The SCHIP/Frost Affair Continues; Paul Krugman Calls Me a Busybody

I now have the dubious, but hardly unique, distinction of being the subject of an error-filled essay by the New York Times’ infamous Paul Krugman.

Subject: The SCHIP/Graeme Frost affair and whether adults on public assistance have a right to withhold financial information about themselves from taxpayers.

Krugman believes a column I had published on TownHall last Thursday is evidence that “conservatives want those in need to be dependent on the charity of people who will seek to dictate their behavior.”

He couldn’t be more wrong. Conservatives actually want those in need to not be in need. It’s a little odd that after decades of liberals accusing conservatives of not being willing to fund welfare because we’re cheap skinflints, Krugman is accusing us of wanting to fund it so we can use it to tell people on public assistance what to do.

In addition to being a bit confused, Krugman seemingly doesn’t do original research, and apparently has a prediliction for inaccurate secondary sources. He attributed my busybodiness to a report by a left-wing blogger called Digby, who wrote:

Today, Amy Ridenour of Townhall is touting the idea that Michele Malkin [sic] has the right to dig into every private detail of your life if you take any money from the government. Watch out social security recipients. Watch out veterans. She’s going to be putting all your personal information on the internet if you open your mouth in a way she doesn’t approve. You give up your right to privacy — even from shrieking harpy bloggers — if you receive any money from the taxpayers. In fact, Amy Ridenour and Michele Malkin [sic] personally own you.

Here’s what I actually wrote on TownHall:

Do people on the dole have a reasonable expectation of privacy vis-à-vis their financial affairs?


That question, though not always my answer, is coming up frequently as defenders of the Democratic Party’s $35 billion SCHIP expansion proposal condemn bloggers and talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, who have examined the statement penned by aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and delivered as the official Democratic Party rebuttal to President Bush’s weekly radio address by 12-year-old Graeme Frost, that the State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is for “families like mine.”

The questioners’ question: If Graeme Frost’s family isn’t all that low-income, then maybe the SCHIP program doesn’t need to be expanded by $35 billion to cover millions of extra families with even higher incomes than the Frosts apparently have.

Rather than address the core question, some say it is inappropriate even to consider the Frost family’s circumstances, even if the people doing the considering are helping the Frosts raise their kids. This assumption reverses a thousand years of philanthropic practice.

Throughout history, charity has typically been given out voluntarily and to people whose circumstances were directly known to the donor. Donors usually knew, or could learn, if a recipient genuinely couldn’t meet his own needs. As population growth and industrialization led to fewer people living in small towns, charity grew more impersonal. Then the growth of the welfare state made “charity” mandatory. And finally, hastened along by certain wrong-headed Supreme Court decisions, helped by activism by welfare advocacy lobbyists, an assumption developed that people who receive handouts are due privacy along with the help.

The obligation to be self-sufficient when possible had been reversed: Now the self-sufficient are obligated to assist those who are not, and it is considered bad form for the donor to question if the charity is misplaced.

There’s more involved in the Frost case, of course, namely the fact that the family itself put its financial condition in the public square by agreeing to serve as the public face of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi’s $35 billion public health expansion. Once you let your son go on a national broadcast to ask Americans to consider your financial situation, you ought not be surprised if a few of your fellow Americans do just that…

(You can read the rest of the column here.)

See Michelle Malkin’s name in there anywhere? Me, neither.

Paul Krugman, however, calls Digby “one of the best writers you’ll ever encounter, on or off the Internet.”

Wrong again, Krugman. She’s not even funny or a decent stylist, one of which at least one ought to expect from a “best writer” who can’t get facts right.

Krugman then purports to describe me and this organization. The one paragraph he devotes to this contains five errors of fact — an average of one error every 20.6 words. Pretty high error rate, though probably no record for Krugman.

Krugman claims he took the paragraph from his new book, “Error-Filled Liberal,”* which, if true, means that not only did the New York Times publish a piece with an error every 20.6 words, but a major publisher, W.W. Norton and Company, did, too.

Why don’t major newspapers and publishers use fact-checkers?

* Note: I may have misstated the title of Krugman’s new book a little. The actual title is “Do Liberals have a Conscience?” No, wait, that’s not quite right, either…

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