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Lying Republicans | Below The Fold
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Archive for the ‘Lying Republicans’ Category

Weird Attitudes on Process Questions

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

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This finding is truly bizarre:

Of course, it’s not really possible to know why 58% of independents, and 19% of Democrats, think passage of healthcare was an “abuse of power,” but there you go. To be clear, healthcare reform went through the normal committee process in both chambers of Congress, taking months to get through the whole process. Max Baucus, the chairman of the most powerful committee in all of Congress, spent at least a month trying to reach out to Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee. The Senate passed its bill through normal order, as did the House, and then a longstanding procedure was used to make minor changes to the law after it was signed. There’s nothing remotely untoward about any aspect of the process of passing healthcare reform.

What you’re seeing here is the wages of Republican attacks on the legislative process. At basically every point of the process, Republicans alledged that Democrats were abusing this or that parliamentary rule. Reconcilliation, a decades old law that both parties have used for major pieces of legislation, became “the nuclear option.” Parochial deals cut to win support from on-the-fence Senators, a central aspect of the US system of representative government since 1787, became the hallmark of corrupt governing. Private negotiations, a basic cornerstone of decision making in pretty much any venture, became a no-no. And to compound it, the poltical media, especially cable news, gladly played along, happy to pretend this was a legitimate scandal so they could milk some ratings out of it. And as a result, more than half of respondents to this Gallup poll think that routine use of Congressional rules is an abuse of power. This is bad news for Democrats, obviouly, but it’s bad news for the country too. The clear lesson from this “debate” is that constant demonization of not just your opponent, but of the basic workings of the American government itself, is a huge political winner because the American public doesn’t know enough about the way Congress works to know that the minority is full of crap.

The Consequences of Lying Republicans and Timid Journalists

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

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At the Wonk Room, Igor Volsky has a good summation of the new Republican line that ACA will cost businesses millions of dollars in new taxes. It’s not techincally untrue, it really will force companies to write down hundreds of millions in tax deductions over the course of many years. That’s because it repeals a loophole created by the Medicare Part D law that allows companies to deduct the value of a federal subsidy from their taxes. Republicans aren’t telling you that part, of course, because who exactly would think that companies should get a subsidy from the federal government, and then be able to claim that money as a tax deduction? The GOP’s attacks against student loan reform, on the other hand, are very much dishonest. Far from being a Stalinist takeover of the student loan industry, the government is simply ending a policy of subsidizing private bank loans. This should be a marketistas dream come true; banks won’t issue a certain kind of loan without the government bearing the risk, but that considered, it’s much more efficient for the government to simply make the loan itself. So the government is now pursuing the more efficient strategy. It’s the free market at work! But in a contest between the market and business profits, Republicans are always going to side with business.

The problem with this dynamic is that once you get to the point of having to explain it, you’ve already lost. Republicans have easy to remember sound bytes, while Democrats are stuck explaining in more detail why this isn’t true. In an age of cable news and sound bytes, there’s just no way to win that argument if you can’t boil it down to a soundbyte. This is what makes “he said-she said” journalism so pernicious; not only does it not inform the reader, in cases like this it leaves them misinformed, because journalists aren’t clearly explaining that Republicans aren’t being honest. And if journalist aren’t explaining that, most people are going to assume they’re making a valid point. And then, faced with an argument where one side is screaming “government takeover/tax increases” and the other side is saying “well, not exactly, let me explain,” they’re going to think Republicans have a point. Without fear that journalists are going to expose your dishonesty, lying is a great political strategy. The problem is that democracy can’t work properly when its political actors make a point of lying all the time and the supposed referees don’t call them on it, anymore than a basketball game would function if one team tackled the other team as they shot the ball and the referees refused to call a foul.

The Original Backroom Deal

Monday, March 29th, 2010

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Ezra has a good couple of posts noting the irony of claiming that the Founders would detest the process that created the healthcare reform bill by pointing out the number of compromises that went into crafting the Constitution itself. It’s a good example of how mindless right-wing talking points are these days, since it’s not exactly like the 3/5 Compromise or Great Compromise aren’t taught in basic history classes or anything. I’d also add that the Constitutional convention itself was a big back room deal. The convention was quite literally held in total secrecy so as to not create public outrage/a backlash in favor of the Articles of Confederation amongst a public skeptical of a stronger federal government. They even kept the windows of Indendence Hall shut constantly to keep passer-by from overhearing what was going on inside, even though it was a blistering hot summer.

More than that, I’d just point out that the “cornhusker kickback” is a pretty good example of what out system is set up to do, with various representatives looking out for their districts and their voters. It’s a bit annoying to have to listen to people who deify a group of people in one breath, then claim that people using the system they created as it was designed to be used is a crime against democracy or something.

The Useless Bob Schieffer

Monday, March 29th, 2010

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It’s great that CBS felt compelled to run a fact-check of Michelle Bachmann’s ridiculous claims from Face The Nation yesterday (although it does beg the question of why, exactly, CBS thought it would be a good idea to book Bachmann in the first place), but I still can’t get past the fact that host Bob Schieffer didn’t call her insane claims out on the spot. I mean, I make the point that most political journalists don’t really know much at all about policy a lot, but how much do you really have to know to be aware that in August 2008 more than 0% of the economy was accounted for in terms of public spending. I mean, Medicare anyone? Salaries for military personnel? Hello?

Add this to Schieffer’s recent problem understanding what all of this reconcilliation stuff was about, even as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee patiently explained it to him, and you have to wonder what anyone is gaining from watching Schieffer interview public officials despite clearly knowing nothing about the topic, or even apparently possessing enough cognitive ability to spot obvious stupidity.

Our Deeply Unserious Corporate Media

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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I think this really should have been the focal point of Krugman’s column today, and so the fact that it’s buried at the bottom is a bit disappointing, but I do think that this is the key takeaway from yesterday’s summit:

So what did we learn from the summit? What I took away was the arrogance that the success of things like the death-panel smear has obviously engendered in Republican politicians. At this point they obviously believe that they can blandly make utterly misleading assertions, saying things that can be easily refuted, and pay no price. And they may well be right.

This is basically the fundamental obstacle to getting the public to understand what’s going on with any number of issues at the moment; the Congressional minority is spinning a bunch of outright lies about the proposals, and the media isn’t interested in pointing that out. Consider this Glenn Thrush report, explaining that the summit was “a tie,” and that that means Republicans won because they spoke in complete sentences and didn’t cite Sarah Palin’s Facebook page or something. Thrush was apparently particularly impressed with the Republican decision to let Sen. Alexander take the lead:

The GOP’s smartest move, Democrats say, was picking Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a folksy, even-keeled conservative with a moderate disposition, to lead off.

Alexander eschewed the usual GOP talking points, instead offering a barbed olive branch, disavowing South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s prediction that health care would be Obama’s “Waterloo” — while pressing the moral argument for passing the bill through reconciliation.

 “We want you to succeed,” said Alexander, who urged Obama to heed the lessons the senator learned back in 1979 when he was elected as a 39-year-old governor of the Volunteer State.

 “Some of the media went up to the Democratic leaders of the Legislature and asked, ‘What are you going to do with the new Republican governor?’ They said, ‘I’m going to help him because if he succeeds, our state succeeds,’” said Alexander. “But often they had to persuade me to change my direction to get our state to where it needed to go. I’d like to say the same thing to you: We want you to succeed, because if you succeed, our country succeeds. But we would like, respectfully, to change [your] direction.”

How touching. Thrush thinks (or his sources think, anyway) that it was a smart move to let Alexander lead, and that Alexander took a rhetorically wise track in his remarks. What Thrush never says, not even once, is that Alexander’s “barbed olive branch” included an awful lot of lying of the bill and the process. To the former, Alexander claimed matter of factly that the CBO report on the bill says it will cause premiums to rise. As Krugman notes in his column though, and as many people pointed out in real-time yesterday, this simply isn’t true. The CBO estimates that the bill will lower premiums, and that the lower cost and availability of subsidies will lead to some people buying more coverage. But the same unit of coverage would cost less if the bill was passed. (This, incidentally, is in line with my criticism of another POLITICO article yesterday). Relating to the latter, Alexander claimed that reconcilliation has never been used for something like this, which is an even more egregious falsehood. Reconcilliation has been used to pass TEFRA in 1982, the Balanced Budget Act of 1995 (and 1997), among other Republica priorities. As Krugman notes, both Bush tax cuts were passed using reconcilliation, at a price tag twice that of the current healthcare bill. In the realm of healthcare specifically, COBRA was passed using reconcilliation in 1985. There simply is no way to make Alexander’s statements anything other than egregious falsehoods, but not only do political journalists not point out when polticians are telling egregious lies, they actively praise them based on theater criticism.

It might sound like nit-picking or whining about the refs, but this is a serious problem. If American political journalists are going to make a habit of ignoring when politicians lie about issues, then there’s nothing keeping everyone from wildly making shit up about public debates, which means there’s basically no hope of maintaining an objectively informed populace. And if that happens, democracy itself is threatened.

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