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Krugman: What the GOP doens't know can hurt us

  • (MIKE LUCKOVICH / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

On Saturday, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming delivered the weekly Republican address. He ignored Syria, presumably because his party is deeply conflicted on the issue. (For the record, so am I.) Instead, he demanded repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“The health care law,” he declared, “has proven to be unpopular, unworkable and unaffordable,” and he predicted “sticker shock” in the months ahead.

So, another week, another denunciation of Obamacare. Who cares? But Barrasso's remarks were actually interesting, although not in the way he intended. You see, all the recent news on health costs has been good. So Barrasso is predicting sticker shock precisely when serious fears of such a shock are fading fast. Why would he do that? Well, one likely answer is that he hasn't heard any of the good news. Think about it: Who would tell him? My guess, in other words, was that Barrasso was inadvertently illustrating the widening “wonk gap” — the GOP's near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.

About health reform: Barrasso was wrong about everything, even the “unpopular” bit, as I'll explain in a minute. Mainly, however, he was completely missing the story on affordability.

For the truth is that the good news on costs just keeps coming in. There has been a striking slowdown in overall health costs since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, with many experts giving the law at least partial credit. And we now have a good idea what insurance premiums will be once the law goes fully into effect; a comprehensive survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that on average premiums will be significantly lower than those predicted by the Congressional Budget Office when the law was passed.

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