"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why Republicans ‘Lied’ at the RNC

There is no doubt that Paul Ryan lied at the Republican National Convention. FactCheck.com provides details noting that Paul Ryan:

  • Accused President Obama’s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.” In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law “substantially improves” the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.
  • Accused Obama of doing “exactly nothing” about recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.
  • Claimed the American people were “cut out” of stimulus spending. Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.
  • Faulted Obama for failing to deliver a 2008 campaign promise to keep a Wisconsin plant open. It closed less than a month before Obama took office.
  • Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S. Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats.

The online website www.politicsusa.com cites the worst untruths.  First on the stimulus:

RYAN: ” What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted – it was borrowed, spent, and wasted… You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business.”

FACT: The stimulus added 3.3 million jobs, cut unemployment by 1.8%, and grew GDP by 4.1%. Nothing is what the country got when Ryan and his fellow Republican obstructed the American Jobs Act.

Next on health care

RYAN: “Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.”

FACT: “The health care law doesn’t come close to establishing a government-run system like those of Britain or Canada. Most Americans will continue to get their insurance through a private carrier; and a proposal to include a government-run “public option” to private health insurance was dropped during the legislative process.” (FactCheck.org)

On the debt: Ryan and the Republicans also wrongly blamed the debt on Obama when half of the $1.5 trillion was passed by George W and was voted for by one Paul Ryan in Congress. As was the auto bailout. And TARP” (policymic.com).  Obama inherited a debt largely the result of the profligacy of George W. Bush – borrowing trillions to finance two wars and the expansion of the federal government.  Bush era aside, Obama had to borrow because of the increasing burdens of entitlement programs such as Medicare, long on the books. 

Romney was no less generous with the facts: .

He said “gasoline prices have doubled” since Obama took office. That’s correct, but only because gasoline prices were unusually depressed when Obama was inaugurated due to the recession and financial crisis. Romney said that “health insurance premiums are higher” under Obama. But premiums have been going up for years. Obama has not raised taxes on middle-income taxpayers, and, in fact, he has targeted tax cuts and credits to benefit them. (FactCheck.org)

The question is not what the Republicans said but why they said it, knowing that legions of fact-checkers would be out in force.  The answer is of course they knew, but didn’t care. Here are some reasons why playing loose with the truth is a good Republican strategy

First, the RNC was aimed at the Republican base and in particular those voters who might like the Republican political platform but who are concerned about Romney the man – not Democrats. And who, despite the polls, can actually be undecided?  The difference between the parties is as stark as it has ever been. As soon as the candidates were anointed, anything they or their acolytes said became part of the Republican catechism.

Second, the faithful believe that the liberal media always distort what Republicans say.  There is no need to define ‘liberal media’ because in their minds all media are liberal except anointed outlets like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc. There is no point in so-called ‘independent sources’ like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or the Government Accounting Office, etc. because they are ‘government’ and not to be trusted.

Republican strategists know and embrace the rumor theory of communication – the more often an untruth is stated, the more varied the sources on which it is disseminated, and the longer the time period over which the statement is repeated, the ‘truer’ it gets.  The Republicans have been brilliant at staying on message: Obama is a socialist, he caused the present crisis, he is trying to curtail individual liberties, he is anti-capitalist and anti-business, he is out to spend us to our graves with inefficient social programs, he is a classic tax-and-spend liberal. That’s all most people need to know.

Republicans know that most Americans have neither the time, the interest, nor the ability to objectively assess every issue, and they count on this ignorance.  Most voters are already persuaded by non-objective belief. Most ‘progressives’ believe that everything Republicans have ever done is wrong.  They are and always have been the party of the rich elite and will never care for the poor.  Most conservatives believe that Democrats have always tried to bankrupt the American store and erode individual liberties.  That’s usually just about enough for minds to be made up. 

When pressed, Republicans can always backpedal from the most egregious misstatements.  “I misspoke” or “My words were taken out of context” are the mantras of today.  Moreover, as can be seen from the list of suspicious claims mentioned above, not all of them are out-and-out lies.  Take the statements on health care.  Ryan can easily get away with saying that Obama wants to put the federal government” in charge of health care” because government will most definitely have a bigger role to play than in his laissez-faire system.  He can hammer Obama on the debt because without a doubt the stimulus packages, TARP, and bailouts added to it. 

Most of these Republican ‘lies’ are no worse than any other political posturing.  They may be gross exaggerations, leave out important information, and distort the facts to suit the candidates.  What else is new?  I am glad the press is calling Romney/Ryan on these distortions, but they expect it, will not amend their statements, and moreover will continue saying them because anyone who counts will not care about the ‘truth’ at all.






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