The Big Lie

It was just so over the top, and so wrongheaded that our usually fractious populace, and the politicians and hangers on who cater to them were, for once, united in their condemnation. After all what the congressman said was just, simply, out of bounds.

What the congressman said was this:

And the myopia of the other side, let alone the hypocrisy of some of its members, is hard to fathom.

They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie. Just like Goebbels ; you say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. And we’ve heard it on this floor; government takeover of health care.

PolitiFact, nonpartisan, Pulitzer prize-winning, 2009, St. Petersburg Times, said the biggest lie of 2010 was government takeover of health care, because there is no government takeover. It’s insurance.

You can see just how outrageous it was just by reading it. It is easy to imagine the many people who needed “the vapors” to revive them, after hearing such words. Some congresswoman says

we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States….

And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers [sic] who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country

while another political figure who was once nominated to serve as Vice President of the United States explains that “the Sputnik moment” that many of us remember as the catalyst for the development of a apace program that led to our landing men on the moon slightly more than a decade later and increased spending to educate more scientists and the research that led to the technological breakthroughs which have marked our time, in facts stands for a race to space that the Russians

won, but also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.

but really it is Steve Cohen, the man with a political opponent who suggested he not be elected since Jews hate Christians who has poisoned our political discourse.

And, of course, he and Politifact are wrong. The lies about a government “takeover” of health care, while as asinine a claim there is, and one which was repeated in Republican campaign commercials every hour on the hour during October last, were not, and cannot be the lie of the year.

It is this one: constantly repeated every single day, by sages on televisions throughout the land:

The budget deficit must be cut and cut now. We will rue the day, if we do not reduce the deficit immediately.

Here, for instance, are the famed Nobel Laureates in Economics: Dr. Joe Scarborough of the University of Talk Louder than Anyone Else on Set, and Professor Michael Barnicle of The Institution of Higher Cowering to Conservatives so Maybe They Will Like Me:

SCARBOROUGH:

I’m very disturbed by the president actually bragging about increasing spending while Greece and Portugal and Spain and Ireland go up in flames and moody’s saying we could be next…. if you look it at the front page of the New York Times” yesterday talking about the states going up in flames in debt, if you see what’s happening in spain, is spain going to collapse?

What happened in Portugal, what happened in Ireland, what happened in Greece, what’s happening in America where you have Moody’s saying they’re going to downgrade our AAA rating, which is going to mean 5 trillion, instead of being historically low rates will be at high rates.

5 trillion debt becomes a $20 trillion debt just like that and it cripples the united states.

Mike, this is basic math.

This is basic banking.

BARNACLE:

You know what, maybe members of Congress, individual members of Congress, and maybe even the President of the United states, should take one month off from listening to focus groups and reading polls and spend more time with an averageAamerican family to see how they balance their checkbook month to month and what they do is what this Congress and past Congresses have been unable to do.

Figure out what they can afford and what they can’t afford.

Because average American families can’t put bills off into the distance for too long.

We all have to make those decisions.

You had to choose am I going to buy a mink lined sink or aim am I going to get the leather jacket.

So, aside from these two laureates, there appear to be no other economists who find this analogy to be apt. The idea that, for instance, your family should not radically cut back its expenditures at a local restaurant since to do so might put the restaurant out of business or at least cost some of its employees their income is, of course, ludicrous. The government has a different role and obligation.

Try this from people who have greater expertise in this, than the consistently broke blogger, if you continue to believe that Professors Scarborough and Barnacle were doing anything but wasting the morning away.

More importantly, away from the bloviation machinery (including the one we are both using right now), this is well understood. After Vice President Cheney famously explained that deficits don’t matter, an article in the Weekly Standard (not to be confused with the Daily Worker) explained, with unusual cogency why he was probably right at least when the government is “teetering on the verge of a major recession.”

Now that we are way past “verge” and perhaps major recession doesn’t really say it, the preferred economist to make the same point, Paul Krugman, has pointed out often, that with a

a depressed economy and high unemployment…[w]hat the government should be doing … is spending more while the private sector is spending less, supporting employment while those debts are paid down. And this government spending needs to be sustained: we’re not talking about a brief burst of aid; we’re talking about spending that lasts long enough for households to get their debts back under control. The original Obama stimulus wasn’t just too small; it was also much too short-lived, with much of the positive effect already gone.

So, as oddly dissonant it may seem when people tell us about the evils of our deficit while giving tax breaks to the wealthy, it is not. The Republican Party which nominated and elected President Reagan has had one over-riding goal: to undo the New Deal and return the United States to the eat what you can kill economy that President Roosevelt inherited as it lay in the ditch, careening toward the anarchy and dictatorships already in sight in the rest of the civilized world.

But it was a world which, as President Roosevelt described it while seeking his first re-election, where

[t]hrough new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital – all undreamed of by the Fathers – the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor – these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age – other people’s money – these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

The New Deal was intended to enlist the government against these forces instead of supporting them but in a curious way would end up making business even better, since it helped create a middle class with buying power far beyond what anyone could have imagined as President Roosevelt took office in March, 1933.

Still, a segment of the world ended by the New Deal always pined for its return. They took over the Republican Party dismembered by Watergate and set on their course to put us back to the good old days before that patrician from Hyde Park took their measure.

Hence, their chosen Representative to “respond” to the President’s State of the Union address—a speech pointing a way forward (please watch Rachel Maddow’s summary of what it meant), went right after the whole structure erected by the New Deal to forever protect our citizens from the predations that nearly destroyed the nation but which they derisively refer to as “entitlement programs.”

Programs to invest in what we need to do to move successfully into the new century, Congressman Paul Ryan said, will

transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.

So, there it is. In black and white. At least we are going to be candid about what the plan is; a significant achievement. Congressman Ryan’s speech just confirmed how right Dr. Krugman was when he explained a year ago, that the deficit is killing us meme—which the beltway press have adopted as their own mantra as well— results in

all the talk … about how to shave a few billion dollars off government spending, while there’s hardly any willingness to tackle mass unemployment. Policy is headed in the wrong direction — and millions of Americans will pay the price.

The almost unreadable but spot on book What’s the Matter with Kansas explained how all the culture war stuff fooled the easily misled into supporting politicians out to hurt them for the benefit of the fat cats who supported them, but the repetition of their nonsense by supposed news dispensaries helps more than the abortion is evil rant (which has, you will notice, returned). The point is that no matter how ridiculous something is, if you repeat it often enough, it becomes accepted as true. The most famous and effective use of this technique was…

oh, yeh. Never mind. Not allowed to say that.

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3 thoughts on “The Big Lie

  1. What’s the matter with Kansas was an eye opener by a liberal.

    And, of course, I was drawn to it because I could not figure out how these voters could champion the very enemies of their livelihood!

    Cultural values outweigh economic values.
    That is the normal response to this quandary. But how did FDR do it?

    How did Roosevelt put together this coalition?

    Oh well, fine post.

  2. Barth

    starvation helped people listen to FDR. His manner of speaking helped, too. The forces of reaction had not yet learned the trick of diverting attention, although the Glenn Beck and Bill-Os of the day, Gerald L.K. Smith and Father Coughlin soon figured it out and how to do it.

    FDR (like Pres Obama) studiously ignored Coughlin, Smith and the other rabble rousers (including Huey Long). He never really acknowledged their existence. Very cool. They had, though, huge and intense (and crazy) followings and as World War Two began in Europe, they started pushing against our intervention darkly hinting that the President’s real name was Rosenfeldt.

    And don’t let the gauze of history be placed over Republican efforts against his election in 1932 by pointing out that he was unable to stand on his own.

  3. We are seeing, in Egypt, and in many other places around the globe, what the lies produce.

    When you intentionally isolate the ideas of genuine responsibility, authority and equality of representation between governance and the governed you assure failure.

    Those who would label these concepts socialism are merely abetting their wholesale redefinition of terms to suit their own purpose. Here in the U.S. we can start with the corporate citizen and take it from there. The terms of the relationship are intentionally devised in such a way to produce and unmistakably exclusionary outcome. The terms of the relationship place all authority on one side of the socioeconomic ledger.

    This makes it virtually impossible to ever balance the books in any way you might wish to express it. This is anti-social bookeeping on steroids and is reflected in every facet of governance and commerce. This conduct is the antithesis of democracy and very mistakenly has become a core principle of the ecopolitical construct. To put it plainly, this is a major fuck up.

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