Evidence of absence

The biggest thing I learned from the run-up to the Iraq war is that when one side presents arguments that are deceitful and nonsensical, it doesn’t just mean that those arguments are bunk, it means that that side probably has no *good* arguments for their position. To put it in Rumsfeldese, absence of evidence is, in this case, evidence of absence.

I think this lesson applies to today’s neo-Hooversits. Behold the most idiotic graph I have ever seen, from Arthur Laffer’s WSJ piece arguing against unemployment benefits (via Kevin Drum):

That’s right — as the number of unemployed people goes up, the total payments to unemployed people goes up! Imagine that! Laffer actually argues that this shows that unemployment benefits encourage people not to work.

And here’s Alan Simpson engaging in some creative accounting to argue in favor of gutting Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare:

The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans — the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries,” Simpson said.

Reader DV explains the deception here:

But the bolded statement (the Medicaid/Medicare/SS) consume the entire federal budget is, plainly, untrue. I know this for other reasons but you can follow this link) from within the same fucking article and see that those three programs combined to cost 1.5T and actually revenue was/is 2.6T (these are projected 11 numbers but same difference)’. That statement by Simpson is a plain, unadulterated lie. How does Balz report on the budget without any idea of its details and how does he not fact check Simpson’s incredible claim?

FWIW, I think Simpson deducted the payroll taxes to get the numbers close except, of course payroll taxes are largely dedicated to SS and Medicare.

I recognize that there are legitimate discussions to be had about entitlement programs. But I have to think that if there were good reasons they have to be slashed, the neo-Hooverists wouldn’t have to resort to lies and deception to make their point.

How Do They Say This Stuff With a Straight Face?

And why are they not being called on it by the “journalists” they spew this nonsense to:

Republican Senate Minority Whip John Kyl was hammered by Democrats earlier this week for backing extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy – and insisting they need not be paid for.

Now Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured) is backing up Kyl’s position.

“That’s been the majority Republican view for some time,” McConnell told TPMDC. “That 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.”

McConnell’s argument is that even though the government would be forgoing hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue by extending the tax cuts on relatively wealthy Americans, that loss will be more than offset by the growth spurred by keeping the money in taxpayers’ pockets. (The Obama administration wants to extend the cuts for Americans making less than $200,000 or $250,000 but let them lapse for those making more than that.)

WTF is he talking about? That just makes no sense whatsoever. None. Zero. One of the main justifications of the tax cuts back in 2001 was that the surplus was too large and we didn’t want the government having to reinvest or have too much money, so we would cut taxes so the government would have less money and give it back to “the people who earned it.” Now McConnell says that despite the fact that there is several trillion dollars less in the government cofferes because of the tax cuts, those tax cuts bring in more revenue. So why did the surplus not increase?

How do they get away with this shit? Any journalist who doesn’t laugh in the face of someone spewing this nonsense should go home, rip up their j-school diploma, and then do the honorable thing.

The Hills are Alive

Today’s New York Times reports that FEMA trailers have re-appeared in the Gulf as a source of cheap housing for oil spill cleanup workers. Because the trailers were constructed with cheap materials, they have unsafe levels of formaldehyde.

That’s not the only place those things have landed. I’m traveling in the Dakotas and the hills on the reservations are dotted with these things. The GSA says they’re for “recreational use”, but the tribes who received them weren’t told that. They made the reasonable assumption that the government wouldn’t truck trailers from Texas as vacation homes for some of the poorest people in the US.

GOP To Vote No on Financial Reform

No one could have predicted:

The Senate’s top Republican on Tuesday called on Republicans to oppose the Democratic Wall Street reform bill because it does not adequately safeguard against the government’s power to bail out massive banks in the future.

“If there is one thing Americans agree on when it comes to financial reform, it’s absolutely sure they agree on this,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Never again should tax payers be expected to bail out Wall Street from its own mistakes. We cannot allow endless tax payer-funded bailouts for big wall street banks.”

Watching the Democrats fumble this is going to be especially infuriating.

Welfare States

The Fourth Branch recently posted two interesting maps. This one shows, in red, the states that get more than $1.00 back for every dollar they send to the federal government.

This one should look familiar:

Perhaps Wolf Blitzer could project the first map on one of the Situation Room screens the next time some Southern Republican is bloviating about federal handouts.

(via Ezra Klein)