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Friday, January 14, 2011

Moving Toward a More Pleasant Lie

illustration from old book on etiquetteCivility is all the rage in Washington. At least, for now. Not surprisingly, the voices speaking most about civility equate it with a failed centrism. Apparently, being civil while sticking to your guns is completely impossible. Somewhere along the line, "civility" and "compromise" became synonymous. I guess because it's completely impossible to disagree respectfully. Frankly, I don't see Washington suddenly catching the "middle-of-the-road" bug. Further, I don't think it should. Democracy is competitive by design and for a purpose.

But will a more respectful tone in Washington and in the media really change anything? Sure, you could argue that the right's Second Amendment fetish (along with their misinterpretation of that amendment) makes for some pretty scary talk of "Second Amendment remedies" and "ballot or bullet" signs, but the fact remains that the people with the guns and the signs are angry -- in many cases panic-stricken -- about things that just aren't happening. There are no "death panels," Socialism isn't the same thing as Communism or Fascism, Barack Obama isn't a foreigner bent on destroying America, all Muslims aren't terrorists, people's taxes have gone down, and George W. Bush is responsible for a lion's share of the deficit. Without scarecrows to be afraid of, no one would be freaked out to the point that they begin to babble about a second revolution.

This isn't to say that a little more respect wouldn't be nice in political rhetoric, it just wouldn't accomplish much. What America needs is a push toward truth in political rhetoric and, sadly, no one seems to be talking about that. If there were truth in politics, not only wouldn't we have to worry about some 'bagger practicing his Second Amendment remedies against elected officials, but there probably wouldn't even be a Tea Party to begin with. It's a "movement" funded by billionaires and Washington insiders, driven by propaganda that convinces people to be afraid of non-existent plots. Without the lies, there would be no fear. And without the fear, there would be no danger.

What brings all this to mind is news that Republicans have decided that enough time has passed to resume their doomed push to repeal healthcare reform. And, in doing so, to drag the debate back into fantasy land.

Washington Post:

The first debate has been about the name of the Republican bill: "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." Some Democrats want to take "killing" out of the title in deference to the Tucson victims, but Republicans have declined to change the name.

Democrats should demand that "job-killing" be taken out in deference to the truth. If you want an example of how far gone the Republican Party has become, consider that they're now writing blatant lies into the titles of the bills they author.

"There's no 'job-killing' health-care law," writes Ezra Klein. "There's only the health-care bill. And my problem with the modifier 'job-killing' isn't that it's uncivil, though perhaps it is. It's that it's untrue." He goes on:

The GOP lifted the claim from this Congressional Budget Office report (pdf) -- but the report never says the bill will kill jobs. What it says, rather, is that the law will slightly reduce labor. It's not that employers will fire workers. It's that potential workers -- particularly older ones -- will retire somewhat earlier. "The expansion of Medicaid and the availability of subsidies through the exchanges will effectively increase beneficiaries' financial resources. Those additional resources will encourage some people to work fewer hours or to withdraw from the labor market."

You aren't going to have a lot of luck whipping gullible people into a frenzy by saying, "The Democrats' healthcare law makes it easier for people to retire!" So the message is, "The Democrats' healthcare law kills jobs!" Never mind that this is entirely untrue.

And, while elected Republicans have toned it done for the time being, the rightwing noise machine blares on.

Mother Jones:

After President Barack Obama's eloquent speech in Tucson, I wondered how the Obama haters would react. After all, it seemed that after that particular speech it would be more difficult to demonize him as a secret Muslim/Kenyan-born socialist who hates America and is plotting its demise. But it seems the Obama Hate Machine is not going to slow down -- especially not if there's a buck to be made. On Thursday morning, Townhall, the conservative website that features the work of prominent rightwing commentators, sent out an email advertisement to its readers revealing the latest Obama conspiracy: he wants to steal your retirement account. Literally.

The ad is adorned with an illustration of a smiling Obama holding a small person (a white male, if you're curious) in his hand and squeezing money out of the poor fellow. The headline in big and bold letters: "Your IRA'S and 401K's ARE STILL At RISK Of Government Confiscation."...

Of course, none of this is true. I pointed out yesterday that the rage faction of the party was convinced that Obama had taken the Tucson memorial service and turned it into a campaign event -- a claim that was shot down pretty quickly. So now they've moved on and claim that Obama's story about Gabrielle Giffords opening her eyes was a lie. People must always be angry with Democrats and President Obama and, if that means just making stuff up to be angry about, then the inventive little propagandists of the right will get right on it.

Look, if everyone wants to be more polite, that's fine. Frankly, I can take it or leave it. But it's just as easy to lie with a smile as it is with a shaking fist. The problem with American politics isn't the vitriol, it's the lies.


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