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Richard (RJ) Eskow
Published: Sunday 30 December 2012
The Occupy movement changed Democratic political rhetoric, which changed poll numbers aand arguably changed the election results.

The Top 12 Political Fallacies of 2012

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Our nation was gripped by so many fallacies and delusions in 2012 that the whole Mayan calendar end-of-the-world thing didn’t even make the list.

Even those apocalyptic prophecies were more plausible than the idea that cutting Social Security will help the deficit, that government spending cuts will jump-start the economy, there were no crimes on Wall Street, or that we live in a “divided nation” whose “center” wants more business as usual in Washington.

Here then, without further ado, are our Top 12 Political Fallacies for 2012.

1. Austerity works.

Last year we said austerity economics was dead. It is. Unfortunately nobody told the politicians. They’re still trying to force it onto the people of Europe, even as its effects make the economies there progressively worse.

They’re trying to force more of it on us, too. The Republicans want to decimate Social Security, Medicare, roads and highways, education, programs for the poor … The Democrats offer a more modest form of austerity, but austerity’s exactly what the President last proposed to Congress.

If austerity’s so good for us, why are they trying to terrify us with the a”fiscal cliff”? T heirMonster In the Closet is austerity. Apparently they don’t see the irony in that. But there’s something else they shouldn’t overlook.

Obama will never run for office again, but most of Democrats on the Hill will. Hope they don’t forget that – because we won’t.

2. We need less government spending.

The flip side of this delusion is the notion that government spending is our problem. It’s not. In fact, right now it’s the solution.

We need more jobs to stimulate the economy. Without them, large segments of the population will continue to live in a prolonged state of deprivation unless government does something about it.

We need more better education and more advancement opportunities for our children. And our roads, bridges and schools are crumbling all around us.

Spending cuts aren’t even the solution to the Federal deficit – not in the short term. Government spending falls as a percentage of GDP when the whole economy grows – and the way to make it grow is by priming the economic pump and building for the future, not with shortsighted spending cuts.

Know who’s a real job creator? Someone with a job.

3. Social Security is in ‘crisis’ and we need to cut it.

No, and No.

Yes, Social Security has a projected long-term shortfall in its ability to pay benefits,starting in 2036 or so. But that projection’s based on a lot of different assumptions – including the assumption that we won’t fix our wage stagnation problem, that we can’t put a lot more people back to work, and that we lack the political will to lift the payroll tax cap to make up for the shortfall in revenue caused by the unexpected increased in six-, seven-, and eight-figure income as the result of growing wage inequity.

And anyone who says that retiring Baby Boomers are part of the problem is peddling snake oil. The last Boomer was born in 1964, and we fixed Social Security in 1983. At least, it was fixed until the top 1 percent – and top 0.1 percent – started hijacking our national income.

What’s changed since 1983? We didn’t produce more Boomers. In 1983 the youngest of them was already old enough to drive to the record store for the latest Huey Lewis and the News album.

What we HAVE produced is more wealth inequity.

4. Medicare benefits need to be cut, too.

Medicare has a serious long-term cost problem. But cutting benefits won’t help – whether it’s done by raising the Medicare age, by limiting what it pays for, or imposing arbitrary caps on what it will spend.

If we do those things, overall health care costs will continue to rise. And we’ll have sicker seniors, more seniors in poverty, and seniors who don’t live as long.

Means-testing won’t cut it, either. Scratch most means-testing proposals and you’ll find they’re not targeting “millionaires and billionaires” – they’re aimed at the middle class.

We already know how to handle “millionaires and billionaires” more fairly: Raise their taxes. That’s simple, clean, efficient, and fair.

The only way to fix our Medicare cost problem is by fixing the impact of unrestrained greed on our health care system. We need to do something about that — now.

We don’t need to cover less. We need to pay less.

5. We’re “living beyond our means.

More snake oil.It’s undertaxed corporations and billionaires who are living beyond our nation’s means, by claiming an inordinate and unearned share of our nation’s wealth and not paying their fair share of taxes for it.

We have the means to be the country we’ve always been. What we’ve lacked is the political will to buck the moneyed forces who are dismantling a system that’s worked for 75 years.

Ours is a country that won two world wars. We once led the world in economic growth and blazed the way in science, technology, and the arts. We decided to send human beings to the moon and back in ten years … and did it.

Now we’re told it’s “beyond our means” to live as well as we did in 1969. There’s a word for that, but it’s not printable.

6. Our problems aren’t anybody’s fault.

This fallacy might be called the “Sh*t Happens” school of economic thinking. It says that the economy just crashes from time to time, recurrent and unavoidable disasters just like earthquakes.

But we avoided these crises for decades by regulating Wall Street and prosecuting crooked bankers. When we stopped doing those things we got another crisis.

Cause and effect.

7. Banks paid back what they owed us from the bailout.

Here’s why this is a fallacy: First, we don’t have a full accounting even now. Secondly, we’re still responsible for the enormous amount of toxic risk which Wall Street created and the government then assumed on its behalf.

Besides, that’s not how business works. Every major bank in this country was a failing business with intolerable risk exposure. Loans under those conditions are of enormous and inestimable value.

When you ask nothing in return – not partial ownership, not a percentage of the profits, not even an end to their criminal behavior – you’re giving away the store. And when you give those loans to serial crooks and cheaters – people who serially cheat you – people, you’ve been had.

8. Wall Street-ers didn’t commit any crimes – or they’re too hard to prosecute.

Which gets us to our next fallacy, or fallacies. There’s overwhelming evidence, and a mound of billion-dollar settlements, demonstrating that banks — and individual bank executives — broke laws over and over in the run-up to the current crisis.

These mountains of prima facie evidence were ignored, and continue to be ignored, by the Obama/Holder Justice Department.

Now we’ve learned that all the banks knowingly defrauded regulators in a LIBOR scandal. All of them!

LIBOR is like one of those Agatha Christie novels where all the suspects did it.

9. “Ideologues” are getting in the way of “bipartisan” and “technocratic” solutions to our problems.This is another fallacy – one they’ve been using to sell unwise, unpopular, and unfair policies. It’s usually attached to billionaire-funded corporate agendas like those of the “Simpson Bowles” plan, the Democratic group called Third Way, and the corporate CEOs of “Fix the Debt.”

They always say their plan’s been designed by “technocrats,” but that “ideologues” and “divisiveness” are getting in the way.

But the so-called “ideologues” fighting austerity represent Americans in all walks of life, across the political spectrum. They also represent a growing consensus among most economists who aren’t tied to right-wing institutions – including Nobel Prize winners like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, and those who work for the IMF.

There’s a word for the people who keep complaining that the “ideologues” are getting in their way: Lobbyists.

10. A “divided nation” elected a “divided government” through a democratic process.

No. Democrats won the Presidency and the Senate by decisive margins, both state-by-state and in the popular vote. They even won a handsome victory in the House, but lost it because of sleazy GOP gerrymandering.

They won because they promised to defend Social Security and Medicare, and to tax earnings over $250,000. Now the President and Nancy Pelosi are pushing a plan that cuts Social Security, even though there’s no evidence the Republicans are insisting that Social Security be part of the deal.

Think the election would have turned out this way if Obama and Pelosi had told the public what they’d be doing in December?

Republicans aren’t speaking for half of a divided nation. And Democrats who don’t live up to their campaign promises aren’t honoring the small-”d” democratic process.

11. It’s about politicians.

“Obamabots” vs. “Obama bashers”: It’s on. Again. But it’s not about Obama – or Bill and Hillary, or any other political leader. If you attach your hopes to them you’re setting yourself up for a snow job, like Bill’s huckstering of late for the Fix the Debt/Simpson/Bowles corporate austerity plan.

But the flip side – hating or resenting them – is a distraction, and it can eat away at the soul.

Politics is not a celebrity sport. Corporate interests understand that. They’ve gotten a lot of politicians to throw the game by throwing their money around, and even some of the better ones feel they’ll lose if they don’t compromise.

Sure, brave politicians can make a huge difference. (Thank you, Bernie Sanders. And Raul Grijalva. And Keith Ellison. And Jan Schakowsky. It’s a long list, and we hope to add Elizabeth Warren and a couple more names to it soon.)

We still need to “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery” — especially in the form of hero-worshipping or demonizing the human beings who hold or seek high office.

12. We’re helpless.

Yes, it’s a rigged game. Yes, our democracy’s been tainted and compromised.

But mobilized citizens prevented the President from proposing Social Security cuts in his 2010 State of the Union speech. The Occupy movement changed Democratic political rhetoric, which changed poll numbers aand arguably changed the election results.

Some people say, So what? Look at what they’re trying to do now. That’s true — about some of them. But we’ve gained leverage, and we should use it.

While we’re developing new political leaders and institutions, we must stay mobilized for the struggles already underway: To protect Social Security and Medicare. To rein in Wall Street crime. To defend ripped-off homeowners and other mistreated corporate customers. To fight spending cuts and protect the vulnerable. To create jobs — good jobs — for every American who wants to work.

Difficult? Sure. Risk of failure? Definitely. But impossible?

That’s a fallacy.

Author pic
ABOUT Richard (RJ) Eskow

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a well-known blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, an experienced consultant, and a former musician. He has experience in health insurance and economics, occupational health, benefits, risk management, finance, and information technology.

Want to know what the

Want to know what the wrangling about the "fiscal cliff" is all about?
IMO the situation is considerably simpler than politicians have incentives to make us believe. Yes, we have an intolerably large debt; but when it comes to decide WHO NEEDS TO REPAY IT, remember this: We, the people, have been ROBBED REPEATEDLY AND REFUSE TO CONTINUE TO BE ROBBED AGAIN. Most recently of about three trillion dollars in bailouts; about two trillion for the war (for oil) in Iraq; untold trillions stolen from the Social Security Fund over decades; - I am sure there is lots more, but just for starters, let's ask the question: HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Where was the congressional oversight of banks, insured by the FDIC - i.e. by the taxpayers. But most of the "banks" responsible for the 2008 disaster were really
"Fianancial Services Corporations," technically NOT INSURED BY THE FDIC, i.e. the taxpayers. Where was the congressional oversight when mortgage brokers snookered unsuspecting home buyers into signing mortgages they could not possibly afford once the rates were "reset?" Where was the SEC when these sub-prime mortgages were bundles and sold as MBS "mortgage backed securities" (INSECURITIES, more like) for trillions of dollars while they were actually WORTHLESS. Anyone remember how many months/years we heard that the "worth" of these illiquid assets could not be assessed? Of course they couldn't, because they had no worth at all. The "worth" of a mortgage is the interest payments that it is supposed to bring in, capitalized. But when a huge percentage of mortgagees cannot pay the interest they owe . . there is ZERO to be capitalized. The scoundrels who perpetrated these frauds accumulated billions in the process - and NOW, Messrs. Boehner and McConnell insist they have to protect these criminals from tax increases? Why, if justice were done, the government would sequester their ill-begotten billions and pay off some of the national debt. That would make a powerful start. Oh - but then banks have nothing to lend and the economy . . bla, bla, bla . .
THAT'S OK. Our Mr. Bernanke excels at printing money (and that's the only
thing he excels at) he can open his zero-interest window for individuals and legitimate businesses, instead of throwing more money at the banks, (I would not call it "good money" - it's just worthless paper, but as long as others accept it in payment for goods and services, I guess, it's money alright) the banks that, by the way, continue their reckless practices - see: JP Morgan's most recent X-billion swindle, (where X is large, but as usual not ascertainable.)
So, by Mr. Boehner's and McConnell's reckoning, these thieves need be protected from tax increases, while the working people need to see their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, their unemployment compensation, etc. on the block. Their 401ks have been plundered already, especially for those who worked for Enron, Worldcom, and others run by crooks . . while the Congress was AWOL in its oversight duties.
I suppose the "Occupy" crowd wanted to make the people aware of these criminal shenanigans.
Recent political experience has shown that the only action that can combat the billions thrown into the arena by the Corporations IS PUTTING BOOTS ON THE GROUND. THAT'S HOW SOLIDARITY IN POLAND DID IT, THAT'S HOW EAST BERLINERS BROUGHT DOWN THE BERLIN WALL, THAT'S HOW THE UKRAINIANS GOT THEIR STOLEN ELECTION REVERSED, finally and most recently, THAT'S HOW THE TEA PARTY DID IT.


jackwenayscott's picture

"politics is not a celebrity

"politics is not a celebrity sport" ... Oh really? Seems to me it is. I used to watch the action, in the 1960s seeing Johnny Carson and his rich actor friends tossing around the fate of politic America. Seems to me there were some frank latenight conversations then about how much power those discussing it had, ....the news was not good, they decided they had plenty, talking about "buying small nations" and such. Now, just listening to these horrid people hoist around the Americans gets my teeth on edge, every pro-gas commercial, every oil commercial, coal, any evil you car to name. What gets confused is their precise political position, and it IS precise, nearly uniform throughout acting-news-showbiz, politically conservative, morally libertine! Now their "Jack" FM radio purposely irritates and angers the fool listeners who like the 1980s Satanic music, gets them all angry at "Jack"..... listen on as the mystery tour begins to unravel..... written by the Beatles? Take a close look at your old, original copy of "I Am The Walrus", "lyrics by...."!

Economics 101: If you take an

Economics 101:
If you take an apple from someone who only has one apple, then that person has nothing to eat. But if you take an apple from someone who has ten apples, that person still has 9 apples to eat. By the laws of basic neccessity, if a person only needs one apple, then the person with 10 apples has nine more than he needs. So as if there are only three persons, two of which do not have any apples and the remaining one with all ten, taking two apples will still leave that person with more apples than needed. But if the one with all the apples decides not to share with the other two, they will either starve, or work together to take all the apples from the one who will then have none, unless the one with all the apples uses the apples as a manipulative means to prevent the other two from uniting therefore leading to violence, destruction and death.
Moses made this all clear in writing Genesis. "The Lord sayeth: Don't eat the apples with the strings attached! You'll ruin Paradise."

“Stimulus” must come from

“Stimulus” must come from taxpayers, or by borrowing it, or by printing it.

Taxpayers: How can taxes be increased without taxpayers having less money to spend? How does that not translate into lost business and therefore fewer jobs?

Borrowing: How can money be borrowed without being repaid with interest? How can this be done without more taxes or less government spending? How does that not translate into lost business and therefore fewer jobs?

Printing: How can additional money be created without making existing money less valuable? How does this not translate into less real spending by consumers? How does that not translate into lost business and therefore fewer jobs?

Governments can force people to pay for their services; private business cannot. How does “stimulus” spending not take money from relatively more efficient people (who prosper only if they meet competition) and distribute it to relatively less efficient people (paid regardless of performance)?

In the long run, how does this not translate into fewer jobs? How does Richard Eskow not recognize such a basic fallacy?

Mark Read Pickens

Taxes can be increased by

Taxes can be increased by progressive tax rates, that take a bigger bite from those who have more, and a lesser bite from those who do not have as much. The 1% includes many who have so much sequestered wealth that they and their dependents would not be able to spend it in ten lifetimes.
Money cannot be borrowed without paying interest, which interest is being paid largely to the 1%, or their agents. There does need to be less government spending: let us cease being the global bully! Billions of dollars go to the imperial wars we've started around the world, and a large percentage of that money goes to the 'Military Industrial Complex', and whatever doesn't get blown up in battle, 'accidents', or spent on the raw materials and industrial supplies, is paid to the stockholders of these companies, or their highly paid lobbyists. It seems like the current system is providing plenty of business and plenty of jobs, albeit not for everyone. And they don't want anyone else to compromise their franchise!
Additional money cannot be printed without diluting the value of the existing currency. It's possible that if some of our 'job creators' would repatriate a bit of the loot, (and it is loot,) they have stashed around the world, we all might benefit from a little liquidity in the economy.

translation of

translation of above
1]spending like crazy is ok hyper inflation will take care of debt
2] need more gov because people are too stupid to take care of themselves
3] so it runs out in 2032-2036 no big deal i prob be gone
4]so when it goes dry in 2016 just cut amount going to doctors and that is what death panels are for [ go watch solyent green]
5] pixie dust will solve the problem

While I agree with most of

While I agree with most of the substance of this article, I don't care for the way you're treating (theoretically) fixable problems as not real problems at all and accusing those who point them out of dishonesty.

Baby Boomers *are* putting a strain on Social Security and we *are* spending more (individually and as a nation) than we can currently afford to--indeed, our economy depends on us doing so. Yes, these are problems we collectively have the ability to fix or at least mitigate, and yes, we should be concentrating on making that happen. But until it has been done, the problems remain, and it's not lying to say so.

@DHFabian: No, poverty as a whole is not merely a lifestyle choice and/or result of bad behavior/personal decisions. Far from it. There are many factors which contribute (including some that I've come to believe are deliberately fostered by the financial elite.) But bad choices and personal behavior most certainly do not help, and can produce or exacerbate poverty even when other conditions are favorable, and that is also not a fallacy!

DHFABIAN: Right on the money!


Right on the money! Some of the plutocrats are compassionate enough to attribute poverty to "bad genes" or "bad environment." But most feel in their hearts that the poor are lacking in the vital element of "Ambition." They just want to be "takers," according to the Romneys of the country, who are "proud of their success," because they truly believe they did it all on their own. Yet we know that the overwhelming majority of the rich today inherited wealth and privilege and simply increased what they were born into (if they even did that).

Ah, but the thing that helps to keep the hoi-polloi passive or mollified is the myth that we can all be rich if we simply work hard enough at it. It even suggests that "everyone" can be rich, ignoring the fact that it takes a helluva lot of poor people to make one person rich, and there simply isn't enough wealth and resources around for EVERYONE to share them at the top.

But the fable keeps the peasants from storming the gates, so all the plutocrats pay homage to the Great American Myth, suggesting, of course, that the reason why they have so much and others have so little is because of their emotional and intellectual superiority.

Right, Willard? (You're gone from the limelight, but your Rich Guys Are Superior doctrine still lives on, especially among those rich-wannabes who fawn over you and recite your creed with reverence.)

I might mention another myth, the one that says all those rabid Obama-haters in the Red States aren't really racists; they simply hate Obama because he's an America-hating Nazi Commie Muslim non-native Socialist who's bent on destroying our beloved country. Yet as a person who was born in the deep South I know how racism has gone underground in polite society, so racists nowadays have to grab with desperation at the outrageous lies of Rush Blimpbag and the male whores of Faux News to provide camouflage for their bias. But once in a while a bit of candor breaks through the lies and slander, and we see the T-shirt of a man at a Romney rally claiming "Put the white back in the White House."

And while I won't attribute all of the Republican votes to sheer racism, I do think it accounted for millions of the votes for Romney-Ryan. And some of those same voters loudly disparage the "takers"in society, blithely ignoring the fact that the Red States seem to have more "takers" than the Blue States. But they're used to voting against their own interests, so this touch of irony won't alter their beliefs.

Huge common fallacy: Poverty

Huge common fallacy: Poverty is merely a lifestyle choice and/or result of bad behavior/personal decisions. But this is a country that redistributes a massive amount of taxpayer dollars to the struggling rich while spitting with contempt on the poor.

DHFabian: "This is an

DHFabian: "This is an excellent point. The political system will always be corrupted by the wealthy class to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. The solution is to reduce government power. The less power they have, the less valuable the favors politicians can bestow.

Mark Read Pickens

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