Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Five Stupid Beliefs in 2010

As always, this debate began when I posted a political status update on my Facebook account.

Top five stupid beliefs that were prevalent in 2010:
5) The finale of "Lost" will explain everything.
4) Jay Leno stole "The Tonight Show" from Conan O'Brien.
3) Obama's health care reform plan is a bad idea.
2) The Tea Party isn't motivated by racism.
1) America's economic problems were caused by liberal policies.

This is the conversation that followed, complete and unabridged.

Ryan Neel
But I like lost ;)

Dan Reagan

Sean Davis
Oh yes Dan, your link to a conservative blog changed my evil liberal ways, why could I not see the light before? The obviously partisan authors of your fallacious link prove absolutely nothing, especially because the article you posted compares job growth and finances before and after the financial crisis began. OF COURSE things were better BEFORE the crisis, that doesn't mean that it was democratic policies that caused a lack of job growth. I could post the demographics before Reagan won in 1980 and during the first two years of his presidency and the numbers were be nearly identical to Obama's, but since that doesn't suit your purposes (or the purposes of the conservatives who wrote that blog you linked to) you ignore it.

Dan Reagan my late father use to say..figures don't lie but liars figure. The numbers are what they are. The unemployment numbers are what they are. The deficit is what it is pre-Obama and now with Obama. We HAD to pass the stimulus to keep the unemployment rate from going above said Obama & Co. Well.'s at 9.8 and holding! Real unemployment is at somewhere between 17 and 18% in most states. I know the truth hurts but there it is in black and white and you libs as Jack Nicholson said in "A Few Good Men''.." Can't handle the truth!"

Sean Davis
Your arguments are so asinine that they do not warrant a serious response, I'll let Matt tell you why you're wrong while I laugh at your ignorance and sip on some hot chocolate.

Dan Reagan
Don't burn your tongue! Signed...Joe Friday (Just the facts, which by the way is all I posted) I rest my case

Sean Davis
Yes, the "facts" as reported by an obvious conservative blog and deliberately spun to paint democrats in a bad light, yeah real integrity there Dan. If you want people to take you seriously at least TRY to appear like you're attempting bipartisanship.

Dan Reagan
Sean, the "FACTS" are..when Obama took office unemployment was 5.2..maybe 5.6..As Casey Stengel used to say "You can look it up." It's really not that hard. What is it today? How many times did he (Obama) use the term "shovel ready jobs" ? At least 5 or 6! Again it's not hard to GO and look it up! He REALLY did use that term. So did the walking gaffe machine Joe Biden. Many times..."shovel ready jobs." Only about a month ago, Obama came out and admitted that he was wrong...he said, "There are no shovel ready jobs." Again, go look it up. He REALLY did say it!

Go and look and READ what economists say the REAL unemployment figures are in a lot of states...17, 18% Go look it up! You think I'm being partisan, I don't care. These things have really been said by the President and VP and these numbers are ACCURATE! They are what they are.
They Dems have been in control of the House and Senate since '06! They've controlled the purse strings since '06! So say what you want..think what you Washington, the Dems idea of bipartisanship is the GOP goes along with what the Dems want! That's what you want me to do?? Agree with you? Is that your idea of bipartisanship? As I said earlier..figures don't lie but liars can spin it any way you it a conservative blog..go ahead..but the numbers are the numbers...Pelosi, Reid et,al have been driving the bus for the last 4 years along with Obama for the last 2! That's why we're in the mess we're in with a 13 TRILLION dollar debt and climbing!!

Sean Davis
I know the numbers Dan, the point is that the numbers do not tell the story you claim. First of all, the demos WON in 06, but didn't take office till 07, then in 07 and 08 all they did was fight against Bush and the Republicans policies, so NO they DID NOT hold the "purse strings" then. Also, when Obama took office in 09 none of his policies went into effect until about 6 months in, and that is the period in which most jobs were lost. To claim that all of this is due to democratic leadership is not only foolish, it's downright INCORRECT. Also, the Republicans neutered the stimulus, which in fact DID freeze the unemployment rate and would have lowered it if REPUBLICANS didn't insist on making it an inadequate bill.

Your claim about Dems idea of bipartisanship is ridiculous, the Dems are the ONLY ones even ATTEMPTING bipartisan efforts. The stimulus, health-care, job creation bills, everything dems passed was watered down and compromised by republicans, THE VERY DEFINITION OF BIPARTISAN. If you don't see that you are willfully blind and ignorant. Now that republicans gained back some power they all scream about how they won't "back down on anything," they are giant hypocrites, just like you.

Sean Davis
I'd love to sit here and argue more with you, but unfortunately I have to leave now. Matt will probably be on soon to prove your inconsistencies and ignorance, so nice talking to you, have fun!

Matthew Rozsa
Dan, there are several fatal flaws to the position you are trying to assert:

1) It commits the classic "post hoc" logical fallacy, i.e., one in which the arguer assumes that establishing correlation automatically proves causation. For example, if I point out that breast cancer mortality has significantly decreased since 1997 and that Bill Clinton was president in 1997, does that mean that Bill Clinton is responsible for that decline? If I observe that obesity rates spiked in 1976 and that that was the year in which Jimmy Carter was elected president, does this prove that Carter's impending ascent to the White House caused Americans to gorge on the contents of their cupboards? If I realize that Michael Jackson's greatest hits hit airwaves in the 1980s and that Ronald Reagan was president during that time, does this prove that Jackson's musical career was somehow facilitated by Reagan's policies?

The reason "of course not" is the obvious answer to all three of these questions is that demonstrating that two events occurred at the same time, or are in some other way connected, does not automatically prove that one was somehow related to or caused the other. Establishing correlation is merely the first step to making a sound argument; once you have done so, the evidentiary burden falls on you to demonstrate a causal as well as correlative relationship. An unwillingness and/or inability to do so reveals that your argument is without merit.

This brings me back to the article you posted. Although it attempts to argue that Democrats and/or liberals (not the same thing) are responsible for our current economic plight, the only way it backs that up is by providing (extremely selective) statistics that show how various negative occurrences seemingly corresponded with Democratic control of Congress and/or the White House. This argument is inherently incomplete unless it also proves that those events were caused by Democratic policies. Not only does Yossi Gestetner (the article's author) fail to meet that requirement, but in fact he doesn't even try to do so, making his position logically unsupportable and anyone who parrots him as intellectually lazy as they are irrational.

This is the main problem with your argument, but there are plenty of others:

2) You claim that unemployment was at 5.2% (or "maybe 5.6%") when Obama took office, and that those who don't like what you're saying can "look it up." My suspicion is that you tell people to look things up in the hope that they won't actually follow through on your challenge, since if they did, they'd find that unemployment was actually at 7.7% when Barack Obama took office. Considering how much of your argument rests on conditions declining as a result of Obama's policies, this is a pretty massive mistake for you to make. Please justify it.

3) Incidentally, while unemployment growth had nothing to do with Obama's presidency, it had a great deal to do with the advent of the Great Recession in December 2007, as suggested by the fact that unemployment climbed from 5.0% in January 2008 to 6.6% in November 2008 (when Obama was elected) all the way to 7.7% in January 2009 (when Obama at last took office). That last period of time is especially noteworthy, since it shows that unemployment was growing at a rate of more than 0.5% per month during the period between Obama's election and his inauguration. Those were the conditions with which his predecessor left him... and who was that again?

4) Incidentally, although you have not proven that Democratic policies had anything to do with the Great Recession, I can very easily demonstrate that it was caused by conservative ideas. After all, the two indisputable causes of our current conditions are (a) the decline in consumer spending that, due to loss of aggregate demand, caused a stagnation in job growth that eventually deteriorated into an outright unemployment explosion and (b) the Wall Street crisis of September 2008. Both of these factors were put into place by the right-wing policies which began under Ronald Reagan and were continued by his three successors (including, much to the anger of liberals, Bill Clinton); the first occurred as a result of the growth in income inequality resulting from Reagan's tax cuts for the wealthy and decimation of labor unions (both of which were furthered by George W. Bush), while the second took place thanks to the deregulation of Wall Street that Reagan began and his successors either maintained (Clinton) or exacerbated (the two Bushes).

Matthew Rozsa
‎5) To further argue that Obama's stimulus package didn't work, you claim (a) that Obama and his administration asserted the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8% and were wrong, (b) that unemployment has actually risen by multiple percentage points since the stimulus was passed, and (c) that this proves that liberal economic policies are ineffective. Let's analyze each leg of this argument individually:

(a) There is some truth to the first point- i.e., Obama DID claim that his stimulus package would keep unemployment at the same rate that it had been at when he first took office (which, as I just mentioned, was 7.7%), mainly because he and his advisers shot their mouths off before others pointed out that no stimulus package could start taking effect until at least a few months after it was passed. That said, once the stimulus measures began to be implemented in May 2009...

(b) ... unemployment has steadily remained between 9% and 10%. In short, Obama would have been correct about the stimulus keeping unemployment between 7% and 8% had it been implemented immediately after he took office. Instead, because it wasn't passed until four weeks into his presidency and didn't start to take effect until roughly three months after that, it wasn't able to stabilize our unemployment rate until it had climbed to the 9-10% mark that it has reached today.

(c) Obama did not fully implement liberal economic theory in his initiatives. The bad news is that I don't feel like explaining to you why this is the case; the good news is that I don't have to, since I already explained this all of this in a previous debate between the two of us more than six weeks ago.

From '':

"What's more, although Obama did fall short when it came to economic policy, this failure came about NOT because of radicalism but rather because he prematurely capitulated to Republicans.

Allow me to explain:

The fundamental premise behind Keynesian "pump priming" theory is that, when a recession or depression takes place, you use the government to bring about the recovery that the private market is no longer capable of providing by injecting a stimulus into the economy equivalent with what has been lost in GDP.

In the case of the recession with which Obama was confronted when he took office in January 2009, that amounted to approximately $2 trillion, which was what liberal economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and Robert Reich were all saying he should include in his bill (I also said that at the time, although I hardly have the prestige and credibility of these other three great minds). Instead he never proposed higher than $500 billion in stimulus, one-fourth that amount, and even wasted $287 billion more on tax cuts that were virtually useless when it came to addressing this problem.

Why did he do this? As aids from Rahm Emanuel to David Axelrod made clear, he wanted to show good faith to Republicans concerned about increased spending by making his stimulus bill as small as possible.

What was his reward for this show of good faith?

Republicans refused to vote for the bill anyway, continue to accuse him of being a runaway spender despite all of his centrist efforts, and because the economy has failed to recover under his watch, his party suffered serious losses in the 2010 midterm elections.

Note, however, that I said we lost because the economy failed to recover. It WASN'T, as Republicans like to believe, because America took a hard turn to the right, just as it wasn't (as many Democrats like to believe) because Obama wasn't liberal enough. In the words of James Carville, what matters in times like this is "the economy, stupid." If Obama had passed a $2 trillion stimulus package (applied over a two-year period), arithmetic suggests unemployment would have fallen to between 6% and 7% right now; had that been the case, we would have triumphed in 2010. Instead the package was only large enough to keep unemployment at a plateau after it began to take effect in May 2009, hovering between 9% and 10% now just as it did back then (it would have been between 16% and 17% had there been no stimulus at all, but American voters tend not to notice counterfactuals)."

In short, Obama passed a stimulus package that was just large enough to prevent unemployment from increasing but nowhere near up to the task of actually reducing it. This is the main criticism that liberals have of him - and, indeed, they were making it all the way back in January and February 2009, before his stimulus had passed but when it was still clear to experts like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich that it was going to be too small. Obama not only isn't the wild liberal that Republicans disingenuously depict him as being, but is in fact so timid that he will deliberately move liberal policies to the right just to win conservative support (which, invariably, he never gets).

My remaining points will be brief:

6) Obama's so-called concession about "shovel ready jobs" was taken out of context. His exact quote - i.e., "There's no such thing as shovel-ready projects" - referred to the false premise that stimulus, if effective, would show results overnight, which as I've just explained (see 5a and 5b) is not the case.

7) Although our national debt is crushing, this state of affairs began when Ronald Reagan cut taxes for the wealthy while simultaneously increasing spending on the war on drugs and the military-industrial complex (a formula that his future vice president, George H. W. Bush, famously referred to as "voodoo economics"). Even though fiscal conservatives love to imply that the only way to reduce that debt is to cut social programs that help the working poor, unemployed, and middle class (a logical fallacy known as "a false dichotomy"), the reality is that we could just as easily begin reducing the debt by raising taxes on the wealthy back to pre-Reagan rates, ending the war on drugs, and scaling back military spending to the bare essentials. Indeed, even if we just did one of those things - e.g., raising taxes on top earnings for the wealthy back to what they had been under John Kennedy - we could pay off our entire national debt in thirty years (

8) Although you claim that your argument consists of "just the facts," my close analysis reveals that it actually has a three-part composition including (a) flawed logic, (b) false or grossly distorted information, and (c) personal insults.

I have made a point of addressing (a) and (b) as thoroughly as possible in these posts, going out of my way to leave no stone unturned so that you would be unable to say that I hadn't been comprehensive in addressing every point you raised (if, by chance, I accidentally overlooked anything, I sincerely hope you will bring the oversight to my attention). As for (c), I will briefly point out that Sean has shown greater civility and respectfulness toward you then you have toward him. It would be nice if you began to reciprocate that.

Oh, and it goes without saying that I expect you to respond to every single point that I made here. If you fail to do so, I will hold you accountable for it.

Christina Cruz
Hahaha, Matt, he is either not going to respond at all (probably from the sheer mass of info you just dropped on him), or ignore everything you say and chalk it up to liberal lies, then proceed to repeat the same things he's said over and over. Although it is fun to watch someone being smashed into the ground in a debate. K bye!

Sean Davis
Hey Dan, I looked it up:

So you are wrong, too bad so sad. Next time you post statistics you better damn well make sure they're correct.

Matthew Rozsa
Minor point, but the source that I found put it at 7.7% ( Either way, Sean and I clearly did look this up, whereas you either (a) didn't look it up or (b) chose a source that was so steeped in partisan bias that you should seriously reconsider ever using it again.

Valerie Gurak Hollingsworth
Well, I kinda did think the finale of Lost explained everything it needed to....

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