20 Nov 2013

Blog-Steal: Krugman’s Kollapsing Klaims about Healthcare.gov

Health Legislation, Krugman 78 Comments

[UPDATE below.]

I don’t normally like to just copy and paste somebody else’s blog post, but Chris Rossini at EPJ penned a work of brilliance. I had read all of these Krugman posts, but didn’t think to lay them out this way:

I’m proud to announce that Truth and Paul Krugman have crashed into one another. It’s in regards to Healthcare.gov, but hey, when worlds collide, it’s only right to recognize it.

So let’s look at the timeline (my emphasis):

Oct. 1 – “The glitches will get fixed.”

Oct. 14th – “Obviously they messed up the programming big time, which is kind of a shock. But this will get fixed…”

Nov. 6 – “If the bugs in healthcare.gov get fixed…”

AND NOW …. Drumroll please!

Nov. 20 – “But the future of the reform depends not on policy per se but on whether the IT issues can be fixed well enough soon enough, a subject on which I have zero expertise.”

There we go…Krugman has no clue. He had no business saying that anything would work. It took almost 2 months, but he got there.

Flawless victory.

UPDATE: According to a frequent commenter, the above doesn’t really mean much; it is hardly a good “gotcha.” I don’t know what else Krugman would need to say, to show he is completely full of it and shows no remorse in his twisting opinions. Does it matter if I point out, that the first sentence of his November 20 post was: “I haven’t been writing about the healthcare.gov thing, for the simple reason that I have nothing to say.” ?

I mean, that’s an outright lie, unless you append the phrase, “Starting at the point at which I stopped confidently telling my readers healthcare.gov would be fixed, I haven’t been writing about the healthcare.gov thing…”

78 Responses to “Blog-Steal: Krugman’s Kollapsing Klaims about Healthcare.gov”

  1. Major_Freedom says:

    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sirrrrrahahahahahaAHAHAHAHA OH haha”.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      He did change his mind when the facts changed. Didn’t you know that two months ago, Krugman was a software engineering genius?! (LOL)

  2. Cosmo Kramer says:

    Krugman is an anti-dentite.

  3. Chris Rossini says:

    Evidently the empirical data caused him to change his model.

    Thanks Bob!

  4. joe says:

    No. Like most of these Krugman “gotchas”, this is a matter of careless reading by his critics.

    The final quote says:

    “fixed well enough soon enough”

    the other quotes merely say the site will get fixed.

    Question is how long it takes to fix them and whether it will take so long that Democrats are hurt in 2014. Krugman believes the site will get fixed but how long that will take is beyond his area of expertise.

    • Darien says:

      That’s an extremely charitable reading. Krugman’s earlier absolute confidence has collapsed into “I have zero expertise.” The fact that the man has extensive expertise in couching his statements in weasel words so he can always claim not to have said the things he said may not be a point in his favour.

      • Ken B says:

        It’s charitable but not unusually so. Krugman does not in the earlier quotes say when or how soon. The only mention of time is in an expression of uncertainty. It’s uncharitable to foist upon him a prediction he did not make.
        Bob: “It’s winter.”
        Ken: “I expect we’ll get snow.”
        is not the same as
        Ken: “It will snow tomorrow.” Not remotely

    • Bala says:

      Hilarious! How can someone who has zero expertise even make a claim that the glitches will get fixed?

      You Krugtron worshippers are amazing to say the least!

    • Mule Rider says:

      My faith in humanity erodes every time I read something like this (another apology for a disinformation agent like Krugman). Namely because I realize this kind of blatant reality-denial is not isolated but is quite pervasive in our society. I come here and go to Zero Hedge to remind me there are a few sane people left, but unfortunately we’re vastly outnumbered.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      I would think saying a glitch will be fixed implies that it will happen “well” and “soon”. Unless you are going to say he was implying that it would EVENTUALLY happen – like maybe someone would fix the site 10 years from now?

      • Ken B says:

        Yes, calling them “glitches” that “will” be fixed does imply they are not huge problems and the fix will be in some sense soon. But it’s not like saying “in a few days”. it means “before it causes a major crisis for the rest of the program”. That’s what we were assured by lots of people, and Krugman uncritically accepted.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          And now he admits that if they are not fixed “well enough soon enough” – and HE HAS NO IDEA ABOUT THAT – it will cause a “major crisis for the rest of the program”.

  5. Gamble says:


    Since Krug has no IT expertise I will let him in on a little secret

    The people hired by the guv, attempted to use Java, which simply means they tried to use YOUR computer to facilitate this. Your computer was the infrastructure. The Pros know that a project with the estimated consumer demand can never be hosted with Java on a users computer. How will they fix this? That is not the point. The point is we all got ripped off. The millions spent went to nothing.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “The people hired by the guv, attempted to use Java”

      Please tell me you have a source for this, because I can’t believe anyone would be that stupid as to attempt this.

      • Ken B says:

        I wouldn’t bet against stupidity here Matt.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “Why are all these gay guys giving me BJs? I mean every time I try to go out and have a good time, they always find me and they always get me into bed with them. Why can’t these f^gs just leave me alone?”

      • Gamble says:

        From JavaWorld:
        What went wrong?
        An initial round of criticism focused on how many files the browser was being forced to download just to access the site, per an article at Reuters. A thread at Reddit appeared and was filled with analyses of the code. But closer looks by others have teased out deeper, more systematic issues.

        The architecture for the site — one live server, one backup — was touted as being lean and ready to scale via a CDN. In fact, a CDN was used: The site’s static files are served through Akamai. But it clearly isn’t the static front end that has been the issue.

        Slate pointed out that one of the errors returned from the site hinted at an Oracle database problem, apparently because “the front-end static website and the back-end servers (and possibly some dynamic components of the Web pages) were developed by two different contractors,” Development Seed (front end) and CGI Federal (back end).

        Another analysis by AppDynamics founder Jyoti Bansal, as seen in the Washington Post, came to a similar conclusion: The back end was the bigger culprit. He noted that adding server capacity probably wouldn’t change anything. “It’s like you have four lanes in the highway converging into three lanes of a bottleneck,” Jyoti said, “If your software isn’t designed to reach all the lanes, that will happen.”

        Source code for the site has since been published on GitHub — it’s built with Ruby and Jekyll — but that repository does not include any of the actual data for the FHIM. As the Huffington Post pointed out, there’s no development history for the code — it’s all been checked in as a single commit.

        What’s most embarrassing is how back in June, the Department of Health and Human Services — and Development Seed, to boot — stepped up to crow in the pages of The Atlantic about how great the site was going to be. Designer Ed Mullen put it this way: “We’re comparing ourselves to Rdio and similar services. We want to be aligned with the current thinking of the Web.”

  6. William Anderson says:

    Krugman’s defense of ObamaCare reminds me of the scene in “Animal House” where Kevin Bacon’s character is telling the panicked crowed that “all is well::


  7. Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

    Watch me channel my psychic powers!

    December 10: “Despite the fact that the glitches might not be fixed as soon as some people desire, the program is still providing benefits…”

    December 31: “Even though it’s looking like these glitches might not be fixed…”

    February 2: “While it is now apparent the glitches won’t ever be fixed, it doesn’t really matter because…”

  8. Ken B says:

    I’m curious. Vote for 1 or 2

    1. Krugman examined the code and the beta version of the site, and gave it his imprimatur as an IT expert, and his comments quoted above were intended to convey that.

    2. Krugman repeated a bit uncritically reassurances that came from others, much the same way I say “they’ll fix it’ when my phone line goes dead.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Of course it’s 2, and that’s sort of the point. Krugman uncritically parrots anything that any politician with a D in front of their name says, right up until such an argument becomes untenable, and then, rather than admitting he was simply parroting based on his political preferences, he tries to slowly back away and distance himself and pretend like he’s just a neutral observer.

      • Ken B says:

        But the gotcha is really only a “flawless victory” that justifies the kind of crowing we see here if it’s 1. Otherwise it’s a wet squib.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          That would be an even bigger case of justified crowing.

          But that doesn’t mean there is only one set of moves that gives a flawless victory.

        • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

          I disagree. I think the point of this “gotcha” is to prove that Krugman is a mindless zombie who uncritically parrots whatever the administration says and ISN’T actually examining the issues in a detailed manner for himself.

          I’d be LESS critical of someone who examined the IT structure and made an incorrect estimate of how big the problems were. Being wrong because you simply estimated incorrectly is less embarrassing than being wrong because you just took Obama’s word for it, imho.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      I vote

      3. Ken B believes that Krugman selecting one of two diametrically opposite ideas in the public discourse to “repeat” means that the idea he selected cannot really be attributed to him, and that the complexity of the Obamacare website is comparable to a single phone line, such that saying “they’ll fix it” for one is as responsible as saying it for the other.

      Next time if a rocket bound for Mars has technical issues, then Krugman’s statement “They’ll fix it” should be understood as something other than progressive thought porn on the mystical power of the state.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      “Krugman repeated a bit uncritically reassurances that came from others, much the same way I say “they’ll fix it’ when my phone line goes dead.”

      I can do that because I’m not trying to persuade people to make important choices regarding major institutions that (unfortunately) affect all of us when my phone line goes dead. Krugman is professing to be a scholarly guide as to what is economically and philosophically right – he is being very disingenuous by mindlessly repeating statements from the people who are on “his side”.

      • Ken B says:

        It’s not disingenuous, it’s confirmation bias. The man believes what he says.

        It’s like a perpetual Morton’s Fork around here. One moment Krugman is so stupid his IQ is negative; the next he’s the supreme master of verbal ju jitsu.

        • Rick Hull says:

          > It’s like a perpetual Morton’s Fork around here. One moment Krugman is so stupid his IQ is negative; the next he’s the supreme master of verbal ju jitsu.

          Eh? I think this crowd has always been consistent in the Krugman Kritique: bright guy, master of rhetoric and weaselly statements, not interested in the truth so much as his tribe

  9. Dyspeptic says:

    “But the future of the reform depends not on policy per se but on whether the IT issues can be fixed well enough soon enough”

    Does any sane person believe that? I think it is the other way around. The website is only one of many problems with this Rube Goldberg scheme. If they don’t get enough young and/or healthy people signing up for this rip-off then that blows a huge hole in the economics of Obamacare and the Federal budget. What if it turns out that insurance companies lose money writing policies that comply and then withdraw from the market like my wife’s employers ins. co. did? What if the state run exchanges turn out to be a failure? What if all it amounts to in the long run is millions more added to the Medicaid rolls, with tens of millions still uninsured and trillions more in Federal debt? What if doctors refuse to treat the dramatically expanded number of Medicaid patients because the reimbursement is inadequate? What if SCOTUS eventually rules that Obamacare is a violation of the Origination Clause?

    There are more ways for this experimental monstrosity to fail than to succeed. It’s based on the exact opposite principle to Occam’s Razor.

  10. Yancey Ward says:

    The really bad part in the last quote is the part about how the policy itself isn’t the issue, despite the fact that the policy is the truly critical part. He just assumes the exchanges will work as planned financially. I see absolutely no reason to believe this.

    • Ken B says:

      That is the bigger point, and you are right, the issues go deeper than software. When the site finally works we’ll see how the plans don’t satisfy. But the supposed gotcha isn’t about that.

  11. Yancey Ward says:

    Just wait- if, next Summer, it becomes clear that not nearly enough young and healthy people signed up to keep the spiral of premiums from occurring, Krugman will write another column saying, “But the future of the reform depends not on the IT issues per se but on whether the policy issues can be fixed well enough soon enough, a subject on which I have zero expertise.”

  12. Bob Murphy says:

    Ken B. what the hell are you talking about? Suppose Krugman says on Monday, “It will snow on Saturday.” Then on Wednesday he says, “It will probably snow on Saturday.” Then on Friday–when it’s 80 degrees out–he says, “I haven’t been commenting on the weather, because I have zero expertise on that. I have no idea if it will snow tomorrow.”

    According to you, my documenting the above would in no way be a “gotcha” against Krugman.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Yeah, the point of all of this isn’t to prove that Krugman is a poor IT Systems Analyst. It’s to prove that he unthinkingly parrots whatever the administration says.

    • Ken B says:

      1. There is no analog in the alleged gotcha of Krugman denying he ever remarked on the glitches getting fixed. had he done so you’d have him, but he didn’t.
      2. The remarks on the glitches getting fixed were pretty casual, and not tied to any time frame. They were a vague expression of expectation like my remark about phones.
      3. Let’s add a little context.
      “Obviously they messed up the programming big time, which is kind of a shock. But this will get fixed …” You really read that as a man claiming expertise making a promise on his own bat that the big time mess up will get fixed and soon? I read it as a man shocked by how badly they did but confident it will get fixed. I recall a time when there was a bug with your comments and you told us ‘they’ were working on it. if you now disavow expertise in IT can I play gotcha? Of course not.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        I recall a time when there was a bug with your comments and you told us ‘they’ were working on it. if you now disavow expertise in IT can I play gotcha? Of course not.

        Ken, it’s bad when your own analogies don’t even work, on their own terms. If Krugman had said back on October 1, “Yep, the website is all screwed up, but the Administration has people working on it,” then there would be no gotcha, and nobody would’ve blogged about it.

        But of course, that’s not what he said. He claimed there were lots of people signing up for ObamaCare, mentioned there were some “good glitches” (his term) because of unusually high demand, confidently said they would be fixed, and concluded that the program was a smashing success.

        You really think that’s analogous to me telling you guys I’m aware that the blog’s comments are screwed up, and reporting that people are working on it? For one obvious difference: Krugman said a bunch of things with confidence that were false, whereas in the very analogy you picked, I spoke the truth. Does that matter to you?

        OK I’m walking away. I’m ashamed I let myself waste so much time on this.

        Last thing: MF, Bob Roddis, Joe Fetz: Please don’t swear at people.

        • Ken B says:

          So did Krugman as he knew it I expect. But the point is your comment did not lay claim to either software or organizational expertise, nor expertise in how wordpress operates. Neither did Krugman’s comments lay claim to expertise.

          • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

            If Krugman never intended to lay claim to expertise, why do YOU suppose his tone slowly changed over the span of several weeks from “the glitches are a good sign” to “the glitches will get fixed” to “the glitches will probably get fixed” to “the glitches might get fixed” to “I have no idea whether the glitches will get fixed or not.”

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Matt Matt Matt, Ken B. isn’t defending Krugman. All Ken B. is saying is that if we assume that I meant “Krugman just violated the conservation of energy,” then I was wrong. Ken B. is very precise in his statements.

            • Ken B says:

              Because his confidence eroded. That’s a good thing, no?

              Bob has a date with Christie Turlington. He’s seated at the table. The waiter asked him Wiil he order.
              No he says I am waiting for someone. Time passes the waiter returns. No says Bob I expect she’ll be here soon. Time passes The waiter returns.
              I hope she’ll show up says Bob. Time passes the waiter returns. Maybe we should give her a little longer says Bob.
              Is this eroding confidence that difficult to understand?
              If Bob says I don’t understand women have I got him in a gotcha?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “Please don’t swear at people.”

          Huh? Was that really for me?

          • Bob Murphy says:

            MF I don’t know if you’ve been reading my exchange with LK and Ken B. (I hope for your sake you haven’t.) I am making a blanket finger wagging at all Austro-libertarians because otherwise I’m a hypocrite for pointing out that LK sounds like Darth Vader (or so I’m told).

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Ah, well, carry on then.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          Hey, how did I get dragged into this?

          • Joseph Fetz says:

            Ah, okay. I see why you brought that up (the other post where LK linked to me using the F word, egads).

      • Matt Tanous says:

        1. “I haven’t been writing about the healthcare.gov thing, for the simple reason that I have nothing to say.”

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Bob, how many times have you seen people in real life say things like “It’s going to rain tomorrow, so we should have the party indoors.”? When they say that, are they claiming that they’re experts in metereology? If they later say that they’re not weather experts, does that mean they’re contradicting themselves?

      So I don’t see any contradictions here. I think there have been a few genuine Krugman Kontradictions though, like when he said that you could have successful economy built around producing luxury goods for the rich, but then in another work said that such an economy would be unsustainable:


      • Ken B says:

        And I make a point about winter and predicting snow above.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        “does that mean they’re contradicting themselves”


        • Ken B says:

          St Peter: What have you got to say for yourself?
          P: I’m a sinner: envious, murderous, adulterous, covetous, cruel, petty, lustful, slothful, drunken, rude, selfish and insensitive.
          St Peter: What about being a liar?
          P: Huh? I’m actually pretty truthful. I admitted to all my crimes while I was still alive.
          St Peter: what about the time you said “Looks like rain.” The next day you said “I don’t claim to be a meteorologist.” Shameless frickin’ liar.

      • Mike T says:


        “Bob, how many times have you seen people in real life say things like “It’s going to rain tomorrow, so we should have the party indoors.”? When they say that, are they claiming that they’re experts in metereology? If they later say that they’re not weather experts, does that mean they’re contradicting themselves?”

        >> Presumably those non-experts planning for rain tomorrow are basing that on weather forecasts provided by experts in the field.

        Keshav, are you a basketball fan? In my opinion, this would run closer to Krugman’s blathering nonsense.

        Bob is a 40% foul shooter over his 3 year career. He’s been working on his shot in preparation for the upcoming season. In order for Bob not to be a liability to his team where opponents can just employ a hack-a-Bob strategy at the end of games, he needs to get to around 70%. Otherwise, the team’s playoff chances drop considerably. Bob plays for Krugman’s hometown team.

        Week 1: Bob continues to shoot around 40%
        Expert 1: Bob’s mechanics haven’t changed and are fundamentally flawed.
        Expert 2: Bob may need an entirely new approach and is already hurting his team at the end of games.
        Krugman: Bob is getting to the line 10 times a game so at least he’s scoring 4 points from the foul line. He’ll improve to 70% and will be a strength at the end of games.

        Weed 4: Bob is shooting around 42%
        Expert 1: Bob is clearly not making enough progress nor fixed his mechanics.
        Expert 2: It seems like Bob was getting bad advice from other players and reportedly hasn’t put the time in over the summer practicing.
        Krugman: Bob will get to 70%. Opponents using the hack-a-Bob strategy at the end of games are going to pay.

        Week 8: Bob is now shooting around 45%
        Expert 1: Bob needs to find a new shooting coach and start from scratch. His shooting is atrocious and is making the same mistakes.
        Expert 2: Bob has already cost the team a dozen games. They have little chance to make the playoffs this year.
        Krugman: Bob will be good enough soon enough for the team to make the playoffs. Go Blue Team!! Incidentally, I’ve never watched or played basketball in my life, refuse to acknowledge any expert’s analysis, and haven’t even been paying attention to any of Bob’s games.

        This isn’t necessarily a Krugman Kontradiction. It’s Krugman personifying the title of his Nov 6 post: “Pointless Political Punditry.” In other words, he shouldn’t be taken seriously.

  13. Blackadder says:


    Of course this is a good “gotcha.” Not sure why anyone would want to die on that hill.

    • Ken B says:

      It would be a good gotcha if any of the three earlier quotes amount to Krugman claiming or implying expertise in IT. None do.

      • Tel says:

        I would appear that Krugman is claiming confidence in the ability of the US Federal Govt to get it’s act together.

        • Ken B says:

          Let’s say that is right ad arguendo. Then it’s like I say: Krugman being uncritically accepting of what he wants to hear. But it’s not a contradiction, there’s still no gotcha.

          Look, one of the posts linked has the tile “An Obamacre Success” or something like that. THAT is mockable just by itself. But the obsession with Kontradictions? Misplaced this time.

          • Tel says:

            Krugman claims to be a gnarly, empirical, boots on the ground, learns from experience kind of guy… but still strangely has utmost faith in the Obama government after multiple direct observations of unfathomable screw ups. Even demonstrating self-admitted blind faith, in areas where he lacks the tools to judge the size and difficulty of the job, but still remains sure that it will get fixed.

            Unlike those theoretical Austrians who know already that Central Planning can’t work, so they don’t need to bother checking which particular thing might have gone wrong this week.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Thank you, Blackadder, I thought I was losing my mind. It’s not like we were at a kid’s birthday party on October 1 and someone said, “Hey Paul, what do you think about that website?” And he said, “Who, me? Gosh, put a gun to my head, I suppose they’ll get the glitches fixed. Hey, where’s the mustard?”

      • valueprax says:

        That sounds like an anecdote that actually happened to you and you’ve rephrased it for applicable consumption in this venue.

        So what I want to know now is why you thought talking about guns at a children’s birthday party was appropriate. You’re scaring the children, Bob, and all to make an ideological point. Have you no dignity?

  14. Ken B says:

    Re your update Bob
    1. How frequently does Krugman usually blog or write an op ed or column?
    2. When was the last time before the 20th that he wrote about healthcare.gov?

    I ask because if he writes frequently and has not touched upon the topic in two weeks and saying “Ihaven’t been writing about …” like he’s explaining why he hasn’t written about it in the past few postings. I’ve seen other bloggers use similar turns of phrase, and so have you.

    To call this pedestrian and common turn of phrase an outright lie seems to be willfully misunderstanding Krugman in order to calumniate him.
    There surely must come a point when you stop trying to interpret everything that someone you dislike says in the most unflattering and unfair way possible. Krugman I will note is not the only person you treat this way. It’s a sign of a lack of intellectual seriousness because it is a refusal to engage with the best arguments of your adversaries.

  15. Bob Murphy says:

    I can’t help myself… OK Ken B. I’m curious how far you’re willing to push this. Suppose some right-wing pundit like Ann Coulter says, when ground forces enter Iraq, “Liberal whiners ask where the WMDs are. But they will be found, and Bush’s invasion will go down in history as his supreme accomplishment.”

    Note, she doesn’t say, “According to the CiA they will be found.” Nope, she point-blank says, “They will be found.”

    Then she progressively backs off the claim, until two months later she says, “I haven’t written about the WMD issue, because I have zero expertise on military intelligence.”

    Now: Somebody puts up a post at antiwar.com, quoting from her various articles, and concluding triumphantly with her admitting she has zero expertise.

    Surely you wouldn’t say, “What the heck is your problem, guys? The only thing Coulter is guilty of, is uncritically passing along the government line without having any clue whether it was true or not. Why do you feel that somehow is a problem for Ann Coulter?”

    Or would you? i honestly have no idea at this point.

    (I’m hoping you admit Coulter’s behavior would be worthy of criticism, and you try to explain why Krugman’s behavior was qualitatively different. But like I say, I honestly don’t know. I admit I can’t pass the Ken B. Turing Test.)

    • Ken B says:

      No, I’d say Coulter should fess up, as i did, that she had been wrong about WMDs. But look at all the differences.

      We have good evidence that glitches and websites do get fixed. Everyone knows that. We do not have experience with WMD hunts.

      Krugman did not say that he had not written about Obamacare and the site. He said he hadn’t been writing. The use of the progressive indicates he’s referring to the immediate past.

      Krugman did not say that he hadn’t been writing about the site because he didn’t have expertise on IT. He said he hadn’t been writing because he had little to say. He elaborated saying that the only interesting topic to address would be the fixing of the glitches and on that topic he disavowed expertise.
      In your analogy you have colter saying she did not write because she lacked expertise in military intelligence.

      So your analogy fails in several respects, including I think all the important ones.

      • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

        “We have good evidence that glitches and websites do get fixed. Everyone knows that. ”

        Not government websites. I was in the Navy for nine years and some of the awful glitches on Navy websites that existed when I enlisted were still around when I separated…

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Bob, I think that when Krugman said “for the simple reason that I have nothing to say”, he meant that he had nothing to say about exactly what the technical problems are and what it would take to fix them. He didn’t mean he had nothing to say about his level of confidence in the administration’s abilitty to fix them.

  16. Blackadder says:

    There is a broader point here, and I think the failure to grasp it may be what’s tripping folks like Ken B up.

    If you were to go back to this summer, there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the exchanges would work or not. Some people, for example, argued that the exchanges wouldn’t work because young and healthy people wouldn’t sign up, or because the rates would be too high, etc. Others predicted that this wouldn’t be a problem. To my knowledge, though, no one said that the exchange would fail because people wouldn’t even be able to sign in to the website. If someone had said that, people would have called him an idiot, and even a lot of Obamacare skeptics probably would’ve been embarrassed for the guy.

    And yet, that’s pretty much what happened.

    From Philip Tetlock to Nassim Taleb, there is a large literature showing that experts are pretty bad at predicting what is going to happen. One of the reasons for that is that they look only at one aspect of an event, and assume away any other problems. If you’re Krugman, and you think that the economics of the Obamacare exchange is sound, then you confidently predict it will succeed. It’s true, of course, that success depends not only on the economics, but also on there being a functioning website, something Krugman knows nothing about. But it’s easy enough to dismiss such concerns as irrelevant. After all, it’s also true that the exchanges wouldn’t succeed if the website launch coincided with a big zombie outbreak. So why bother with such inane concerns?

    And what this example shows clearly is that when you assume away potential problems, such as website glitches or zombie attacks, they sometimes come back to bite you.

    • Ken B says:

      So are you saying that the extent of the website foul up surprised even experts? Because that bolsters the argument that Krugman was just repeating assurances that we all heard, that believing the assurances was not unreasonable (if possibly uncritical), and that his belief was probably sincere.

      Krugman still argues that the exchanges will work, the scheme is sound, and that the only notable problem is the f-ed up IT work.

    • Yancey Ward says:

      though, no one said that the exchange would fail because people wouldn’t even be able to sign in to the website. If someone had said that, people would have called him an idiot, and even a lot of Obamacare skeptics probably would’ve been embarrassed for the guy

      Actually, a lot of people did predict the website’s failures, and based on their own experiences in getting an IT system like this up and running. Even people in the Administration gave muted warnings about this. Of course, a lot of PPACA supporters did call such people idiots, but they never apologized.

      • Ken B says:

        I didn’t mention this as it’s not relevant to what I was debating but yes. I read articles just days before predicting the site would crash, and for a long time saw worries epressed by IT experts. Large scale IT is damn hard.

        • Tel says:

          There have been much larger and more complex IT projects than getting what amounts to a basic web shopper site together. Orders of magnitude more complex.


          That’s what really makes it damn hard… nothing to do with engineering, and everything to do with where the money goes.

          From a deeper link starting at the article above:

          Sebelius oversaw numerous costly and disastrous government website projects during her six-year governorship (2003-2009), including a failed update of the Department of Labor’s program to provide unemployment pay and other services and similar updates pertaining to the Department of Administration and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) services.

          Oh yeah, and persistently rewarding technical failure, providing the political credentials are intact. That also makes it damn hard to achieve anything on a project.

  17. Bob Murphy says:

    Blackadder I appreciate you trying to help, but I think you’re just muddying the waters vis-a-vis my argument with Ken B.

    Ken B. is saying, “This isn’t a gotcha. All this ‘proves’ is that Krugman is an unthinking tool of the Obama Administration, who carelessly repeats whatever their official line is, in order to keep public support for his favored program, even as the evidence mounted that they were lying. Then, when it became clear that they had been lying and he had been repeating those lies uncritically, Krugman offered no apology, said ‘I haven’t been commenting on this because I have zero expertise on it.’ So what’s the big deal, guys? Why do you think this is a problem for Krugman?”

    To which the only appropriate answer is, “Huh?”

    • Ken B says:

      Bob speaking as Krugman: ‘I haven’t been commenting on this because I have zero expertise on it.’

      Here’s one of the problems Bob, you are eliding what Krugman actually said.
      What Krugman actually said is that *the only issue worth commenting on* is the likelihood of a software fix that is good enough soon enough.
      Now that’s actually a pretty strong assertion.
      The failing websire led to Obama’s “fix” and many have commented on the wisdom and legality of that.
      It has led to some in teresting game theory suggestions and people have commented on that.
      It has led to changing opinions and that got lots of comment.
      It has led
      So it’s a strong assertion. (It’s also wrong but that’s not relevant to the error you are making here.)
      But to Krugman only the narrow IT issue is worth commenting on.
      And he disavows expertise on *that*.
      You cannot fairly represent this “I have nothing to to say on all this because I’m not an IT expert.”
      He has made the non-trivial assertion I indicated above in between.
      You can fairly if hyperbolically represent this as “I have not commented on this in the past week or sobecause the
      only issue about parsing LR(k) grammars in browsers because otherwise Obamacare is as perfect as
      I described it, and is causing no problems you need worry about, and I know nothing about parsing.”

      If you have to distort what he said to get your gotcha, it’s not a gotcha.

      • Gamble says:

        I think most of the taxpayer money went to Larry Ellison floating race boat toy, not health.guv…

  18. Krugman’s IT Expertise Is Now Non-Zero, and Cancer Patients With Canceled Policies Need to Stop Whining says:

    […] how Krugman admitted last week that he wasn’t going to talk about healthcare.gov, because it was a topic on which he has […]

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