So, as I’m wont to do, I’ve gotten into a few political Facebook arguments recently. I know. I know. I should know better but I don’t. Anyway, one of the topics that absolutely drives me nuts is this notion that both parties are equally culpable for everything (if you want to read about why that’s true politically, go here).
One of the key drivers of this myth is the “liberal media.” For example, there was a story in the Associated Press the day after the debates that makes this point crystal clear. First off, rather than open themselves up to any accusations of bias, they chose to “debunk” three of Romney’s lies and four of Obama’s. Now, the Romney lies that the story cited were just that: lies. For one, Romney claimed that under Obamacare, some unelected advisory board would be in charge of telling doctors what treatments they could and could not prescribe. This is blatantly untrue, because as the story points out, Obamacare explicitly states that the board may not “ration care, shift costs to retirees,” or “restrict benefits or raise the Medicare eligibility age.” If you’re curious, take a look at the other two—in fact, they just completely dismantle Romney’s claim that he’ll make the government more efficient and cut the deficit.
What is so frustrating is that while the story does such a good job showing that what Romney said was completely at odds with reality, it basically suggests that Obama was just as bad. However, if one reads the story closely, they can’t even support their own assertions.
The first one that caught my eye was where they tried to suggest that Obama lied when he said Romney has proposed to cut taxes by $5 trillion. According to the story, this “doesn’t add up.” But then, in the next paragraph, we get this: “Romney proposes to reduce income tax rates by 20 percent and eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. The Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group, says that would reduce federal tax revenues by $465 billion in 2015, which would add up to about $5 trillion over 10 years.”
WHAT? You mean Obama’s math here, according to a non-partisan group, does add up? Why then does the story suggest it doesn’t? Oh, but hold on, let’s be fair—the true thrust of the “debunk” is that it’s not fair for Obama to claim the $5 trillion number, because he’s not counting Romney’s proposal to reduce deductions and tax credits. Of course, as Obama, everyone else, and the story itself points out, Romney’s refuses to say which ones he’d get rid of…so basically what Obama said is one hundred percent true, because while his opponent has made a specific enumerated proposal on tax cuts, he has not done the same with the tax credits and deductions he’d get rid of.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. The story also claims that Obama’s proposal to cut $4 trillion in spending also runs afoul of the truth, as well as his claim that this is done with a $2.5:1 ratio of cuts to revenue increases.
The math: $2 trillion of spending he’s already agreed to in cooperation with Republicans in Congress, plus $800 billion of savings from getting out of Bush’s wars…So far, we’re at $2.8 trillion. Additionally, the story factors in his budget from February 2012 that included $2 trillion in deficit reduction, of which tax increases comprised $1.6 trillion. Our totals: $3.2 trillion of spending cuts, and $1.6 trillion in revenue increases, or $4.8 trillion of deficit reduction over ten years.
WHAT A JERK! OBAMA COMPLETELY UNDERESTIMATED HOW MUCH HE WOULD CUT THE DEFICIT! Now, to be completely fair, he did say that he’d proposed $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1 of revenue increases, and they cite him as offending for using “creative accounting.” It looks, initially, like the ratio’s closer to 2 to 1. Of course, Obama did propose to increase spending on education and infrastructure, so if he spends say $300 billion on that, you get pretty close to both numbers. (By the way, I thought accountants were supposed to be creative and smart about how to save money—isn’t the term “creative accounting” in this sense, a little like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan’s “legitimate rape?” Shouldn’t we just call it accounting?)
Anyway, is it becoming clear? The “liberal” press, in other words, made it look as if Obama and Romney were equally complicit (liable) in lying during the debates. In reality, however, while Romney was spewing lie after lie, repeating some that had already been debunked long before the debate ($716 billion out of Medicare), Obama basically told the truth, even according to the logic of the article that was trying to prove otherwise.
Why does this happen? Because the press has interests too. They get campaign donations for political ads from both parties, they have advertisers, and they have subscriptions. If a newspaper actually told the truth and stated that the Republican Party has essentially turned its back on the American people to serve only moneyed interests, as this blog has shown time and again is actually the case, they’d effectively cut off half of their revenue, because conservatives can’t handle hearing anything that doesn’t agree with their world view.
Consider their recent reaction to the September jobs numbers. For the first time since Obama took office, unemployment dropped to 7.8%, the economy having added some 114,000 jobs in the last month. But were conservatives happy that the economy was recovering, or that more people found work? Nope—instead, they accused the White House of cooking the books, CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, saying on his Twitter account: “Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.” This is of course, completely absurd (wrong).
Get out your tinfoil hats, everyone, we’re into conspiracy territory. And that’s just the problem with the right wing: the only things that are true are those that fall into their belief system—there’s no objectivity, no real commitment to the truth—their allegiance is tied purely to beliefs founded in faith and faith alone. That’s why they believe the media is so “liberal,” because the media, as timid as they can be, does actually sometimes report what’s really happening, and frankly, reality is at odds with the conservative world view.
So the lesson here, kiddos, is that despite everyone’s tendency to want to believe that both party’s are equally wrong, that all candidates lie, and that politicians are all sleazy jerks, it is simply not true. Moreover, it is fundamentally counter-productive. Democracy only works if we, the voting public, can make intelligent choices about the people who represent us, holding them accountable for bad policy-making, malfeasance, or corruption, and on the other hand, rewarding them for enacting laws that generally help people, improve the economy, etc. However, if we’re going to throw them all into the same slime pit of public opinion—wrongly I might add—simply because it sounds good, it’s what we’d like to believe, or because we’re too cowardly to have an adult political conversation with people that disagree with us, then democracy fails to work.
Look, I get it. It’s convenient to believe that everyone’s equally responsible for everything, and it’s a quick way to find agreement with our friends that disagree with us on politics. But convicting Obama for lying in the debates to the same degree as Romney, or faulting Democrats and Republicans in Congress equally for its dysfunction when the Republicans have made it their mission to grind progress to a halt, is asinine, detrimental, and just plain wrong—especially if we know better.