Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Friday, September 20, 2013

The Misguided Right Wing

One of my friends invited me into a FB debate on BHO.  There is certainly a lot to criticize in this administration, but very little real opportunity to legitimately criticize from the right.  This, I believe, accounts for a lot of the birtherism, and Muslim-Commie-socialist-fascist nonsense.  With few legitimate complaints, they just make $h!+ up.

Even without getting into wing-nut fantasy land, there is a lot the right wingers simply know about BHO and how he has ruined America that simply does not stand up to the harsh light of reality.  They blame on Obama things that have been going on since Reagan.  They blame the "left" [which is laughable - there is no political left in this country] for the actions of the Rethug dominated house.   The simple fact is, their minds are made up.  They will only hear things that reinforce their views, and contrary facts will only make them dig their heels in harder.  This is epistemic closure, aka DERP.

To an extent, this is human nature.  We all love our revealed truths and most cherished concepts, no matter where they came from. But open mindedness is a specifically progressive characteristic. None of us is immune to derp, but it is inherently more deep and pervasive among those who call themselves conservative, but are in fact regressives.  Reading a bit of Russell Kirk and my own observations have convinced me that the four pillars of conservatism are ignorance, prejudice [these come directly from Kirk - and he's proud of it!], denial of reality [global warming, New Deal Denialism], and magical thinking. Conservatives generally seek simple solutions, can't be bothered with complexity, and grasp at cleverly framed right wing talking points.  This all by itself accounts for the popularity of the Reagan mythology.  And these are the GOOD conservatives.  Tea Bagging Regressives are far, far worse.

You can argue until eternity with regressives, but you can't set them straight, because they will have none of it.  A Progressive, when confronted with new data, changes his opinion. A Regressive, when confronted with new data, changes the data.

Or simply ignores it

Regressives blame Obama for a variety of real and perceived ills.

Ruining the value of the dollar.
The trade weighted dollar index declined over 30% under W, then gyrated during the Great Recession.  Since then it has been dead flat.  Still, It's Obama's fault.

Graph 1 - Trade Weighted U.S. Dollar index

Decreasing the median income of households.

This has been going on since Reagan.  In nominal dollars, the rate of increase in median household income was lower under Bush II than under Reagan and Clinton, and has been flat since the recession.  Inflation adjusted, household income has zig-zagged to nowhere since the 70's.  The two most recent increases occurred first, and dramatically, under Clinton, and then only a bit from 2004-2007 during the housing bubble.  Recessions in '91, '01, and '08 have been devastating. The trend from 2000 on has been steeply down.

Graph 2 - Real Median Household Income

Income Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Table H-8.  Inflation data from FRED

But to blame the recent decline on Obama rather than the decades-long assault on the middle class we call Reaganomics, the destruction of American manufacturing during the Bush regime, and House Tea Party Rethug obstructionist efforts to shut down the goverment and impose arbitrary debt ceilings takes a type and degree of blindness that simply cannot be penetrated by any wavelength of light.

Ballooning the debt

I've already put several stakes through the heart of the zombie idea that Obama is spending us into perdition - here, here, and here.  If you seriously believe that we have a debt problem due to Obama's spending, then please take the time to read and understand these three posts.

The debt results from a ledger imbalance, and both spending and revenues come into the equation.  Since the Recession ended, government spending at all levels is down.  Federal spending is dead flat and state and local govt spending is dead flat.

Graph 3 - Government Debt

Federal Debt annual growth ballooned to over 20% early in Reagan's first term, and was never less than 10% per year during his presidency.  It dropped every year under Clinton, who ran a surplus at the end of his term.  Under Bush, it was never less than 5% per year and peaked first at 10% in 2004, then over 20% in Q1, 2009.  Strangely, nobody on the right was complaining about debt growth when there was a White Rethug in the White House, and V.P. Cheney famously said, "Deficits don't matter." Which is true, as long as the Rethugs are in control.  During Obama's entire term, debt growth has been on the decline.

Graph 4 - Year over Year % Growth in Federal Debt

But debt is still growing - only at a slower rate.  If spending isn't the cause - and clearly, it isn't, then inadequate revenues have to be.  And they are.  This comes from two factors.  First, slow income growth and business activity leads to slow growth in tax revenues. We're living through the worst recovery in at least a century.   Second, tax receipts are inhibited by tax rates and policy decisions.  All things considered, progressive taxation on personal income is close to non-existent, and collections from corporations are deeply depressed because of loopholes and off-shore evasion gimmicks.  The right wing talking points that we are overtaxed and this taxation inhibits growth are simply lies.

Decimated our Credit Rating

Moody's reaffirmed U.S. debt at AAA rating in July, and upgraded  the outlook for government debt to stable from a negative watch.  Danger to our credit rating comes from Rethug debt ceiling and government shut-down threats.  But now, if our credit was bad, the interest rate on federal debt would be soaring.  It's up from about 2.6% to 3.75% since last summer, but about where it was two years ago.  This is just market fluctuation in a trend channel.  Except for a dip during the Great Recession lower, the interest rate is lower than at any other time since the 60's.

 Graph - Interest Rate on 30 Year Government Bonds

 This is just a bit of the nonsense my friend's friend spewed forth in an ignorant, but passionate, anti-Obama rant.

What took him a few seconds to blurt has taken me hours to refute.

This is why simple lies always have an advantage over the truth.

And then, the liars and their fellow travelers just move along to the next talking point.

We are so screwed. 


Jerry Critter said...

Nice job of collecting a lot of important information in one spot. Thanks!

BadTux said...

Yeppers, WASF. SIGH!

- Badtux the Waddling Penguin

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

It's not about going Derpy! Oh, no, no ,no, no no. It's about football. See:

For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game.

(Alumnus Football by Henry Grantland Rice, 1908)

Rice's words defined an ethos of honesty, integrity and fair play in all aspects of life – on the playing fields, in personal relationships, in our communities, in commerce, and in our public acts. Win or lose, always give it your best shot; win or lose, always play the game with honor. In the end, what matters most of all is the moral character of the competitors.

But a half century later, some other bloke changed the spirit of the game: "Men, I'll be honest. Winning isn't everything. (Long pause.) Men, it's the only thing” (1950), words spoken by Henry Russell Sanders, also known as “Red” Sanders, the hard driving coach of the UCLA Bruins.

See, for those of us on the progressive side, it's all about contest. Fair play, all that nada dada. For wing-dings, its all about conquest. Come on, face it! They see themselves at war with everyone and will stop at nothing until they prevail.

Jazzbumpa said...

Octo -

I cannot disagree.

Though I thought infamous quote was attributed to Vince Lombardi. You seem to know what you're talking about, though.

It' no coincidence that the NFL is, to the best of my knowledge, the most Rethug organization on the planet - even more so than the RNC.


(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Misattributed to Vince Lombardi. Don't get me wrong. Just one of those convenient quotes to capture one of those allusive phenomena.

Every nation or culture has a set of unwritten rules, conventions, courtesies or traditions - honored by all - that keep society civil. The two quotes in juxtapose capture a sense of paradigm shift that changed from 'contest' to 'conquest.'

I am thinking of William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale (moi, Princeton). It was NOT an espousal of conservative values but merely an post-adolescent political statement, i.e. something right-wing conservatism has been in-your-face about ever since.

This occurred to me the other day: For all the sound and fury, they have no moral compass.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Postscript: There is another organization even more Rethug than the NFL. How about the NRA!