Canada – US – Criticising The Americans For "Fact-Free" Politics Is Easy, But Neil Macdonald Should Consider Some Of The Facts As Well – 24 August 2012

At first I cheered Neil Macdonald’s comments on the CBC News website about the largely fact-free character of the Romney-Ryan campaign. Of course everything he says about that is correct – and the fact that the Republicans persist in organising their entire campaign around the “we _did_ build it” meme, which is built around deliberately misrepresenting something Obama said, tells you loads about how low the Romney-Ryan campaign is stooping.

But then I reread the article and spent some more time on the first few paragraphs. Here is what Macdonald says: “Last week I wrote that by choosing Paul Ryan to be his vice-presidential running mate, Mitt Romney might actually end up provoking Americans into discussing something important like the indebted state of their nation’s finances. Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who chairs the House budget committee, is the author of a fiscal plan that, whatever its other shortcomings, actually comes right out and says Americans cannot expect to keep collecting generous social benefits if they don’t want to pay for them with higher taxes. Ryan would, over time, effectively do away with Medicare, the burgeoning health-care program for seniors, as it now exists, and drastically reduce the rest of government. The result may well be miserable for those people who aren’t wealthy, but it can be done, and at least it’s a plan.”

Those comments are built on no less of a deliberate misrepresentation. Am I the only one who remembers that the Republicans were willing to tank America’s credit last year? The Government Accounting Office said this about the debt limit, which the Republicans didn’t want to raise last year: “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.” In other words, the Republican Party didn’t want to pay already incurred debts last year.

Neil Macdonald says he wants to have an “adult conversation” about debt but leaves out that little chestnut?

If we really want to have an adult conversation, maybe we should enquire as to why the Republicans would actually _want_ the government to tank on its already incurred obligations? It’s not about controlling spending, because, as the GAO pointed out, this spending has already occurred – we’ve already borrowed the money, under successive administrations, to do this spending. It’s about allowing the government to be hounded by its creditors. It’s about risking default, or actually defaulting.

The adult, it seems to me, would be asking the question “What do we have to do to pay down our existing debt and not go into default?” Even David Brooks of the New York Times, whose views about debt often infuriate me, seems to at least get that. It’s disturbing that Neil Macdonald not only doesn’t get that, but wants to act all superior to Americans and their fact-free politics anyway. He does this while he’s playing into the _biggest_ of the Republican myths, that public hand-wringing about the debt constitutes some kind of “responsibility”, while proposing actually paying the debt down is somehow beside the point.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m a wizard on matters of debt. Right now, I’m having some trouble paying mine down. But I was doing fine at it while I was employed. Due to my most recent employment contract ending early (due to – what else? – austerity cuts), I’m less hot at making those payments. Maybe the adult conversation should be about that – about how good people will make greater strides to paying down a debt when they have decent jobs.

Increasingly, it’s obvious the world’s reactionary right wing wants something else to happen. They want to break people and blame it on debt. You can see them carrying out this plan in Greece and in Spain, and it won’t be long before they take that show on the road. Before long, we will see the extent to which they are willing to do this here. It’s part of a determined plan to break our comparatively classless societies into clearly class-divided societies.

They are doing this elsewhere. If we let them, they will do this here. But we don’t have to let them.

The first thing we can do to stop it is to say to people feigning moderation on the debt issue, like Neil Macdonald, that they should stop pretending to be fairer than everyone else. You want to consider facts? Start with those you’re working with.

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