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Twisting the Facts to Make a Case Against Obama

Paul Krugman: Niall Ferguson is deliberately misleading readers in his recent cover story for Newsweek magazine.

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington before traveling to Columbus, Ohio and Reno, Nev. for campaign events on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. (Image: Luke Sharrett/ The New York Times Syndicate)

There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in a recent cover story by the Harvard professor and columnist Niall Ferguson for Newsweek magazine – I guess they don’t do fact-checking – but this is the one that jumped out at me.

In his article, titled “Hit the Road, Barack: Why We Need a New President,” Mr. Ferguson wrote: “The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the (Congressional Budget Office) and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the (Affordable Care Act) will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.”

Readers are no doubt meant to interpret this as saying that C.B.O. found that the act will increase the deficit. But anyone who has actually read, or even skimmed, the C.B.O. report knows that it found that the A.C.A. would reduce, not increase, the deficit — because insurance subsidies were fully paid for.

Newsweek Cover.Now, people on the right like to argue that the C.B.O. was wrong. But that’s not the argument Mr. Ferguson is making – he is deliberately misleading readers by conveying the impression that the C.B.O. had actually rejected President Obama’s claim that health reform is deficit-neutral, when in fact the opposite is true.

We’re not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here – just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an August publication letting itself be used to misinform readers. The New York Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through.

Will Newsweek?

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