I Hate Politicians, and So Should You

Partisan propaganda is easy. Today I saw this photograph (source via Wil Wheaton’s Tumblr):

Anti-Romney Propaganda

Of course we should forget about Mitt Romney. That shouldn’t default as an endorsement of Barack Obama. I created the image below:

My anti-Obama Propaganda

See how easy that is? Should I thus assume that those against Romney think any (or all) of the factual marks against Obama indicate the same “don’t vote for him” decision that facts about Romney indicate?

They’re both liars. All politicians are liars. Why would I vote for either of these liars, when both will only take away the rights of citizens and steal more power for government?

Pee-wee Herman Should Read the Transcript

Last month Arnold Kling wrote a great post:

The following thought occurred to me recently. Suppose we look at writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can

(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author

(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author

(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author

So, think about it. Wouldn’t you classify most op-eds and blog posts as (c)? Isn’t that sort of pathetic? …

I think that’s right, and worth remembering when writing to persuade. More importantly, he wrote about Tyler Cowen:

Tyler is good at paying attention to the strongest arguments of those with whom he disagrees. Focusing on weaker arguments instead is a classic (c) move. …

That is exactly right, and it’s the antithesis of partisan politics. It’s the primary reason I despise partisanship.

With the new perpetual election season, but specifically the imminent 2012 election, we’re stuck with this. The current example is Rush Limbaugh pretending that the villain in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, is a liberal swipe at Mitt Romney because the character’s name is Bane, which is similar to Bain, the venture capital firm Romney ran. So, Limbaugh is a radio DJ who said something obviously ridiculous. Therefore, we get to indict Republicans for believing this.

For example:

To believe that Bane is a Hollywood conspiracy to elect Barack Obama, you’d have to believe that Bane co-creators Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Graham Nolan* (COINCIDENCE?!?!?!) anticipated prior to Romney even announcing a run for public office that Romney would eventually win the GOP primary in 2012, or that Christopher Nolan, anticipating all of this, chose to pick a villain whose name sounds like the company Romney used to work for. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of Republican who believes Barack Obama’s parents placed a fraudulent birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper in order to shore up his claim to American citizenship in the event he might someday run for president, this probably doesn’t sound like the dumbest thing ever.

Rush Limbaugh is estimated to have around 15 million listeners. Fifteen million.

If you’re that kind of Republican, of course you’re that gullible. But if you’re that kind of person, you’ll believe anything your partisan friends spew. You want to believe. That’s powerful in hiding the truth.

Even if we assume all 15 million listeners of Limbaugh’s program believe every stupid thing he says, we’re left with 294 million Americans who don’t listen to him. Are they all Democrats? If so, President Obama has nothing to worry about. If not, then presumably the goal is to convince the non-Democrats that President Obama is the best choice. Using this as a tool for anything other than mocking Rush Limbaugh is focusing on the weaker arguments.

It’s also worth asking whether or not it’s possible to find 15 million Democrats who believe stupid, irrational nonsense about Republicans.

P.S. The Limbaugh transcript should get this treatment.

All Your Citizens Are Belong to Us

Thomas Ricks has an op-ed in today’s New York Times on reinstating a peace-time draft. It’s embarrassing in many ways, but two especially:

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

Great, can we implement this now? That means no taxes, as well, right? I know, hahahaha, of course not. A straw man dipped in gasoline is easily burned.

But most of all, having a draft might, as General McChrystal said, make Americans think more carefully before going to war. Imagine the savings — in blood, tears and national treasure — if we had thought twice about whether we really wanted to invade Iraq.

Three words: starve the beast. With the national debt standing at $15,883,106,924,772.24 and counting, when can we put that to rest? Politicians do not operate on logic. And the majority of voters would still not be participants whenever our government waged war. The cannon fodder would still be a minority to be wielded by the majority. They just wouldn’t be volunteers any more. That’s not an improvement.

Political Healing Is Not Physical Healing

So, I was wrong with my prediction on the ACA. I was correct that if the mandate went down, all of it would go. But Chief Justice Roberts agreed that the mandate acts as a tax. Okay.

There are still other problems. Eugene Robinson highlights them, although not intentionally.

The political impact of Thursday’s stunning Supreme Court decision on health-care reform is clear — good for President Obama and the Democrats, bad for Mitt Romney and the Republicans — but fleeting, and thus secondary. Much more important is what the ruling means in the long term for the physical and moral health of the nation.

I find the idea that this is an improvement to our nation’s “moral health” ridiculous and offensive. It’s the simplistic view that opposition to the ACA is opposition to the claimed goals. It’s the pretense that opposition is founded on an “I got mine, so screw you” idea. It’s hackish. Opposition guarantees no such intention, and maybe I’m foolish, but granting the government more power to use force against individuals is hardly an improvement in our moral health.

All but lost in the commentary about the court’s 5 to 4 ruling, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. unexpectedly joining the majority, is that the Affordable Care Act was intended as just a beginning. We have far to go, but at least we’re on our way.

Obama’s great achievement is not any one element of the health-care reform law — not even the now-upheld “individual mandate,” which compels individuals to have health insurance or pay a fine. The important thing is the law’s underlying assumption that every American, rich or poor, should have access to adequate health care.

But that’s not the issue. The important thing is how well the law will achieve its aims. Will it? Which unintended consequences will result? What will it cost in trade-offs? Early evidence suggests a strong “no” for the first question, which should raise further concerns about questions two and three.

Here, we don’t even get to the first question. Mr. Robinson is endorsing the Do Something theory of government. This is Something, so it must be good. It’s untethered from outcome. We’ve merely expressed the right feelings that every American should have access to adequate health care. That isn’t a solution to a problem that exists in large part because of previous feelings-premised public policy solutions. The ACA is not the only way to try to achieve the real goal of reform and improving health care access and outcomes. The ACA merely doubles down on the existing structural problems. When government is failing, ordering more government is hardly a credible solution.

As I wrote in my prediction, tying insurance to employment is inefficient and stupid. Our current unemployment rate is an excellent indicator of a flaw in the policy. Mr. Robinson gets at this:

Most working-age Americans who have health insurance obtained it through their employers. But this is a haphazard and inefficient delivery route that puts U.S. businesses at a disadvantage against foreign competitors, most of which shoulder no such burden. Tying health insurance to the workplace also distorts the labor market and discourages entrepreneurship by forcing some employees to stay where they are — even in dead-end jobs — rather than give up health insurance.

With this acknowledged, it appears the only way to endorse the ACA is to focus on the important thing, the good feelings. The ACA will work to untie insurance from employment, but only because it makes the burden of employer-provided insurance so onerous. It pushes people into public options. That’s aiming for single-payer without having the political courage to admit the aim. Such lack of courage does not suggest good outcomes when the inevitable financial crisis from the ACA results. And now, because this reform was so ham-fisted and clueless, no one will have the political capital necessary to reform the reform.

Rather than seek a radical reshaping of the health-care system, Obama pushed through a set of relatively modest reforms that will expand insurance coverage to a large number of the uninsured — about 30 million — but still not all. He also tried to use free-market forces to “bend the curve” of rising costs, slowing but not halting their rise.

The ACA doesn’t try to use free-market forces. It attempts to manipulate them, at best, and pretend they don’t exist, at worst. It’s the idea that prices can be mandated, that supply and demand are fully malleable with political will. It’s neither an honest nor an intelligent attempt by the Congress and President Obama. It will fail. The only questions are how soon, who will be harmed, and what will we do in response.