Demonstrating that it takes one to know one, Paul Krugman calls out Eric Cantor, among others, for lies and deceit:
Moment of Truthiness
By PAUL KRUGMAN
We all know how democracy is supposed to work. Politicians are supposed to campaign on the issues, and an informed public is supposed to cast its votes based on those issues, with some allowance for the politicians’ perceived character and competence.
But with lying liars everywhere, how can truth possibly find its boots, let alone put them on?
But is even this modified, more realistic vision of democracy in action still relevant? Or has our political system been so degraded by misinformation and disinformation that it can no longer function?
Well, consider the case of the budget deficit — an issue that dominated Washington discussion for almost three years, although it has recently receded.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that voters are poorly informed about the deficit. But you may be surprised by just how misinformed.
I will be surprised if this surprises me...
In a well-known paper with the discouraging title, “It Feels Like We’re Thinking,” the political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels reported on a 1996 survey that asked voters whether the budget deficit had increased or decreased under President Clinton. In fact, the deficit was down sharply, but a plurality of voters — and a majority of Republicans — believed that it had gone up.
We will come back to that. But history is repeating itself:
I wondered on my blog what a similar survey would show today, with the deficit falling even faster than it did in the 1990s. Ask and ye shall receive: Hal Varian, the chief economist of Google, offered to run a Google Consumer Survey — a service the company normally sells to market researchers — on the question. So we asked whether the deficit has gone up or down since January 2010. And the results were even worse than in 1996: A majority of those who replied said the deficit has gone up, with more than 40 percent saying that it has gone up a lot. Only 12 percent answered correctly that it has gone down a lot.
Am I saying that voters are stupid? Not at all. People have lives, jobs, children to raise. They’re not going to sit down with Congressional Budget Office reports. Instead, they rely on what they hear from authority figures. The problem is that much of what they hear is misleading if not outright false.
Ah, well. Another problem is that the national debt has been rising steadily even though the annual deficit has been falling, so casual obervers get confused.
Eric Cantor is eventually cited as one of the misleading authority figures:
The outright falsehoods, you won’t be surprised to learn, tend to be politically motivated. In those 1996 data, Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to hold false views about the deficit, and the same must surely be true today. After all, Republicans made a lot of political hay over a supposedly runaway deficit early in the Obama administration, and they have maintained the same rhetoric even as the deficit has plunged. Thus Eric Cantor, the third-ranking Republican in the House, declared on Fox News that we have a “growing deficit,” while Senator Rand Paul told Bloomberg Businessweek that we’re running “a trillion-dollar deficit every year.”
In yet another low self-awareness moment Krugman bemoans the loss of credibility of the mainstream media:
Still, aren’t there umpires for this sort of thing — trusted, nonpartisan authorities who can and will call out purveyors of falsehood? Once upon a time, I think, there were. But these days the partisan divide runs very deep, and even those who try to play umpire seem afraid to call out falsehood. Incredibly, the fact-checking site PolitiFact rated Mr. Cantor’s flatly false statement as “half true.”
Cantor said, "What we are trying to do is fund the government and make sure also that we take away the kinds of things that are standing in the way of a growing economy (and) a better health care, and all the while keeping our eye focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit."
There’s one problem: The federal deficit isn’t "growing." At least not now.
"Not now" is the key caveat:
And the CBO projects that the deficit will continue to go down for two more years...
If CBO is on target, then by 2015, the deficit will be roughly a quarter of what it was in 2009.
In other words, Cantor is wrong about what has been happening to the deficit, and what is projected to happen in the near future.
After 2015, however, Cantor has a point -- the deficit begins growing again, according to CBO projections...
"The current baseline has deficits growing again in 2016, and even with his proposed tax increases, deficits are set to begin growing again in the out-years under President Obama’s own budget proposals," said Rory Cooper, Cantor’s spokesman. Cantor, he said, "is equally concerned with this long-term deficit trend" as he is with the shrinkage of the deficit in recent years.
So rather than take comfort in the nearly inevitable decline in the reduction of the deficit as the economy recovers from a dreadful recession, Cantor remains worried about the long term projections of a growing deficit (even as a percent of GDP). And this is irresponsible, deceitful leadership?
The Politfact ruling:
Cantor said that the federal deficit is "growing." Annual federal deficits are not growing right now, and they are not projected to grow through 2015, a point at which the deficit will have shrunk by three-quarters since 2009. By this standard, Cantor is wrong. However, unless policies are changed, deficits are projected to grow again in 2016 and beyond, according to the CBO. On balance, we rate his claim Half True.
So literalists and partisan pundits will claimn Cantor is wrong; folks actually evaluating our current path will have cause to worry about growing deficits.
NEW YORK (CNN) White House officials announced on Monday that the budget
deficit for the 1996 fiscal year was $107.3 billion, the smallest
Administration officials have predicted that beginning next year the deficit will start to rise again. They cannot predict the exact figure but previously had estimated the 1997 deficit would be $144 billion.
In fact the deficit eventually turned to surplus, but survey respondents as of 1996 might have made the same argument Cantor is making today - the national debt was still rising and the long term outlook was for rising deficits.