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Friday, November 02, 2007

Paul Krugman: Prostates and Prejudices

Will the media call Rudi Giuliani on his repeated use of false claims to support is policy positions?:

Prostates and Prejudices, by Prostates and Prejudices, Commentary, NY Times: “My chance of surviving prostate cancer — and thank God I was cured of it — in the United States? Eighty-two percent,” says Rudy Giuliani in a new radio ad attacking Democratic plans for universal health care. “My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England? Only 44 percent, under socialized medicine.”

It would be a stunning comparison if it were true. But it isn’t. And thereby hangs a tale — one of scare tactics, of the character of a man who would be president and, I’m sorry to say, about what’s wrong with political news coverage. ... Mr. Giuliani’s claim is wrong on multiple levels — bogus numbers wrapped in an invalid comparison embedded in a smear.

Mr. Giuliani got his numbers from a recent article in City Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute. The author gave no source for his numbers... And they’re just wrong.

You see, the actual survival rate in Britain is 74.4 percent. That still looks a bit lower than the U.S. rate, but the difference turns out to be mainly a statistical illusion. The ... chance of dying from prostate cancer is about the same in Britain as it is in America. So Mr. Giuliani’s supposed killer statistic about the defects of “socialized medicine” is entirely false...

Anyway, comparisons with Britain have absolutely nothing to do with what the Democrats are proposing. In Britain, doctors are government employees; despite what Mr. Giuliani is suggesting, none of the Democratic candidates have proposed to make American doctors work for the government.

As a fact-check in The Washington Post put it: “The Clinton health care plan” — which is very similar to the Edwards and Obama plans — “has more in common with the Massachusetts plan signed into law by Gov. Mitt Romney than the British National Health system.” Of course, this hasn’t stopped Mr. Romney from making similar smears...

But here’s what I don’t understand: Why isn’t Mr. Giuliani’s behavior here considered not just a case of bad policy analysis but a character issue?

For better or (mostly) for worse, political reporting is dominated by the search for the supposedly revealing incident, in which the candidate ... reveals his true character. And this incident surely seems to fit the bill.

Leave aside the fact that Mr. Giuliani is simply lying about what the Democrats are proposing; after all, Mitt Romney is doing the same thing.

But health care is the pre-eminent domestic issue for the 2008 election. Surely the American people deserve candidates who do their homework on the subject.

Yet what we actually have is the front-runner for the Republican nomination apparently basing his health-care views on something he read somewhere, which he believed without double-checking because it confirmed his prejudices.

By rights, then, Mr. Giuliani’s false claims about prostate cancer — which he has ... continued to repeat, along with some fresh false claims about breast cancer — should be a major political scandal. As far as I can tell, however, they aren’t being treated that way.

To be fair, there has been some news coverage of the prostate affair. But it’s only a tiny fraction of the coverage received by Hillary’s laugh and John Edwards’s haircut.

And much of the coverage seems weirdly diffident. Memo to editors: If a candidate says something completely false, it’s not “in dispute.” It’s not the case that “Democrats say” they’re not advocating British-style socialized medicine; they aren’t.

The fact is that the prostate affair is part of a pattern: Mr. Giuliani has a habit of saying things ... that are demonstrably untrue. And the American people have a right to know that.

It's blatant:

Rudy Campaign To Media: We're Going To Keep Lying About Health Care -- And There's Nothing You Can Do About It, by Greg Sargent: ...The Rudy campaign has now blithely confirmed that they are going to keep on telling this lie [about health care]. ...[C]heck out this little nugget at the end of the piece about Rudy spokesperson Maria Comella's response to all this:

Asked if Mr. Giuliani would continue to repeat the statistic, and if the advertisement would continue to run, Ms. Comella responded by e-mail: "Yes. We will."

Memo to media: Rudy and his campaign think you're a bunch of chumps. ... Maybe it's time to get serious about what this guy is up to. ...

    Posted by on Friday, November 2, 2007 at 02:07 AM in Economics, Politics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (109)

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    » Stat Wars: Giuliani and the Prostate Cancer Debate from Health Care BS

    A lot of donkeys are braying about Rudy Giuliani’s radio ad in which he has the audacity to applaud the American health care system. Specifically, they’re creating a din about Hizzoner’s comparison of U.S. and British survival rates relating to ... [Read More]

    Tracked on Friday, November 02, 2007 at 06:39 PM


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