How not to deal with inconvenient information

HOW NOT TO DEAL WITH INCONVENIENT INFORMATION…. House Republicans spent two years insisting that, if elected, they’d lower the deficit (that they created when they were in the majority). And now that they’re in the majority, the House GOP’s first order of business is a health care vote that would add $230 billion to the deficit.

“But wait,” Republicans argue, “we can explain.” As the GOP sees it, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office thinks the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit, and that repeal would make the deficit worse, but the CBO is taking too narrow a look at the picture. If we’d only go by the Republicans’ version of reality, then the repeal vote is perfectly responsible.

But the GOP’s pitch is almost laughably dishonest. Paul Krugman had a helpful column on this today.

My wife and I were thinking of going out for an inexpensive dinner tonight. But John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says that no matter how cheap the meal may seem, it will cost thousands of dollars once you take our monthly mortgage payments into account.

Wait a minute, you may say. How can our mortgage payments be a cost of going out to eat, when we’ll have to make the same payments even if we stay home? But Mr. Boehner is adamant: our mortgage is part of the cost of our meal, and to say otherwise is just a budget gimmick.

O.K., the speaker hasn’t actually weighed in on our plans for the evening. But he and his G.O.P. colleagues have lately been making exactly the nonsensical argument I’ve just described — not about tonight’s dinner, but about health care reform. And the nonsense wasn’t a slip of the tongue; it’s the official party position, laid out in charts and figures.

Republicans effectively have three choices when it comes to health care. First, they could simply give up on repealing the entirety of the law, and instead focus on incremental, fiscally-responsible changes. Second, Republicans could simply argue that they find the Affordable Care Act so offensive, they just don’t care about the effects repeal would have on the deficit.

Third, GOP officials could just start making stuff up, and hope that reporters and voters can’t tell the difference. As Krugman explains in his piece, this is the preferred avenue for the new House majority.

But this isn’t in a gray area, and it’s not a matter of opinion — the Republican argument simply isn’t true. It’s being pushed aggressively by party leaders, but it’s simply detatched from reality. To twist their numbers into making sense, Boehner & Co. would us believe health care costs we’d have to pay anyway — costs that aren’t related to the Affordable Care Act — should be added to the reform law’s price tag.

To believe this nonsense is to fall for a transparent con.

Krugman concluded, “Given that their minds were made up from the beginning, top Republicans weren’t interested in and didn’t need any real policy analysis — in fact, they’re basically contemptuous of such analysis, something that shines through in their health care report. All they ever needed or wanted were some numbers and charts to wave at the press, fooling some people into believing that we’re having some kind of rational discussion. We aren’t.”