Every once in a while there is a potentially self-refuting argument floating around the public debate. Consider the curious case of Senator Joe Lieberman, on the complicated subject of health-care reform (via Think Progress):
Morally, everyone of us would like to cover every American with health insurance but that's where you spend most of the trillion dollars plus, or a little less that is estimated, the estimate said this health care plan will cost. And I'm afraid we've got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession. There's no reason we have to do it all now.
The argument is that we can't afford to pay for health-care reform in the middle of a recession. When Joe says "the estimate," I assume he is referring to the Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act. So I thought I would make a quick chart of how those costs will phase in:
As you can see, the real costs do not phase in until 2013. So there are three possible ways to make sense of Lieberman's argument. (1) Lieberman thinks the recession will extend into 2013. (2) Lieberman is referring to a cost estimate that no one else has seen. (3) Lieberman's argument is self-refuting: It makes no sense even if you accept his premise that we shouldn't pay for health-care reform in the middle of a recession.
I vote for (3). But there is, of course, no reason to accept his premise.
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