PRELIMINARY NOTE: I have acquired fairly strong evidence (from Brad DeLong and from perusing the site) indicating that The Hill simply assigns headlines to articles with no author input. If this is so, then my statements below indicating that Bowles and Simpson chose the title of their piece from The Hill would be wrong. This was an innocent mistake -- I had never encoutered The Hill before, and had no idea they did this -- but a mistake nonetheless. That I was mistaken about this makes DeLong's post more understandable, and Mankiw's less so, although I still find DeLong's evaluation to be a little harsh. This is discussed further in the updates below.
Brad DeLong has somewhat of a reputation for being unfair to those with whom he disagrees. For instance, today he accuses Greg Mankiw of "jumping the shark." (I don't think he is using that phrase properly, by the way: Wikipedia says it means becoming absurd, while DeLong is accusing Mankiw of being mendacious.)
What was Mankiw's sin? He summarized an article by Bowles and Simpson as follows: "readers might like to know that Bowles and Simpson themselves have called the Ryan plan a positive step..." This prompted Delong to write: "Naughty, naughty. It is not good to quote people out of their context. Not good at all."
Somewhat oddly, I thought, Delong offered no links to either Mankiw's or Bowles and Simpson's pieces. "Hmm, I wonder why?" So I googled for Mankiw's piece, which nicely offers a link to Bowles and Simpson, allowing Mankiw's readers to easily check and see if he is mis-characterizing them. And when I followed that link, what did I find? An article with the title "Paul Ryan's budget is a positive step."
Now, a title is, for one thing, an author's way of giving a very brief summary of what he is going to say. So DeLong is saying that Mankiw was being "naughty, naughty" for summarizing Bowles and Simpson's piece in the exact same way they summarized it themselves! Wow, that is naughty.
UPDATE: Commenter "brad," who I assume from the context is Professor DeLong himself, notes that Bowles and Simpson may not have titled that article I linked to themselves. That would tip the scales a bit towards DeLong and away from Mankiw. But, even then, I still find DeLong's criticism a bit harsh for the crime.
UPDATE II: DeLong is now objecting that I am "saying something that is false" when I say that headline "may not have titled that article I linked to themselves," because, according to him, there is no chance they so titled it. But the only evidence I have for this is his assertions that it is so. I have written for many different outlets: sometimes I got to choose my title, and sometimes the editor chose it, but never have I had a title simply forced on me: the editor always asked for my approval for his/her title. Perhaps The Hill does not work that way. I am open to that possibility. I am here openly acknowledging that I may have been mistaken in assuming the authors had at least approved the title. DeLong has also directed me to strike through every passage where I claim the authors wrote and/or approved the title. Sorry, I find struck-through text ugly and hard to read. I am here printing corrections. The same as The New York Times does. If it's good enough for the Grey Lady, it's good enough for me.
Tomorrow I will try to check and see if the authors had anything to do with the title of their piece. If they didn't, you will see a big "I was mistaken" right here. But no ugly-assed strikethrough, sorry.
UPDATE III: Well, I've perused The Hill a little bit, and seeing how the site works (I had never laid eyes on the site before yesterday, and then I only saw this one post), it is pretty clear to me that DeLong is almost certainly correct -- this site does not have writers writing for it, it just releases their press statements in blog form. But I have checked with The Hill just to make sure.
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