As violence in Iraq has intensified of late, there’s been a fair amount of interest in failed Republican predictions about U.S. foreign policy. In this case, it’s like shooting into an empty net: the GOP’s most prominent voices said the war in Iraq would be easy, brief, and cheap. Sunni and Shia would get along. Weapons of mass destruction would be found. We’d be greeted as liberators. And on and on.
The Republican predictions, of course, turned out to be wrong.
A similar debate has unfolded in some circles over the economy. The GOP predicted Clinton’s economic agenda would be a disaster; Bush’s economic agenda would work wonders; and Obama’s Recovery Act would make the Great Recession worse.
These Republican predictions turned out to be wrong, too.
And then there’s health care, where Republicans have made all kinds of assurances to the public about what “Obamacare” would do to consumers, the economy, and the health care system itself. Paul Krugman today takes a closer look at the GOP’s track record of successful predictions – or in this case, the lack thereof.
[R]emember “rate shock”? Last fall, when we got our first information about insurance premiums, conservative health care analysts raced to claim that consumers were facing a huge increase in their expenses. It was obvious, even at the time, that these claims were misleading; we now know that the great majority of Americans buying insurance through the new exchanges are getting coverage quite cheaply.Or remember claims that young people wouldn’t sign up, so that Obamacare would experience a “death spiral” of surging costs and shrinking enrollment? It’s not happening: a new survey by Gallup finds both that a lot of people have gained insurance through the program and that the age mix of the new enrollees looks pretty good.
On his blog, Krugman went a little further, noting related failed Republican predictions about enrollment through ACA exchanges, consumers paying premiums, plan cancellations, and system-wide costs. I can think of another failed GOP prediction or two that Krugman didn’t get to.
But there’s a larger point to this that goes beyond poking fun at those who were wrong.
The significance of this dynamic is not about which side of a debate has a better track record for making accurate predictions. Everyone in politics sometimes expects one result and finds themselves surprised by another. I, for example, assumed Sen. Thad Cochran (R) would lose his runoff in Mississippi. It happens.
Rather, the broader takeaway is that those who were wrong about the Affordable Care Act – and Iraq, and the economy, and so many other issues – continue to believe they were right. To this very day, it’s still incredibly easy to find Republican lawmakers, pundits, and officials who still think invading Iraq under false pretenses was a great idea; the Recovery Act didn’t help turn the economy around; and “Obamacare” isn’t helping anyone afford medical care.
What’s more, they don’t just repeat talking points; they seem to believe this rhetoric, giving anyone who defends reality a befuddled, incredulous look.
I care that Republican predictions about these key issues have been wrong, but I care even more that the same people who made the failed predictions are convinced they were right along and still have ample credibility.
As Krugman concluded, “[L]et’s be clear: While it has been funny watching the right-wing cling to its delusions about health reform, it’s also scary. After all, these people retain considerable ability to engage in policy mischief, and one of these days they may regain the White House. And you really, really don’t want people who reject facts they don’t like in that position. I mean, they might do unthinkable things, like starting a war for no good reason. Oh, wait.”