• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Is Megan McArdle Always Wrong?

Thomas Levenson continues what one gathers is a lengthy “Megan McArdle is Always Wrong” blog series with a post arguing that the Atlantic‘s business and economics editor typically engages in ad hominem argument and sleight of hand fallacies.    To illustrate this, Levenson engages in several paragraphs of name calling and selective and odd interpretation of evidence.

As best I can determine, this is supposed to be the damning part of the essay:

As part of her sustained campaign to deny the significance of medical bankruptcy in the US, she writes,

A pretty convincing paper argues that the single best predictor of bankruptcy is simply how much debt you’ve accumulated–not income, job loss, divorce, or what have you.  People who declare bankruptcy tend to have nicer stuff than others at the same income level.

The problem here is that the paper does not actually say quite what McArdle implies it does.  She’s mastered here the trick Sally Field played in Absence of Malice — she’s managed to come up with a sentence that is accurate…but not truthful.

In fact, should you actually take the trouble to read the cited study (by UC Davis finance prof, Ning Zhu) you will find material like this:  ”households with medical conditions are twice more likely to file for bankruptcy (33.5 percent) than households that do not have medical conditions (14.8 percent)…;”

And this: “Having medical problems increases the households’ filing probability by 7.6 percent and one standard deviation of increase in employment tenure is associated with an increase of 9.2 percent in the filing probability. Such changes represent 48.40 and 58.60 percent deviation from the baseline probability….;”

And this “our results provide qualitative support for both the adverse event and the over-consumption/strategic filing explanations.”

To be fair Zhu concludes that overconsumption — spending too much on housing, cars and credit cards account for more of the total burden of bankruptcy than medical events, divorce or unemployment, as McArdle wrote.

But as McArdle completely failed to acknowledge, Zhu does so while using somewhat more stringent standard for counting medical expenses as a factor in bankruptcy than other scholars employed — as he explicitly acknowledges.  He concedes the continuing significance of medically -induced bankruptcy.  He acknowledges what he believes to be a weak underweighting of that factor (because some people pay for medical expenses on credit cards).  And he notes that a number of other studies, not limited to those co-authored by Warren, come to different conclusions.

So . . . McArdle correctly gives the paper’s statistically valid conclusion but fails to acknowledge that the paper’s author — who devised the methodology — noted that his methodology was rigorous?     And this is evidence of McArdle’s sleazy manipulation?

Seriously, the quoted portion of McArdle’s essay is essentially a paraphrase of the article’s abstract. And even a cursory look at the article itself indicates that the authors conclude that overspending is the key factor in bankruptcy. See this, from page 5:

A closer look at the bankrupt households reveals that they consume in a surprisingly similar fashion to the control groups. Bankrupt households take out more mortgage liabilities (mean=$66,731), automobile loans (mean=$10,160), and credit card debts (mean=25,101), in absolute dollar value, than the control groups (mean is $56,141, $9,000, and $2,488, respectively). This is somewhat surprising given that they make less than one half of what the control households do.

Reading further into the paper, the main public policy conclusion is that the pre-2005 reform bankruptcy laws created incentives toward overconsumption. So the author not only provides data that supports McArdle’s views but comes to the same policy conclusion!

The contrary “evidence” in the paper is that, in the obligatory Literature Review, it cites other papers on the topic that showed that medical expenses were a key factor in bankruptcy.  But the purpose of this paper was to show that, controlling for medical expenses and other important social variables, that household spending malpractice was a decisive factor.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    I think Megan is often right, but also often tends to bend things a bit, in an ideological direction.

    (It would be a misuse of the term to say that sentence just above is a “ad hominem” though, to the extent that it might be true.)

    I’m not really comfortable with her original piece on Elizabeth Warren for that same reason. It has contact points with the facts. It introduces useful facts, but leans beyond them. It is a cantilevered architecture.

    I can’t help but see it in the context of “all the cool kids hate Elizabeth Warren.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. john personna says:

    Yeah, let’s remember the end-point of that architecture (no “ad hominems” here, are there?):

    ““Warren kind of waves her hands and mumbles about social programs and more supportive work environments. There is no possible solution outside of a more left-wing government. But the deeper problem is that some of her evidence doesn’t really support her thesis, and can be made to appear to support her thesis only by making some very weird choices about what metrics to use.”

    I think we could substitute a few words, and say “back at ya, Megan.” If that is, we could sink that low.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Drew says:

    Heh. After history of nonpayment, ask any lender what the number one predictor of default is: overleveraged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. steve says:

    I dont want to reread that paper, but IIRC, it lumped credit card debt together. many people do pay for some medical expenses by credit card. Megan is a good writer, but she does make obvious mistakes when she writes out of her area. Her writings on medicine and outcomes were very poorly done. I was surprised that she did not call up someone who knows the field well to discuss it before writing. She often puts too much reliance on one particular study that supports what she believes, even if most other studies are in opposition. Like most people, she assumes the most recent study must be correct.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  5. PD Shaw says:

    I generally disagree with her support for the recent bankruptcy reform, but as far as I’ve read her numerous posts on the relationship btw/ medical care costs and bankruptcy, her basic points are not controverserial unless your work is being discussed. Namely,

    Bankruptcies are multi-causal;
    It is difficult to isolate a single cause;
    So far, proponents have not effectively used a methodology to isolate a single cause.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    I’d have to agree with Levenson in the general sense. When I started reading the Atlantic on line I used to read her pieces since on the face of it she has a fairly strong resume but it gradually became apparent she’s a doctrinaire in search of evidence to support already formed conclusions. I suspect her lack of intellectual rigor would not have gone down too well in at least one of her previous jobss. Maybe that’s why she’s at the Atlantic. Interesting that Levenson of whom I know nothing has decided to deconstruct her pieces. I’m not particularly interested in plowing through all this but intuitively it doesn’t seem a huge stretch that medical expenses are a major cause of personal bankruptcies although overleveraging probably accounts for a larger proportion of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    I took the time to read Levenson’s piece (he stinks of Harvard btw) and I’d say she has a formidable cyber critic if he’s interested in sitting on her tail. I don’t disagree that overleveraging is more important the medical expenses alone but over leveraged households are frequently those with sizeable medical expenses. I also see that a figure of 20% of bankruptcies being due to medical expenses seems to be accepted by all parties. That’s nearly 400,000 bankruptcies a year, a not negligible absolute figure to laid at the door of lack of adequate medical insurance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Levinson at Balloon Juice shows what gets him hot:

    “I’m enjoying the fact that for once, I seem to have struck a nerve”

    David Brooks just ignored him, what a tool.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. ratufa says:

    I don’t think that Megan is a hack, at least in the sense that someone like William Kristol is a hack (of course, that sets the bar very very low). Her problem is that she doesn’t have much domain specific knowledge on any topic, outside of a bit of finance, and she has basically two tools in her intellectual toolbox: an ability to analyze things in terms of obvious incentive structures along with a libertarian-ish model of how markets work. Given the importance of incentives and markets, those are pretty good tools. But, incentives can be tricky to correctly identify if the only domain knowledge you have about a topic is from a bit of time on Google. And, as someone else mentioned, she commits various layperson’s errors with regard to interpreting research, such as getting whipsawed by the latest paper, putting too much emphasis on the result she agrees with, etc. This lack of knowledge, combined with her occasional habit of just making “reasonable-sounding” guesstimates about some things, causes her to write sloppy articles that experts (or people who’ve just spent a little more reasoning about those Google search results) can pick apart.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. PD Shaw says:

    ratufa, does Levenson have any domain specific knowledge about bankruptcy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. ratufa says:

    PD Shaw,

    I really don’t know how much Levenson knows about bankruptcy. Perhaps he falls into the category of “people who’ve just spent a little more [time] reasoning about those Google search results.” (I inadvertently left “time” out of the sentence in the original post).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. PD Shaw says:

    It was a genuine question of interest. I find Levenson’s linked piece to be snarky, childish and largely unreadable as a new-comer. I tried to determine if he’s written about bankruptcy independently to understand his position, but the set of writings about bankruptcy that are not about McArdle appears to be null. I would certainly be open to reading a less ad hom retort to her writings on bktcy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. J.W. Hamner says:

    The contrary “evidence” in the paper is that, in the obligatory Literature Review, it cites other papers on the topic that showed that medical expenses were a key factor in bankruptcy.

    This is not an accurate characterization of the paper… you should have read through the data analysis section. They looked at medical conditions of people filling for bankruptcy and found a significant and positive correlation with bankruptcy… and not with divorce and unemployment.

    They showed that medical condition is an independent predictor of bankruptcy… i.e. independent of household spending. Being that her point is that medical bankruptcies are a minor problem being pumped up out of proportion by Elizabeth Warren… this paper completely shoots her down… and yet she cites it as support. That’s either incompetence or dishonesty… or both.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. TBogg says:

    Levensen is a Professor of Science Writing and director of the graduate program in science writing at the MIT. As such, I believe he is within his “domain” when it comes to analyzing and correcting sloppy writing, sloppy reasoning, and more importantly: the willful misinterpretation of scholarly papers to make a point.

    McArdle’s domain is making glib assertions drawn from her preconceived notions of the world, moving the goal posts and deflecting when confronted with her obvious and not so obvious errors and omissions, and gradually becoming more and more defensive as her primary assertion falls apart like a tissue in the rain. Then she whines that people are picking on her.

    If Megan would like to stack her scholarly output against Elizabeth Warren’s , well, I think we could all use a good laugh these days, don’t you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Crusty Dem says:

    So . . . McArdle correctly gives the paper’s statistically valid conclusion but fails to acknowledge that the paper’s author — who devised the methodology — noted that his methodology was rigorous? And this is evidence of McArdle’s sleazy manipulation?

    Well, yes, James, that’s exactly what it is. Since McArdle is using it as her proof that Warren is not only incorrect, but a corrupt, false scholar. As a scientist, if I compare two separate data under two completely different sets of conditions, find a difference (which may be caused by the selection of data), and use that to accuse one author of fraud, that’s pretty much the definition of sleazy manipulation. I recognize that McArdle is not a scientist or scholar, but if she’s going to delve into academic discussions in such a manner, that’s the standard to which her arguments should be held.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Ummm . . . I noted that the Zhu paper found that medical bankruptcies had predictive power, unlike the other sorts of adverse events he explored; I used it as the lead-in to my paragraph on how medical bankrutpcies might differ from other bankruptcies. Levenson either misread me, or selectively quoted me, and clearly none of the indignant commenters bothered to do a careful reading of the post themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    TBogg says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 01:24
    “Levensen is a Professor of Science Writing and director of the graduate program in science writing at the MIT.”

    Not Harvard but MIT. Close!

    Megan McArdle says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 07:04

    With due respect Ms McArdle I read the relevant posts with some care and as anyone with an IQ in double figures can understand you were downplaying the significance of medical bankruptcies as one of several means of discrediting Warren who is a considerable figure even if you don’t agree with her politics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. J.W. Hamner says:

    Ummm . . . I noted that the Zhu paper found that medical bankruptcies had predictive power, unlike the other sorts of adverse events he explored; I used it as the lead-in to my paragraph on how medical bankrutpcies might differ from other bankruptcies.

    Right, but you cited it as support for your allegation that Warren’s sample was badly skewed… whereas it really provides support for the opposite view… in a sample not confounded by the law change you are so worried about, the only independent predictor of bankruptcy besides debt was medical condition. The findings of both studies are broadly compatible given differing methodologies. Certainly they both fully support the concept that “illness and medical bills play an important role in a large and growing proportion of bankruptcies,” which you are arguing against.

    There is really no reason to cite that paper in your argument… the idea that accumulated debt is the prime predictor of bankruptcy is not particularly controversial as far as I’m aware… and yet you throw it out there as an “Ah ha!” This is entirely Levenson’s point that you have a tendency to make technically correct arguments that are very misleading. If you’re going to cite somebody’s paper you have to deal with the entirety of their findings and how they impact your thesis… not just pull the parts you like and casually dismiss the rest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. But I didn’t say that the studies were incompatible. You did. I simply used the study to note that adverse events other than divorce are possibly not predictive of bankruptcy, while medical bills are. I brought this up in order to discuss why medical bankruptcies might be different from other bankruptcies, and thus why the sample might be skewed, and thus why it might have been better to study later bankruptcies. I made no effort at all to hide the fact that Zhu found medical bankruptcies to be a problem, and I didn’t discuss how large or small that problem might be; his methodology (relative risk) gives a number that would make it virtually impossible to compare to Warren’s without a number of intervening assumptions.

    The purpose of my post was not to argue that there aren’t medical bankruptcies, which is why I explicitly said that I think medical bankruptcies are a problem. The purpose of my post was to point out that Elizabeth Warren seems to do (or attach her name to) a lot of ideologically driven scholarship that makes questionable assumptions in order to inflate the problem she describes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  20. john personna says:

    So who do you want to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Megan?

    Someone who is willing to misdirect from market failures(*), to the straw-man argument that “There is no possible solution outside of a more left-wing government?”

    I mean, on the face of it, any Consumer Finance Protection Bureau at all is “a more left-wing government” … and maybe that’s your problem. I guess we’d be better off accepting the bankruptcies (personal and municipal) as the best of all possible worlds?

    For the record, I favor a lightly regulated market. We should have just enough law to ensure fair-play, without so much to create a directed economy. Having someone like Warren as consumer guardian while someone like Guitener acts as bank guardian might be a fair balance. Better than have Guitener say, pretend to do both.

    * – in the narrow and broad sense

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. John Personna–me, Ken Feinberg. But what does that have to do with what I, or Levenson, wrote? Am I not allowed to criticize her work because you think she’d make a good “consumer guardian”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. john personna says:

    Ms. McArdle, I really hesitate to disagree with you, because I know you are often dogged by an odious crowd. It is off-putting.

    I also think Warren is a net-positive in this environment, and so …

    Are you really surprised that I see your article in the context of looming appointment for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau? To be honest, I also see it in the context of Planet Money’s strange attack of May 2009.

    Both seem an attempt at polarization, a positioning in which a belief in free markets aren’t enough … as if it is laissez faire or nothing.

    That’s my perception as a self-identified moderate, anyway. I don’t like farm or energy subsides. I don’t like mortgage interest deductions. I think a low uniform tax rate is better than a truck load of tax credits. I think market players need some watching. And yes, I think someone who mistrusts markets a bit makes a better watcher than someone who does not.

    I mean, we remember Chris Cox, right? ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    Megan McArdle says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 11:25
    “The purpose of my post was to point out that Elizabeth Warren seems to do (or attach her name to) a lot of ideologically driven scholarship that makes questionable assumptions in order to inflate the problem she describes.”

    Your purpose was obvious to a 9 year old. The problem is that as Levenson and others here have pointed out, you yourself used a lot of ideologically driven casuistry including downplaying the importance of medical costs as source of bankruptcy. Now you’re claiming you didn’t downplay it. For those that took the trouble to read your piece it looks like the facts will have to speak for themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Brummagen Joe: Define “downplay”. Is that a technical term?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  25. As I’m going to write in the next few days, the thing I don’t like about Warren is that she’s sloppy with data, and also that her mistrust manifests itself in paternalism. It’s one thing to think consumers would be better off without certain kinds of credit; it’s another thing to be positively certain that you’ll be making them better off by making such credit unprofitable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    Define “downplay”. Is that a technical term?

    I think most people would understand my meaning in the context of what you originally wrote and they are free to read it and make up their own minds aren’t they Ms McArdle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 12:28

    I’d agree with just about every policy point you make but Levenson wasn’t being particularly odious. McArdle made an obviously ideological attack on Warren that was larded with questions about her integrity and some misleading arguments. Levenson (who obviously deploys some considerable intellectual horsepower) debunked them. If in the process she was subjected to some ridicule it was probably merited. Those who live by the sword etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Crusty Dem says:

    Megan McArdle says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 15:26

    I for one, wait with baited breath for the half-baked, cherry-picked evidence you will conjure to prove your thesis. Also, please check your calculator for errors before pressing “post”, as uncorrected, order of magnitude errors do not benefit your arguments..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. john personna says:

    I’d agree with just about every policy point you make but Levenson wasn’t being particularly odious.

    I’m remember the short time I had McArdle in my rss feeds. She had some viscous and probably misogynistic commentators at her site. I didn’t want to be critical in that environment, and so I gave her pages a pass. Pretty sad. I don’t totally agree with her, but I don’t think she really deserves her enemies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  30. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 17:45

    “I don’t totally agree with her, but I don’t think she really deserves her enemies.”

    Once you’re reduced to smartass comments about the meaning of the word downplay, you’ve lost it. You could also ask whether Warren deserve the animosity of McArdle?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Silver says:

    This post on Levenson is technically true, and collectively nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Monday, July 26, 2010 at 17:45

    “I don’t totally agree with her, but I don’t think she really deserves her enemies.”

    Just for kicks I took a second look at some of the comments and Levenson had attracted quite a few. Obviously there were the usual ranters but also some well known names like Barry Ritholz who thought she had a history of suspect commentary and provided a link to one of his own comments on her.

    Silver says:
    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 00:12
    This post on Levenson is technically true, and collectively nonsense.

    ??????

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. In this case, downplay seems to mean that people would rather I didn’t disagree with them. I mean, I’m sure that’s true, but it’s not a reflection on my integrity or my technical skills. I think there are plausible reasons to believe that the Warren et. al. paper substantially overstates the percentage of bankruptcies which are causally linked to illness, and particularly overstates the extent to which medical bills play a role. You have made no argument as to why you think I am incorrect; rather, you have just accused me of “downplaying” medical bankruptcies. “Downplay” is not a word that is usually employed when one has written several thousand words on a topic, so I find the usage very strange.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  34. Brummagem Joe says:

    Megan McArdle says:
    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 08:27
    ” I think there are plausible reasons to believe that the Warren et. al. paper substantially overstates the percentage of bankruptcies which are causally linked to illness, and particularly overstates the extent to which medical bills play a role.”

    Ms McArdle,
    Well others don’t agree with you. I’m certainly no expert and one of my first comments on this thread was that overleveraging was almost certainly a more significant source of bankruptcies than medical expenses (on which we agree) but that medical bankruptcies were probably a not insignificant part of the total. I’ve read your original piece (twice) and Levenson’s response(twice) and the substance of disagreement is fairly clear so I don’t see any point in rehashing it. I’m sorry you don’t like my use of the term downplay which I thought was somewhat less pejorative than others were using to describe your arguments. But if you prefer them it’s fine by me. In a more general sense I do find your consistently ideological approach to economic issues disappointing. As I mentioned above I started reading your pieces in the Atlantic (which has one of the best blogs) basically because I saw you did a stint at The Economist and was expecting an intelligent right of center take on economic issues(Wolf at the the FT if you like). Instead one gets only fairly standard right wing boilerplate which is always vulnerable to dissection by highly intelligent and informed people like Levenson and Ritholz (I’m just a retired businessman so what do I know). If I may say so, you might want to bear this in mind when it comes to future opinionating.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Joe– so let me see if I can summarize what you’re saying:

    1) You yourself don’t know much about the issue
    2) You believe that Warren is right and I am wrong
    3) It is not actually worth discussing any specific reason that you believe that Elizabeth Warren et. al are right and I am wrong, beyond the fact that you have read both articles twice.
    4) Since Elizabeth Warren et al are right, and I am wrong, I must be downplaying the rate of medical bankruptcies.
    5) It is very wrong of me to have written this, because I have not lived up to the high standards or argumentation you believe should prevail in this sort of forum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  36. john personna says:

    There is a “forest and tree” pattern in argumentation, Megan. It is a bit of a danger signal when someone says “no no, don’t look at the forest, look at this one tree here.” It is a sign they are arguing from the corner case, and proceeding from there to “improper generalization.”

    You obviously have gone deep into the details of these bankruptcy reports, to resurface with your generalization:

    “Warren kind of waves her hands and mumbles about social programs and more supportive work environments. There is no possible solution outside of a more left-wing government. But the deeper problem is that some of her evidence doesn’t really support her thesis, and can be made to appear to support her thesis only by making some very weird choices about what metrics to use.

    Personally I think it is a mistake to follow you down to detail, to your tree, because no detail is actually going to justify that statement. But that’s just me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. john personna says:

    (Let’s be real, to convince me that Warren sees “no possible solution outside of a more left-wing government” … you better get me some quotes from Warren that say that.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. john personna says:

    Warren, in her own words:

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/07/elizabeth-warren-on-the-next-real-estate-crisis/

    I didn’t hear anything about excluding any vehicles. I heard a lot about simple contracts and easy to understand terms. That is, nothing to justify this fear (from Megan above):

    It’s one thing to think consumers would be better off without certain kinds of credit; it’s another thing to be positively certain that you’ll be making them better off by making such credit unprofitable.

    Is that a justified fear?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Let us discuss specific reasons. Ms. McArdle’s claim that Warren is unqualified to head a consumer agency is based on Warren’s data in her bankruptcy study(ies). In her 2009 critique, McArdle stated that Warren et al “have obscured important and obvious facts that call the integrity of the work into serious question.” McArdle pointed out that the number of medical bankruptcies was falling, not rising. The commentariat pointed out that Warren was discussing percentage, not number of medical bankruptcies, which was indeed increasing.

    McArdle also stated that a study proved ” income loss is a bigger force driving medical bankruptcy than medical bills,” despite the fact that she had previously noted that that study was being disputed.

    McArdle also critiques Warren’s The Two Income Trap. The book describes the trap that families sometimes fall into of thinking that two incomes will automatically mean financial stability. McArdle said that two problems with the book were that Warren’s possible solutions were to liberal and that, again, her data was faulty. McArdle’s proof was (1)Warren stated an increase in house size of one room was a small increase, and McArdle stated it was not, and (2)McArdle said “Warren and her co-authors defined anyone with $1000 worth of medical bills as having a medical bankruptcy, and used that figure to imply that rising medical bills were pushing people over the financial edge,” The study actually said:

    For this analysis, we replicated the most conservative definition employed in the 2001 study, which designated as “medically bankrupt” debtors citing illness or medical bills as a specific
    reason for bankruptcy; OR reporting uncovered medical bills >$1000 in the past 2 years; OR who lost at least 2 weeks of work-related income due to illness/injury; OR who mortgaged a home to pay medical bills. Debtors who gave no answers regarding reasons for their bankruptcy were excluded from analyses.

    McArdle made several other errors as well, such as stating the study had a 20% response rate. All criticisms of Warren were used to emphasize that she is a poor and dishonest scholar unqualified to head a consumer protection agency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. Jason says:

    The answer to the question in the OP is “undoubtedly, yes, Megan McArdle is always wrong”. Glad to help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. Dantheman says:

    Jason,

    “The answer to the question in the OP is “undoubtedly, yes, Megan McArdle is always wrong”.”

    No, I’d say it’s more like the answer to the question “Are all those who wander lost?” The proper response is “No, but at the 95% confidence level…”

    One also notes that the concept denying the charge of being ideologically driven in her analysis does not even occur to McMegan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Lesley says:

    As I’m going to write in the next few days, the thing I don’t like about Warren is that she’s sloppy with data,

    From the gal whose autobiography could be titled “Sloppy with Data.” Since you have been dead wrong on numerous occasions, why don’t you spend some time on self-improvement.

    Meghan, I sometimes sense you’ve always been an unhappy little girl. Even with all the money you inherited from your father’s publicly-funded construction contracts, the best you could achieve was ‘columnist-in-a-wingnut-rag few Americans read and socializing with douchebags like Breitbart.

    Warren so outclasses you it isn’t even funny. If I were her I’d sue you for slander, but she’s probably not even paying attention to your lame ugly little ass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Lesley says:

    Oh yes, and what TBogg wrote
    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2010/07/27/quivering-with-antici-pation

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Jaim says:

    Megan McArdle writes: “The purpose of my post was to point out that Elizabeth Warren seems to do (or attach her name to) a lot of ideologically driven scholarship that makes questionable assumptions in order to inflate the problem she describes.”

    Wow. Just wow. I need to grab a mop and a bucket to wipe my brain up off the floor due to a severe head-asplosion.

    Although I have to admit that tracking down your detractors on the numerous blogs that have called you out for your attempted hatchet-job on Warren is either very brave, very stupid, or both. Because there’s no way in heck you can convince an educated person that you aren’t a mouthpiece for corporations and more generally the Republican party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. dave™© says:

    Jesus, she really is as stupid and clueless as everyone says, isn’t she?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. pseudonymous in nc says:

    You have made no argument as to why you think I am incorrect;

    It’s not a statistic– it’s a hypothetical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  47. IncandenzaH says:

    Who’s sloppy with numbers?

    “Huge mistake; the calculator on my computer won’t go into the billions, and I truncated incorrectly. The main point stands….” — Megan McCardle

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/07/in-search-of-effective-stimulus/60129/#disqus_thread

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  48. The Wrath of Oliver Khan says:

    “dave™© says:
    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 08:00
    Jesus, she really is as stupid and clueless as everyone says, isn’t she?”

    No, she’s not. She’s just compulsively dishonest.

    She thinks *we’re* the ones who are stupid and clueless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. [...] James Joyner: So . . . McArdle correctly gives the paper’s statistically valid conclusion but fails to acknowledge that the paper’s author — who devised the methodology — noted that his methodology was rigorous?     And this is evidence of McArdle’s sleazy manipulation? [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0