File this as our own pet peeve!

FRIDAY, JULY 7, 2017

But also, as a sign of the times:
We don't know why people want to do things like this so badly.

We refer to this, the start of a new post by Kevin Drum:
DRUM (7/7/17): A couple of weeks ago, Kellyanne Conway denied that the Senate health care bill cut Medicaid. “These are not cuts to Medicaid,” she said. “This slows the rate for the future.”

This is the lamest, tiredest trope imaginable, and it’s flat-out false.
In inflation-adjusted dollars—the only kind that honest people use—CBO estimates that the Senate bill cuts Medicaid spending by about 18 percent over the next decade. As a result, 15 million fewer people will receive Medicaid by 2026. That’s a cut by anyone’s definition.
Was Conway's statement "flat-out false?" Was she describing "a cut by anyone's definition?"

Plainly, she wasn't defining a cut by her own definition. And no, we'd have to say that her statement wasn't "flat-out false" in any obvious sense.

What was her statement? We'd rewrite Drum's critique this way:
DRUM REWRITTEN: This is the lamest, tiredest trope imaginable. Conway's statement can be defended as technically accurate. That said, her statement is also grossly misleading. It's a type of claim which has been used, for decades, to create confusion among the public—to create a false impression about an important topic.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, the CBO estimates that the Senate bill would cut Medicaid spending by about 18 percent over the next decade. As a result, 15 million fewer people would receive Medicaid by 2026.

Medicaid spending would rise from this year's level, by a relatively small amount. But due to ten years of inflation, Medicaid services would have to be sharply cut.
I have no idea why someone would rather say Conway's statement is "flat-out false" than make a more accurate statement which is perhaps more scathing.

Or maybe we do know why:

When we say the statement is flat-out false, it makes us feel good inside. Our body parts swell with blood and with pride.

We have expressed our partisan outrage in a bold, vibrant manner. We've said that we're the good people, unlike Them.

It's also likely that we have extended and clouded an utterly pointless debate. Along will come a range of hacks, not excluding Conway herself, who will spend the next several hours creating confusion out of our fiery statement.

People like Drum are easy meat for skillful dissemblers like Conway. His type has been eaten alive, on cable TV, for lo these many years.

(We first wrote about this particular type of confusion in 1995. The liberal world's inability to settle this question with respect to the Gingrich Medicare proposal was one of the year-long gong shows which led us to start this site.)

Conway's statement is grossly misleading. It has long been part of the dissembler's trade.

That said, when we say the statement is "flat-out false," we're preaching to the cheers from our own choir. As we do, we tend to extend a pointless debate which we tend to lose in the end.

Drum declared himself a convert in the wake of November's election. This was very impressive, of course, but his is the kind of childish statement the dissembler tends to pummel the convert with.

The convert is teaching us how to lose. But dear lord, it feels so good, so fine!

(Needless to say, Drum's headline refers to "lies." We tend to lose games that way too. It's a claim The Others adore.)

Drum was long our favorite blogger. With his conversion, we had to make an adjustment. In secular matters, we simply don't trust the religious type. They tend to lose games for our side, even games which should be easy to win.

39 comments:

  1. When you serve fewer people it is a cut.

    Sewing semantic confusion with gorilla dust and calling liberals losers lets Somerby preach to his tiny choir. It makes his swell with pride. And avenges Al.

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    Replies
    1. Jonny Scrum-halfJuly 7, 2017 at 8:31 PM

      Let me try: when people like Conway say outrageous things, if our response is to overstate the outrage, then she and her supporters can focus on our over-statement, not the fact that she's been called-out for an outrage. That's how people end up believing "both sides do it," and that neither is better than the other.

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    2. Johnny,
      Are you sure that's where Bob is coming from? Or is he protesting when liberals do it, because it works for Conservatives?

      Delete
    3. "technically accurate" Really? Perhaps according to the technique of "equivocation." This is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to conceal or minimize something, in fact, awful for those affected. Isn’t the reticence shown here an evasive form of political correctness?
      If lying is intentionally misleading people for some personal advantage in a way that harms those to whom it is addressed, then, the word lying is appropriate and anything else is a euphemism. The only difference here with ordinary lying is that they are doing their best to come up with the technical quibble as an excuse.
      The See Drum's post today for a partial genealogy of this marketing of “cuts” under assumed names—back to Newt.

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    4. Kelly Anne is correct. The left is dishonest. This is a colossal hypocrisy of using "dynamic scoring" for one item in the budget and indulging in outrage if used for any other.
      (Sorry for the dupli)

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    5. @8:02 AM - courtesy of BWillard:

      "No its not. Dynamic scoring predicts the impact of fiscal policy changes by forecasting the effects of economic agents' reactions to incentives created by policy. It might even be useful, except when the scorer is asked to make wildly exaggerated assumptions about reactions to incentives.

      This is simply constant dollars versus inflation dollars. Inflation is real. There is no evidence that anyone is making wildly exaggerated assumptions about purchasing power and inflation.

      You either are ignorant or a troll or an ignorant troll.

      shooter242
      June 11, 2012 at 6:54 am
      I’d like to encourage more trollery (sic) on left wing sites... It’s been gratifyingly effective....Try it you’ll like it."

      Delete
  2. Je ne sais pas si ad hominem fait mal ou aide, mais c'est certainement l'ordre du jour ici, et avec plus de tristesse que de rancune, il est impossible d'├ęchapper au fait que Bob Somerby est un idiot.

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  3. Dude. Nuance, subtlety and understatement haven't been working so well lately. Unlike you and me, the great unwashed just don't get it.

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  4. The more things change, the more they stay the same. One thing is given constant. Republican lawmakers are fucking dishonest liars. Period.

    II: Newt speaks—and the press corps listens


    President Clinton talked about Medicare cuts [in the GOP budget]. There are no Medicare cuts. We increase Medicare from $4800 per senior citizen [in 1995] to $6700 per senior citizen [in 2002]. That's a $1900 a year increase. That's an increase, that's not a cut.
    —Newt Gingrich, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 11/14/95

    ***

    A remarkable anecdote casting light on this matter was included by humorist/commentator Al Franken in Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, a best-seller combining humor and satire with policy analysis and personal anecdote. Franken describes Gingrich's performance at Ross Perot's Dallas convention in August 1995, at which Gingrich delivered his standard presentation in a typically aggressive and personal matter. Gingrich, quoted by Franken:

    Now most of you probably do math well enough that you know if you're at 4800 here at you're at 6700 here, that's called an increase. Now I want to go real slow for a minute because we've got a lot of reporters who are listening...
    Now I don't want to be too negative, but you might even have one or two liberals who show up who claim that going from 4800 to 6700 is a cut. Now, this is not because they're bad people; this is an early sign of the educational dysfunction which has hit our society.

    By late 1995, this abusive tone—in support of an indefensible presentation—had become a trademark of the Speaker's appearances promoting the GOP plan.

    After the evening's session, Franken is luxuriating in a Hyatt lounge with CNN's Robert Novak, NewsHour correspondent Margaret Warner, and House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich (R-OH), a key member of the GOP leadership. In challenging Kasich on the Speaker's argument, Franken—a humorist—manages to display the technical competence which completely eluded the press corps all year. And this evokes a reaction so remarkable that I reprint the anecdote in full:

    At one point Novak was extolling Gingrich's "masterful" speech, and I objected, especially to the patronizing crap about the $4800 versus the $6700. So I turned to Kasich:
    "By the way, are those constant dollars?"
    Margaret jumped in. "Of course they're constant dollars. They wouldn't be that dishonest."
    "Sure they would," I said. Turning back to Kasich, "Are those constant dollars?"
    "Al..." Kasich's voice has a touch of annoyance, "we're increasing funding for Medicare."
    "But the $4800 to $6700, has that been adjusted for inflation?"
    "Al, the dollars are going up."
    "I just want to know if those are constant dollars."
    "Al, we're going from 178 billion [total Medicare budget in 1995] to 283 billion [total Medicare budget in 2002]." Kasich gave the others an exasperated look. When will this guy stop?
    "Look. Gingrich is going like, 'Hey, you're a fucking moron if you can't see that 6700 is more than 4800.' I just want to know how big a moron am I. Are those constant dollars?"
    A pause. Then. "No, Al, they're not constant dollars."
    Kasich slumped in his chair and admitted, "I guess we're being a little intellectually dishonest about this one." And I took a few victory laps around the table.
    Margaret was slightly embarrassed and begged me not to repeat the part about her assuming...

    A Tale of Three Numbers

    Bob didn't seem to have a problem calling Gingrich a liar back then. What has changed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting post, mm, and a disturbing question, since Drum was referring pretty much directly what Bob elucidated in the ’96 column you linked to.

      The only thing I can come up with is that Bob has always split hairs when it come to the terms “flat-out false” and “technically accurate.” He seems to believe that using the term “lie” or its analogues is politically disadvantageous.

      Is he right? Hard to tell. But in this age of mass disinformation, perhaps he has a point. He has always believed that “we” need to be better than “them” when discussing these issues, but given the state of our national political discourse, splitting hairs in this fashion seems like tilting at windmills to me.

      Critical reasoning has all but disappeared from our mainstream news orgs, but Bob is always at the ready, and I continue to appreciate that after all these years.

      Leroy

      Delete
  5. When elections come down to which party is giving more freebies, the nation is doomed. Look at Venezuela or Detroit or Illinois. These jurisdictions and others are bankrupting themselves to the point where they cannot fulfill their promises and cannot perform the normal duties of government.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or K Street in Washington DC.
      The whole Conservative schtick about government "freebies" and government regulation goes up in a puff of smoke when you state the obvious way that "freebies" are given away, and regulations are written by lobbyists.
      We could pass a law getting rid of lobbyists tomorrow, if Conservatives had any problems with "freebies" or regulations. They don't. They just want them to go the white kind of people.

      Delete
    2. Republican's endless freebies to big businesses and others with an over-abundance of wealth, those that are determined to swindle the rest of us, has crippled our country and reveals their complete disdain for common folk.

      Fortunately, God has graced our nation with Democratics who have better values and thus better notions than Republicans on how to govern.

      God bless Democratics and our great nation.

      Delete
    3. AnonymousJuly 8, 2017 at 11:01 AM - The first amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Thus lobbyists are protected in the Constitution.

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    4. Silly Boy -- I'm with you in deploring government goodies for businesses. Sadly, both parties do it.

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    5. The first Amendment of the Constitution also guarantees the freedom of assembly. We still round-up non-violent protesters, and charge them with crimes until they get the point. Yet, that Constitutional Right isn't protected. Won't lobbyists, like protesters, just have to deal with losing a protected right (like protesters)?

      Delete
    6. "Sadly, both parties do it."
      That's because elections of governmental representatives is financed by crooks. That requirement must be in the Constitution too, since the originalists on the Supreme Court have waived it through.

      Delete
  6. Hmmm, odd that you left Kansas off that list DiC

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    1. Exactly my thought: the Republican tax-cut paradise. Question: what are the "normal duties" of government? Are there differing views on that?

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    2. The question is easily answered for the federal government, because the Constitution lists all their duties. The Constitution also prohibits the federal government from doing anything not on that list, But, this provision has been pretty much ignored for many years.

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    3. The question is easily answered..

      Says Simple Simon. I wonder why we have need for a Supreme Court, when all we have to do is ask Simple Simon DinC.

      Delete
    4. "The question is easily answered for the federal government, because the Constitution lists all their duties."
      "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare,..."

      So what's the problem, that the Constitution doesn't say"even if the people are black"?

      Delete
    5. So not a word in the Constitution about "corporations". Great, let's rid rid of corporations. Conservatives win because there are no more corporate taxes. And, in exchange, the business owners take on 100% of the liabilities. Certainly, a real Conservative, who really believes what he spouts, would approve.
      Unfortunately, the real Conservative who believes what they spout is hiding behind a parade of unicorns.

      Delete
    6. AnonymousJuly 8, 2017 at 11:17 AM -- the US was established as a FREE country. That is, the people were free and the governmental power was limited. So, in general, things not mentioned in the Constitution were allowed by the people but prohibited for the federal government.

      Delete
    7. Not a word about limiting immigration in the Constitution.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Thanks Bob, that's the kind of stuff I visit this site for.

    So much of the lousy "journalism" is just laziness, not mendacity, although there's plenty of both to go around.

    It's more DUMB REWRITTEN than DRUM REWRITTEN

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  9. "They tend to lose games for our side, even games which should be easy to win."

    Democratic Party leadership are the ones with the real losing streak. The losing streak starts the moment they take power and then compromise away pubic support in favor of a corporate agenda. They're the Chicago Black Sox of politics. It wasn't the talking heads that sabotaged public health care, it was Democratic leaders back in the early Obama years. Remember corporate stooge Sen Max Baucus taking away the public option?

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  10. Why shouldn't liberal talking heads just take-the-money-and-run just like the corporate Dems do? Why should they show any effort when the Dem leaders don’t? Leave them alone Bob. Maybe they get tired of watching their side’s politicians constantly dropping easy pop-ups against a bush league party like the Republicans.

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    Replies
    1. They love power, these taking heads.

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  11. It's not just inflation (which is the rise in price for a given good or service), it's also the growth and aging of the population, so that the total level of even inflation-adjusted Medicaid spending needed to provide the same level of services to all eligible recipients is projected to grow substantially over time.

    Alas...writing this thing well and clearly is not easy.

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  12. Kelly Anne is correct. The left is dishonest.
    This is a colossal hypocrisy of using "dynamic scoring" for one item in the budget and exploding in outrage if used for any other.

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    Replies
    1. @8:00 AM - courtesy of BWillard:

      "No its not. Dynamic scoring predicts the impact of fiscal policy changes by forecasting the effects of economic agents' reactions to incentives created by policy. It might even be useful, except when the scorer is asked to make wildly exaggerated assumptions about reactions to incentives.

      This is simply constant dollars versus inflation dollars. Inflation is real. There is no evidence that anyone is making wildly exaggerated assumptions about purchasing power and inflation.

      You either are ignorant or a troll or an ignorant troll.

      shooter242
      June 11, 2012 at 6:54 am
      I’d like to encourage more trollery (sic) on left wing sites... It’s been gratifyingly effective....Try it you’ll like it."

      Delete
  13. Funny, Bob is confident that Conway, a well established bullshit artist, uses arguments that are "true to her." But in Drum's case, he can look inside the writer's soul and report he misbehaves because it feels good. It was not always so with Bob, way back when.

    ReplyDelete
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