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The Zombie Facts that Haunt Our Government’s Dysfunction

"memphis zombie massacre — May 25"

"memphis zombie massacre — May 25" by theogeo on flickr

Is a Tea Party Member of Congress coming to your town? Have they promised to bring you the ‘facts’ about our economic situation? If so, be prepared to separate the zombie facts from the truth.

When Congresswoman Sandy Adams, representing Florida’s District 24, invited constituents to a town hall listening session in Port Orange on August 18th, her email read, “I’m a firm believer in giving you the facts about the direction our country is heading.” Two weeks earlier, on July 31st, she sent us a long list of those facts, “The Facts About Our Economic Situation.” It began with this:

Fact: After a one trillion dollar failed stimulus, two trillion dollars for the government takeover of health care, and three trillion dollar deficits in a row, the president is asking Congress to borrow $2.4 trillion more to pay the bills.

Failed stimulus? Government takeover of healthcare? These are not only boorish Tea Party talking points. They are false. ‘Government takeover of healthcare’ is such a distortion of the truth that it won the 2010 ‘Pants-on-Fire’ Lie of the Year Award on, a Pulitzer Prize winning non-partisan fact checking organization. They are now calling it “the (false) talking point that simply won’t die”.

“Talk about message discipline. Some talking points keep getting recycled, even when they’re not true.”

And even though the National Republican Senate Committee and others make a talking point of “President Obama’s $787 billion failed stimulus”, when PolitiFact looked at the evidence, they found this to be false. Job-creating’ stimulus would be more correct according to four independent analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and three private economic analysis companies (IHS/Global Insight, Moody’s, Macroeconomic Advisors) claiming that up to 3.6 million jobs were saved or created.

Our Congresswoman is wrong to send her constituents emails that read like polarizing campaign propaganda. While that may please her caucus and her Tea Party supporters, such divisive rhetoric does nothing to address the real problems that face our nation, nor does it encourage a respectful forum for dialogue for the people of District 24 of Florida. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter, Derek Catron, made a strong point when he wrote,

“Republicans accounted for 40 percent of the registered voters within District 24 in 2010, just 3 percentage points better than Democrats. Yet with her breezy criticism of Obama and Senate Democrats, Adams often sounds like she hails from a Republican stronghold.”

When Sandy was asked if she would agree to raising taxes on incomes over $250,000, she replied that she would not because it would hurt small business. When a participant noted that very few small businesses made over $250,000, she disagreed. Sandy is shamefully wrong on that one too. According to data and an analysis from the experts at the Tax Policy Center, 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000.

“While proponents acknowledge that less than 3 percent of the taxpayers who would receive the tax cuts actually have some business income, they insist they are the very successful small business owners who will stop hiring and purchasing if they don’t get their tax cut. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Very few of them are what most would consider small business owners. They include partners in large corporate law firms, hedge fund managers, K Street lobbyists, high-powered consultants, Wall Street bond traders and the country’s wealthiest millionaires—all of whom claim some business income and thus are counted in IRS eyes as small businesses. Almost all real small business owners are middle-class Americans with middle-class incomes.” —Frank Knapp, President and CEO, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

When eight GOP presidential candidates were recently asked if they would veto a 10-to-1 spending cut-to-tax increase deal to lower the deficit they all said they would. Warren Buffet called it “pathetic.” It is no surprise that there is growing pessimism and concern about the ability of our government to function. A recent Gallup poll showed the disapproval rating of Congress at 84%. Americans can see through zombie facts and they are tired of them. But the pessimism concerning the dysfunction of our Congress extends beyond the American public, as we saw with the recent credit downgrade by S&P. In its statement, S&P spoke of “political brinkmanship” and noted that the U.S. government’s ability to manage its finances was “less stable, less effective and less predictable.”

Perhaps it is finally time to remind members of Congress of the supremacy of their oath of office and to question any whose rigid allegiance to a partisan pledge keeps them from moving our country forward. Our democratic process has never been easy but it is clearly impossible without the willingness of all members of Congress to reach consensus through compromise. While the American people – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – understand this, there are many in Congress who do not. Or do they just not care? As Scott Maxwell recently wrote in the Orlando Sentinel,

“This isn’t about conservative vs. liberal or left vs. right. This is about right and wrong.”

There is a lot of talk in this nation about our greatness, but the facts indicate that America is adrift. Our leaders are adrift. Education, health-care, hunger, upward mobility, income divide, infrastructure – wherever we look we see a nation that is slipping away from greatness. A great nation is one that can solve its problems, embrace diversity, encourage intellectual curiosity and an entrepreneurial spirit. It looks to the future, learns from the past, inspires by example, never forgets its humanity, and it refuses to be haunted by zombie facts.

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Diana Robinson Bardyn

Diana Robinson Bardyn