Sunday, October 16, 2011

How the Political Right Distorts Fact in the US

From a post by Brad DeLong...

First he quotes from a post by Jim Bales in his The Inverse Square Blog:
Ms McArdle has a piece in which she claims that the Republican obstructionism in Congress to the Obama Administration has a precedent in Democratic obstructionism in Congress to the Hoover Administration.

Sadly, Ms McArdle presents no evidence to support her assertion.

The closest she comes to evidence is quoting Prof. David Kennedy, of Stanford’s History Department, as saying:
Hoover also faced a very obstructionist Democratic Congress–they understood, as these guys do today, that if they just go in the middle of the road and refused to move, that would benefit them at the next election. And it paid off….
A simple measure of obstructionism in the Senate is the number of cloture motions introduced over the two years of a particular Congress. (If one does not consider this a measure of obstructionism, then one needs to explain how filibustering is not obstruction.) As the Republican leader in the Senate, McConnell’s obstructionism in the 111th Congress (2009-10) led to a mere 136 cloture motions. So far (as of Oct. 12) the 112th Congress has had 32 cloture motions. This level of obstructionism is, according to Ms McArdle, “quite precedented“. In fact, she claims that the precedent can be found in the 71st and 72nd Congresses (1929-31 and 1931-33).

Just how obstructionist were those anti-Hoover Democrats? In the 71st Congress there was precisely one (1) motion for cloture. Such motions skyrocketed in the 72nd Congress, when those dastardly Democrats forced two (2) of them. If precedent means what the rest of us think it means*, Ms McArdle is claiming that forcing a motion for cloture three times over four years is precedent for forcing 136 such motions over two years (and 168 such motions in less than three). On the other hand, maybe precedent actually means whatever it is she thinks it means.
DeLong then goes on in his Grasping Reality in Both Hands blog to say:
Damned if I can see what is was that Hoover wanted to do about the Great Depression that was "obstructed" by the Congress.

The Hoover proposals that Congress appears to have blocked were (i) Hoover's 1930 nomination of a racist Supreme Court justice, and (ii) Hoover's 1932 tax plan to try to balance the budget by imposing a nationwide sales tax on manufactured goods.

Hoover vetoed (i) the Bonus Bill of 1931 (overridden), and (ii) Wagner's bill establishing state-level employment agencies,

Congress and Hoover agreed on (i) the Smoot-Hawley tariff "reform" (albeit with "export debentures" that Hoover opposed), (ii) to establish the RFC, (iii) to fund the ERCA, (iv) Norris-LaGuardia, (v) the Home Loan Bank, (vi) the Glass-Steagal Bank Credit Act, and (vii) to reject the Bonus Army's demands in 1932.
The sad fact is that the Republican party has dropped any pretense at truth or fact. It is a rabid partisan group that makes up its "facts" as it goes to sell whatever lies it wants to. It is a utter tragedy that this 160 year old party has degenerated to a crude front for fanatics with no regard for political integrity.

What I find utterly incredible is that the US public allows the Senate to demand "super majorities" to enact laws. That isn't in the Constitution. It holds up the people's business to extortion by fanatics. I don't understand why the Democrats put up with it. The country is dysfunctional and fast becoming a "banana republic".

DeLong nails it with the following quote:
"Representative institutions are of little value, and may be a mere instrument of tyranny or intrigue, when the generality of electors are not sufficiently interested in their own government to give their vote, or, if they vote at all, do not bestow their suffrages on public grounds, but sell them for money, or vote at the beck of some one who has control over them, or whom for private reasons they desire to propitiate. Popular election thus practiced, instead of a security against misgovernment, is but an additional wheel in its machinery."

--John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been bought-and-sold by big corporate interests. They even let the lobbyists write the laws! That the American public allows this to happen means that there is no democracy left in America. Unless the people rise up, as with Occupy Wall Street, and take back their government. They will be pawns and continue to be milked to hand over trillions to bailout a whole series of corrupt corporations that are "too big to fail".

DeLong is nervous about the Occupy Wall Street because he is rich but not obscenely wealthy. And in revolutionary times, the revolutionists often go beserk and destroy instead of fix. So for those with a stake in the system but an awareness of its inherent corruptness, it is more than a little risky to support mobs in the street:

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