Paul Krugman has spent a good deal of time blasting apart Paul Ryan’s intellectually bankrupt health care plan so one can understand why the esteemed economist is a little irked Politico has decided to award Ryan healthcare policymaker of the year. According to Krugman, political journalists often concentrate on the theater of policy rather than the substance of it – after all, covering politics like a horse race is far better for ratings than poring over policy details:
Even if you like the thrust of Ryan’s ideas, even if you think privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher scheme is fine, what became painfully, embarrassingly clear during the debate over the Ryan plan was that Ryan is, well, incompetent; the plan was a mess, from its invocation of ludicrous Heritage Foundation projections to its crazy assertions about what would happen to discretionary spending. It’s true that the plan “got everyone talking”, as Politico says — but mostly it got people talking about what a mess Ryan’s effort was.
Oh, and it was pretty clear that Ryan wasn’t being honest about his own numbers.
What’s going on here, I suppose, is that Politico is mistaking theater for policy. Ryan isn’t an important health care reformer, or even minimally competent in his attempted wonkery, but he plays a deep thinker on TV. And the people at Politico either don’t understand the difference, or they don’t care.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.