The Not Intended to Be a Factual Statement Party
Over the past few days, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl has become a national laughingstock. Not because of his 30-fold error in claiming on the Senate floor that "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" is related to abortion, but because he later insisted his lie was "not intended to be a factual statement."
But lost in the laughter over Kyl's post-facto moment of candor is this deadly serious conclusion. In recent years, the GOP has degenerated into a NITBAFS machine producing potent political untruths. From President Obama's citizenship and "tax cuts that pay for themselves" to death panels, a government takeover of health care and so much other mythmaking, virtually every article of conservative faith is a fraud. Yet the Republican Party is neither scorned not laughed off the national stage, but instead rewarded with power.
Here's just a small sampling from the platform of The Not Intended to Be a Factual Statement Party.
- "Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves."
- "The Estate Tax Destroys Family Farms and Small Businesses."
- "Death Panels."
- "A Government Takeover of Health Care."
- "No American is Denied Health Care."
- "The Health Care Law Adds to the Deficit."
- "Barack Obama Was Not Born in the United States."
- "Barack Obama is a Muslim."
- "Public Employees Are Overpaid."
- "We Went to War [with Iraq] Because We Were Attacked."
- "Abortion Causes Cancer and Psychological Trauma for Women."
"Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves." The uber-lie of Republican Party, this assertion long ago debunked by theory and history alike is the centerpiece of conservative economic orthodoxy. (After all, how else to justify a multi-trillion tax cut windfall for the wealthy?) That it's utterly false is apparently no barrier to its repetition.
When Jon Kyl declared last year that "You should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rose to his defense by stating:
"There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."
Perhaps, but that doesn't mean virtually every Republican isn't wrong. Despite President Bush's claim that "You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase," the opposite occurred. As a percentage of the American economy, tax revenues peaked in 2000; that is, before the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Uncle Sam's cash flow from individual income taxes did not return to its pre-dot com bust level until 2006. Analyses from the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities revealed that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure, and if made permanent, would add more to the national debt than Iraq, Afghanistan, the stimulus and TARP - combined. For its part, the CBO put a nearly $4 trillion price tag on the loss to the U.S. Treasury resulting from making the Bush tax cuts permanent.
"The Estate Tax Destroys Family Farms and Small Businesses." This claim is as untrue now as when George W. Bush decried the so-called "death tax" during the 2000 presidential campaign.
Nevertheless, then Minority Leader John Boehner groused in 2009:
"People who aren't wealthy, who may have built up value in land over generations and many family farms find themselves in situations where they've got to sell the farm in order the pay the taxes."
In reality, Boehner's talking point is merely a smokescreen designed to mask the annual diversion of $25 billion in tax revenue to the families of the richest Americans. As the Washington Post explained in 2009, under President Obama's proposal (exempting couples with estates under $7 million with a 45 percent rate for amounts beyond that) 99.76% of estates would pay no taxes whatsoever. While CBPP estimated that only 1 in 500 estates is impacted by the current law, in 2009 the Tax Policy Center quantified just how few family farms or small businesses are actually impacted by the estate tax proposals under consideration:
We estimate that under the Obama proposal, 100 family farms and businesses would owe tax. (We define such estates as those where farm or business assets are valued at under $5 million and comprise the majority of estate assets.) The Lincoln-Kyl proposal would cut the number to 40. Even under current law, fewer than 2,700 family farms and businesses would owe tax.
Sadly for all other U.S. taxpayers (and the deficit), the Kyl-Lincoln proposal won the day in last December's $800 billion, two-year tax cut compromise.
"Death Panels." For over a year, the debate over health care was dominated and distorted by an endless cascade of Republican lies over medical malpractice, the public option, rationing and so much else. But for pure fear-mongering and untruth, the invention of "death panels" takes the cake.
Conservatives quickly converted the proposal for Medicare, like private insurance, to fund end-of-life counseling for Americans into what Sarah Palin deemed "Obama's 'death panel.'" But while Chuck Grassley called it "pulling the plug on grandma" and Virginia Foxx warned of seniors "put to death," Politifact had another name for the Republicans' mythical death panels: the 2009 Lie of the Year.
(Predictably, what Sarah Palin excused as a "metaphor" which "rang true for many Americans" is back in the wake of President Obama's speech Wednesday.)
"A Government Takeover of Health Care." Last December, this whopper earned Politifact's 2010 Lie of the Year.
First articulated in a Frank Lutz talking points memo to Republicans, the GOP faithful charged that Democratic health care reform proposals represented a "government takeover of health care." Of course, by expanding the system in which more Americans buy private health insurance to get medical care from private doctors and private hospitals, the Affordable Care Act did no such thing. As Politifact put it:
"The phrase is simply not true."
"No American is Denied Health Care." Beginning in 2005 when President Bush first deployed it ("People have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room."), this necessary lie became a tried and untrue arrow in the Republican rhetorical quiver.
Necessary for Republicans, that is, hoping to prevent 32 million more Americans getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But despite the uninsured by Tom Delay ("there's no one denied health care in America") and Mitch McConnell ("Well, they don't go without health care"), that GOP fraud is belied by the long lines at free health care clinics nationwide.
And the estimated 45,000 Americans who needlessly die each year simply because they lack health insurance.
"The Health Care Law Adds to the Deficit." A staple in the failed Republican efforts to defeat and repeal the Affordable Care Act, it's also predictably untrue.
In January, Eric Cantor (R-VA), the second ranking House Republican, said the ACA "spends money we don't have in this country":
"I think what we do know is the health care bill costs over $1 trillion," Cantor told Hill. "And we know it was full of budget gimmickry."
Not according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which earlier this year explained that the repeal of the 2010 health care law would add $230 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years. As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post put it, "Repealing health-care reform would cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- and Eric Cantor knows it."
"Barack Obama Was Not Born in the United States." The Birther myth originally amplified by the Tea Party faithful is now accepted as truth among Republican primary voters. While 51% in a recent PPP poll subscribe to the Birther fantasy, "only 28 percent said they think the president was born in the United States."
Despite its debunking by FactCheck.org and virtually every other media organization during the 2008 campaign, the notion that Barack Obama was born somewhere other than Hawaii is now mainstream among Republicans. While Donald Trump has ridden the wave of Birtherism to the top of the 2012 GOP presidential pack, through their refusal to condemn the smear other White House hopefuls like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann and party leaders like John Boehner and Eric Cantor keep dope alive.
"Barack Obama is a Muslim." In America, there are no religious tests for public office. But it comes to affirming Barack Obama's Christian faith, large and growing numbers of conservatives fail the test.
As the Tea Party movement gained momentum in 2009, surveys revealed that 17% of Republicans and 19% of white evangelicals (74% of whom voted for John McCain) insist President Obama is a Muslim, despite his repeated pronouncements and decades of church attendance to the contrary. And as Bloomberg noted yesterday:
A Pew Research Center poll last year showed that nearly one-third of Republicans believed the president, a churchgoing Christian, was a Muslim.
"Public Employees Are Overpaid." While the Republican war on public employees takes many forms, virtually none of them true.
John Boehner's claim that "since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs" and Tim Pawlenty's assertion that since January 2008 "local, state and federal governments added 590,000" are both pathetically false. While the federal employment as a percentage as a percentage of U.S. population is now down to levels not seen since the 1950's, the draconian cutbacks by states and municipalities have more than wiped out the meager job growth in Washington.
More important, studies of both federal and state workers shows that comparably educated public suffer a wage penalty. An assessment of salaries (excluding benefits) by the Office of Personnel Management found that on average comparable federal civilian workers are paid 22 percent less than private workers. Analyses from the Economic Policy Institute and the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts similarly upended tired union-bashing claims from the likes of Chris Christie ("There are "two classes of people in New Jersey: Public employees who receive rich benefits, and those who pay for them") and Mitt Romney ("Average government workers are now making $30,000 a year more than the average private-sector worker").
As it turns out, compensation for state and local public employees is worst among the usual suspects. As the New York Times recently documented, state workers without a college degree generally make more than their private sector counterparts ($34,000 versus $32,000, or a 6.3% gap), while college graduates make much less (a -19.9% gap). But in the reddest of states, public employees experience a pay deficit regardless of education level. In Mississippi, the pay penalty for state workers without a college degree is 11.9%; for college graduates the deficit is 16.9%.
"We Went to War [with Iraq] Because We Were Attacked." President Bush made that statement on June 18, 2005 despite having admitted the previous September "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th." By December 2008, Bush's linkage had morphed into the "risk we could not afford to take."
As it turns out, for George W. Bush the "risk we could not afford to take" was not averting war with Iraq, but the absence of a compelling sales pitch for it. And to be sure, Bush was in that regard quite successful. As an October 2003 PIPA survey showed, even after the invasion of Iraq, majorities of Americans continued to believe Bush administration claims about Saddam (Iraq role in 9/11, an alliance between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and Saddam's WMD) all long since proven false. (Unsurprisingly, viewers of Fox News were the most delusional.) And as late as July 2006, fully 50% of Americans still believed the discredited claim that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Still, the zombie myths that wouldn't die about WMD and Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda continued even after the end of the Bush administration. Condoleezza Rice, who in 2006 insisted "there were ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime," claimed in March 2009 that "no one was arguing that Saddam Hussein somehow had something to do with 9/11." Of course, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer made exactly that argument just days before:
"After September 11th having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might strike again? And that's the threat that has been removed and I think we are all safer with that threat removed."
As it turned out, the only WMD - weapons of mass deception - were found not in Iraq, but in the Bush administration.
"Abortion Causes Cancer and Psychological Trauma for Women." In recent months, Republicans in Congress and in the states have shown their sneering disregard for "the health of the mother" when it comes to the reproductive rights of American women. Abortion bans which refuse to allow exceptions for incest and even statutory rape are apparently now standard fare for the GOP, as is letting women die untreated rather than letting have life-saving abortions.
But even as they push "heartbeat" and "fetal pain" bills, extend waiting times, require mandatory counseling and ultrasounds viewings, conservatives premise abortion restrictions on claims unproven - or completely rejected - by scientific consensus. Several states including Texas, Louisiana, Kansas and Mississippi require family planning practitioners to inform patients of a link between abortion and cancer, despite voluminous research and scientific research to the contrary published by National Cancer Institute's own panel of experts and the British journal The Lancet. Then in 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a federal late term abortion ban based on so-called "post-abortion syndrome." As Justice Kennedy wrote in perhaps the most condescending and paternalistic majority opinion in recent memory:
"While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained."
Sadly for Justice Kennedy and the reproductive rights of American women, there is abundant and reliable data which show the exact opposite.
And so it goes for the NITBAFS propaganda operation that is the modern Republican Party. Last fall, Democrats were calling for a $3.8 trillion, across the board tax hike - except they weren't. Democrats are socialists, despite the fact the economy and stock market alike almost always do better under Democratic presidents. Despite raising taxes 11 times, Ronald Reagan is the great tax cutter. (That supposed icon of small government tripled the national debt while boosting real federal spending by a quarter before leaving office.) Despite doubling the national debt under George W. Bush, Republicans are the party of fiscal discipline. The stimulus, which the CBO in February concluded the nonpartisan program had saved or created up to 3.5 million jobs, lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.9% and boosted GDP by 4.1%, is a "failure." Meanwhile in Texas, Governor Rick Perry proclaimed "we can take care of ourselves" even though $6.4 billion in federal stimulus money plugged 97% of the Lone Star State's deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal budget.
For his part, comedian Stephen Colbert is having a great time with Jon Kyl's admission that when he lies, the claim in question was "not intended to be a factual statement." As it turns out, it was also Colbert who told President Bush to his face, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."
So, as they have been for years, the Republicans are simply manufacturing their own reality.