Any observer of Republican messaging will tell that Mitt Romney is telling boldfaced lies which are readily discredited, and yet the press (and the public) are not holding him accountable so far (See below). But even with our missing in action press, how can politicians tell such obvious lies and not be shunned by the general public? The answer is mostly psychological. First, those in power have a vested interest in staying in power by believing and not challenging the claims that underpin their wealth and power. As Upton Sinclair famously observed: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it”
Second we are a Puritan nation and we love morality plays. Conservatives see the world in terms of following the rules and punishment. We were bad and now we must be punished by tightening our belts. People who are poor or unemployed are lazy and deserve their fate. Unemployment insurance allows the slackers to slack. All provably false. Third, the Republican ideology of low taxes and unregulated business is being directly challenged by the obvious failure of those policies both here and in Europe. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his Monday op-ed in the NYT (This Republican Economy) we are living the Republican dream and the economy is crashing.
On Sunday I wrote a blog about what should be obvious to all of us (The Real Reality). The two basic truths are that austerity doesn’t work for the macro-economy (when we are in a depression and our monetary policy is having no effect) and that the gross inequality in wealth is making our economy fail. If this is true, then the steps forward are obvious and very counter to the current Republican mythology. The trouble for Republicans is that these simple truths are becoming blatantly obvious both with our failed economic recovery and the woes of Europe. So the Republicans and conservatives are left with creating an alternate reality that was on display in their latest political ad which Factcheck.org ate for lunch. Here is the story line if you are a Republican believer:
- Under Obama spending is out of control – Reality: Obama annualized Federal spending growth is the slowest in over 50 years. Look it up in the Wall Street Journal Market Watch
- Under Obama Government growth is out of control – Reality: Under Bush the government grew by about 3.5% a year. Under Obama, except for the spike in temporary Census Hiring, payroll is now down 3% each year and hiring and payroll is continuing to decline
- Under Obama jobs have been destroyed – Reality: About 3.7 million jobs have been created since things hit bottom in February 2010
- Under Obama, the deficit is out of control – Reality: The numbers show spending actually has increased far more slowly under Obama budgets than it did under Bush’s, and more slowly than under any president in half a century. The biggest cause of the budget deficits is the Bush tax cuts which did not produce jobs.
- Obama’s Stimulus and Bailouts failed – Reality: Most of the bailouts were signed (TARP) by President Bush. The CBO indicated that unemployment would have been significantly worse without the stimulus. And let’s not forget that almost half of the stimulus was tax breaks demanded by the Republicans that proved to be highly ineffective, most of the rest aid to states, with only a small portion being job spending in real infrastructure work creating jobs.
- Cutting taxes and debt will create jobs – Reality – When Reagan doubled our debt during his first term, employment fell from 11 % to 7%. There is no real correlation to a high national debt and high unemployment. When the government spends, jobs are created. Bush cut taxes more than any other President in 50 years and we now have rates similar to the 1950′s (lowest in 60 years) and there are no jobs, but there are record deficits.
Now almost every one I know (they are all conservative up here) believe as an article of faith the above lies. They have to. If they don’t believe their own lies, then they have to admit their whole edifice of their ideology is built on sand. So the lies are flying. The easiest way to debunk these lies is to see what our government is really doing (lowering taxes and cutting services) in terms of austerity, and things are not improving. So then you have to ask yourself why the press isn’t just allowing he said she said to rule and interjecting what the data tells us. That answer is fairly simple: Our press is a corporate enterprise that depends of the current power structure for favored status and access. So they let demonstrable falsehoods stand and as our press goes, our country goes.
Ask yourself this: Two very respected scholars of our Congress and Constitutional system published a book (Mann and Ornstein, It is Worse than It Looks) pointing in detail why both sides are NOT at fault and the intransigence of the Republican Party is bringing down our country and making our form of government inoperative, why all of a sudden they are they shunned from major network interviews? I think what is so amazing to me is that there is abundant growing evidence that the Republicans economic strategies are a disaster, yet like global warming, so many Americans are living in denial. As a manager whose job it was to look and find more effective was to do projects, this kind of denial i found to be antithetical to good decision making. So we have almost half our population living in an alternate reality and the only thing that might wake them up is if they get their way. That would be such a disaster for all of us.
So the Republicans are telling boldfaced lies because if they don’t, and they don’t believe their own lies, they have to face the fact that they are wrong, have been wrong, and their view of the future would be a total disaster for the rest of us.