President Obama recently fretted that our politics has become so rough-and-tumble that "facts and science and argument do not seem to be winning the day all the time." Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser just before the election, the president worried that Americans were so rattled by economic anxieties that they might lose their heads and choose Republicans over Democrats -- a fear that became a reality on Nov. 2.
But his larger point was that Democrats are guided by facts and science and argument while Republicans act on ideological or even irrational motives. As liberals and Democrats are fond of saying, they are part of the "reality-based community."
Except when they're not. In the course of the Obama administration we have seen examples of Democrats in the White House, Congress and across the government pursuing ideological goals that are not only not based on facts and science and argument but actually fly in the face of facts and science and argument. Some examples:
» Offshore oil drilling. Recently the inspector general of the Interior Department discovered that White House officials altered a report to claim that the administration's six-month moratorium on offshore oil drilling had the approval of the nation's foremost engineering experts. "The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering," the administration declared. In fact, the experts had not reviewed, nor did they approve, the proposed drilling moratorium. The administration insists it was all a mistake.
» The "clean energy economy." President Obama speaks frequently about "accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy." Neither Obama's promises of breakthroughs in solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources -- which can supply only a tiny fraction of the nation's energy needs -- nor his claims that his policies will create hundreds of thousands of "green jobs" in a new clean energy world, are supported by solid economic analysis. Numerous studies found that the president's favored cap-and-trade program would not have led to economic growth, and the concept of "green jobs" is so fuzzy as to be almost useless.
"They are ignoring the fact that subsidized green jobs destroy jobs elsewhere and direct capital and resources away from their most efficient use," says Nick Loris, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "If these technologies were economically competitive and profitable, they wouldn't need the subsidies and mandates the administration is supporting."
» High-speed rail. The administration wants to build high-speed rail links in 13 densely populated areas around the country, at a price tag that could reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The president touted high-speed rail at no fewer than five campaign appearances in October. But there is virtually no hope that such projects, even if built exactly as the administration hopes, would bring the progress Obama claims. Recently Newsweek economic columnist Robert Samuelson concluded that the rail lines would not result in "any meaningful reduction in traffic congestion, greenhouse-gas emissions, air travel, or oil consumption and imports. Nada, zip."
The disregard of facts and science and argument when they contradict ideological goals is nothing new for some key figures in the Obama circle. For example, back in 1996, while an aide in the Clinton White House, Obama Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan rewrote the opinion of an expert board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on the subject of partial-birth abortion. The board found that it could "identify no circumstances under which this procedure ... would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman." But Kagan, eager to aid the White House fight against a partial-birth abortion ban, refashioned the experts' opinion, saying the procedure "may be the best or the most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstances to save the life or preserve the health of a woman." She just made it up.
During the Bush years, liberals and Democrats often accused the administration of ignoring science and expert opinion if it conflicted with conservative ideological goals. That would change, we were told, if rational, pragmatic Democratic leaders were given a chance to run the government.
Now we have had two years in which Democrats, with cherished ideological objectives of their own, have been fully in charge of Washington. Given what has taken place, can the president really claim that his is the party that values facts and science and argument above all?
Big, evil industries funded… which party?
Now that election 2010 is over, let’s go back over to OpenSecrets and look at which evil corporations stole our democracy and bought Congress for the Republicans — the RepubliCorp!
First suspect: the military-industrial complex!
Defense Contractors: 55% Democrat, 44% Republican ($18 million)
Oh, really? Well, then, it must have been Wall Street! That’s it: Wall Street bought Congress for the GOP!
Securities & Investment: 53% Democrat, 46% Republican ($8.2 million)
Oh. Well, even if Wall Street as a whole preferred Democrats, it must have been the real bad guys, those risky Hedge funds and exotic investors…
Hedge Funds: 53% Democrat, 46% Republican ($6.8 million total)
Venture Capital: 64% Democrat, 36% Republican ($6.4 million)
Private Equity: 56% Democrat, 43% Republican ($4.6 million)
Huh. Well, then, it must have been the big health insurers and for-profit hospital corporations! They didn’t want reform! I know because I heard President Obama say so at least 64 times!
HMO/Health services: 58% Democrats, 40% Republicans ($9.4 million)
Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: 51% Democrats, 48% Republicans ($10.4 million)
Medical Supply: 57% Democrats, 42% Republicans ($4.4 million)
Hospitals/Nursing Homes: 63% Democrat, 36% Republican ($14.9 million)
Huh. Well…then it must have been those evil lobbyists that President Obama has been fighting against ever since he got to Washington! That’s it!
Lobbyists: 65% Democrat, 34% Republican ($23.5 million)
What? You mean all that time I’ve spent watching Keith Olbermann hasn’t taught me any real facts???? You mean my head is now full of garbage and White House propaganda?
For good measure, here are a few industries that did, in fact, support Republicans (although most of them by narrow margins).
‘Tonsil Thieves‘ (Dentists): 37% Democrat, 62% Republican ($5.3 million)
Health professionals: 48% Democrat, 50% Republican ($55 million)
Credit/Finance: 48% Democrat, 52% Republican ($5.8 million)
Commercial Banks: 41% Democrat, 59% Republican ($15.4 million)
Insurance (Health, life and property): 48% Democrat, 52% Republican ($31.2 million)
Agribusiness: 41% Democrat, 58% Republican ($40 million)
The challenges I see ahead for the new GOP House will be (1) reining in Agribusiness subsidies and (2) forcing banks to live without hope of future bailouts. The first is probably the bigger challenge, at least in the short run.
Time says Tea Party will cause hyperinflation
If hyperinflation arrives, Time Magazine wants its readers to know who the real culprits are. It won’t be the federal government that hiked annual spending by 38% in three years and began running trillion-dollar deficits. It won’t be the Congress that kept raising debt limits to allow for that spending spree. And it won’t be the Federal Reserve that, in desperation over the government’s spending and debt spree, began printing money to artificially keep interest rates low. No, the real culprit will be the political movement that opposes all of the above, according to The Curious Capitalist:
In a recent paper, called Temporarily Unstable Government Debt and Inflation, which can be downloaded from this website, Leeper has a chart that he unofficially calls the Tea Party shock graph, on page 25. Before the Tea Party, inflation is rising slowly. But in the first year the Tea Party or a group with similar views wins the Presidency or takes over Congress, whamm-o. Inflation doubles, and keeps going up. He wrote the paper in October, so he puts the potential date of Tea Party takeover as 2019, but after this election Leeper concedes Tea Party induced hyper-inflation could come much sooner than that. So is Palin riding the Hyper-Inflation Express? Maybe. Here’s why …
But here’s the trick. Leeper doesn’t just model actual tax policy. He is looking at tax expectations. You don’t actually have to lower taxes for inflation to rise. Nor do you have to raise taxes to get inflation to fall, for that matter. Leeper says as we get closer to the point that is looks like the government is unwilling to raise taxes people will get increasingly nervous about our debt. And that’s the problem with the Tea Party.
Now before you go claiming that Leeper’s research is a Liberal hit piece consider this: Leeper agrees that when governments have high levels of debt higher taxes do slow growth and cause massive inflation. But we’re not there yet. Currently, our US Federal Debt is equal to about 62% of annual GDP. That’s a lot, but not enough to make higher taxes a threat. According to Leeper’s calculations, at our current level of US Federal Debt higher taxes, even modestly higher taxes, tends to reduce inflation by three quarters of a percentage point. And the inflation fighting affect of higher taxes tends to grow as the level of debt rises closer to one. Inflation drops by about 1.3 percentage points when the US Federal deficit equals GDP. After that the equation shifts. When debt hits 120% of our annual debt, that’s when the trouble hits. At that point, higher taxes tends to make inflation rise, not fall. But even if Bush’s tax cuts are kept in place we are ten years or more from hitting that point.
Perhaps at some point, Mr. Curious (or Mr. Capitalist) can explain why we had runaway inflation in the 1970s even with a low debt-to-GDP ratio and a predilection for higher taxes. Curiously, when we started cutting taxes in the 1980s, that inflation disappeared, and remained under control during a long period of low tax rates, especially in the 1980s and in the last decade as well. Those years of low taxes, low inflation, and consistently high real growth in GDP would tend to argue that tax cuts don’t create inflation but actual growth — as well as confidence in both the economy and the currency.
Not only does Mr. Curious fail to take that into account, he also fails to use accurate accounting of our debt. With a projected GDP growth rate this year of 2.5%, we can estimate the final GDP for 2010 at around $14.48 trillion, rounding up a little generously. According to the Treasury’s own debt calculations, our national debt stands at $13.73 trillion as of November 9th, which would put our debt-to-GDP ratio at 94.8% of our GDP even if we didn’t add a single dollar from now until the end of the year. By this measure, the ratio was 55.9% in 2001, and 65.6% by the end of 2007. In 1995, it was 67.3%. The rate now is significantly worse than any time in the last 60 years.
Time Magazine gets to 62% by ignoring intragovernmental holdings, which are IOUs held by such trivial creditors as, say, the Social Security Administration (and that’s actually 63%, not 62%). So our debt ratio is only 63% if one is inclined to believe that the government will simply eliminate Social Security and default on its debt to other governmental trust funds, rendering them defunct. The CBO leaves out intragovernmental holdings because, technically, Congress isn’t committed to honoring those IOUs until it approves the expenditures in each annual budget. That debt is just as real as the “public” debt, though, with perhaps even bigger political and economic consequences for defaults.
By the way, when we last experienced hyperinflation at the end of the 1970s, our debt-to-GDP ratio was … 33.4%, one of the lowest levels of debt we have experienced in that same period.
Uncontrolled inflation doesn’t get created from tax cuts; it arises from bad monetary policy, ill-advised government interventions, and a serious lack of confidence in the currency. Tax cuts uncoupled from spending cuts can certainly make for bad policy and set the stage for inflation, but all one has to do is look at the last nine years of stable tax rates and the runaway rate of spending increases in Washington to determine where the actual problem lies. It’s not the tax rates that kept changing, nor is it a decline in revenue that created the massive deficits. For most of the last ten years, revenues have increased, with the exception of the last two years of deep recession; the deficit problem resulted from spending increases that have far outstripped the revenue increases.
Finally, the Tea Party may be philosophically inclined to low taxes (seeing how well they worked in the 1980s and in the early 2000s in stimulating growth), but that’s not the issue on the table. Democrats in Congress want to raise taxes on the employer class, not cut taxes for everyone else. The Tea Party and Sarah Palin want to cut spending instead and shrink government, a strategy that has worked to restore economic growth in this country when it was tried in the 1960s, the 1980s, and in 2001-3, and in none of those cases created runaway inflation. Perhaps Time needs a little more intellectual curiosity.
How Republicans Can Break Obamacare Before They Repeal It
Opponents of Obamacare should stay focused on two tracks: first, show why Obamacare fails to address the fundamental health-care problems afflicting the nation while spending trillions on a new health-care entitlement; second, make moderate voters comfortable with their own health-care reform agenda. Here's how they can do it.
Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., committed an infamous gaffe when she said: "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." House Republicans should help this process along and hold hearings to examine all the unintended consequences that have resulted (and will result) from Obamacare: Companies like McDonald's and other employers threatening to drop coverage; rate increases for private insurers due to new insurance regulations; and hundreds of billions of dollars in uncounted implementation costs for the legislation. Worst of all, 16 million Americans will be forced into the broken Medicaid program - and then struggle to find doctors and specialists who accept the program's low payments and cumbersome bureaucracy.
Republicans should also highlight how Obamacare is unaffordable. The president promised that health-care reform would "bend the curve" of health-care costs, but independent observers, from the Medicare Actuary to the Lewin Group, estimate that it will increase U.S. health-care spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
Rather than reducing federal health-care spending, Obamacare will create new entitlements that we can't afford while sapping hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes and fees from the private sector to pay for it.
Republicans should bring a parade of governors to testify to Congress. States led successful welfare-reform efforts in the 1990s, and states should take the lead in health-care reform now.
Instead, Obamacare dictates health-care reform from the top down and inflicts new costs on state governments--from expanding Medicaid eligibility to the start-up costs associated with running new state insurance exchanges. Republicans should give governors a platform to voice their concerns and highlight the efforts of state leaders like Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind., to create more affordable health-care options for low-income Americans.
Finally, Republicans should push legislation that will attract bipartisan support and dare the president to veto it. Proposals could include using targeted defunding efforts to kill unpopular parts of the legislation--like the Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare; creating a national, interstate market for health insurance; enacting tort reform to rein in junk lawsuits against doctors; and killing the 1099 IRS reporting requirement for suppliers that will drown small businesses in paperwork.
By fighting smarter now, Obamacare's critics can improve the situation in the short term--and perhaps even lay the groundwork for repeal in 2012, when the president will have to defend his choices directly to the American people.
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)