• Jeff Matthews

Nobel Freakonomics

We don’t read Paul Krugman much these days—not since the New York Times outsourced its newsroom to the White House press office—but we did catch his column, “Not Enough Audacity,” in which the Nobel Prize-winning economist frets that Obama’s health care efforts aren’t radical enough:

On one side there’s Barack the Policy Wonk, whose command of the issues — and ability to explain those issues in plain English — is a joy to behold.

But on the other side there’s Barack the Post-Partisan, who searches for common ground where none exists, and whose negotiations with himself lead to policies that are far too weak. Now you’d think Obama’s masterful “command of issues” might have included the notion that the person nominated for Treasury Secretary should be a guy who paid his taxes on time. But leaving that aside, let’s look at the President’s “ability to explain those issues in plain English,” which skill leaves Krugman all weepy:

Mr. Obama offered a crystal-clear explanation of the case for health care reform, and especially of the case for a public option competing with private insurers. “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal,” he asked, “then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.” This is very smooth, and it certainly seems “crystal-clear,” assuming you don’t think about it for, oh, half a second.

But it is nothing like logical: Government has no profit motive. Private insurers do. So a government payer, even as badly run as it will be, will wreck the private insurers’ business models. Stock-market-wise, we couldn’t care less how the health-care model gets resolved. In the investment business, you deal with facts as they are, not as how you wish them to be.But we wonder: how did a Nobel Prize-winner like Krugman get fooled by a slick bit of rhetoric with no inherent basis in fact?

Well, the Times’ web site describes the economist thusly:

His professional reputation rests largely on work in international trade and finance; he is one of the founders of the “new trade theory,” a major rethinking of the theory of international trade. Let’s hope he’s not working on a major rethinking of the theory of human health care…

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

© 2009 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Nor are these comments meant to be a solicitation of business in any way: such inquiries will not be responded to. This content is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Mr. Matthews. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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