Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Salon's Liberal Candy Store

   To a conservative, reading this piece by Michael Lind at Salon.com is like walking past a liberal candy rack that was just knocked over.  One can just reach out blindly in all directions and come up with all kinds of goodies.  Heck, Hitler is mentioned in the first paragraph!  (Although, to be fair, he's not actually calling conservatives or Republicans Nazis; he's just implying they are calling Obama a Nazi.  But he does throw in the Koch brothers in the concluding paragraph which are to liberals Hitler-lite, so that makes up for it.)
   Lind's main target is an essay by Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner which he contends is a "perfect example" of the "apocalyptic propaganda ground out constantly by the conservative media establishment."  He accuses Klein of writing in the style of classic "polemical literature," relying "solely on rhetoric," and "cherry-pick[ing]" numbers to make his points.  Lind then proceeds to use polemics, rhetoric, and cherry-picking to rebut Klein.  We read of "three intellectually dishonest maneuvers typical of right-wing propagandists", "irrelevant numbers, thrown out to impress the ignorant reader of the Washington Examiner", and "throwing out scary-sounding statistics to stampede the yahoos."  And that's just in the first half of the article.  Lind saves the knockout punch for the second half: "yadda yadda yadda."
   If the items in the previous paragraph were the Dum-Dums from the liberal candy rack, then the fourth paragraph gives us our first full-sized Milky Way bar:
In the real world, of course, today’s national debt has nothing to do with Social Security, whose trust fund has a surplus that will last for decades, with the precise date of the trust fund’s exhaustion depending on the rate of general economic growth. True, the federal government has to raise the tax revenue to repay the money it borrowed from the trust fund — but then, the federal government has to repay all of its creditors, domestic and foreign.  What’s wrong with that?
Dad may have gambled away the grocery money, but he put an IOU in the envelope, so what's the problem?  Obviously, the Social Security "trust fund" is a figment of Lind's and everyone else's imagination as those revenues have long since been merged with general revenues.  Besides, Social Security and Medi-care have vastly exceeded all government projections of growth, and as the population ages and birth rates decline, those programs are clearly unsustainable.  What is Lind's solution to the "minor shortfall" that has been blown out of proportion by Republicans cherry-picking numbers?
Change the variables, by means of new taxes for Social Security, benefit cuts or control of excessive costs in the U.S. medical industry, and the Big Scary Fiscal Gap disappears or shrinks dramatically, depriving right-wing hacks and left-wing deficit hawks of a club used to beat Social Security and Medicare.
Raise taxes, cut benefits, and control medical costs!  Where was Lind when the Super Committee was trying to solve the deficit problem?  Everyone could have enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas so much more this year if only someone had thought of those ideas sooner.
   Lind lumps in the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office with right-wing propagandists elsewhere in his essay:
Shame on the CBO for misleading the public in this way. The experts of the CBO know perfectly well that the United States is never going to have a national debt of 716 percent of GDP or marginal tax rates of 88 percent.  Long before anything like these absurd numbers were reached, policies would be changed to cut costs in medical spending. Long-term projections like these are just scary stories told to frighten the public into fiscal sobriety, in the same spirit that a parent would tell an overweight child that if she or he kept eating, then according to a straight-line computer projection, by the age of 40 she or he would weigh 23 tons.
 Besides the magic wand solution of "policies would be changed to cut costs in medical spending," Lind also misses the point of such "absurd numbers" and "scary stories."  Of course no child would weigh 23 tons by age 40.  Such a child would probably have diabetes, rotten teeth, and a host of other health problems, and quite possibly be dead before age 40 if allowed to continue to eat in such an irresponsible way.  And politicians over the last 40 years have not shown much more sense than a pre-teen who is left alone in the kitchen to make all his own meals, and proceeds to bypass all the vegetables and fruit for sugared cereals and Twinkies.  Klein and the CBO are merely trying to raise the alarm.  (And, by the way, in the 1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate topped 90%.)
   So as not to be accused of over-indulging in liberal candy myself, the final example relates similarly to a discussion of entitlements and medical costs:
Debating the solutions would take us too far from the subject, although it should be noted that most other countries control healthcare costs by means of “all-payer regulation” — that is, government-imposed price controls — not by means of market competition, the right’s unrealistic panacea, which no other nation uses, for the reason that simple market economics does not work in the healthcare sector. 
Other countries?  Is this really the time for Lind to be pointing to other countries as examples of how to control costs as the European Union nations scramble to prevent implosions caused by runaway social welfare programs, socialized medicine, and crushing debt?  And how long has it been since "simple market economics" have really been tried in the healthcare sector?  At least since employer-paid health plans became popular during World War II, the free market has been losing its ability to affect healthcare costs, and this has only been exacerbated by Medi-care, Medicaid, and onerous state and federal requirements regarding benefits and pre-existing conditions that barely leave health insurance recognizable as "insurance" at all.  And Obamacare will only drive that nail in deeper.
   So what candy is left on the floor?  There's condescension: "Even a senior editorial writer at the Washington Examiner should be aware that..."  and "It may seem cruel to pick on Philip Klein, who is, after all, simply one of many minor hacks in the right-wing media machine..."  Relentless attacks on the medical community: "America’s dysfunctional medical-industrial sector."  And then there's the mockery of super-long-range projections (out to the year 2082) that sound eerily like the long-range projections the left's own global-warmists make to justify drastic environmental spending and regulations. (To his credit, it seems that based on his other writings, Michael Lind himself does not buy into those projections either.)
   To improve my intellectual nutritional intake, I will need several days of Mark Styen, James Taranto, and Scott Johnson, with perhaps even a little Allahpundit just for variety.  I might have missed Lind's article were it not for the brief reference to it on Twitter or a blog today (which I have not been able to locate since to give credit where credit is due.)   But (and I liberally borrow, or outright steal, Lind's closing line here,) it is worth reading the left's propaganda now and then, just to find out how it is that so many of our liberal fellow citizens can have been so deceived.

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