Other than some fairly respectable local and human interest stories, today’s paper was the usual collection of half-truths and circular reasoning flowing from the blithe or willful acceptance of faulty premises and failure to identify the roots of problems, resulting in the usual failure to offer solutions that do more good than harm.
The worst offender featured today wrote an essay that perfectly illustrates the underhanded, manipulative tactics so often employed by those who favor political ideology and agenda over truth and over respecting the natural rights of human beings.
Self-assured that they have identified the most suitable means to achieve what they deem undeniably worthy ends, these commentators and policy-shapers, i.e., propagandists, advocate the employment of coercion and deceit to achieve them.
Adding insult to injury they refuse to acknowledge the havoc their policies so obviously wreak, all the while patting themselves on the back for their superior maturity and pragmatism.
Today’s worst offender referenced above is syndicated columnist, academic, and former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. I found the same essay online, here.
Reich attempts to confound his readers from the start. The headline of his essay, “GOP setting a cynicism trap,” is in itself a cynicism trap.
Using today’s common definition of cynic, “a person who shows or expresses a bitterly or sneeringly cynical (distrusting or disparaging the motives of others) attitude,” one must conclude that Reich, by implying that the actions of the GOP are disingenuous simply by virtue of being GOP, is encouraging the very behavior he purports to decry.
And here is how the essay opens:
An old friend who has been active in politics for more than 30 years tells me he’s giving up. “I can’t stomach what’s going on in Washington anymore,” he says. “The hell with all of them. I have better things to do with my life.”
My friend is falling into exactly the trap that the extreme right wants all of us to fall into — such disgust and cynicism that we all give up on politics. Then they’re free to take over everything.
It seems that Reich’s friend finally understands the truth about government and politics—that there truly are far better things to do with one’s life. But we must not allow too many to start believing that—heaven forfend! If that were to happen, Reich and a lot of his friends would lose power and wealth, and we can’t have that can we?
Reich dishonestly ignores the fact that problems in government and politics are also attributable to democrats and to the system itself; he also implies that participating in politics is a noble duty when abundant evidence supports the opposite conclusion, that politics is the preferred occupation of tyrants who are to be avoided and thwarted, insofar as possible.
Furthermore, Reich implies that participation in politics is the ONLY solution, when clearly this is also not true; people are constantly finding ways to work together and to help one another—it happens every day, without or even in spite of government interference. Look around you.
Reich assumes the reader wants what he wants; and he assumes the reader believes as he does that the GOP is monolithic, that it is extreme (which is meant to be derogatory), and that it is the enemy, no matter what, for reasons that are always implied and never explained. Like a peevish teenager ready to start a gang war, Reich says: ”Then they’re free to take over everything,” implying the results of such a take over would be devastating.
In the next passage, Reich reveals an underlying assumption that is constantly reinforced by those in power: “THEY (Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, etc.) decreed it therefore it MUST be so and you MUST submit.”
Republicans blame the shutdown of Washington and possible default on the nation’s debt on the president’s “unwillingness to negotiate” over the Affordable Care Act. But that law has already been negotiated. It passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the president. It withstood a Supreme Court challenge.
Whether you agreed to the terms yourself, as an individual, is deemed irrelevant. Whether a particular act of government changes your life for the worse is also deemed irrelevant. Clearly, your view was never intended to matter, even though you must be made to believe that it does (democracy and all that).
Reich pulls a quadruple whammy invoking both houses of Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court. Zeus has spoken from Mt. Olympus and you walk away at your own peril. Why? Well, because he is Zeus and you are not.
Now we come to the “father knows best” section, in which Reich reminds his readers that while we children often balk at eating our vegetables, in the long run we are glad that we did. He also reminds us that the majority (the father in this case) gets to decide which vegetables to serve and the minority’s (the child’s) opinion will not be taken into consideration. Why? Because THEY said so.
The Affordable Care Act is hardly perfect, but neither was Social Security or Medicare when first enacted. The Constitution allows Congress to amend or delay laws that don’t work as well as they were intended, or even to repeal them. But to do any of this requires new legislation — including a majority of both houses of Congress and a president’s signature (or else a vote to override a president’s veto).
Our system does not allow one party to delay, amend or repeal a law of the land by shutting down the rest of the government until its demands are met. If that were the way our democracy worked, no law would ever be safe or settled. A disciplined majority in one house could always use the threat of a shutdown or default to gut any law it didn’t like.
Notice that Reich reinforces the Because-THEY-Said-So rule. He also further attempts to confuse his readers by referring to statutes as law-of-the-land and conveying the idea that only “safe and settled” law—by this he means “When WE pass it you cannot change it”—will enable people to feel safe and settled (in other words, comfortable), when the truth is that legislation that does not defend and protect individual human rights, among these liberty, should, by all means, be delayed, amended, or repealed.
Reich conveniently fails to mention that tyrants more often than not use the “law” (legislation, statutes) to do the worst of their dirty work and that they use statements such as Reich’s to convince people to submit, even when those people understand with their own minds that it is wrong to do so. Fear works wonders.
He is also dishonest in that he fails to mention that the federal government has not really stopped running, except selectively for political theater, and that if the government defaults it will not be caused by refusal to raise the debt ceiling but by massive entitlement obligations and by dollar creation by the Federal Reserve, neither of which can be sustained and both of which are favored by major players, republican and democrat, and by Obama and his administration.
In the next passage, Reich once again reveals that he is the real cynic (by the modern definition):
So the president cannot renegotiate the Affordable Care Act. And I don’t believe Tea Party Republicans expect him to.Their real goal is far more insidious. They want to sow even greater cynicism about the capacity of government to do much of anything.
The shutdown and possible default are only the most recent and most dramatic instances of terminal gridlock, designed to get people like my friend to give up.
Without evidence Reich invalidates the sincerity of Tea Party republicans. By using the word insidious he implies the Tea Party is a vicious enemy waiting for any opening to attack and hurt others. He implies that it is somehow inherently wrong to mistrust government or to wish to reduce its size and scope or be rid of it altogether, that such an attitude makes one necessarily stealthy, treacherous, and deceitful.
Furthermore, Reich implies that if people such as his friend “give up” on politics they will be allowing treacherous, government-shrinking Tea Partiers to have their way, which would, he also implies, be the most horrible horror possible. He presumes he doesn’t have to explain what exactly the horror would be and that the reader will envision the same. He also implies that it is okay for Reich and the Obama administration and its supporters to have their way but that it would never, never be okay for the dreaded Tea Partiers to have theirs.
In addition to failing to provide evidence to support his implications, Reich fails to mention the way that democrats deliberately and willfully ignored a widespread public outcry against the ACA and pushed it to be approved before being read and fully understood.
If pushing through poorly written and ill-conceived statutes that then become the law-of-the-land is what Reich envisions as a noble democracy, he has proved his friend right. Whose goals are insidious?
Reich goes on to assume his readers will agree that it is a good thing for the federal government to have ever-expanding “capacity to deal with domestic matters.” He also implies that if you don’t agree with him you rank among the insidious, you know: the stealthy, the treacherous, the deceitful.
And on this score, they’re winning. The approval rating for Congress was already at an all-time low before the shutdown, according to a poll released just hours before Washington went dark. The CNN/ORC poll showed that only 10 percent of Americans approved the job Congress was doing, while 87 percent disapproved. It was the all-time lowest approval rating for Congress in a CNN poll.
A recent Gallup survey found that only 42 percent of Americans — also a record low — have even a “fair” amount of confidence in the government’s capacity to deal with domestic matters.
And in a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of Americans said they’re angry at the federal government, while 51 percent said they were frustrated. Only 17 percent said they are basically content with the government. The share expressing anger has risen seven points since January, equaling the record high reached in August 2011, just after the widely unpopular debt-ceiling agreement between the president and Congress.
An essential difference between Reich and others of the same mind and those who seek smaller or no government, is that those urging more government invariably seek to impose their policies by use of force. They do this in the name of the “common good,” through seizing property—forfeitures, fines, regulations, taxes, etc., or by putting resisters, even peaceful ones, behind bars, in cages, if necessary.
In contrast, those insidious Tea Partiers, the ones desiring to shrink government at least a bit, advocate at least some respect for the rights of humankind and in many cases prefer less coercion or force to more.
Moreover, Reich ignores an abundance of evidence that Americans are indeed angry with the federal government, not because of Tea Party rhetoric but because they are more and more aware that the federal government is a corrupt and malevolent leviathan. After all, its excesses are now so obvious they can no longer be ignored.
Reich will never admit that the Tea Party is one reasonable response to a serious and even dangerous problem and not the cause of it.
Next, Reich ironically says that people should ignore the Tea Party, which he claims is encouraging the citizenry to give up on government, and pay attention to government to prevent “moneyed interests” from getting what they want.
This is a deeply ironic statement because the Tea Party was born when people who had not been paying much attention to government began paying attention and speaking out, exactly what Reich advocates.
It’s a vicious cycle. As average Americans give up on government, they pay less attention to what government does or fails to do — thereby making it easier for the moneyed interests to get whatever they want: tax cuts for themselves and their businesses; regulatory changes that help them but harm employees, consumers and small investors; special subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare. And these skewed benefits only serve to confirm the public’s cynicism.
The same cynicism also makes it easier to convince the public that even when the government does act for the benefit of the vast majority, it’s not really doing so. So a law like the Affordable Care Act, which, for all its shortcomings, is still a step in the right direction relative to the costly mess of the nation’s health-care system, is transformed into a nightmarish “government takeover.”
Reich pretends he does not know that much of the Tea Party’s energy has been focused on resolving this very same grievance, “that moneyed interests” use government to arrange regulations to their own benefit—it is called corporate welfare, corporatism, crony-capitalism, crony-socialism, or, in its harshest form, fascism. The Obama administration is among the worst violators in history, pandering again and again to “moneyed interests,” yet Reich encourages people to support it and to revile the Tea Party.
This is obvious and utter nonsense, outright lying, yet it is allowed to stand unchallenged by most in the media and is swallowed by much of the public as the sensible, wise, adult view.
Furthermore, in the last part of the above passage, Reich fails to acknowledge the extent to which government interference—Medicare, Medicaid, tax benefits to employers who offered health insurance in lieu of higher salaries, regulations, and government grants—has for many years interfered with the free market for health care in ways that squelched alternatives and undermined charities.
The nation’s health-care system became a costly mess because government interference was excessive not because government interference was lacking.
The intrusiveness of the Affordable Care Act, the coercive nature of it, is indeed nightmarish to anyone who values privacy and freedom and this is no exaggeration, despite Reich’s attempt to downplay the consequences.
Apparently, he would have us step in what he deems “the right” direction even if we must violate our own moral sense to do it. If his attitude doesn’t fit the definition of bully, what would?
Reich must have grinned like a Cheshire Cat when he wrote the following:
So here’s what I told my friend who said he’s giving up on politics: Don’t. If you give in to bullies, their bullying only escalates. If you give in to cynicism about our democracy, our democracy steadily erodes.If you believe the fix is in and the game is rigged, and that a handful of billionaires and their Tea Party puppets are destroying our government, do something about it.
Rather than give up, get more involved. Become more active. Make a ruckus. It’s our government, and the most important thing you can do for yourself, your family, your community and the future is to make it work for all of us.
With almost unrivaled effrontery, Reich equates Tea Partiers with bullies, this flowing from the keyboard of one of the biggest bullies and supporter of fellow bullies one could hope to find. Let’s face it. Government is a tool to institutionalize and sanction bullying—through legislation and regulation. If you reject this premise, think again.
What happens to those who refuse to cooperate? (Here I am referring to peaceful individuals who have done no harm to others.) Yes, those who refuse are forced to cooperate—either with psychological force, physical force, or both. If they still refuse, further harm is inflicted. If the refusal continues the destruction continues. This is true about government. I challenge anyone to adequately refute it.
Yet this truth can be and is downplayed and ignored and twisted into a supposed virtue, over and over again.
Another truth is that whatever we need to do to “make it work for all of us,” we can do better by respecting the natural rights of individual human beings and not being willing to trample on them because some legislators wrote a statute or because the president signed an executive order or because the supreme court ruled it is so. Honest people will acknowledge this.
Finally, Reich calls Tea Partiers “puppets of billionaires,” knowing full well that the president and most of the rest of Congress are the real puppets of billionaires; Reich, himself, is one of them. Don’t let them or him fool you anymore.
Reich’s essay is nothing more than a blatant attempt to manipulate the reader into feeling a smug satisfaction, for being “smart” like he is. He ignores the facts; he lies; he obfuscates; he assumes the reader will not notice. He grins then his head disappears when you try to catch him. But the grin, the snarl, is really all there is and the joke is on all of us.