McTARDED

Posted in Rants on October 14th, 2009 by Ed

(Sections of this are cross-posted from two Instaputz posts)

I am currently fascinated by Megan McArdle. She may in fact be the one perfect specimen of Everything Wrong with America – moreso than Easy Mac, Bridezillas, and the enduring popularity of zombie movies combined. As a certain blogger who shall remain nameless pointed out, her entire shtick is based on the premise that she is holds an elite MBA (from University of Chicago) and is thus a weighty voice in debates on all things financial. Yet she has never worked in the industry (or worked at all for that matter), bases none of her arguments on facts and half of them on anecdotes ("When I was unemployed, I felt like…"), and routinely gets undergrad-level shit about economics wrong. she uses the terms balance sheet and income statement interchangeably. She doesn't seem to understand when it is appropriate to use a mean versus a median or vice-versa. Her arguments – or "arguments" – are transparent regurgitations of talking points from lobbyists, right wing think tanks, and other equally ignorant bloggers. She is, in summary, a total idiot who for some reason has been given a prominent place in our public discourse.

That reason, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that doughy libertarian shut-ins and ex-fratboy mortgage brokers think she is fuckable.

Earlier this week she brought the retarded to an extent which could only be described as retarded in this piece about "Why Medicare Costs are Growing Faster than other Healthcare."

One of the commenters offered a retort that I've seen in a bunch of places: "Of course Medicare is growing faster! It cares for a sicker population!"

It's a common intuition, but it's wrong. Consider a simple model of a population with two groups: young and old. Assume that the old consume five times as much of an undifferentiated good, healthcare, as the young do, and that each unit costs $2,000. So the oung cost us $2,000 apiece per year, and the old cost us $10K. Now assume that the cost of healthcare in each group grows at 10% a year. At the end of five years, each young person will cost us $3,221 and each old person will cost us $16,105 – or exactly five times as much as a young person.

First of all, Megan reminds us yet again that there's no good reason to look up facts when you can just make up a hypothetical. Eight seconds of Google research would have shown that her entire premise is made of stupid and wrong.

Second, the CBO report on which she bases her entire argument that Medicare/Medicaid are growing faster than private insurance explicitly says that it shouldn't be used to say Medicare/Medicaid are growing faster then private insurance. Megan, you so bad! The sign says "No Loitering" but you loiter anyway!

Third, look at the math she feels compelled to show us. "Assume" that the old consume five times as much healthcare as the young. If each grows by 10%, after five years the old will consume five times as much healthcare as the young. Watch Megan's neurons fire wildly in an effort to understand multiplication. In other news, if Megan is twice as stupid as Jonah Goldberg and they each double their stupid over the next year, Megan will be twice as stupid as Jonah Goldberg.

Fourth, way to pull a McArdletm by throwing in a $5 phrase like "an undifferentiated good" in an effort to sound smart and cover up the fact that she hasn't the slightest idea what in holy hell she's talking about.

Fifth, stay tuned for the Oscar-baiting biopic of Megan McArdle starring Tara Reid as a dull young girl who overcomes her childhood addiction to eating Elmer's glue and her own shit to become a Real Financial Journalist.

In conclusion, if we assume that the elderly use far more healthcare than the young and that their use increases at a faster rate, we can clearly see that the elderly use far more healthcare than the young and that their use increases at a faster rate.

But wait. There's more. Check the comments. Here is a free tip for aspiring bloggers: when the first ten comments on your post are pointing out basic factual errors you've made or statistics you've twisted to suit your fancy, keep up the good work. You're doing great. She responds to criticism with a particular CBO report she used to justify her argument that Medicare/Medicaid make costs increase faster than private insurance. Quote from page 16 of said report, after an explanation of the data and methodology:

Consequently, the differences in excess cost growth between Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care spending should not be interpreted as meaning that Medicare or Medicaid is less able to control spending than private insurers.

But it's much more convincing if you ignore that part and cherry pick something that supports your recycled faux-libertarian bullshit talking points argument. Great work, Megan. Keep responding to your commenters with the indescribably feeble "You're misunderstanding my argument" rather that coming to grips with the fact that you are playing in a league that won't tolerate your shit. Being a right wing pundit may not entail a lot of fact checking, but putting yourself out there as a Very Serious Econ Person without being able to differentiate your ass and a hole in the ground…well, it doesn't work quite as well. The legions of sycophants enjoyed by Beck and Malkin are replaced in McArdle's case by dozens of people pointing out how stupid she is.