Fact: Ezra Klein Doesn’t Read Ezra Klein’s Work

John Ransom
Posted: Aug 22, 2012 12:01 AM

Ezra Klein tells readers of his “wonk” blog that he doesn’t read his own work.

Ok, he doesn’t actually say that, but he certainly implies it: “I actually can’t recall running into a piece in which the argument is so carefully written,” writes Klein “as to mislead the reader without, in most cases, being entirely untrue.”

There it is. Case close. Ezra Klein says so.

Klein either doesn’t read his own work or he has a short-term memory problem.

Klein of course was referring to someone else, not himself as I facetiously suggest- in this case, historian Niall Ferguson- when he wrote about misleading the reader without being untrue.

Ferguson you see has committed the unpardonable sin of being in all the right clubs- Oxford, Harvard, etc- and being…gasp…a conservative.

In a Newsweek cover story- Hit the Road Barack- Ferguson takes the president to task for: 1) passing Obamacare without any messy reform getting in the way of the graft in politics; 2) not effectively dealing with unemployment; 3) adding to the deficit without producing economic benefits and the more general sin of not being an effective executive.  

“Despite having been—full disclosure—an adviser to John McCain,” writes Ferguson, “I acknowledged his opponent’s remarkable qualities: his soaring oratory, his cool, hard-to-ruffle temperament, and his near faultless campaign organization. Yet the question confronting the country nearly four years later is not who was the better candidate four years ago. It is whether the winner has delivered on his promises. And the sad truth is that he has not.”

And since liberals these days are having a hard time defending the indefensible- anyone seen those chain’s y’all?- they have to settle for the only alternative left to them.

Smear the other side.

Ferguson should consider it an honor to be attacked in this way by liberals.

Liberals are demanding that he be fired, crucified, drawn and quartered.

I’ll let Ferguson defend his article in Newsweek- which he does ably right here.

But the sin of misleading the reader without actually being untrue applies to Klein’s work in criticizing Ferguson’s work in criticizing Obama.  

So, let’s get back to Ezra Klein closely writing stuff that is designed to mislead without being actually untrue.

Klein, for example, cites an article that he wrote himself as proof that Ferguson’s criticism of Obamacare as not ending fee-for-service medicine is untrue or- the standard Klein criticism- that Ferguson is too dumb to understand the nuances of wonk-speak .

“If you don’t think the ACA did anything to address ‘fee for service’ medicine,” says Klein with a hyperlink to himself, “you simply don’t know anything about it.”

Another case settled by Ezra Klein citing Ezra Klein.

Yes Ezra; the “because-I-said-so argument” has been compelling to all of us since we were five years old.

I wonder if Ezra Klein ever says stuff like this?

“Ezra Klein will now be leaving for work,” or “Ezra Klein was open on that last slant route” or “The Wonk is very hungry right now” or “Ezra Klein is MVP of Super Bowl 73 and Ezra Klein is going to Disney World.”

He’s gotta be one of those guys who refers to himself in the third person or by his own nickname.   

What the Wonk doesn’t mention is that there is legitimate disagreement about whether Obamacare ends fee-for-service- which there is general agreement that it does not in the next ten years- or whether Obamacare just kicks the can down the road by tweaking the fee-for-service healthcare payment system.

From the American Academy of Family Physicians:

The U.S. health care system will continue to rely on a fee-for-service payment model for at least the next eight to 10 years, making it incumbent on policymakers to work on fixing flaws in the system for the short term. That's the opinion of health policy expert Robert Berenson, M.D., a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, who spoke as part of a panel on Medicare physician payment during the Family Medicine Congressional Conference here May 14-15.

"It is going to take us a while to move to something new, and I would guess there will be parts of the country in which fee-for-service will be with us for a very long time," said Berenson. "We probably will not have the organization developed to take on new payment models and the collaboration and integration that most of these payment models envision in the near future."

Hmmm. Who to believe?

The M.D. with the Urban Institute or Ezra, the Wonk?  

Klein also hits Ferguson for mentioning the fact that half of Americans pay no federal income tax.

Ferguson wrote:

“Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.”

To which Ezra Klein replies:

“That’s not the only time that Ferguson’s argument veers factually astray. He says that only ‘half of us [are] paying the taxes.’ That’s not true: Only half of us are paying federal income taxes [Editor’s emphasis]. Most all of us are paying payroll taxes, and state and  local taxes.”

Clearly, Ferguson in referencing “taxable returns” is referring to federal income taxes and no other taxes- you know? The same federal income tax rates that the president has some influence over?

The subject is after all Obama.

But when the subject is as indefensible as Obama has been, the best option is to attack the conservative writer.

Even if, as Ezra Klein unconsciously observes about Ezra Klein, his "argument is so carefully written as to mislead the reader without, in most cases, being entirely untrue.”