I read so much these days about what Republicans believe and I wonder what happened to rational thought and evidence. Take flow down, which incorporates the idea that as the wealthy (“job creators”) get wealthier, they reinvest and create jobs and opportunities for the rest of us. Rising tide and flotsam. It just has never happened and the data is unequivocal, except of course for carefully manipulated niches that conservative think tanks generate to prop up the faithful. Think about it. There was not one, no I am not kidding, not one new private sector job created in the Bush years of the lowest taxes in 60 years and mass transfer of wealth through tax policies to the rich (Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that when President George W. Bush left office in January 2009, there were actually 653,000 fewer private sector jobs than there had been eight years earlier when he was sworn in). We became poorer as a nation as our infrastructure deteriorated and middle class average earnings fell. Yet here we are trying to reinvent that whole myth that flow down works.
So what does this all have to do with religious faith and the end of intellectualism? It is no coincidence that many of the Republican conservatives are also conservative Christians. We have this thing that religious beliefs are private and people should be able to believe what they believe however preposterous. At the risk of angering Mormons, gold tablets in Manchester New York? We have a whole body of science from astrophysics to biology that tells us that creationism is a nice quaint fairytale and yet many of our Republican candidates for President believe it. So what does that tell us about intellectualism?
It tells us that in today’s world our rational thought processes can be compartmentalized and that is a very dangerous thing. If we have this whole part of our brain that allows us to ignore reality, when does that bleed over into our other thought processes? If we can be intellectually lazy about one belief system, why can’t we do the same for another? I look at global warming, which is happening and there is no question about it. From a purely engineering mind, we are dumping historically unprecedented amounts of CO2 into the environment, so we could expect some impact. Then we have data showing melting of the ice caps, rising temperatures, changes and shifting of weather patterns, and increasing intensity of storms and weather events. Finally we have developed scientific models of what is happening and they are accurately predicting all of this, and yet we have a whole segment of our society that chooses to deny it. If they can find one scientist who doesn’t agree, or some event in our geological history that looks similar, then all the research, data, and modeling must be wrong. It is not rational.
It is what I call faith based beliefs. For some reason, Republicans don’t like science, so they let faith based reasoning inform their thinking process. I believe what I believe, and like my religious beliefs, they can not be tested by reality and doubt. Any truly rational person will tell you there is no God, or at least a God in the form of some fairy godfather that watches over us and sorts out our lives. Look around the world at the cruelty and injustice and you can only draw one conclusion. Most of us live sheltered lives and we are only required to face this reality when bad things start happening to us, “good” people. But what so informs us about the way people are thinking, or not thinking today, is that they only question their faith (or their political dogma) when the bad things happen to them. It is like all the rest of the chaos and injustice in the world didn’t enter into the equation until it happens to them. Very irrational. It is selective and compartmentalized thinking.
In the latest reincarnation of the Republicans, faith based beliefs are at the heart of everything they believe. One can only draw this conclusion as they ignore the eight years of George Bush who did everything Republican to disastrous results. Their immigration policy is irrational (see voting down the DREAM Act) and counter productive. It is based on fear and xenophobia. Their belief in “states rights” is another irrational policy that assumes that individual states know better than the federal government when the whole history of the establishment of our Constitution was just the opposite lesson. Their belief in personal freedom is belied by their attempts to use government to take away personal freedoms if it doesn’t match their religious beliefs (birth control, abortion, gay rights). They believe the EPA has destroyed jobs when the facts are just the opposite, cleaning up our environment created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Finally their belief now in supply side economics, is belied by all the data you want to accumulate. So how do they manage this? Once again it s selective and compartmentalized thinking where they confuse their faith based thinking processes with rational reality based thinking and they aren’t even aware of it.
Then we have pandering to this anti-intellectual, anti-rational crowd. We have the President dropping his ‘gs’ on ing endings to be folksy. Personally I would prefer a president who spoke the English language correctly, but this pandering to irrational and ignorant is the sign of our times. The media does the same thing, instead of looking at the real facts, they let anyone’s interpretation of the facts be as good as anyone else’s (he said/she said). Somehow the answers to complex problems are some folksy intuition that does not stand up to the light of day and the complexity of reality. Yet anyone’s opinion is somehow as valued as another’s no matter how outrageous. It makes ratings based journalism what we call journalism today if you redefine what journalism is. I watched a discussion of Bachmann’s attack on Rick Perry’s Texas “miracle” and the discussion never touched on the veracity of the ad’s attack, only the politics of the attack. What does that tell you? Ever wonder why the media has paid political analysts, but not paid policy analysts? It is another indication of the end of rational thought and intellectualism.
Look, I would love it if government were the problem. If we just got rid of government then business would take off and we all would be rich. Sometimes it is “a” problem, but not “the” problem. Unlike Republicans, I can’t deny the last 200 years of the industrial revolution and the lessons we learned about unfettered capitalism without government regulation. Heck, can you just remember what happened with the financial industry four years ago? I would love for flow-down to work. It promises me a free ride. I don’t need to pay any stinking taxes for education, roads, bridges, drinking water, sewage treatment, and on and on, except it doesn’t work. We are where we are today because we bought into the free ride narrative, and the most astounding thing of all is that you would think that Republicans who are all about discipline and earning your position in life would be the first to tell you, no pain, no gain.
The ultimate nonsense is what is going on in the economy, not just ours, but the world economy. Since the crash after the housing bubble fueling the derivatives craze, we have been all about austerity. We had proved that didn’t work during the Depression, and once again during the 10-year Japanese stagnation. We have Europe today demonstrating the same lesson and they are a year into their austerity thing. We have Econ 101 that tells us what we should be doing and yet all the really smart people are telling us to do just the opposite and the world is doing it, and things are simply getting much worse.
These are all the really smart people who did not see the bubble or the problem in the financial industry, and believed that the modern era would not be subjected to the cycles of capitalism anymore. Their economic theories failed, yet they are trying to recycle them at our detriment. We have economists like Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Simon Johnson, Jeffrey Sachs, and the list goes on and on, who have predicted quite accurately that these policies would fail, and yet we continue on down the road of faith based beliefs in economic policies that don’t work ignoring those who have been right. In this nation we have a whole cadre of Republican candidates promising the same thing as George Bush, except eviscerating government even more, and economists trying to resurrect failed theories of the death of Keynesian economics, and we expect a different outcome?
And the ultimate stake into the heart of rational thinking and intellectualism is a President and politicians that pander to this irrational thinking. The prime example is the focus on our debt. Any rational analysis will tell you that cutting now will not help the debt, but make it worse as we further decrease our output, with the result of decreasing revenues. Our problem is lack of demand due to high private debt, joblessness (worsening the private debt), and all the wealth focused in the few. After WWII we grew out of a much more massive debt by investing in our nation and expanding our middle class. But that is not the popular belief these days and popular is the measure of truth in our current irrational world.
So our very smart President decided to co-opt the Republican debt narrative for political gain and of course, the nation falters. That is why I have described him as having no there, there. There has to be an underlying consistent rational approach to our economy. The rational approach that has worked in the past is to stimulate the economy big time now with a 10-year plan to then tame the deficit. But to pander to popular public misconception for political gain, he has done just the opposite. And the nation withers. His latest pandering to business on the environment makes no economic sense in terms that it is not regulation that is holding them back, but lack of demand. Forcing them to upgrade their pollution spewing industries is a win-win as it furthers innovation and creates jobs, not to mention saves lives. So where is the logic in this move? None unless you understand that it is pandering to illogical beliefs.
So as our media and our politicians dumb down the world to pander to us for short term gains, some of us pine for an adult in the room who will tell us the truth, put together a logical argument about our path forward, and then be informed by outcomes to adjust policy as necessary. Instead what we are getting is a nation more and more attuned to faith based beliefs, at odds with outcomes and the lessons of history, and our leaders and news media that panders to this irrational population for votes and ratings. We are so screwed and if you are like me, who questions everything, you start wondering if we are now living in an upside down world where good is bad, and bad is good. Where economic policies that don’t work means we need to continue to do the same things only harder and wait for a different result. Ah, back to being a moron.
But I am not scared. I know that a higher power than me will make it right. That those who live the righteous life are the chosen and we will get our just deserts. All the others are barbarians at the gate who deserve their fates. Don’t pay any attention to that evil snake over there hanging from the tree of science and rational thought. We don’t need no stinking science or rational thought. We know the right path and we will be appropriately rewarded with the bounty of our righteous life. We will get them all right and the funny thing is that we truly deserve them for our irrational and quite frankly stupid choices as we sink as a nation. Excuse me now while I go tweet my feelings in 146 characters which is plenty to communicate complex ideas to those who just feel I know what I am talking about.