Megan McArdle goes off on suspicious Census Bureau/Obamacare methodology switch

posted at 6:01 pm on April 17, 2014 by Guy Benson

Allahpundit wrote on this topic earlier in the week, but I think it’s significant enough to amplify — especially when a respected centrist wonk like Megan McArdle is cracking open her thesaurus to describe her alarm and disgust over what’s going down:

For several months now, whenever the topic of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act came up, I’ve been saying that it was too soon to tell its ultimate effects. We don’t know how many people have paid for their new insurance policies, or how many of those who bought policies were previously uninsured. For that, I said, we will have to wait for Census Bureau data, which offer the best assessment of the insurance status of the whole population. Other surveys are available, but the samples are smaller, so they’re not as good; the census is the gold standard. Unfortunately, as I invariably noted, these data won’t be available until 2015. I stand corrected: These data won’t be available at all. Ever.

Why?  Because as the New York Times reported, the Census Bureau has decided to throw out its 30-year formula (and therefore its baseline) on measuring America’s uninsured population, and replace it with a new methodology.  The revised math, according to Census officials, will result in much sunnier-looking results.  Independent of the statistical merits of this change, the timing, quite literally, could not be worse.  McArdle is aghast:

I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Befuddled. Aghast, appalled, thunderstruck, perplexed, baffled, bewildered and dumbfounded. It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,” but people tend to answer with their insurance status right now. But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years? The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.

She affirms that she does mean every level of the administration, citing this passage in the Times piece:

The White House is always looking for evidence to show the benefits of the health law, which is an issue in many of this year’s midterm elections. The Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Council of Economic Advisers requested several of the new questions, and the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the new questionnaire. 

This tectonic shift was requested and approved by the White House.  OMB’s role in the process is especially interesting, given who Obama has nominated to succeed Kathleen Sebelius at HHS.  It’s time to add a few new questions for Ms. Burwell to this list.  Certified Voxsplainer Sarah Kliff — who initially reacted to these ill-timed and radical changes with “nerd rage” — was quickly brought to heel after stern talking-to from an administration official.  Minutes after airing her anger on Twitter, she cranked out a post admonishing people not to “freak out” about what’s happening.  These tweets were less than an hour apart.  Magic:

Part of her evolved rationale was that the first batch of results under the new statistical regime would be from 2013, not 2014, so there would be one year of “pre-Obamacare” data to use as a fresh baseline.  One whole year!  As opposed to, you know, three decades of consistently measured trends.  Beyond that, 2013 wasn’t just any ordinary year; it was fraught with Obamacare-related upheaval, including millions of cancellation letters landing in people’s mailboxes. Not to mention that various components of Obamacare were implemented as early as 2011.  So last year hardly offers a clean, pre-Obamacare data point off of which judge its policy effects.  Cut the spin.  Abandoning a trend line developed over three decades at the precise moment that analysts are trying to quantify the impact of the biggest healthcare overhaul in decades can fairly be described as anti-data.  It’s anti-science.  It might well cross the line into fraudulence.  Even the Times’ headline grasped the cause-and-effect nature of implementing this major alteration right now: “Census Survey Revisions Mask Health Law Effects.”  McArdle concludes her vent session by predicting Democrats’ inevitable political chicanery come September:

If the administration is really serious about transparency and data-driven policy, as I’ve been told for a year now, then it will immediately rectify this appalling mistake and put the old questions back into circulation double-quick. But we’re more likely going to hear the most transparent and data-driven administration in history citing these data — without an asterisk — to tout the amazing impact of its policies.

Yup.  I wrote about this eventuality earlier today at Townhall, noting that the Obama administration has displayed a willingness — if not an eagerness — to manipulate healthcare data for the purposes of pro-Obamacare PR:

Which brings us back to the administration’s propensity toward shameless credit claiming. They’ve congratulated themselves over “good news” for which Obamacare was not responsible in the very recent past. They crafted a PR strategy of celebrating inflated “enrollment” numbers for their own aggrandizement. One can easily argue that this sort of behavior is politics as usual, but one can’t credibly contend that the White House and its allies won’t try to exploit the forthcoming apples-to-oranges switcheroo for political gain.

If you don’t believe Team Blue will happily and loudly repeat a rank distortion in a cynical effort to drive home a political message, you haven’t been paying attention.  Before you go, be sure to read (a) Ace’s rundown of several other instances in which the White House has subordinated empiricism to politics, and (b) Noah Rothman’s passive aggressive heads-up to the media that yet another kooky wingnut conspiracy theory has been vindicated by events.


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Obama lies about or at least twists everything. There are almost no exceptions.

VorDaj on April 17, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Lies, lies and more lies.

albill on April 17, 2014 at 6:06 PM

So, when the POTUS demonstrably lies to the American people, should we believe anything that comes from this regime?

d1carter on April 17, 2014 at 6:06 PM

61% and growing now think he is a liar. Once caught in lies you never get back your reputation.

Tater Salad on April 17, 2014 at 6:10 PM

He figures that he can bend all the curves in his direction so when the final tally is examined, he will get his spot on Mount Rushmore as one of the greatest Presidents ever. If you don’t believe it, just check his math.

Mo_mac on April 17, 2014 at 6:10 PM

If you like your statistics, you can keep your statistics. Period.

The Rogue Tomato on April 17, 2014 at 6:13 PM

But why, dear God, oh, why, would you change it in the one year in the entire history of the republic that it is most important for policy makers, researchers and voters to be able to compare the number of uninsured to those in prior years?

Either she thinks God changed it…
Or that Obama is a god…
Or else she’s using God as an expletive.

“Hey, this is a political blog. You’re off topic.”

McArdle brought up this topic.

“Whatever. It’s not a big deal.”

Would like like it if millions used, say, your mother’s name as an expletive?
Your mother is worthy of love & respect.
God is much more so.

itsnotaboutme on April 17, 2014 at 6:13 PM

The flip side of this is the acknowledgement that the “uninsured” numbers have long been inflated. Funny how the Obamanauts could have fixed the numbers ***before*** using the inaccurately-high number to sell the ACA to make them more accurate, but chose to wait until after.

HakerA on April 17, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Obamacare enrollees + New Census Bureau methodology = David Blaine in the house!

NewyoricanInTheSouth on April 17, 2014 at 6:16 PM

Ms. McArdle, if this really and truly shocks you, you haven’t been paying attention.

gryphon202 on April 17, 2014 at 6:16 PM

The solution is simple, except if you’re running a corrupt administration: simply use two separate instruments, the old one, and the new one.

That way, using the old instrument, they could measure the impact of the ACA on insured rates against historical data, and they could begin a transformation to what they claim is a better system.

The fact that they won’t do this tells us volumes.

(And a special shout-out to the corrupt main street media, who avert their eyes from this fiasco.)

BLOC on April 17, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Megan McArdle, known obama-voter, goes off on suspicious Census Bureau/Obamacare methodology switch

Fixed for accuracy.

Which obvious, lying charlatan will fool you and Althouse next, Megan?

Lanceman on April 17, 2014 at 6:20 PM

Go back to sleep, LIVs. Uncle Sam and the Pravda West establishment will ensure that you get your utopia – good and hard.

Xasprtr on April 17, 2014 at 6:23 PM

I had read when ACA first started there were 2 additional surveys that reported the number of insured a lot lower than the census(13m and 20m) but they used the census to skew the number also that skews the number of people that have died because of a lack of insurance higher also.

RonK on April 17, 2014 at 6:26 PM

The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.

How about both? Are you finally waking up Megan?

rbj on April 17, 2014 at 6:26 PM

If Obama gets much angrier about being called on all his lies, like Rumpelstiltskin, he will go into a rage and drive his right foot so far into the ground that he will sink in up to his waist, and then, in a red-faced passion, he will seize his left foot with both hands and tear himself in two.

Well, it’s got a happy ending anyway.

VorDaj on April 17, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Which part of this would be “going off”? You mean the part where she tells the truth? I guess that is “going off” in the age of trigger warnings.

DFCtomm on April 17, 2014 at 6:27 PM

The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.

All members of the Obama administration are required to be morons or psychopaths.

VorDaj on April 17, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Healthcare Data post-2013 = “*”

BobMbx on April 17, 2014 at 6:29 PM

If the new method is so great, does it mean that fewer people were uninsured than were held out as justification for Obamacare?

Blaise on April 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM

“You can keep your plan”

“There are no Russian troops in Crimea”

“There are no American tanks in Baghdad, none….”

“I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky”

“Effective today, I resign the office of President…..”

One of these is not like the others……

BobMbx on April 17, 2014 at 6:34 PM

If the new method is so great, does it mean that fewer people were uninsured than were held out as justification for Obamacare?

Blaise on April 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Re-read the memo…you aren’t supposed to say anything about that, and if you hear someone say it, the approved response is “Raaaciist!”

BobMbx on April 17, 2014 at 6:35 PM

What they desperately seem to want to avoid is an explanation.
 
verbaluce on January 2, 2014 at 12:01 PM

 
Wait, so telling them you supported their actions up to 2012 and that you personally desired their continued and similar expansions for another presidential term didn’t help, verbaluce?
 
rogerb on January 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

 
Wait, so telling them you supported their actions up to 2012 and that you personally desired their continued and similar expansions for another presidential term didn’t help, Megan?
 
You guys are consistent. I’ll give you that.

rogerb on April 17, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Pumping up the numbers so that it won’t look so bad when employers stop dropping policies this fall…right before the election.

lineholder on April 17, 2014 at 6:43 PM

WH took over the Census Bureau in 2009

And now we know why.

Key West Reader on April 17, 2014 at 6:44 PM

Around minute 9 or so if you want to speed to the key segment. They actually dress them like movie ZOMBIEs if you can believe that, and then gun them down in a drill! So the gestapo is taking it to the next level, first it was targets of women, children and the elderly, now it’s live target practice/ psychological training of the fatherland’s gestapo forces, shooting at live mock civilians, nothing to see here, move along now, keep shopping sheeple keep shopping!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E7PMjxH1bU

RasThavas on April 17, 2014 at 6:51 PM

The Liar is lying. So what else is new?

Mojave Mark on April 17, 2014 at 6:58 PM

It’s the Ministry of Truth. You like the truth don’t you, Winston?

Grammar Nazi on April 17, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Øbama is more Nixonian than Nixon ever hoped to be. At the end of this administration, no matter how it comes about, we are entitled to discuss and elaborate upon The Øbamanian Prevarication.

ExpressoBold on April 17, 2014 at 6:59 PM

This is just more of the new normal we’re supposed to live with since Obama came on the scene.

History isn’t what happened before. History is what I tell you it is. – B. Obama /s

Mitoch55 on April 17, 2014 at 7:08 PM

See if I’ve got this straight. Obama has lied about Obamacare in big ways in the past. He has recently made claims, unsubstantiated by any data, that his program miraculously met its goals in a massive rally in the last two weeks. And now there will never be any useful data to compare pre and post-Obamacare numbers because the agency Obama seized direct control of suddenly changed its metrics at this critical moment?

“Sounds legit” – MSM

forest on April 17, 2014 at 7:23 PM

See if I’ve got this straight. Obama has lied about Obamacare in big ways in the past. He has recently made claims, unsubstantiated by any data, that his program miraculously met its goals in a massive rally in the last two weeks days. And now there will never be any useful data to compare pre and post-Obamacare numbers because the agency Obama seized direct control of suddenly changed its metrics at this critical moment?

“Sounds legit” – MSM

forest on April 17, 2014 at 7:23 PM

Fixed for accuracy.

Mitoch55 on April 17, 2014 at 7:36 PM

Would like like it if millions used, say, your mother’s name as an expletive?
Your mother is worthy of love & respect.
God is much more so.

…wow.

you are farcical and ridiculous.

god is much more so.

jaxisaneurophysicist on April 17, 2014 at 7:41 PM

I consider scriptural monotheism and atheism both to be further proof that God exists, and has a very dark sense of humor.

Back on topic, steaming pile is still steaming.

S. D. on April 17, 2014 at 8:08 PM

Per an entirely separate topic, a reminder: Everything the Won says is either a lie or has an expiration date.

No exceptions – batting average 1.000 – which isn’t bad for one who throws much, much worse than any girl (no offense meant to women in general or my daughter in particular, who throws better than Mr. POS).

Infidelius on April 17, 2014 at 8:10 PM

Terrified… mortified… petrified… by you.

Stupefied… horrified…ossified… transmogrified…

bour3 on April 17, 2014 at 8:16 PM

This move is so typical for the Regime. By changing all this stuff with how numbers are reported with ObamaGlitch, their entire goal is to make reporting ANY numbers from it, so convoluted that they can basically make up whatever numbers they need them to be at any given time.

And if the process is craptastic and ridiculous enough, no one will be ABLE to reliably say otherwise.

Makes perfect sense for this bunch and this ridiculous monstrosity of a scam.

Meople on April 17, 2014 at 8:20 PM

It’s not that I am opposed to the changes: Everyone understands that the census reports probably overstate the true number of the uninsured, because the number they report is supposed to be “people who lacked insurance for the entire previous year,”

But THOSE were the numbers the Left used to decry the lack of healthcare in this country and shove a bill nobody read down our throats, you dumbazz!!

OccamsRazor on April 17, 2014 at 8:33 PM

I will say it over and iver again, pass a law to standardize the collection and release of govt data.
OR
Have Congress release their own data based on traditional, no bullshit spin data points.

Obama can put out his crap which no one believes and the House can put out the real stuff, which all the rest of America, employers, the markets…..can make informed decisions.

Most people know or should know you cut in half the good news coming out of the White House.

Hold on to your hats people……Dow 9000 coming at you soon!

Privatize It on April 17, 2014 at 8:34 PM

The answers would seem to range from “total incompetence on the part of every level of this administration” to something worse.

Well it has been proven to be the most incompetent, but it’s also been THE MOST CORRUPT.

You don’t like the numbers? Cook the books and get GOOD NUMBERS.

GarandFan on April 17, 2014 at 8:35 PM

This is straight out of the Marxist play book. They will eliminate any statistic that will hinder their plans. Look at South Africa. Race is no longer kept as a statistic when tracking crime rates. It was eliminated and the next thing you know South Africa is on Genocide Watch. Just like Mandela – the Press/Media have gone to great lengths to obscure and cover up Barack’s Marxist/Communist past.

They have plans for the US, too, and Socialized Medicine is the keystone to the socialist arch.

Cookie?

famous amos on April 17, 2014 at 9:07 PM

When the electorate is not ignorant enough to buy leftist lies, more ignorance will be created, even by destroying the data.

David Blue on April 17, 2014 at 10:21 PM

“This is terrible. Where’s the remote…?”

Akzed on April 18, 2014 at 1:24 AM

It is one problem that Obama lies.

It is another problem that many leftists think it’s fine for Obama to lie as long as it leads to a preferred outcome.

Meremortal on April 18, 2014 at 1:46 AM

I wonder what the history of these years will say. The dishonesty is so thick compared to our past that the people of the Nixon years would not believe we put up with this kind of thing… that there is no marching in the streets… there was with the TEA Party but it didn’t stop them.

Will our society be so lawless in the future that we will look naive that we thought government should be responsive to the opinions and needs of citizens?

Or will things swing back and people be shocked at the corruption.

If we continue on the corruption path there will be no history written because civilization is over.

But it is hard to think that we will suddenly be able to just get rid of the crooks that run this country and set things back to a livable amount of corruption.

That is actually why I prefer the Capitalism based Republican corruption. Mere lust after riches, is a motivation I can understand and not fear too much… so they get unjustly rich… money is tempting. I get it… we all know where we stand… they want to rob me so they get more goodies, I like goodies too, they seem human at least.

What I really fear now is the lust for power over other people’s thoughts and the complete need to wipe out any deviation from their chosen morality. Even so far that they believe themselves able to judge God as immoral! When they call you a homophobe for supporting traditional marriage… they are judging God. I truly don’t understand what goes through one’s head, to come to the conclusion that you are smarter and more moral than God.

This kind of corruption is far far worse. And I truly don’t get the motivation. I don’t understand what they get from forcing people to do everything their way, to not even allow a thought of freedom to slip through.

petunia on April 18, 2014 at 2:30 AM

I consider scriptural monotheism and atheism both to be further proof that God exists, and has a very dark sense of humor.

Back on topic, steaming pile is still steaming.

S. D. on April 17, 2014 at 8:08 PM

I have no idea why you said that… but I agree, and it’s funny too.

petunia on April 18, 2014 at 2:34 AM