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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rush Limbaugh and the Orwellian Right's Propaganda Machine

Listening to an old Noam Chomsky lecture in which he talked of Tom Friedman, he said it was difficult for people to lie. That when people got to Friedman's level, they were totally steeped in, and believed, the propaganda that they espoused.

While I have immense respect for Chomsky, my take is a bit different. I believe there is a cynical Orwellian Right and that they know the truth even as they seek to mislead. Here's an example that was once up at Rush Limbaugh's site a few years back. He was talking in support of one of Bush's 2001 tax cuts:

"If it brings in, say, two dollars for every dollar of tax relief, we'll have more money in the treasury – and thus safeguard programs like Social Security! The idea behind tax cuts is to get the economy to grow. The economy is not static. The pie is not one size forever, with no new slices. The object is to grow so we have more people working and paying taxes. Presidents Kennedy and Reagan proved this with their tax cuts. The Democratic Congress spent every new dollar and more that Reagan brought in, but the fact is that the revenue coming into the treasury nearly doubled over his two terms."

Note how Rush omits some key facts which discredit his claims:

1: Every recession ends. Tax cuts are not needed.

2: Reagan signed into law some massive tax HIKES yet Rush dishonesty credits all the revenue growth in the 1980's to tax cuts. He ignores inflation and the growth in the economy due to population increases which also increase revenue.

Predictably real revenues under Reagan FELL so much that by FY84 they were still around FY79 levels in constant dollars. One can only wonder how low they would have been without those massive Reagan tax hikes. Here are the revenue numbers from FY77 to FY89 in constant 2000 dollars. They include revenues from Reagan's tax hikes:

FY77 903.8 Billion
FY78 952.5
FY79 1,017.8
FY80 1,028.3
FY81 1,077.4 Carters Last Budget
FY82 1,036.9 Reagan's First Budget
FY83 961.7
FY84 1,016.8
FY85 1,082.6
FY86 1,107.3
FY87 1,196.1
FY88 1,235.6
FY89 1,298.9 Reagan's last budget

Rush implies that tax cuts bring in double the amount in revenues for every tax dollar lost in the tax cut. Essentially tax cuts are a Voodoo Economics free lunch! If true no sane person could be against them. Yet is there ANY proof of this? Of course not! The most optimistic claim I've seen is from Cato. They calculate tax cuts bring in about 35 cents on every dollar of taxes cut. Since Cato has a right-wing agenda, one can only guess what questionable assumptions they used to arrive at this “optimistic” figure. None the less, if true then Cato’s numbers also translates into LOSING 65 cents on every dollar of tax cuts. No free lunch here either.

The so-called JFK tax cuts were actually passed after his death and the economy was already picking up. Much of the expansion of the 60's was from wartime spending. But the Orwellian Right always pretends the credit goes to tax cuts. JFK also proposed that revenues would INCREASE from tightening up loopholes despite the reduction in the top marginal tax rate.

Rush implies that revenues under Reagan doubled. What's critical here is what baseline is chosen. Using Reagan's first and last budgets... in constant 2000 dollars which includes natural population growth and revenue from Reagan tax hikes, FY82 thru FY89 revenue under Reagan grew only about 25% not by 100% as Rush dishonestly claims. Even in current dollars, Reagan's revenues rose only about 62% not 100%. Here are the figures in billions of current dollars:

FY82 617.8
FY83 600.6
FY84 666.5
FY85 734.1
FY86 769.2
FY87 854.4
FY88 909.3
FY89 991.2

Rush does as all on the Orwellian Right do when trying to justify tax cuts: he avoids the bigger context by not comparing Reagan's revenues to Carter's. Just what would revenues have been if there had been NO irresponsible tax cuts?

Clinton proved that an economy can easily expand after a tax HIKE. This is a sore spot for the Orwellian Right. It drives a stake squarely into the heart of their tax cut fairytale. So they often dishonestly credit Reagan for the boom of the Clinton era. Yet curiously they never credit Nixon for the boom of the 80's.

After rewriting history to imply that less revenue under Reagan is actually MORE revenue... Rush is left to explain Reagan's massive deficits. Since his intent is deceive, Rush dishonestly blames the Democrats for spending the fabricated windfall. Reagan’s own spending on an insane military buildup gets no mention.

The unavoidable truth is this: Rush HAS to know the truth to so skillfully avoid it. And knowing that it's clear his ONLY intent is to deceive his listeners. Yet that also implies utter contempt for his own listeners. One is left to conclude Rush is merely an Orwellian Right propagandist who's looking out for his own interests.

Rush's quotes were originally at this URL and that page is no longer up.

(revised 3-19-08)


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Governments Derive Their JUST Power From The CONSENT Of The Governed

On this July 4th, the 230th anniversary of that original Independence Day, perhaps there is no better time to revisit the Declaration of Independence.... particularity on what the signers believed what form of government should replace rule by the crown.

Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The belief that governments derive their moral legitimacy not from God but from the consent of the governed was a radical proposition during the Enlightenment, when Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This belief originated with John Locke's concept of natural rights which were rights not contingent on, or handed down from government but existed regardless of government. As such governments were morally legitimate only if they had the consent of the governed.

I'd argue that in the US the very concept of "consent of the governed" has suffered death by 1000 cuts and in the process has been bastardized almost into oblivion. We have elections and a representative form of government... but both are so flawed they can never accurately measure the consent of the governed except by accident. Worst, at times we have a government that has been REJECTED by the governed.

Sadly We The People seem so beaten down by this system that we meekly accept such outrages as Election 2000 where an unaccountable Star Chamber called the Electoral College imposed upon this nation a president and his policies the People clearly voted against. US and world history changed for the worst against the wishes of the governed. The world's only superpower was out of the control of its own people. Bush was then free to abuse the powers of his office to consolidate power in the Senate and the federal judiciary... and he did do... gladly.

At times when I'm most cynical, I think We The People need a new Declaration of Independence.

But perhaps we should just revisit the original.