Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bon appétit

From "The Delusion of Indispensability" by Christopher Badeaux (links added by Φ):
The problem is not merely the corruption of power. It is the flip side of the coin — the delusion of indispensability, a delusion brought a politician’s inner circle, by the legions of his fans (brought closer by today’s mass, instant communication streams), and, frankly, every fawning article in the nominally independent press reinforcing that image. A brave man will stand in the face of the worst storm if he perceives he is needed on the battlements. This, I suspect, is why Anthony Weiner continued for as long as he did. . . . 
As an aside, I suspect this is why President Obama — whose approval rating is trailing, and whose every domestic initiative has either been an expensive failure or an expensively unpopular ratings-killer — is seeking re-election. His fans basically called him the Messiah, and he did nothing to dispel that perception. When he came into office in 2009, he let everyone know that he believed we were essentially in another depression, and when his adoring fans in the press told him he could fix it, you know he cried in his head, Yes we can! His utter failure to accomplish anything is actually totally irrelevant to his self-perception, and that is why he is out now re-enacting Al Gore’s successful 2000 campaign. 
Is the president's approval rating trailing? Well, according to Gallup, it's at 46%, which is up from a low of 41%, and better than the approval ratings of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter at the same point of their administrations.

Usually when Republicans talk about the president's expensive, job-killing domestic initiatives, they're talking about health care reform. According to Politifact, the law is not job-killing, it does not "[crush] small businesses 'with billions in penalties,'" and it is not "the biggest tax increase ever in the history of our country." Politifact rated Paul Ryan's claim that the health care law "is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy" as barely true:
Almost every expert from every side on the health care law would agree that there's a lot of uncertainty involved in projecting its budget impact. Looking strictly at the CBO's analysis of the budget effect of the health care law, it is a deficit-reducer, both in the short and long term. But Ryan points to several legitimate concerns about the assumptions made by the CBO -- particularly whether reduced Medicare payments are sustainable -- assumptions that even the CBO and Medicare's chief actuary noted may be suspect. The fate of those cuts may largely determine whether the new health care law ends up in the red or black. For now, though, those cuts are law. Congress would have to act to reduce or eliminate them. So Ryan is overplaying his hand when he claims the law is "accelerating our country toward bankruptcy." We rate his claim Barely True.
Last year, Mike Pence claimed that the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill will kill jobs. Politifact also rated that statement as barely true:
Ultimately, even the supporters of the bill we spoke to acknowledged that some jobs will likely be lost, or never created, due to passage of Dodd-Frank. However, many of the experts we spoke to agreed that not passing the bill would put even more jobs in the greater economy at risk, not to mention countless nest-eggs, homes and other non-job-related concerns. Would potential job savings offset job costs? Unfortunately, there is no way to know. Still, Pence's comment ignores the principle that preventing financial shocks is job-saving. On balance, we rate the statement Barely True. 
Badeaux claims that every domestic initiative has been an expensive failure. Just one counterexample is enough to prove that he's wrong.

Did the president claim that we were in another depression in 2009? Well, in December of 2008, he said of the economic crisis, "as tough as times are right now, they're nothing compared to what my grandparents went through, what the greatest generation went through." He did say that "when you think about the structural problems that we already had in the economy before the financial crisis, this is a big problem and it's going to get worse." Well, what the hell do you expect him to say? Should he have declared the economy is fundamentally sound, as his opponent did? Besides, even if we were not in a depression, it was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It was very very bad. Perhaps Badeaux doens't remember or simply didn't notice.

Has the president failed to accomplish anything? As the links above show, the president has accomplished much. So Badeaux's ridiculous claim is obviously false.

What I think happens to people like Badeaux is that they repeat their politically motivated bullshit so frequently, to others and to themselves, that they begin to believe it. They assert it freely in their own echo chambers where it goes unchallenged. It is eventually accepted as the gospel truth as a consequence. Bullshitters have no regard for the truth or falsity of their claims anyway, since the whole point of making claims for them is to achieve this or that goal; the truth or falsity of the claims is irrelevant.

Sadly, in the case of Badeaux, we have a man who is not only shoveling the bullshit, but is also gobbling it up.

Bon appétit!

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson