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Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Long-Run Harm of 'Putting Ideology Ahead of Reality'

Republicans attack anyone or anything that disagrees with them. The attempt to politicize the Congressional Research Service is the latest example:

Ideology Over Reality, by Andrew Rosenthal, Editorial, NY Times: In a brazen example of putting ideology ahead of reality, Senate Republicans seem to have pressured the Congressional Research Service to withdraw a report debunking conservative economic orthodoxy. Cutting tax rates at the top appears “to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie,” the report said. “However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.” So charging the rich lower tax rates doesn’t promote economic growth; it merely increases economic inequality.
The CRS is a highly respected, independent agency that prepares reports for members of Congress and routinely issues findings that disappoint or even irritate their clients, who usually just grin and bear it, or at least bear it. But Congressional Republicans seem to think that the CRS should function like Pravda. In recent months, Republicans have been on a paranoid tear. They attacked the private and equally authoritative Tax Policy Center because it bothered to analyze Mitt Romney’s tax plan and found that it’s pretty much impossible to cut taxes by 20 percent without increasing the deficit. And they claimed there was a conspiracy at the Bureau of Labor Statistics when it reported last month that the unemployment rate had dipped below 8 percent. ...

The attacks on the Fed have also been harmful, and, of course, it doesn't end there. Republicans attack academic research whenever it doesn't agree with them, e.g. the attempt to portray global warming research as manufactured to support ideological beliefs rather than the science that it is. This behavior undermines our ability to provide fact-based, independent assessments and research on important issues. All that matters to Republicans is their short-run political interests, there's little thought or concern about the longer-run harm their actions cause (their approach to global warming is a good example of this behavior, both in terms of the climate risks and the attempt to undermine academic research/researchers). There's little sense of obligation to the social good, little worry about harming important institutions, only their narrow, short-run, self-interest matters. Even when they proclaim long-run interests -- "what about the future of our children?!" -- it is really about the narrow, powerful interests in control of the party (in this case, it's an attempt to use fear about the future to get support for cuts to social programs now, which in turn support tax cuts for the wealthy, but see here on "the myth of the exploding safety net"). And of course, there are also attacks on individuals if they say the wrong thing (even children can come under attack).

Paul Krugman adds:

The Ultimate Zombie Idea: Zombie ideas — a phrase I originally saw in the context of myths about Canadian health care — are policy ideas that keep being killed by evidence, but nonetheless shamble relentlessly forward, essentially because they suit a political agenda.
The controversy over the withdrawal by the Congressional Research Service of a report showing no connection between tax cuts for the rich and economic growth is a reminder that in U.S. politics, at least, the tax cuts/growth notion is the ultimate zombie idea.
I mean, when the CRS report first came out I didn’t write about it because it was basically old news... Nobody has ever been able to find clear evidence of a link between high-end tax cuts and growth. ...
And the tax-cut faithful have delivered one forecasting debacle after another. I’m old enough to remember not just the predictions that the Bush tax cuts would unleash a huge economic boom, but the claims that Clinton’s 1993 tax hike would cause a deep depression.
Yet the tax-cut dogma remains politically intact, and it is at the core of Romney’s alleged plan for recovery.
There is, of course, no mystery here: just ask who benefits from the dogma that ever-lower taxes on the wealthy are just what we need, and you understand why there is always plenty of money for both economists and politicians who promote the dogma.
But it’s kind of sad to realize that our public discourse is so obviously, nakedly corrupt.

It's also kind of sad that political polarization and the quest for power is doing so much harm to our ability to provide fact-based, reliable, politically unbiased information to the public. People don't know who they can trust anymore, and the deliberate harm that Republicans have caused is a big part of the reason why.

    Posted by on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 11:45 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (70)


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