The Top 12 Political Fallacies of 2012

Richard Eskow

Our nation was gripped by so many fallacies and delusions in 2012 that the whole Mayan calendar end-of-the-world thing didn’t even make the list.

Even those apocalyptic prophecies were more plausible than the idea that cutting Social Security will help the deficit, that government spending cuts will jump-start the economy, there were no crimes on Wall Street, or that we live in a “divided nation” whose “center” wants more business as usual in Washington.

Here then, without further ado, are our Top 12 Political Fallacies for 2012.

1. Austerity works.

Last year we said austerity economics was dead. It is. Unfortunately nobody told the politicians. They’re still trying to force it onto the people of Europe, even as its effects make the economies there progressively worse.

They’re trying to force more of it on us, too. The Republicans want to decimate Social Security, Medicare, roads and highways, education, programs for the poor … The Democrats offer a more modest form of austerity, but austerity’s exactly what the President last proposed to Congress.

If austerity’s so good for us, why are they trying to terrify us with the a”fiscal cliff”? T heirMonster In the Closet is austerity. Apparently they don’t see the irony in that. But there’s something else they shouldn’t overlook.

Obama will never run for office again, but most of Democrats on the Hill will. Hope they don’t forget that – because we won’t.

2. We need less government spending.

The flip side of this delusion is the notion that government spending is our problem. It’s not. In fact, right now it’s the solution.

We need more jobs to stimulate the economy. Without them, large segments of the population will continue to live in a prolonged state of deprivation unless government does something about it.

We need more better education and more advancement opportunities for our children. And our roads, bridges and schools are crumbling all around us.

Spending cuts aren’t even the solution to the Federal deficit – not in the short term. Government spending falls as a percentage of GDP when the whole economy grows – and the way to make it grow is by priming the economic pump and building for the future, not with shortsighted spending cuts.

Know who’s a real job creator? Someone with a job.

3. Social Security is in ‘crisis’ and we need to cut it.

No, and No.

Yes, Social Security has a projected long-term shortfall in its ability to pay benefits,starting in 2036 or so. But that projection’s based on a lot of different assumptions – including the assumption that we won’t fix our wage stagnation problem, that we can’t put a lot more people back to work, and that we lack the political will to lift the payroll tax cap to make up for the shortfall in revenue caused by the unexpected increased in six-, seven-, and eight-figure income as the result of growing wage inequity.

And anyone who says that retiring Baby Boomers are part of the problem is peddling snake oil. The last Boomer was born in 1964, and we fixed Social Security in 1983. At least, it was fixed until the top 1 percent – and top 0.1 percent – started hijacking our national income.

What’s changed since 1983? We didn’t produce more Boomers. In 1983 the youngest of them was already old enough to drive to the record store for the latest Huey Lewis and the News album.

What we HAVE produced is more wealth inequity.

4. Medicare benefits need to be cut, too.

Medicare has a serious long-term cost problem. But cutting benefits won’t help – whether it’s done by raising the Medicare age, by limiting what it pays for, or imposing arbitrary caps on what it will spend.

If we do those things, overall health care costs will continue to rise. And we’ll have sicker seniors, more seniors in poverty, and seniors who don’t live as long.

Means-testing won’t cut it, either. Scratch most means-testing proposals and you’ll find they’re not targeting “millionaires and billionaires” – they’re aimed at the middle class.

We already know how to handle “millionaires and billionaires” more fairly: Raise their taxes. That’s simple, clean, efficient, and fair.

The only way to fix our Medicare cost problem is by fixing the impact of unrestrained greed on our health care system. We need to do something about that — now.

We don’t need to cover less. We need to pay less.

5. We’re “living beyond our means.

More snake oil.It’s undertaxed corporations and billionaires who are living beyond our nation’s means, by claiming an inordinate and unearned share of our nation’s wealth and not paying their fair share of taxes for it.

We have the means to be the country we’ve always been. What we’ve lacked is the political will to buck the moneyed forces who are dismantling a system that’s worked for 75 years.

Ours is a country that won two world wars. We once led the world in economic growth and blazed the way in science, technology, and the arts. We decided to send human beings to the moon and back in ten years … and did it.

Now we’re told it’s “beyond our means” to live as well as we did in 1969. There’s a word for that, but it’s not printable.

6. Our problems aren’t anybody’s fault.

This fallacy might be called the “Sh*t Happens” school of economic thinking. It says that the economy just crashes from time to time, recurrent and unavoidable disasters just like earthquakes.

But we avoided these crises for decades by regulating Wall Street and prosecuting crooked bankers. When we stopped doing those things we got another crisis.

Cause and effect.

7. Banks paid back what they owed us from the bailout.

Here’s why this is a fallacy: First, we don’t have a full accounting even now. Secondly, we’re still responsible for the enormous amount of toxic risk which Wall Street created and the government then assumed on its behalf.

Besides, that’s not how business works. Every major bank in this country was a failing business with intolerable risk exposure. Loans under those conditions are of enormous and inestimable value.

When you ask nothing in return – not partial ownership, not a percentage of the profits, not even an end to their criminal behavior – you’re giving away the store. And when you give those loans to serial crooks and cheaters – people who serially cheat you – people, you’ve been had.

8. Wall Street-ers didn’t commit any crimes – or they’re too hard to prosecute.

Which gets us to our next fallacy, or fallacies. There’s overwhelming evidence, and a mound of billion-dollar settlements, demonstrating that banks — and individual bank executives — broke laws over and over in the run-up to the current crisis.

These mountains of prima facie evidence were ignored, and continue to be ignored, by the Obama/Holder Justice Department.

Now we’ve learned that all the banks knowingly defrauded regulators in a LIBOR scandal. All of them!

LIBOR is like one of those Agatha Christie novels where all the suspects did it.

9. “Ideologues” are getting in the way of “bipartisan” and “technocratic” solutions to our problems.

This is another fallacy – one they’ve been using to sell unwise, unpopular, and unfair policies. It’s usually attached to billionaire-funded corporate agendas like those of the “Simpson Bowles” plan, the Democratic group called Third Way, and the corporate CEOs of “Fix the Debt.”

They always say their plan’s been designed by “technocrats,” but that “ideologues” and “divisiveness” are getting in the way.

But the so-called “ideologues” fighting austerity represent Americans in all walks of life, across the political spectrum. They also represent a growing consensus among most economists who aren’t tied to right-wing institutions – including Nobel Prize winners like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, and those who work for the IMF.

There’s a word for the people who keep complaining that the “ideologues” are getting in their way: Lobbyists.

10. A “divided nation” elected a “divided government” through a democratic process.

No. Democrats won the Presidency and the Senate by decisive margins, both state-by-state and in the popular vote. They even won a handsome victory in the House, but lost it because of sleazy GOP gerrymandering.

They won because they promised to defend Social Security and Medicare, and to tax earnings over $250,000. Now the President and Nancy Pelosi are pushing a plan that cuts Social Security, even though there’s no evidence the Republicans are insisting that Social Security be part of the deal.

Think the election would have turned out this way if Obama and Pelosi had told the public what they’d be doing in December?

Republicans aren’t speaking for half of a divided nation. And Democrats who don’t live up to their campaign promises aren’t honoring the small-“d” democratic process.

11. It’s about politicians.

“Obamabots” vs. “Obama bashers”: It’s on. Again. But it’s not about Obama – or Bill and Hillary, or any other political leader. If you attach your hopes to them you’re setting yourself up for a snow job, like Bill’s huckstering of late for the Fix the Debt/Simpson/Bowles corporate austerity plan.

But the flip side – hating or resenting them – is a distraction, and it can eat away at the soul.

Politics is not a celebrity sport. Corporate interests understand that. They’ve gotten a lot of politicians to throw the game by throwing their money around, and even some of the better ones feel they’ll lose if they don’t compromise.

Sure, brave politicians can make a huge difference. (Thank you, Bernie Sanders. And Raul Grijalva. And Keith Ellison. And Jan Schakowsky. It’s a long list, and we hope to add Elizabeth Warren and a couple more names to it soon.)

We still need to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery” — especially in the form of hero-worshipping or demonizing the human beings who hold or seek high office.

12. We’re helpless.

Yes, it’s a rigged game. Yes, our democracy’s been tainted and compromised.

But mobilized citizens prevented the President from proposing Social Security cuts in his 2010 State of the Union speech. The Occupy movement changed Democratic political rhetoric, which changed poll numbers aand arguably changed the election results.

Some people say, So what? Look at what they’re trying to do now. That’s true — about some of them. But we’ve gained leverage, and we should use it.

While we’re developing new political leaders and institutions, we must stay mobilized for the struggles already underway: To protect Social Security and Medicare. To rein in Wall Street crime. To defend ripped-off homeowners and other mistreated corporate customers. To fight spending cuts and protect the vulnerable. To create jobs — good jobs — for every American who wants to work.

Difficult? Sure. Risk of failure? Definitely. But impossible?

That’s a fallacy.

Related posts:

The War On Women Is a Class War
Lemmings
Talking With Krugman: He’s Anti-Austerity, Pro-Peter Gabriel, and “Not That Cosmic”
The “BS” Austerity Plan Nobody Wants … And We May Get Anyway

 

 

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