Monday, October 16, 2006

Be careful there, friend 

At last night's event, both Congressman Mark Kennedy and some bloggers were upset about Eric Black's latest "Is that a fact?" column, regarding a Kennedy ad about Amy Klobuchar wanting to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants. I've got a bone to pick with both sides of this issue.

First, to Eric Black, the word 'lie' is the nuclear weapon of ad watches, which makes the word 'false' what? Biological? Chemical? It seems to be handed out a bit more freely. Eric takes his cue from a statement Klobuchar made that she would have voted in favor of the Ensign Amendment, which most anti-immigration people (will Michelle Malkin do?) pointed to as a key amendment to the Senate bill that failed. But Klobuchar does indicate she would have voted for the whole bill anyway, even after the Ensign Amendment failed (by a single vote -- and notice that eleven Republicans voted to kill it, too.) So she is willing to say she would have voted against the Ensign Amendment -- but that once it failed, it wasn't enough to dissuade her from voting for S.2611, the Kennedy-McCain bill.

Question to Eric: Isn't 'false' a strong word to use for something with that much ambiguity? Particularly when you print it on a day where Ms. Klobuchar can use it in a nationally televised debate? Does the word unfairly tip the scales towards Ms. Klobuchar, just as you feared the word 'lie' would unduly tip the scales away from Ms. Wetterling? You have at other times said ads "omit a relevant fact" or even "omit a fact so relevant that it changes the nature of the charge". Those I would not have quibble with. But "false"? I don't possess this journalistic codebook you seem to use, but false is a very strong word in academia, and in many other circles as well.

So be careful, my friend -- you are supporting a view of your bias your opponents already hold.

Now to my KvM friends (and in the interest of full disclosure, not only are they friends but they've printed some of my commentary in the past): S.2611 is a very complicated bill, much more than the House bill Kennedy voted on, and it's a bill with so many conflicting provisions that to attach the worst of them to any vote on a whole bill opens up a set of claims and counterclaims that are dizzying, confusing, and eventually reduce the signal-to-noise ratio to zero. In this instance you are saying she supports amnesty because she supports credit for Social Security benefits to illegals based on their work history when they are illegal for those who eventually become legal by any means. You point to a CBO report that shows additional benefits and costs to Social Security from passage of S.2611. But the report isn't estimating costs and benefits of illegals; it is estimating costs and benefits of all immigrants, including guest workers, increased legal immigration, and the removal of caps on H1B and other visas for high-skilled workers. On page 7 of the report:
The Social Security Administration and CBO have both constructed computer models of Social Security�s finances, and when increases in immigration are simulated in the models, the program�s finances generally show improvement because additional revenues are collected before new benefit payments are made. The 2006 report of the Social Security trustees indicated that an increase of 400,000 people in annual net immigration would improve the actuarial balance of the program by 0.26 percent of taxable payroll, or about one-eighth of the program�s estimated 75-year shortfall. CBO�s simulations yielded similar results. The Social Security Administration�s Office of the Chief Actuary estimated that under S. 2611, the 75-year shortfall would be reduced by 0.13 percent of taxable payroll.
Now surely Cong. Kennedy's opposition to S.2611 doesn't mean he opposes improving actuarial balance of Social Security, does it? Of course not; it doesn't fit what we know about him. Klobuchar's support of S.2611 confirms one's suspicions that she's pro-amnesty if you already have those suspicions, but for those that do not have them, her stated position on the Ensign Amendment may be enough to allay any concerns. I am thus not very impressed with the efforts taken to deny Black's column, and wonder if it isn't in some way colored by your already less-than-flattering view of the man and the paper. Are you really serving Kennedy's best interests by playing gotcha with less-than-germane CBO reports?

So be careful, my friend -- you are supporting a view of your bias your opponents already hold.

UPDATE: Two wrongs don't make a right, friend, no matter how hard you try. You cannot evaluate anyone's position on the basis of a fictitious vote on a single bill. When she is given a direct question on the provision you wish to hang her with, what did we learn? We learned 1) she doesn't like the provision, but 2) it isn't enough to keep her from voting for the bill. You have made a point -- it doesn't seem to matter that much to her -- into she must support it. This is like my view of the Twins -- I am happy when they win, but not so much as to root for them over my Red Sox. And if the Klobuchar campaign is doing it to Kennedy, why not point out how simplistic that analysis is, rather than emulate their behavior?