Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nothing Succeeds Like Stupidity

What IS it with us?  How can it be true that while the twentyfirst century didn't give us robot housekeepers or flying cars, it gave us alone in the world a political leadership whose defining characteristic is their ignorance?  I don't mean the kind of metaphorical, out-of-touch kind of ignorance most nation's elites acquire from the tiny bubble they live and work in they entire lives, I mean a more crass, destructive, willful ignorance that brings them to espouse beliefs that are, in a word, false.  Not just discredited or formerly believed but proved false, but blatantly textbook F-on-the-test wrong.  Beliefs that transparently support their ideological agendas but are simply known to be incorrect descriptions of how the world works.

Certainly one must consider Climate science.  No other group, no matter how conservative, how right wing, how pro-business they might be denies the established science - only the American Political Right.  Making them not only a global laughingstock, but making the rest of the world that much less willing to curb their greenhouse gas emissions if the largest polluter on the planet not only has no intention of taking action, but one of their two political parties utterly refuses to acknowledge that a problem exists.  How frustrating it must be for political and economic leaders around the globe to try and work with an American government that seems willing to delude itself in order to protect short term corporate profits.

And, of course, in America we have a 'Christian Problem'.  As our politics move to the right, our politicians are increasingly activist, dominionist, theocratic fundamentalist Christians, with all the tribal, sectarian, anti-science and anti-woman dogma that goes with it.  We have reached a point, as demonstrated by the just-concluded Rand Paul campaign where even an otherwise ideologically pure atheist candidate must credibly claim to be a "Pro Life Christian", and must maintain the illusion for their entire political career.  In order to qualify to hold public office, an American "conservative" must at a minimum deny climate science, claim to believe that the bible is the literal word of god and refuse to acknowledge belief in evolution.  In other words, they must proclaim a level of understanding of our world commensurate with their counterparts from the sixteenth century.

But by far the most destructive manifestation of the increasing demand for willful stupidity in our political leadership today is economic.  Now, there are some legitimate debates one might have over macroeconomic policy.  But there are also established facts, ground truths that cannot be  disputed in good faith.  The entire edifice of modern economics is predicated on a set of basic facts, and when the people who make the economic decisions can't or won't understand those facts, they are going to make policy decisions that not only do not improve economic conditions, but actively make them worse.  As usual, we have arrived at this collective delusion out of party dogma run amok.  The American Political Right and their Republican political leadership have long used 'the deficit' as a cudgel to convince ordinary Americans to transfer some of their wealth to the wealthy, which is against their personal interests.  Most ordinary Americans don't really know what the deficit is, how big it is, what makes it grow or contract - they only know that it's bad, because they've been repeatedly told so.  In their collective minds it gets conflated with economic conditions, income growth, taxes and unemployment.  Now to be sure, the conservatives don't care about the deficit - historically it always rises under Republican leadership and shrinks under the Democrats - for them it is nothing but a marketing term, used to sell an otherwise unpalatable agenda on the basis of fear and doubt.

But it brings us to this very dangerous crossroad.  In America, we have a multi-trillion dollar output gap. Spending and demand are down as people don't have jobs and struggle to stay in their homes.  Incomes are flat, and businesses are desperate for sales revenues.  Nothing can change until somebody starts to spend real money on goods and services, so demand increases and companies need to hire, expand, buy inventory and equipment and raw materials.  The well known macroeconomic solution is called "expansionary fiscal policy" or by the more common, if badly tarnished "economic stimulus".  An argument about whether or not stimulus "works" is stupid.  If you own a business selling screws, and nobody's buying screws, you lose money, you lay off workers, you have trouble paying your mortgage.  If the government then steps in and buys ten million screws from you, you need to hire workers, expand your building and buy more inventory which means your supplier has to expand too.  And all those new workers take their paychecks out in the community and spend money that would never have gotten there without the stimulus purchase of those screws.  To deny that government spending can increase economic activity is, well, once again, ignorant.

As a side note, one cannot help but wonder why President Obama is playing along in the willful idiocy game.  He keeps talking about reducing spending and lowering the deficit, which is a long-term concern.  The unemployment rate is a crisis right now.  You KNOW he's a very smart man, and he knows that austerity will hurt the American economy, and yet he pretends he believes the collective delusion.  He could easily be saying that we need more stimulus but congress won't appropriate the funds instead of helping to perpetuate a false, delusional worldview.  I cannot begin to imagine what he thinks he is accomplishing by pretending to be a stupid as his opposition.

But this is what we've come to.  The most powerful, wealthiest nation in the world now not only embraces stupidity, but demands it.  How can we ever solve our problems when we no longer are even willing to accept the basic facts that underlie them?  We've become a spoiled child, not only unwilling to do the hard things, but not even willing to believe there might be consequences.  When all paths to the future are effectively foreclosed, there is only the past.  And I fear we are entering our dark ages.


  1. Our plutocrats bought our government and our media (shamefully for the news organizations involved, they didn't buy the NYT or the WaPo...they inherited those).

    And that's the shorter. Letting all our news organizations be concentrated into a few hands was just as damaging as letting the banks get too big.

    I wonder how we get down from the ledge.

  2. Mikey check this out:

  3. Some, however, say the US is the greatest nation God ever created, you communist.