20 August 2012

Niall Ferguson: Peddling Lies and Bullshit

Well, in his role as drum-major for failed economic policies (namely austerity as a cure for all that ails us) Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has produced this piece in Newsweek that has generated a storm of critical responses: James Fallows, Paul Krugman, and Ezra Klein and Brad DeLong have deflated Ferguson's attack on the Obama administration. Ferguson remains undeterred.

Among the claims at issue is one where Ferguson insists - putatively on the basis of analysis by the Congressional Budget Office - that the Affordable Care Act will violate Obama's 2008 pledge not to raise taxes on middle-income Americans and that it will contribute to the nation's deficit woes.

It is scant surprise that Ferguson, who was an adviser to the unsuccessful and unlamented 2008 McCain campaign, has little patience for Obama or his policies. (I myself don't have much either!) But it is some surprise to learn - as reported here and here at Politico - that not only do the folks at Newsweek not fact check submissions, but they don't seem to mind that Ferguson seems to have been simply "makin' shit up" for this piece. One would think that a self-respecting journalistic outlet would want essays it publishes to be sound. And one would think that an historian would find it important to get basic facts right. One would think. And instead we get silence from Newsweek and what we can only call the Bullshit defense from Ferguson. Here is an appropriate reply from Brad Delong:
"And his only excuse--now, it's not an excuse for the lie, it's a "I can lie cleverly" boast--is: "I very deliberately said 'the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA', not 'the ACA'".

Fire his ass.

Fire his ass from Newsweek, and the Daily Beast.

Convene a committee at Harvard to examine whether he has the moral character to teach at a university.

There is a limit, somewhere. And Ferguson has gone beyond it."
And here, at The Atlantic, is a more temperate riposte, in which their business and economics editor slices and dices Ferguson's claims. Niall? Newsweek?

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