I have often remarked on Sumner's ability for concern trolling. Here though Krugman gives a very good definition:
"Some readers have asked me for a reaction to Steve Rattner’s piece on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. The short answer is that it’s a classic piece of concern trolling – the practice, all too common among a certain class of commentators, of professing sympathy with progressive policy goals, then, invariably, finding a way to support right-wing talking points."
"The way to cut through the whole double-counting nonsense is to ask the following: did the ACA improve or worsen the fiscal outlook compared with what it would have been without the legislation? The answer is that it improved the outlook – the additional revenues plus cost savings outweigh the cost of the subsidies. End of story. Don’t take my word for it — that’s what Robert Reischauer, the good trustee, says."
"Does it matter that some of the savings accrue to the Medicare trust fund? Not for the unified budget. And as it turns out, not for the non-trust-fund budget either, because everyone understands that Medicare will be supported out of general revenues when the trust fund is exhausted, so any savings on trust fund spending eventually redound to general revenues."
"There’s nothing here, except in the tortured word games of people who are desperately looking for a way to make trouble."
This is why no matter what you think of the recent Krugman-Keen debate-I do think that maybe there are some things about banking that MMT is right to engage us about, and I also do agree that in Krugman's model which is basically New Keynesian he does perhaps have too much of the old NeoClassical bath water in it-he still does provide a real public service in the way he discusses economic issues for the public. Any argument you might have with Krugman is on the theoretical level which certainly has a lot of importance. However on the policy level no one does a better job of explaining and boiling down the issues. In these few sentences he demolishes Rattner's sophistical attack on ACA. He has a real talent for clarity and simplicity where he is able to explain often quite complex details of policy with great brevity.
Sumner is of course a master sophistic on economic issues as well. So for example Sumner claims that, "We agree on the decreasing marginal utility of income, but I tend to think disincentive effects are important too–so I’m a moderate on income redistribution."
This was in the comments section where he answered my question. However I answered this with another question,
"Ok Scott, to push the point a little bit do your support President Obama’s push to see top income rates back at 39.6%-which is how Bush had structured them originally though now he says they should be permanent-or for that matter Obama’s idea of some kind of Buffett rule?"
"The reason why I ask this is both of those measures are mildly tax redsitributionist not dramatic like pushing for the old 90% marginal rate of 1960. As you are for moderate redistribution do either of these Obama proposals work for you?"
He hasn't answered my question yet-he will at some point, in fairness to him he does answer questions. But I doubt very much he will agree with either of the President's proposals. Indeed I suspect another commentator, J.V. Dubois was right when he said
"I do not want to speak for Scott, but as far as I know he prefers consumption tax or pure wage tax (with possibly some tax on luxury veblen goods) to any form of income tax (especially tax on capital gains). And I have to say that I am fairly convinced."
"If you combine VAT together with either tax return for the poorest you can have fairly progressive tax system with much less DWL than using current US tax system."
Yes, consumption and wage taxes are where you go when you desire moderate wealth redistribution. Dubois does come back with:
"I know, that is why I used “tax return” (I also wanted to add “negative tax”). So basically, if you have a system with consumption only tax that is distributed to the poorest or which is used to give everybody basic flat subsidy it is a fairly progressive system."
Well I'm fairly skeptical here about what kind of subsidy say the Republican Congress may be willing to give the poor.
Anyway you see that Krugman's definition of concern trolling works very well. The GOP itself did this in the 2010 election when they ran on "saving Medicare" then once they were in office are now all behind Paul Ryan's policy to privatize it.
The tactic of saving Medicare-and Social Security-by killing it is one of the major plays in the GOP-Peter Peterson playbook for years.