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What’s The Matter With Red States?

English: Protester seen at Chicago Tax Day Tea...

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I didn’t catch this until after I posted previously about parasitic Red States — Paul Krugman is on point:

Moochers Against Welfare

Rick Santorum declares that President Obama is getting America hooked on “the narcotic of dependency.” Mr. Romney warns that government programs “foster passivity and sloth.” Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, requires that staffers read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which heroic capitalists struggle against the “moochers” trying to steal their totally deserved wealth, a struggle the heroes win by withdrawing their productive effort and giving interminable speeches.

Many readers of The Times were, therefore, surprised to learn, from an excellent article published last weekend, that the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives. Wasn’t Red America supposed to be the land of traditional values, where people don’t eat Thai food and don’t rely on handouts?

The article referenced by the columnist is:

Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It

For my part, I point out these things to underline the hypocrisy of the right-wing position and to puzzle about why people vote against their own self interests.

I know why these states receive more than they pay out in tax dollars — they are poorer than the other states. I really don’t begrudge them the safety net that they pay into as individuals (despite my hyperbolic suggestion at the end of the last post).

Krugman again:

Now, there’s no mystery about red-state reliance on government programs. These states are relatively poor, which means both that people have fewer sources of income other than safety-net programs and that more of them qualify for “means-tested” programs such as Medicaid.

But he also shares my confusion as to why people continue to vote for people who will screw them into poverty.

He offers three explanations:

1. The GOP exploits social issues like gay marriage, abortion and religion to whip people up.
2. The wealthy in red states tend to be very socially conservative, while the blue state affluent are socially liberal. These two groups drive the debate in their respective states.
3. Red state beneficiaries do not understand their place in the system, frequently stating in polls that they don’t benefit from the Federal government while at the same time receiving Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security, Welfare and Unemployment.

Regardless of the forces at work, the outcome is that a bunch of people are railing to end policies that they themselves benefit from; simply because they think these programs are only provided for the idle poor.

As stated in my previous post and as study after study has found, the beneficiaries of these programs are overwhelmingly elderly, poor and working folks who have paid into the system.

But with the economy starting to recover, unemployment slowly diminishing, and no ideas of their own to run on, Republicans are desperate for a boogeyman.

Like Reagan’s non-existent “Welfare Queens” of the 1980’s, the GOP needs a boogeyman to run against, and the strawman caricature of the secret Muslim socialist president has played out for most voters.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“PolitiFact” Panders, Loses All Credibility

The Tower of Lies

Here’s a  fact.

Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced a plan to eliminate Medicare as we know it, and replace it with a voucher system to purchase private insurance.

This is indisputable. It is the essence, the core of the Ryan Plan.

Yes, he still wants to call the new plan “Medicare”,  but in fact it is not the same system at all.

Enter PolitiFact.

PolitiFact is a website run by the St. Petersburg Times that purports to distill the truth from political rhetoric.

The site acknowledges that the Ryan plan replaces the current Medicare system with a voucher scheme, but then puts a semantic twist on their delivery. Referring to Democrats:

• They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

Democrats, slowly standing from their normal posture of fetal cowering, challenged Ryan on the plan and ran several ads stating that Republicans are seeking to end Medicare as we know it.

Admittedly, some were hyperbolic — exuberance born of the realization that the GOP had handed them a gift, but exaggerations aside, the core of their argument was sound.

 Unfortunately, PolitiFact has gotten trapped in the wrong-headed media notion that balance means criticizing both political parties in equal proportion — regardless of whether one side is telling the truth less often, and in more material ways.

In many instances, they have consistently bent over backwards to nitpick  semantics when the essential truth of Democrat’s claims is undeniably true.

The nail in PolitiFact’s coffin is their “Lie Of the Year 2011”:

A complicated and wonky subject with life-or-death consequences, health care is fertile ground for falsehoods. The Democratic attack about “ending Medicare” was a pervasive line in 2011 that preyed on seniors’ worries about whether they could afford health care.

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly dismantles this piece of hackery:

It’s unnerving that we have to explain this again, but since PolitiFact appears to be struggling with the relevant details, let’s set the record straight.

Medicare is a single-payer health care system offering guaranteed benefits to seniors. The House Republican budget plan intended to privatize the existing system and replace it with something very different — a voucher scheme. It would still be called “Medicare,” but it wouldn’t be Medicare.

It seems foolish to have to parse the meaning of the word “end,” but if there’s a program, and it’s replaced with a different program, proponents brought an end to the original program. That’s what the verb means.

I’ve been trying to think of the best analogy for this. How about this one: imagine someone owns a Ferrari. It’s expensive and drives beautifully, and the owner desperately wants to keep his car intact. Now imagine I took the car away, removed the metallic badge off the trunk that says “Ferrari,” I stuck it on a golf cart, and I handed the owner the keys.

“Where’s my Ferrari?” the owner would ask.

“It’s right here,” I’d respond. “This has four wheels, a steering wheel, and pedals, and it says ‘Ferrari’ right there on the back.”

By PolitiFact’s reasoning, I haven’t actually replaced the car — and if you disagree, you’re a pants-on-fire liar.

As Benen notes, this is a straight up semantics quibble. If this is the lie of the year, where has Politifact been?

Paul Krugman joins in, and shares my conclusion:

The answer is, of course, obvious: the people at PolitiFact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there’s a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they’ve bent over backwards to appear “balanced” — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.

Way to go, guys.

Exactly. Not a shred of credibility left.

Chris Mooney piles on:

PolitiFact’s move is especially remarkable when you survey some of the clear falsehoods that were almost lie of the year:

  • The economic stimulus created “zero jobs.” — The National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Republicans
  • Scientists are “questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. … (It is) more and more being put into question.” — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry
  • President Obama “went around the world and apologized for America.” — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
  • The vaccine to prevent HPV can cause mental retardation. — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

Notably, all of these big lies were uttered by Republicans. In fact, with the exception of the Bachmann example, they were uttered repeatedly by Republicans (albeit in varying forms).

All of this is a shame, because in the current heated political environment, a real straight shooter is needed to sift fact from fiction.

There appears to be an opening for that service.

-Chris

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment