"Obama's Gotta Go" article sparks online debate about PPACA, the economy and journalistic integrity

By Paul Wilson


Heading into election season, the nation remains starkly divided on many issues. At bus stops, water coolers and on Internet forums, there’s no shortage of passionate (and often nasty) debate. The dissension is so prevalent that many Americans do their best to simply duck their heads and go on with their lives.

This week, the political white noise got even harder to ignore after the publication of a controversial Newsweek article by British historian and Harvard professor, Niall Fergsuon titled, “Obama’s Gotta Go.”

In the piece, Ferguson argues that Obama has not delivered on promises he made to the American people before he was elected. Among other things, he cites unemployment, annual household income, welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Dodd-Frank and China.

In a passage that has raised the eyebrows of many, he writes that health care reform will increase the deficit, a claim that many say is a deliberate misinterpretation of a Congressional Budget Office report that actually concluded that health care reform will reduce the deficit, not increase it.

He concludes the piece with the following:
    The voters now face a stark choice. They can let Barack Obama’s rambling, solipsistic narrative continue until they find themselves living in some American version of Europe, with low growth, high unemployment, even higher debt—and real geopolitical decline.

    Or they can opt for real change: the kind of change that will end four years of economic underperformance, stop the terrifying accumulation of debt, and reestablish a secure fiscal foundation for American national security.”
The piece has drawn support, particularly for his criticisms of PPACA, as well as a large number of rebuttals, most notably from New York Times columnist and Professor of Economics and Internation Affairs, Paul Krugman. Krugman took time from his vacation to post a harsh rejoinder in which he accuses Ferguson of “multiple errors and misrepresentations” and demands a correction from Newsweek.

And he’s not the only one.

In a piece onThe New Yorker, John Cassidy says that while there’s nothing unusual about a disagreement between these two men, who are well-acquainted foes, “What is pretty remarkable about the latest dustup is the weakness of the arguments presented by Ferguson … If called upon three months before an election to pen a provocative cover story in a national news magazine clamoring for the President to be chucked out, most writers would make every effort to avoid giving the other side easy opportunities to tear down their arguments. And yet, here comes Ferguson blatantly twisting a report from the Congressional Budget Office and presenting numerous other distortions and half-truths that anybody with access to Google could discredit in a few hours.”

Additional criticism has appeared on Politico, Esquire and Washington Post, among others.
This piece on The Atlantic by Matthew O’Brien says that while, “There are plenty of legitimate reasons to disapprove of the president,” Ferguson has instead chosen to “delve into a fantasy world of incorrect and tendentious facts. He simply gets things wrong, again and again and again.” He goes on to list his problems with the information included in the piece in detail.

Ferguson has since come out with several of his own rebuttals in which he says that critics have failed “to respond to the central arguments of the piece.” He goes on to say, “what I have encountered since the publication of my Newsweek article … looks suspiciously like an orchestrated attempt to discredit me.”

If you're at all familiar with these types of things, I don’t have to tell you that his rebuttal has since been rebutted. Repeatedly. And so it goes.

I’m guessing that this is a long way from over and whether it interests you or not, I would argue that it’s far more compelling than the political “discussions” you’re likely to overhear in the company lunch room.

Have you been following the story? Whether you agree with Ferguson's argument or not, what do you think of his journalism? Is the article a case of politically motivated misinformation, bad journalism, or do you, like Ferguson, see the negative reaction as a left-wing conspiracy to discredit President Obama’s critics? Hey, we need something to talk about until Election Day, don't we?