FORMER AUSTRIAN HOUSE PAINTER AND MOUTHPIECE
the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the Republican Party has forsworn
governance for something it believes to be far more effective -- lying.
The party has lied consistently and unapologetically about matters
large and small, whether in grossly mischaracterizing the president and
his policy initiatives or in committing to work with Democrats on a variety of issues, including the
congressional supercommittee to fashion a deficit-reduction package, and
then pulling the rug out from under the table. While the strategy of lying is
shameful when considered in the perspective of the long arc of American
political history and its many honorable practitioners, it has been
brilliantly successful, so successful that the GOP's cavalcade of lies
could conceivably put it within hailing distance of recapturing the
Senate in the November elections.
The Republican playbook has been simple:
* Avoid abstract ideas and appeal to the emotions.
* Constantly repeat just a few ideas by using stereotyped phrases.
* Always give only one side of the argument.
* Continuously criticize your opponents.
* Pick out one "enemy" in particular for special vilification.
This playbook would be immediately recognizable to students of the Third
Reich. It was employed, almost word for word, with insidious effectiveness by Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Hitler's minister of
is not to compare Republicans with Nazis. I do not. But like Hitler
and Goebbels, Republicans have seized on lying as an effective tool for
getting the attention of a restive electorate not unlike that in Germany
in the early 1930s.
In a contemporary American context, these are most notably "low-information voters" to use the polite pollster
catchphrase to describe working-class whites
still smarting from the biggest economic downturn since the Great
Depression and deeply distrustful of the Big Government that
nevertheless has kept many of them afloat. It is this group that could make the difference in several states where Republicans have a shot at picking up Senate seats.
* * * * *
Among the biggest Republican lies are these:
The Affordable Care Act Will Result In The Loss of 2.3 Million Jobs. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported last month that the act will reduce
the total number of hours worked by about 1.5 percent to 2.0
percent from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely as a result of
workers being able to choose to supply less labor because of the
benefits the act provides. (Then there are other hard-to-kill ACA lies, including claims the act creates death panels and pays for abortion as
Obama Has Doubled The Deficit.
In fact, his administration has reduced the deficit by a nearly one trillion
dollars in five years, and is one of only just three administrations
in the last 50 years that will leave office with a lower deficit than when
it began. (In case you're wondering, the last Republican to manage that feat was
some guy by the name of Eisenhower.)
The Keystone XL Pipeline Will Create 120,000 Jobs.
In fact, the State Department estimated in its Final Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement that 16,100 direct and
26,000 indirect jobs would be created over the two years of
Tax cuts stimulate the economy.
In fact, Moody's Analytics estimates that every dollar spent on
unemployment benefits generates $1.61 in economic growth and every
dollar spent on food stamps generates $1.74 in economic growth, while
every dollar spent on rolling taxes back to Bush-era levels creates a
measly 32 cents in economic growth, a whopping 68-cent loss on
investment. So much for trickle-down economics.
Voter Fraud Is A Serious Issue That Requires Strict New Laws.
In fact, an estimated one one-hundredth of one percent of the votes
cast in general elections are questionable as the extremely rare
prosecutions for voter fraud cases abundantly show. In Ohio, for
example, a GOP-inspired war on voter fraud netted 20 possible cases out of nearly six million votes cast in 2012. This was just one of many attempts by the party to suppress turnout of minorities who reliably vote Democratic.
Man-Made Climate Change Is A Hoax.
In fact, while a tiny minority of scientists remain skeptical that
humans are causing climate change and failure to address it will be
catastrophic to the planet in the long term, NASA states the evidence that global
temperatures are rising at an alarming rate is overwhelming. And record cold and
snowfalls in the Eastern U.S. over the past winter were a consequence of
record temperature increases in the Arctic.
It Is Safer to Have A Gun In Your House Or On Your Person.
In fact, having a gun doubles the risk that household members
will kill themselves or family members. (The figures for suicide risk is
substantially higher.) Meanwhile, someone is 50 percent more likely to be shot
dead by their own hand than by a criminal assailant, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And my favorite: Obama Is Giving Away Free Cellphones For Votes.
In fact, there is a program offering low-cost phones to people who
can’t afford them. The program was created with the support of that great conservative
god, Ronald Reagan, in 1984, and is paid for entirely by phone companies
and not taxpayers.
is tempting to blame the news media for rarely fact checking even the most egregious Republican claims, but in the 24/7 news cycle world, that would be
it is, the fact-checking organization PolitiFact has found Republicans
to be "less trustworthy" than Democrats. In one study, PolitiFact found
that 52 percent of Republican claims were "mostly false," “false” or
“pants on fire,” versus 24 percent of Democratic
statements. Some 54 percent of Democratic statements
were rated as "mostly true" or "true," compared to just 18 percent of
Los Angeles Times economics
Hiltzik is the rare media maven who has fact checked the litany of woes
attributed to the Affordable Care Act in Republican-backed advertising and has yet to find any real "Obamacare"
"What a lot of these stories have in common," he has written, "are,
first of all, a subject largely unaware of his or her options under the
ACA or unwilling to determine them; and, second, shockingly uninformed
and incurious news reporters, including some big names in the business,
who don’t bother to look into the facts of the cases they’re offering
for public consumption."
* * * * *
course, fudging the truth, if not outright lying, has a long and
dishonorable place in American politics. (Heck, even George Washington
was being disingenuous when he is said to have uttered, "I cannot tell a
lie.") But credit Republicans with raising lying to an art form, as well as calculatedly using lying as a substitute for actually engaging in governance. You know, articulating policy positions and sticking to them for longer than a press conference, and helping fashion compromises for the common good, as opposed to shutting down the government when they don't get their way and vilifying the president, sometimes in terms that are unmistakably racist.
Michael Tomasky quotes Paul O'Neill, who was prepping George W. Bush for a presidential debate, as telling him that "The public prefers spending on things like health
care and education over cutting taxes. It’s crucial that your remarks
make clear that there is no trade-off here."
"Put more bluntly," Tomasky writes, "what O'Neill was saying here is: You have to lie. By definition, you
have to lie. You can't tell people that tax-cutting will result in less
money for these programs, which is the truth, so you/we Republicans have
to invent a fiction of no trade-offs, of a free market that can deliver
everything. What Bush delivered to us was essentially no net job growth
in eight years and the worst crisis in 80."
Which certainly didn't stop Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan from peddling that same lie in 2012.
Republican bashing may seem like good sport for commentators like
myself, in reality it is a deeply depressing state of affairs when a political party abandons advocating serious policy positions.
Exhibit A in this regard is that the GOP has yet to float a credible alternative to the Affordable Care Act in the five years
since Obama presented it to a joint session of Congress in February
2009. It is so much easier to simply lie over and over. And declare that the so-called free market
is the best mechanism for managing health care. This is perhaps the biggest
lie of all because it is the very reason the U.S. leads the industrialized
world in infant mortality, obesity and anxiety disorders, and is last in
life expectancy despite having by far the highest health-care costs.
Democrats, mind you, have not been exactly lie-free, notably President
Obama's whopper that under the Affordable Care Act people would be able
to keep their health-insurance plans no matter what. (Actually, the
vast majority will be able to do just that, but an embarrassed Obama
nevertheless had to backtrack on the claim.)
But the truth (pardon the term) is that
when a lightweight like Ryan -- himself a Pinocchio of
-- is viewed by the GOP as its leading
intellectual, it simply is easier to try to scam voters than educate them. (Ryan qualifies for additional scorn for his thinly-veiled attacks on inner-city blacks whom in his and the GOP's view are undeserving layabouts.)
are all -- and I include Democrats, as well -- losers when the Republican Party delegitimizes itself because it cannot stop lying.