Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fact-Free Ideology

There was some highly recommended reading from Steve Kornacki at Salon today:
When Rush bet $2 million that Clinton would ruin the economy.

Put very simply, it refers to recent conservative remarks that taxing the wealthy in times of economic difficultly makes recover virtually impossible, and sets those claims against identical commentary from the early nineties, when the Clinton administration was making just such a tax increase. Kornacki quotes Rush Limbaugh in 1993 as saying: “Tax rate increases slow down economic activity. It is not a theory. It's not an opinion. It is fact. It is true.” Limbaugh went on to predict that if any tax increase went forward, the economy would worsen, with a higher deficit, lower employment, and higher inflation. Well, the Clinton plan did go forward, and none of Limbaugh’s predictions came true, as anyone who lived through the Clinton administration should remember.

Yet, amazingly, Limbaugh and the entire conservative establishment continues to repeat the same talking point to this day: that tax increases of any kind hurt the economy. Taxing the wealthiest two percent is now “the Obama way,” and according to Limbaugh, “The Obama way has been tried… But it doesn’t work.”

This is the nature of entrenched ideology. It does not bend to reality. I find it hard to believe that these kinds of people actually believe the things that they identify as indisputable facts. If they do, it is an heroic kind of personal delusion, to be able to say something, watch your claims be conclusively proved false, and then say those things again, over and over for years.

No matter what the issue, and no matter what the ideology, this kind of rhetoric should never appear in serious public discourse. If you don’t want to give up your personal wealth, fine, stand up and say that that’s your position. But can’t we all have enough self-respect to not invent facts to support false claims that help us get our way?

Then again, it’s pretty hard to get your way if you have to say to ninety-eight percent of the population: “Yes, my money could help you to get through these difficult times, but I just don’t wanna part with any of it.” Acknowledging that taxing the wealthy actually is effective, but arguing against it anyway would probably prove rather self-defeating, so those who stand to lose a measure of what they can afford to lose must instead resort to lies and willful ignorance of the clear lessons of history. The truth just doesn’t support their interests, and that’s all there is to it.

So I’m looking for either of two breaking points: for conservatives to stand up for their greed and actively resist giving up their fair share, or for the rest of us to stand up for truth and make it plainly and commonly known when they are lying.

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