The War on Bullshit
I opened the dead-tree edition of the StarTribune one fine sunny day recently and went, as is my wont, to the comics section to get a good laugh before heading on to the rest of the paper.
Now, the Strib, during the editorial reign of the non-lamented Anders Gyllenhaal, he who was brought in by McClatchy and then rather conveniently bailed for the masthead of another McClatchy paper right before the Strib was sold off to pay for the horrendous debt McClatchy incurred when it swallowed the Knight-Ridder empire, was oh-so-obsessed with 'balance'. Rather, it was oh-so-obsessed with running to do the bidding of whichever right-wing yobbo with a microphone was hollering at them at the time. Gyllenhaal, among other things, hired longtime archconservative D.J. "Doug" Tice to oversee the paper's political coverage, hired the supremely nutty Katherine Kersten to do commentary, and started polluting the Strib's editorial pages with wacked-out syndicated columns by the likes of Debra J. Saunders and Jonah Goldberg, while cutting back on (if not doing away entirely with) columns by sane people such as Molly Ivins and Paul Krugman. (The Strib used to carry every single Krugman column; now we're lucky if we get to see one of his columns a month.)
But one of the most egregious moves made during the Gyllenhaal Era was the addition of noted DWI collector and right-wing bullshit artist Bruce "Mallard Fillmore" Tinsley to the comics section.
For those of you lucky enough not to have encountered Mr. Tinsley's work, a good synopsis of it was done by Chris Kelly for Huffington Post last year. As Kelly notes, Tinsley has this weird do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do obsession with Ted Kennedy and drunken driving. I swear to God, it seems like one out of every ten strips has a Teddy Kennedy reference in it somewhere. He also likes putting hooked noses on all Jewish people he draws — even when, as with Jon Stewart, they really don't have marked hooked noses in real life. It's as if he wants to make sure that his target audience knows that this is a Jewish guy he's drawing.
Tinsley wouldn't be a wingnut if he didn't rail against making rich people pay taxes, and true to form, he's been having a running battle with the non-wingnuts in his readership that keep sending him pesky unwanted facts, such as how supply-side "let's raise tax revenues by cutting rich people's taxes" economics is total steaming bullshit. Last Saturday, he borrowed a page out of Fred Thompson's and the Club for Growth's Big Book of Bullshit and laid this atrocity down in front of his readers: "JFK, Reagan and this president [Bush] all increased tax revenue by cutting tax rates!"
One of the problems with debunking shameless right-wing bullshit is that it nearly invariably takes more energy (and verbiage) to debunk than it did to create, because there are still more bullshit transmitters with big megaphones than there are bullshit debunkers with even medium-sized megaphones. Just today, The Politico (which is essentially "Matt Drudge rules our world" in Latin) ran a silly piece on how much a recent haircut cost John Edwards ($500! Release the hounds!) — and of course conservative meme transmitter Drudge had it headlined on his site with nanoseconds. (Neither Drudge nor the folks associated with The Politico paid anywhere near as much attention to Laura Bush's $700 haircuts back in January of 2005. Ah, well.)
In the case of the recent pronouncement of Tinsley's, it's hard to know where to begin. The only reason I'm bothering with it is because it and Fred Thompson's idiotic column in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal (hat tip to Barbara O'Brien of the Mahablog) look to be the vanguard of a renewed attempt to push this particular bullshit meme so hard and so often it becomes accepted as fact by the lazy.
Let's take on the JFK part of the atrocity first. Yes, JFK advocated cutting taxes. But those of regular Americans, not of rich people. The idea was to do a classic Keynesian "priming the pump": put money in the pockets of the people most likely to spend it (that is, you and me), and the economy gets a nice little boost that sets it in motion — a boost that was needed to shake the nation out of the recession that had plagued Eisenhower's last term in office. So why didn't Kennedy cut the taxes of rich people as well? Because the trouble with cutting the taxes of rich people is that instead of spending the money they get, they tend to hang onto it for dear life — and when they do spend it, it's to move their factories overseas. This is Basic Economics 101.
As for Reagan: Yeah, he cut taxes in 1981 — and then raised them every year thereafter, aside from 1988, once the deficit started spiraling out of control due to (you guessed it) a drop in tax revenues. As Barbara O'Brien of the Mahablog notes, Reagan raised taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987. (His favorite euphemism for tax increases: "Revenue enhancement".)
As for the claim that Bush's tax cuts for the rich boosted revenue: The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has pretty much stomped that bit of bullshit into the dirt. Click here and here for the details. Jonathan Chait of The New Republic not only debunks the bullshit, he rubs the conservatives' noses in it with a quote from conservative economist (and former Bush White House economist) Alan D. Viard: "Federal revenue is lower today than it would have been without the tax cuts. There's really no dispute among economists about that."
The utter bullshit that is part and parcel of Bush and the Republican Party is making itself felt and smelt in ways that even the mainstream press can no longer ignore. Remember the "abstinence-based" sex ed scam, where tens of millions of our tax dollars got diverted to religious-right hucksters and snake-oil salesmen as quid pro quo for their helping deliver the Fundie vote to Bush? Remember how it was going to lower teen pregnancies and all that? A new study shows what we knew all along: It was bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
Then there's the Bush Junta's efforts to take down Sandy Berger — efforts that even the hard-right editorial page of the Wall Street Journal condemned. The Bushies have never forgiven Berger and Richard Clarke for trying to warn them about Al-Qaeda, and it seems that with George Tenet's new book out soon — as well as the new revelations that the French had been telling Bush's CIA people since January of 2001 to expect an attack using hijacked commercial jets — the Bush Junta and their righty minions are doing all they can to fling bullshit on all the people who had tried to warn them about Al-Qaeda (as George "Thee System Was Blinking Red" Tenet had tried) or curb their idiotic jones to invade Iraq (as George Tenet had also tried).
And of course there is the utter bullshit that is the Bush Junta and PNAC Platoon's slow rape-murder of Iraq — and of the US media's complicity in promoting the Bush Junta's bullshit, even though many if not most of them knew it was bullshit. Bill Moyers has a new documentary set to air on PBS this Wednesday, April 25 that mercilessly explores the way our media sold us a bill of goods — and led to the pillaging and slow, grinding destruction of Iraq. You can watch a preview of it here.