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Friday, January 28, 2011

On the Front Lines of the GOP's War on Math

Before we get started here, I just want to say that the next person who says that Egypt and Mubarak are important for stability in the region gets to shut up. Is Egypt looking real stable to you right now? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Here at home, where things are a little more stable, the only major skirmish right now is the Republican War on Math. If there's one thing that Americans can count on, it's that the GOP will remain unswayed by fact for quite some time. With the rise of the Tea Party on the right, we see an anti-fact movement taking hold of the party. From the raising of the flag at Iowa Jamma to the Soviet Union being brought down by Sputnik, in the hands of Republicans, facts become irrelevant things. Want Thomas Jefferson -- who actually wrote the divinity of Christ out of the Bible -- to be the most Christian man ever? Done. Need the American Civil War to be about anything other than slavery? You got it. Give them a little while and the right will be blaming FDR for America's humiliating loss in WWII.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that the Republican relationship with arithmetic is a rocky one. Numbers are, after all, one of the highest forms of truth. So, since no fact is immune to revision and twisting, numbers have found themselves in the GOP's crosshairs surveyor's marks.

The latest salvo in the Republican War on Math comes in the form of an attack on the concepts of addition and subtraction. See, it turns out that Republicans want them to be the same thing. In this case, if you add to the deficit, you act surprised that you haven't reduced the deficit. Observe:

Steve Benen:

The day of President Obama's inauguration, the federal budget deficit left by the Republican administration was $1.3 trillion. After some additional economy-saving measures were added to the mix, the 2009 deficit reached $1.4 trillion. Last year, things improved slightly, and the deficit fell to $1.29 trillion.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office warned lawmakers that the budget picture was poised to get worse again, projecting a $1.5 trillion deficit this year.

Summarizing the thoughts of many, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Roll Call, "I think everyone is in a collective state of shock right now over the CBO numbers."

Yes, how completely surprising. After all, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that continuing Bush's tax cuts for top earners would increase the deficit. So Republicans bullied Obama into continuing those tax cuts. Now it turns out the deficit will increase. How did that happen? I can see how that would come as a tremendous shock to Sen. Kirk. Who could've foreseen such an unfortuitous turn of events? If only we had some sort of agency that, you know, dealt with budget numbers coming out of Congress. Some sort of Office of Congressional Budgets or Budgets of Congress Office or something that could warn us that these things would happen. Oh well, if wishes were horses...

"It's unclear to me why Republicans aren't confronted with hysterical laughter when they claim credibility on fiscal issues," writes Benen. "This is a party that inherited a massive surplus a decade ago, when we were actually paying off our debt. The GOP proceeded to squander the surplus, add $5 trillion to the debt in just eight years, and then demand Democrats clean up their mess."

That's because Democrats are good with numbers and facts and all those things the Founders clearly had no time for. Republicans? Why they're Idea People. Big Idea People, with big, big dreams. And they aren't going to let little things like provable facts and clearly predictable consequences stand in their way. That's for the Poindexters with their slide-rules and whatever those giant watch things with all the buttons are for... Whaddya call 'em? "Calculators," yeah. Those Poindexters with their calculators and sums and operators and decimal points. Elitist snobs, if you ask Republicans.

So, the War on Math isn't going so well. Turns out addition and subtraction are two entirely different things. Republicans can either play by math's rules or make up their own.

Of course, they make up their own, so the War on Math isn't going very well.


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