One of McMegan’s famous fuck-ups was adding verifiable numbers to an argument and getting called on it:
Last week, during a Washington Post online chat, this exchange took place:
Anonymous: You said that medical innovation will be wiped out if we have a type of national health care, because European drug companies get 80% of their revenue from Americans. Where did you get this statistic?
Megan McArdle: It wasn’t a statistic–it was a hypothetical.
A number is not trusted if proffered by McMegan until it has been independently verified twice. This is the McArdle Rule.
The Bernie Sanders campaign proposals are veering into McCardle Rule territory. In my one area of particular expertise, the healthcare plan by the Sanders’ campaign had an initial WTF mistake (via Vox)
Sanders assumes $324 billion more per year in prescription drug savings than Thorpe does. Thorpe argues that this is wildly implausible. “In 2014 private health plans paid a TOTAL of $132 billion on prescription drugs and nationally we spent $305 billion,” he writes in an email. “With their savings drug spending nationally would be negative.” (Emphasis mine.) The Sanders camp revised the number down to $241 billion when I pointed this out.
Then initial number to be saved from a sector was more than the entire sector. The revised number after being called on the bullshit is only 79% of the entire sector’s current spending. Is that a reasonable assumption?
On emptying out the prisons, Mark Kleiman a criminologist who is an expert on the inefficiencies of incarceration looks at the promise and the mechanics:
Consider, for example, this from Bernie Sanders:
… at the end of my first term, we will not have more people in jail than any other country.
That’s a very specific promise, with a timeline attached. And it is a promise that no President has the power to fulfill…. (emphasis mine)
But of the 2.3 million people behind bars in this country, fewer than 10% are Federal prisoners. The rest are in state prisons and local jails. If the President were to release all of the Federal prisoners, we would still, as a country, have more prisoners than any other country. So Sen. Sanders was very specifically making a promise he has no way of keeping. Either he knows that or he does not.
And finally, the macro-econonomic impact of his plans will produce a growth rate that the US has not consistently seen since we introduced three massive new pools of labor to our economy (Boomers in general, women and minorities in particular) and benefited from a one time massive deepening of the human capital pool via the GI Bill:
We rightly mocked the Republican plans to declare a goal of 4% economic growth as Green Lanternism. 5.3% growth is also Green Lanternism.
These are three distinct policy areas. The commonality is that goals expressed are very popular within the Democratic primary base or the general electorate and the numbers backing them are sloppy, slipshod and tilted so far that the “analysts” responsible for them are clinging to the edges hoping that they won’t fall off the ledge.
Once is a mistake, twice is a coincidence, but three times is deliberate policy. As this point, I am assuming that any number excluding donation numbers are solely acting as priority signals and shields against the claim that the Sanders campaign has not done an analysis on their proposals. It is a number that is doing numbery things, therefore it is a defense that the campaign has no numbers to put on their proposals.
And when the campaign is getting called on it by left/liberal wonks, their defense is to either go after the critic who is a usual ally or claim the number is a hypothetical and not a statistic.