George W. Bush in his rush to war.

      And now we find Bob playing the same game which he once denounced.

      Bob also once denounced "journalism by narrative" noting how hard it was to knock journalists off their chosen scripts with hard evidence.

      Well, reading his sorry defense of Rush Limbaugh ("Louis CK, and Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews, and Bill Maher did it, too!") as well as his claim that Maddow got "crushed" in a debate in which she clearly exposed a U.S. senator of knowing nothing about his own book, you begin to wonder what it will take to knock Bob off his own carefully constructed "script."

      As far as him standing out among his peers, Media Matters does a far better job of deconstructing Rush Limbaugh right wing dissembling, as does Talking Points Memo and the Daily Kos.

      But this blog has found its niche and still appeals to a cult following, which, I fear, will soon grow bored with its "All Rachel, All Gail, All Maureen All the Time" focus.

    13. My god! You people prove Somerby's thesis day after day. Now he's offering a "sorry defense of Rush Limbaugh"??!!! Look, there are plenty of sites where you can get your tribal instincts stroked on a daily basis (TPM being one of them), but that's not what the Daily Howler has ever been about. Thankfully the DH continues to serve up sauce for gooses and ganders. If that hurts your feelings feel free to leave and don't let the door hit you on the a$$ on the way out.

      (Oh yeah, and the Op Ed page of the NYT = Buggtussle U. That's rich.)

    14. See if you can follow along. The above response was to the notion that Bob Somerby and this blog "stand out among his peers" in routinely denouncing Rush Limbaugh. I have pointed out three sites that do it, and do it better and more thoroughly, without having to throw Louis CK into a discussion of Rush Limbaugh's obvious misogyny.

      As for "Op Ed page of the NYT = Bugtussle U." the false equivalency game I am talking about, the one Bob Somerby used to denounce with regularity, was coming up with a doofus like Louis CK and saying what he says is just as bad as what Rush Limbaugh says. Daily. To an audience of millions.

    15. The Real AnonymousMarch 20, 2012 at 4:51 PM

      "Thankfully the DH continues to serve up sauce for gooses and ganders."

      Less and less so on a daily basis.

      Where's the sauce for Limbaugh?

      After all he's the one attempting to affect the "American discourse" by lying about the content of Fluke's remarks.

      If Mr. Somerby disagrees with Limbaugh about his remarks consisting of only descending to the level of his opponents he sure hasn't said so.

      In fact, it looks like Mr. Somerby has bent over backwards in order to stick to his narrative.

    16. What Somerby's does that DK and TPM and MM don't typically do is exactly what you're confusing: saying Olberman et al "did it too!" is an indictment against Olberman et al and the press' selective outrage when it comes to fighting against corrosive language and poor reasoning in our body politic. It is BECAUSE Limbaugh's diatribe was so terrible that the indictment stings so badly, but the war against Fluke is similar in many repects to Olberman's campaign against a non-politician pageant queen. Olberman et al should be taken to task for their bullshit just as Limbaugh was. Most of the time, though, we only see the bullshit on THEIR side. OUR team never reasons poorly or traffics in disgusting stereotypes, even when they do!

    17. Do you remember when Olbermann went off the rails about Carrie Prejean, using any excuse to show the same footage of her walking down a runway in a bikini?

      Try THREE YEARS AGO! And Olbermann long ago has lost his gig at "Misogyny Central" MSNBC.

      What on earth does that, or Bill Maher, or Louis CK have to do with what Rush Limbaugh said, except to play the "false equivalency" game Bob once used to routinely denounce?

      Good grief, should some right-winger ever say anything racist, Bob will be quick to point out:

      1. How quick "liberals" are to play the race card.

      2. How Harry Truman once used the "n" word, and "liberals" didn't denounce it then.

  2. Yes, Krugman is technically correct. Using a different period, when the law will be fully operational, doesn't mean that the original estimate was changed. However, Krugman omits two rather important related items.

    !. The original estimate was deceptive. The law was designed to began collecting money before it started paying benefits. The original estimate included 10 years of income and only 6 years of full outgo IIRC. Thus, the original estimate purposely understated the law's net cost going forward. The new estimate is more realistic.

    2. Both the original estimate and the new one are wildly low, because they don't reflect the enormous growth in uninsured employees. An official study last week predicted that as many as 20 milion fewer people would have coverage from their employers. The reason is that the way costs work out under Obamacare, it will be cheaper for employers to drop health coverage and pay the fine.

    How much will it cost the government to cover all these additional people? Here's a back of the envelope actuarial calculation of this potential impact:

    20 million people, times
    $15,000/year per person health costs, times
    10 year plan,
    equals $3 trillion!

    1. Minus the fines, minus the extra taxes on the income gains for those employees whose employers don't have to cover their health plans, or did the back of your envelope run out of room?


    2. David, even if those figures are correct, it isn't that the government runs out of money, it should be that no part of this country can afford the continual increases in the cost of health care.
      Not the cost of Medicare.
      Not the cost of Medicaid
      Not the cost of private insurance

      No one but the well to do will be able to afford the price increases in health care delivery. If The ACA does what is intended, we will end up with a nationalized health care system.

    3. Where on earth did David get the idea that government would pay the cost of insurance for people whose employers suddenly drop their plans?

      That, sir, was the "public option" that got dropped in favor of the (formerly Republican) idea of "exchanges" where the uninsured could purchase health insurance, and the (formerly Republican) idea of "individual mandate."

  3. David in Cal.

    Here are two items to warm the cockles of your heart; more numbers, and a link!
    I'd send you an envelope if I could, but mine has the Gettysburg Address scrawled in the back.

    - An increase of $168 billion in projected outlays for Medicaid and CHIP;

    - A decrease of $97 billion in projected costs for exchange subsidies and related spending;

    - A decrease of $20 billion in the cost of tax credits for small employers; and

    - An additional $99 billion in net deficit reductions from penalty payments, the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans, and other effects on tax revenues and outlays—with most of those effects reflecting changes in revenues.


  4. It's true: reading people's minds is a difficult task. okay, reading people's minds and their intentions is downright impossible.

    But isn't there a point at which someone's misrepresentation of the facts is so egregious that it's fair to say the person is lying and that you probably aren't too far off the mark?

    Isn't there a poit at which it's fair to assert that someone simply must be lying because of their gross misrepresentation of facts?

    I appreciate Mr. Somerby's respect for the meanings of words. But I also think there is a point where one can assert that someone is lying even though you don't have the power of clairvoyance or mind reading.

  5. DinC: "The reason is that the way costs work out under Obamacare, it will be cheaper for employers to drop health coverage and pay the fine"

    Cheaper than it is now? I only ask because now it's FREE, so I'm not sure how that works.

  6. Also, the mention of the $15,000 figure without noting its absurdity is the definition of missing the point.

    1. Yep. In 2008, the United States spent $7,538 per capita on health care, nearly twice the figure Dave claims it would cost for insurance.

      It also should be noted that among industrialized countries with national health plans:

      Canada spent $4,079.

      Germany spent $3,737.

      France spent $3,696.

      Great Britain spent $3,129.

      Japan spent $2,729.

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