It's always sad when intelligent people invest so heavily in the wrong idea that they end up completely embarrassing themselves with absurd arguments as their only means to continue down the wrong path. And this is surely the case with Greg Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard who wrote a post called Give Me $1 Billion to Cut the Budget Deficit.
Now, I'm sure Mankiw is a bright guy. I mean, I never even dreamed of going to Harvard, let alone being smart enough to teach there. And I'm sure that if the topic was purely on economics, Mankiw could run circles around me. I doubt he'd be right, but I'm sure I wouldn't understand all his fancy jargon which he'd insist was untranslatable into English. So unless we kept the focus on practical economics, rather than academic economics that might not necessarily apply to the real world, I don't think I'd challenge the guy to a debate. My point? I'm sure the guy's intelligent.
But...he's on the wrong side of issues, and so in the end, no matter how smart he is, he's going to end up wrong. Because it's garbage-in and garbage-out, and if your foundation is wrong, you're going to come up with the wrong answers. And that's what we see here with his $1 Billion post.
Taxes = Bad
Basically, Mankiw's arguing that it's wrong to say that the Affordable Care Act reduces the deficit, because the spending part of the bill doesn't reduce the deficit. And that's it. That's his argument. But of course, nobody's making that claim. We claim that the law reduces the deficit, because it does. That's what the CBO says and he's not arguing against it. But nobody ever claimed it was the spending that reduced the deficit.
So right off the bat, he's arguing against a point that no one would make. And for as much as his argument works, it's something everyone already knows. It'd be like me lecturing you on all the reasons you shouldn't poke your eye out with a poo stick. It's such a bad idea that it doesn't need to be said.
And he seems to be making the same mistake I mentioned Charles Krauthammer made earlier today. At a guess, I'm thinking they've got a mental hang-up about taxes. They believe implicitly that taxes are a bad thing and can't be used as a positive. So in their minds, Democrats are saying that their spending bill reduces the deficit, and then added a bad thing to it; thus making it worse. But of course, it's the "bad thing" that explains why we're saying it reduces the deficit.
Silly Tricks for Silly People
Beyond that, his argument is absolutely embarrassing. His point is to suggest that our claims that ACA reduces the deficit would be the same as him saying that he can reduce the deficit by $2 billion if we raise taxes by $3 billion and give him $1 billion.
But...that would reduce the deficit. And if this were somehow the only way we could raise taxes, and I mean absolutely the only way, I suppose I might consider supporting the $1 Billion Greg Mankiw Subsidy Act. Not because I think he needs the money, but because we need the money and it'd be the only way to get it.
And the same went with ACA. Because Congress only raised these taxes to pay for this bill, and wouldn't have otherwise. That wasn't a gimmick. That was how we paid for the spending, which is supposedly important to conservatives like Mankiw. And the reason his deficit reduction plan sounds ridiculous isn't because it's ridiculous to raise taxes to pay for spending and deficit reduction, but because it involved giving the money to him. And we immediately see that he wasn't making some valid point against his opponents, but using a silly rhetorical trick that wouldn't impress a junior high debate team.
And I don't think this paints Mankiw's intelligence in a bad light, as I don't think his intelligence was involved at all. This was allllll emotions. He knows he doesn't like ACA and is really upset now that he's realizing that efforts to repeal it will increase the deficit, and has to figure some way out of it. But he can't. There is no way out. It does what he doesn't want it to do and it bugs the hell out of him.
Now if he wants, he can argue that the tax increases might destroy America, as it puts such a horrible burden on tanning salon owners, who are the heart and soul of our nation, as well as imposing upon gold-plated health insurance policies for people who really want health costs to explode. But he can't argue that it's bad for the deficit. And so he's stuck making childish arguments because it's all he's got left. I don't know much about Mankiw's knowledge of economics, but I suspect there's a good reason he doesn't teach logic.
And as I said with Krauthammer, I still can't believe these people are finally acknowledging that ACA doesn't hurt the deficit. Baby steps, people.