Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Sell a Lie

If you listen to Republican politicians in the US, you hear that "socialist" Obama is undermining the economy because his "reckless tax and spend ways" have terrified American business so they aren't hiring. This message about how Obama has "undermined" confidence is repeated again and again. This is the big lie technique infamously associated with the Nazi party in Germany: Tell a lie, even an outrageous lie, but repeat it often enough and many people will come to believe it.

Here's Brad DeLong debunking the "big lie" of Obama undermining US business confidence:
In 2001 and 2003 George W. Bush and his Republicans created an enormous amount of uncertainty for American businesses. They deliberately unbalanced the federal budget for the long term, enacting tax cuts and spending increases, leaving businesses uncertain of who or what would be taxed in the future in order to restore eventual budgetary balance--and uncertain of whether the ultimate balancer might be another prolonged outburst of high inflation.

In 1994 the Republican Party, united behind Robert Dole and Newt Gingrich, created an enormous amount of uncertainty for American businesses by blocking the Democratic effort to bring health-insurance costs onto some sustainable trajectory. Ever since then American businesses have faced enormous uncertainty: they have no idea how expensive the health coverage they have traditionally offered will be a decade hence.

Barack Obama, in a year and a half, has taken very large steps to dissipate these sources of uncertainty, to bring the long-term budget back toward balance--so businesses no longer have to worry that they will be victims of some sudden and random confiscatory tax--and to bring health care under control--so businesses no longer have to worry that their profits will be eaten up by the health-insurance administrators.

It is a better and less uncertain long-term environment for American business than any since the 1990s, or perhaps even the 1960s.
What I find interesting is that practically everybody understands "spin" and how PR people "shape" the message of a political party. But these techniques still work. You would think that the electorate would get so jaded and cynical that they would no longer believe these lies. But apparently that's not the case. Republicans appear poised to win big in the mid-term Congressional elections. Amazing!

Oh... and the truth about American business is much simpler: during a recession, especially a Great Recession, business is very reluctant to hire until they are convinced that a real recovery is underway. But the Republicans have taken care of that. They made sure that Obama's stimulus package was too small. Worse, they made sure that about 1/3 of it went to "tax cuts" which are effectively useless for stimulating spending since the rich simply bank the money. Meanwhile, the Republicans have been very, very busy blocking any attempt to do real stimulus. Incredible!

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