The GOP’s age of unreason

By Nicholas Wapshott
October 10, 2013

If the federal government fails to pay its bills and the interest on its borrowing by the middle of the month, it is the overwhelming verdict of the nation’s smartest economists that financial mayhem will ensue.

Until this week, no one on either side doubted that. In fact, it was implicit in the Republican case for using the debt ceiling as a lever to cut public spending. Only with the threat of Armageddon in the markets and the prospect of a return to the Crash of 2008 did the Republican bartering made any sense.

Now the looser cannons on the GOP deck have changed their tune. At last count, seven House members and six senators have suggested the government can remain shut down in perpetuity and America can fail to make interest payments on its borrowing and nothing much will happen.

Hard-right Republicans’ rejection of basic economics is just the latest example of how they have abandoned rational thought and refuse to accept established scientific facts. Consider their arguments against evolution.

Not long ago, Republicans were hardheaded realists who derided the woolly pipe dreams of their Democratic rivals. Now they appear to have lost all touch with reality, embracing notions that used to be the preserve of paranoid eccentrics who write rambling letters in green ink.

While we live in the Age of Obama, they are living in the Age of Unreason.

For Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the threat of America not paying its debts is not so much about economics as semantics. “It really is irresponsible of the president to try to scare the markets,” he said. “If you don’t raise your debt ceiling, all you’re saying is, ‘We’re going to be balancing the budget.’ … the American public will say that sounds like a pretty reasonable idea.”

An ophthalmologist by trade, Paul should forget grappling with economics and tend to his own shortsightedness.

The flat denial, in face of the fact that freezing the federal economy is already causing profound business uncertainty, could lead to a steep stock market slide and will provoke a skyrocketing of interest rates that could ricochet around the world and set the scene for another Great Recession is part of a pattern. These same Republicans were indifferent to the consequences of the sequester — a mindless deep slashing at entitlements and defense spending they insist is doing no harm. If they looked around them they would see how the sequester is unfairly causing misery.

Economics has long been an act of faith rather than a rational scientific study for some conservatives and libertarians. The pretense that a successful modern economy could do without a strong central government or that a government should somehow not influence economic policy by intervening is fanciful. There is a reason we are living under the all-pervading influence of John Maynard Keynes rather than the Austrian economists who challenged him, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.

Keynes won the argument 80 years ago and transformed our understanding of economics. There is no putting that toothpaste back in the tube. Some deluded conservatives and libertarians may wish to live in an alternative reality where history never happened — but Keynes won and the Austrians lost. The right should get over it.

Ignorance about business, finance and economics is new to the GOP, which was once the proud party of big business and Wall Street. Now driven by the Tea Party, angry at bankers and Wall Street types who were saved by the government from bankruptcy in 2008 and 2009, the congressional GOP is being pushed around by a radical sect willing to risk the collapse of the world economy rather than accept that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

Little wonder that Wall Street donors are pondering whether they should continue feeding dogs that bite them. It makes you wonder, too, whether the sons and daughters of the anarchists and communists who plotted the overthrow of capitalism have infiltrated the GOP to get the job done. The Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Lenin.

Ignorance about economics is just one example of how a resistance to facts has become an electoral asset for a Republican seeking a candidacy from a mob of ignoramuses. Nowhere is this clearer than in the evolution debate — where a fondness for creationism upends science in the name of piety.

Charles Darwin’s contention that we are all descended from common ancestors caused uproar when he first floated it in the 1830s. No one likes being made a monkey. But educated people cannot doubt the wealth of evidence that Darwin was right. All, that is, except the GOP holdouts.

The dodgy science underpinning the prejudices of those who ignore scientific facts became evident in the last general election. For example, GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said, “I believe God controls the universe. I don’t believe biology works in an uncontrolled fashion.”

Wishful thinking only got him so far. Mourdock convinced Republican primary voters he should be their Senate candidate — then he lost the general election.

This denial of knowledge or just plain ignorance is widespread. Recall the absurdity of GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin. “From what I understand from doctors,” Akin said, “[pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin, a married man with two daughters and four sons — all home schooled, which may explain a lot — is plainly not paying attention to what goes on under his roof. Before pronouncing on women’s health, he should have spent less time talking to “doctors” and more time asking his wife and daughters about the birds and the bees. Despite wearing a dunce’s cap, Akin won the primary — but then lost the election.

The fostering of ignorance has also altered the climate change debate. Once it was universally acknowledged that global warming existed, though the reasons for it were less certain. Then came a well-funded campaign to cast doubt on the science behind climate change and disparage the distinguished researchers who provided hard evidence that the globe is getting warmer.

Though the muddying of the science was paid for by the big oil brothers Charles and David Koch, whose interest in keeping the world burning fossil fuels is not in doubt, climate change denial found a ready audience among contrarians, curmudgeons and doubters who welcomed the new “evidence.” It proved their conspiracy theory that all this science was a put-up job. These cranks and kooks even deny they are in denial.

Conservatism has always represented a stand against the tide of history. Progress is an anathema to many who wish the world would stop spinning while they catch up.

But elevating ignorance over scholarship should have no place in conservatism. The role of political leadership is to gently persuade people to face the world as it is, the better to change it. The Age of Unreason that insists that Hayek won, that Darwin lost, that hot is cold, and that babies are found under gooseberry bushes brings all rational debate to a halt.

Who can reason with those who, to gain popularity with the foolish and the shallow, rail against the real world?

America may have reached a crossroads. That is what the president suggests by drawing a red line over the debt ceiling. He has decided it is time for a showdown between the realists and the fantasists. Tea Party House members, who appear to have kidnapped Speaker John Boehner, wish to ignore the facts. They regret passage of Obamacare — though it sprang from an idea of the conservative Heritage Foundation. They deny it is truly the law, they deny the Supreme Court found it constitutional and they deny that the straight up and down vote over Obamacare last November re-elected the president with a plurality of votes.

Which part of democracy do they not understand? They lost. The president won. They should stop pretending that the last five years never happened.

A small but significant number, however, are insisting that unless Obamacare is defunded, delayed or repealed now they will not pass a budget nor a debt ceiling increase. They assert that the economic consequences — which all those with knowledge of finance, business and economics say will be disastrous — may even be good for America. These deniers have reduced the public discourse to a farce by declaring that up is down and vice versa.

There is a term in psychology known as the Dunning–Kruger effect. “People tend to be blissfully unaware of their own incompetence,” David Dunning and Justin Kruger wrote, “… Their lack of skill deprives them not only of the ability to produce correct responses, but also of the expertise necessary to surmise that they are not producing them.”

In other words, some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are.

 

ILLUSTRATION: Matt Mahurin

PHOTO (Insert 1): Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) speaks to the press after fellow Republican Ted Cruz (not pictured) held a marathon attack on “Obamacare” at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 25, 2013.  REUTERS/Jason Reed

PHOTO (Insert 2): House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks to the press after a House Republican meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

64 comments

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Thanks very much for your “in your face”response to the blatant immature hubris and arrogant stupidity in an unending river from every GOP mouth in Congress. It makes me wonder if every political commentator had called out the persistent absurd propaganda and ridiculous rantings, the exuberance force their religious beliefs forced on us all, and their intense rude disrespect for 47% of us; if this episode could have been but a blip, instead of an unrelenting train wreck of outright treason.

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive

GOP is dying out. Their market share among new voters has fallen off 60% since Reagan’s time. These are the real numbers that keep them up at night, and scrambling by day in strategy meetings. This while their old voters are dying off daily.

By pandering for such a long time to the paranoid and the religious fringe for money, they have scared off too many normal people now. They’re stuck with these nuts now. And they only listen to themselves. So they mistake self-congratulations for broad support. Unless you think Ted Cruz has…. broad support :)

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

The odd thing about American commentary is that the obvious is not yet obvious: For the first time since before the Civil War, we now have three parties: Democratic, Republican, and Tea Party.

The crisis arose because, by letting the Tea Party hijack GOP ballot lines, Boehner found himself in a minority trying to manage a coalition. He has proven himself completely inept at doing this.

Anywhere else, he would have sat his coalition partners down before the election and told them which parts of their agenda he would support and which he would not. The Tea Party lost seats — 61 to 51 — in the last election and with these results in hand, Boehner should have tightened the screws immediately. Had he done so, we would not be in this mess.

Now he is confronted with a Democratic opposition that has more seats than the GOP does and that gained seats in the last election. And a president demanding what is, in effect, a vote of nonconfidence. If Boehner loses — a certainty — what happens? Does he resign? In our system, he can’t “go to the country.” Would Democrats and Republicans combine, free of the Tea Party, to elect a moderate speaker capable of managing a legislative agenda?

This is looking less and less like a budget crisis and more and more like a constitutional crisis.

Posted by fmcinerney | Report as abusive

I hope this will be the Wapshott heard ’round the world. Thanks!

Posted by MoBioph | Report as abusive

This piece focuses on institutionalized ignorance, but at the expense of ignoring another timley fact: we really are on an unsustaninable spending trajectory. But this is mostly because the baby boomer birth cohort are transitioning from being tax revenue creators to being a tax liability. Not because of “liberal tax and spend”. But the Right keeps on trying to blame poor people and Obama, and the Left keeps on blaming the military and wealthy/corporate tax rates, and a budget never gets passed.

I agree 100% with what this editorial points out. The down side I see, is that if big money decides to stop feeding the hand that bites it, it might find the Democrats willing to take the money without biting the hand. The Dems already take a pretty good chunk of change from what are traditionally viewed as Repbulican sponsored industry (banks, energy, defense). If more of that money shifts to Democrats, I worry that the little bit of policy actually helps the majority of voters, will become even smaller.

Posted by diluded0000 | Report as abusive

Though I don’t support the Republican party in what it is doing right now, I still think THIS ARTICLE SUCKS. Mr Wapshott is just labeling all republicans and trashing them for not agreeing in all matter with him or the eluded to Democratic party. If one has the time, it is quite easy to find just as blatant acts of stupidity from democrats. Least we forget that Democrats in MN walked out and left the state to avoid a vote that they knew they would lose. How’s that for supporting democracy Mr. Wapshott? Both parties have poisoned many of the people in the media, including Mr. Wapshott, of labeling people with a nasty label and attacking the label. That way you can dis-credit ALL ideas that any one person may have. And since all people have at least one bad idea, then all people can be discredited with labeling. Mr. Wapshott is just an extremist from the left. We certainly don’t need to listen to more extremist from either side. Don’t encourage the man just because you happen to agree on one topic, as he sees it as you agreeing on all topics.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Another bash the republicans opinion from the liberal media. I noted the liberal resume – Newsweek, MSN, PBS. How about equal time for Obama’s intransigence to consider any alternatives? The country is in this position because democrats refused to consider alternative views when they had control of both houses of congress. We elected a president not an emperor with 53% of the vote. The only time the democrats have compromised is when they were forced.

Posted by ignoredvoice | Report as abusive

How do we deal with a party and an administration who sat back and criticized and questioned the need of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and has done the same thing for 5 years? Hypocrite to their core- they had foaming frothing hysterical veins bulging reactions to “civilians being killed in Iraq” and yet drone strikes and civilian deaths in Pakistan have dramatically increased. And how do stop this American Giveaway program? Don’t have money, don’t want a job? Just pump out some crotch fruit and you get free rent, free food, free cell phone, free transportation, free medical care. This resembles the pre 1980′s USSR. Our crash is coming when those tired of working to pay the lazy have had enough.

Posted by puchurro | Report as abusive

How do we deal with a party and an administration who sat back and criticized and questioned the need of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and has done the same thing for 5 years? Hypocrite to their core- they had foaming frothing hysterical veins bulging reactions to “civilians being killed in Iraq” and yet drone strikes and civilian deaths in Pakistan have dramatically increased. And how do stop this American Giveaway program? Don’t have money, don’t want a job? Just pump out some crotch fruit and you get free rent, free food, free cell phone, free transportation, free medical care. This resembles the pre 1980′s USSR. Our crash is coming when those tired of working to pay the lazy have had enough.

Posted by puchurro | Report as abusive

The reply to this article should be about how the Dems use racism, ignorance and sloth to buy votes. “Best vote fuh us, cuz we gone protect you from Whitey and da rich.” “an we gone gives you mo money mo money mo money! We don’t care where it come from we just gone git it fuh ya just pump out mo dummies to vote Demoncrat!”

Posted by puchurro | Report as abusive

Puchurro = old time racist… can barely contain his hate, which he blames on others. Yes, once again, pointing out racism is racism to the idiots of the right wing.

tmc = Republican sympathizer who displays the very trait that Mr. Wapshott is referring to! Democrats, who I hate for various reasons not mentioned here, are simply not as stupid and crazy as republicans. Look at their positions on things like evolution, specifically mentioned in the article. tmc claims the democrats have these crazy positions too, but they don’t! Denying evolution is straight crazy… that would be enough. but the other examples are numerous. denial of basic economic principles, stretching to place blame where it doesn’t belong. Sheesh even climate change is a good example! As a layman, I cannot know for certain what is happening with the climate. Tell me, with that in mind, does it make sense to go with the opinion of a fringe of scientists, almost all of whom are NOT EVEN STUDYING the climate, but rather particle physics or mathematics, as all the critics of the climate change consensus are? Or does it make sense to accept the best explanation we have so far, which is that we are responsible and can moderate the change we are bringing about??

As an outsider, and someone who studied psychology from the sciences, I find it genuinely laughable to hear people angrily take sides with whoever soothes their bias the most… intellectually, it is deplorable. Funny, in a way, but deplorable.

Posted by Benny27 | Report as abusive

@diluded I wonder if you can tell us what the deficit projection is for fiscal 2014 if a CR is passed? I’ve read (as the most conservative estimate) $350B and falling; with a little luck with better growth and a slight trim to the military budget you’d have your balanced budget. Further, if GDP growth matches deficit growth than the debt is a push; if GDP growth exceeds ie 3% growth vs 1% (about $160B) deficit than the debt is in real terms SHRINKING. We are actually at the point where the debt in real terms is shrinking – if the psychotics would just GET OUT OF THE WAY and let the economy blossom a bit this conversation would be non-existent. Don’t believe the hype…

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

IMHO, an excellent synopsis of the sad, sorry state of the GOP. The point that the entire GOP strategy was predicated on the “leverage” of the dire consequences of a failure to raise the debt ceiling is well taken. The fact that so many Conservatives can then turn on a dime and state “the debt ceiling is no big deal” illustrates perfectly the problem with the GOP – to them facts are merely transient things that evolve with their thinking, rather than having their thinking evolve with the facts. Exactly opposite of rationality. It really is very sad, pathetic, and dangerous to our nation.

Posted by mb56 | Report as abusive

This article is incredibly naive. The Plutocracy is firmly in control of the government, with spokespeople through the Idiocracy. The more confusion, obfuscation, deception, dishonestly and hypocrisy the better. It only furthers the success of the corruption. The Tenth of One Percenters rule the United States and have for many years. It’s time that the Pee-Ons accepted their fates. The Class War has already been decided.

THE PLUTOCRACY RULES ! !

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive

Yes, puchurro, I can’t imagine why people think many in the GOP are driven by racism now. Your comments about the President are so astute and above all that.

Good luck in 2016, GOP. Clean house, or clean out your offices. Your choice.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

CDN_Reb, when I say an “unsustainable trajectory” I’m not talking about next year’s budget, I’m talking about 2020 and 2030. The CBO published two secnarios, and both the extended baseline scenario and the alternative fiscal scenario, suggest we can’t maintain current ratios of debt and spending to GDP. And have a look at the GAO projections for entitlement spending: baby boomers are retiring and are going to take an increasing slice of the pie until around 2030. We are moving from the 1960s 5:1 ratio of workers to retirees to more like 2.2:1 The conclusions in these reports aren’t coming from Fox news. Don’t let your anger towards the other side blind you to the fact that there is a grain of truth in what they are ranting about.

Posted by diluded0000 | Report as abusive

The author seems to forget that Congress holds the purse strings in our system, and that the GOP was elected to the House, which is the branch that is actually representative of the population. So there is no “mandate” to simply do whatever the opposition wants, simply because they hold the Senate and Presidency. The congressman’s job is to follow the direction of the voters who elected them. That is the entire reason that the Congress is split into two chambers.

This entire article is foolish and is simply a list of talking points that are frequently used by the Democrats. I don’t find a bit of original thought in it.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

@stevedebi,
But the majority of Americans don’t want shutdown, and DO want the ACA. What was your point again?

Without Republican gerry-mandering, there would be no republican house majority…

Posted by Benny27 | Report as abusive

If you don’t like Obamacare, then gather the necessary votes and repeal it. Or just keep crying and losing elections. Your choice.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Tax rates now are roughly 1/2 what they were 60 years ago. If the GOP really wanted a balanced budget as priority #1 they would not take revenue off the table these last few years. We’ve had a serious dialog about spending and the result was Simpson-Bowles, recommending $4 in spending cuts and $1 in revenue gain, repeated 400 billion times. The cuts are in place as sequester. Deficits are dropping dramatically as some have posted.

Truman, Eisenhower and Johnson used added taxes to pay for wars. This wasn’t done for Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s part of our debt, and the monetary cost is the least of it considering the multiple tours, the dead and wounded. The unfunded military cost of these wars has been expending, not upgrading, materiel as well as the human cost. Despite the overall trend of lower taxes since the Korean War, those presidents and G.H.W. Bush – and even Reagan – adjusted taxes back up in the face of growing deficits – but that hasn’t been allowed by the GOP in at least 12 years.

American exceptionalism in the 20th century was built on investment in infrastructure, research, and education to foster commerce and provide opportunity in a free society with rule of law. Now we seem to want a bargain basement exceptionalism, and the goal is not what example we want to set, or what great things we want to do, but how little we can pay towards our future.

Posted by Decatur | Report as abusive

The Republicans are embracing old ideals that failed in the past in other parts of the world. As far as regulation is concerned there is more dangerous things the average person has little knowledge about to regulate trough the market.

For example radiation of all sorts including microwave. Safety aspects of cars. Chemical environment of the work place, drugs, medical devices.

Place in the world without enforced reasonable building codes have buildings collapse during big winds and minor earthquakes since Roman times. Not even doctors would know what each drug does with government mandated clinical trails and labeling.

A recession due to default or shutdown will increase the need for entitlements such unemployment benefits.

One of the biggest failures of their ideas is health care. The simple profit motive (mandated by law on corporations) requires insurance companies to look for ways not to pay out. The no pre-existing condition cause is one example. So a medical system based on unregulated insurance leaves the sick out. The simple fact is we will all get sick unless we are killed first, when we are sick we have reduced or no capacity for work. Serious sickness is long term.

Posted by Samrch | Report as abusive

Nicholas,

In an excellent essay called Ur Fascism, though written in English rather than his native italian, Umberto Eco, underscores the ideological elements that make fascism a persistent ideology in both time and space. Willed ignorance and distrust of science are one of the principal defining characteristics and this for extreme right wing movements whether or not they claim the fascist name. The article is lasting in capturing a human political phenomenon that, alas, we may well need to deal with again.

Posted by St.Juste | Report as abusive

@St.Juste:
While what you say holds some elements of truth, you’re missing the fact that it’s crony capitalism that has taken over this country the past few decades. The Plutocracy, the Tenth of One Percenters are now firmly in control of this country and they are doing very well as their power and wealth increases. They manipulate the crazies, stupid and gullible to vote against their own self interest as part of a concerted campaign in the Idiocracy. They refer to themselves as the “job creators”, while the evidence indicates they are profiteers who are effective job destroyers. It’s the very rich, not the Fascists who run the United States. That’s been the case for a long time now.

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive

Let me see: US sovereign debt is now $16.7 trillion, piling on about $1 trillion per year. There is no sign this debt and the growth will end. Is this ‘reasonable’?

If the nation believe the above is reasonable, then it must be told by economists and experts that their children will face a permanent economic depression (like the one 1930-1940), and that the future of their grand children is finished.

For the past few decades, Congress (who has constitutional power of the budget) and Administration (who has power of financial operations) ganged together, under both parties, to get to where finances is today. Insane and out of control.

The Administration even practiced borrowing from the Federal Reserve to repay future borrowings from the same. To the tune of trillions. If this insanity works, then all empires of history would not have collapsed and would still exist today. The British Empire would not have collapsed from war debt and would be still ‘richer’ than the US.

This is the prospect facing USA. The finance is already at Debt/GDP = 100%. At 110% a liquidity trap will occur where no policy and economic work can stop hyper inflation and ending of the US dollar as world currency of trade and reserve. This is not opinion; it is mathematical certainty.

A 110% Debt/GDP will happen in about 5 years. So either fix the political insanity now, or face ‘end of dollar’ economic collapse in 2018.

Posted by TomKi | Report as abusive

I assure you @Benny27 I am NOT a republican sympathizer. In fact I support more democratic motions than republican by far. I am an independent. Mr. Wapshott is an extremist of the left, just as bad as an extremist from the right. I consider both parties a disgrace to our nation now. So again.. let’s drop the labels.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Both the way the republicans are trying to force a repeal on a passed law, and the way that the MN state democrats walked out on a vote they could not win in efforts to stop it, are examples of how both parties are no longer following the form of government of this country.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Congress should legalize marajuana so we can substantially reduce the deficit through high consumer sales and hefty taxes, stimulate international trade, allow congress and the US citizens to get legal giggles as well as cope without needing to understand the lunacy of those in government who are digging the ever deepening hole that will collapse on us all, burying the US economy. Say, didn’t George W. Bush model this hole digging pretty successfully? Perhaps he could be appointed as the Chairperson to head up this initiative since he could advise Boehner being of the same cloak and mentality. One of his perks would be free marajuana, of course.

Posted by capitan | Report as abusive

I do not get it. They sit in the house sipping their espressos and cappucinos; getting PAID BY US AND ARE CAUSING THOSE WHO elected them NOT to be paid. There is something wrong with this picture. Barack Obama is the president;duly elected; whether the Tea Party Teabags like it or not. Sure, discuss what is on agenda, but at this critical time do NOT
link unlike bills, laws etc to fulfill an agenda that will destroy our country. Remember this people: when election time rolls around. Do you want nutcases running this government or people of reason? They are like a bunch of children who POUT when they do not get their way.

Posted by madgrammy | Report as abusive

John Boehner is no leader. Each time he returns from a deal negotiated with the President, his caucus rejects it and he resorts to blame as his escape tactic. The guy lacks the personal traits of a real leader … a well hung pair.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

@ Piffany

You are quite right in underlining the role of class interest and money in creating a popular movement that goes beyond class interest and money. This movement is built around elements of: national identity; racism, scientific skepticism (remember the “no-nothing” movement?), religious identification, militarism and imperialism. I did not detail all the aspects of fascism Eco mentions in his article but these are some which fit very well into the current political landscape. Fascism is always present in modern societies but it becomes popular in times of stress when fueled by the interests of the dominant class. It can also escape its class masters for a time which appears to be what is happening now.

Posted by St.Juste | Report as abusive

One of the many consequences if the government shutdown isn’t resolved is that disabled veterans will not get their disability checks. Brave men and women who were injured doing military service for our country will have their livelihood taken away.

Posted by JugglingForCure | Report as abusive

@tmc
I agree completely with your posts, but as a matter of record it was the Democrats next door in Wisconsin who walked out on a vote they could not win, not Minnesota.

The vast majority of Republicans accept evolution as fact, and that rape can and does result in pregnancy. The author of this article went off the deep end and, in my view, lost all credibility when he used the example of a couple extremist nuts not believing in evolution as representative of Republicans in general. Yawn.

Posted by Randy549 | Report as abusive

The other day, I mentally “followed the money” to figure out what the bottom line is for the Republicans’ shenanigans. I could very well be wrong, but I believe that they really *want* the stock market to collapse. When it bottoms out, they – and their masters among the 1% – will buy up those dirt cheap shares to attain even more labor-free income.

After that, they will agree to re-open the country because they will be even wealthier than before. Perhaps they’ll condescend to allow themselves to be taxed to help fund Obamacare.

Anyway, some food for thought.

Posted by UrDrighten | Report as abusive

How about doing an article on the hypocrisy of the Democrats, especially the grand standing Obama.

“Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills.”

“It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past five years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers.”

Obama – 2006

Posted by TheNewWorld | Report as abusive

So if I understand your argument; the democrats should drop immigration reform, it is the “law of the land”, the president won the election [Bush] and we have no recourse but to enforce the law.

…some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are…

Posted by agular17 | Report as abusive

“TheNewWorld” – pigs will fly before you see that. this great nation of dupable lemmings thinks that obama is on their side, a great and noble leader. forget that he kills innocents with drones, lies about the NSA, IRS, spews endless campaign style propaganda, goes back on his own word regularly. the idiots in this country can only view this as a comic book story. pure good vs pure evil. and no matter how much obama is the same as his predecessor, these idiots treat him like a movie star. pathetic, nothing more….

Posted by subframer1 | Report as abusive

Wapshott is just another liberal hack, relying solely on smear and denigration. And his audience of liberal fools laps it up, just like every other hack columnist of his stripe. This is what we have, a corrupt administration and a complicit press. Just like a third world dictatorship. That’s where were headed, folks. Idiocy, incompetence, a dependent population with their hands stuck out. Thanks libs, hope you rot…..

Posted by subframer1 | Report as abusive

This article shows exactly the mess that the American politics has become.

It makes valid points about economic (ir)rationality of the republicans ,whose ideology was the main driver of economic deterioration, consequences of which we are now facing, and who are not only unwilling to admit to any responsibility, they are doubling down and becoming more shill and dangerous with every passing minute.

Having said this, the democratic party went along with the schemes and in many ways became a Trojan horse by disarming what would have been a more vigorous opposition to growing economic irrationality on the republican side. It was Bill Clinton who presided over the first large financial (internet) bubble, and who dismantled what was left of financial regulation. He got handsomely rewarded for it too, he is reportedly worth ~200million US$, all for nothing more than influence peddling. Obama is walking in his footsteps, no doubt hoping for the same in his post-presidential life.

And finally, the article launches into a tirade about evolution and global warming, both democratic propaganda tools meant to show that the democrats as a group are somehow more “rational” and “scientific” than the medieval peasants of the republican party. By conflating evolution, a reasonably well established scientific theory, with global warming, a manifestly failed scientific theory, that survives only by being propped up by governments (democratic in this case) and some of the more gullible (or devious) media outlets, the article provides a conclusive proof that the opposite is true. Both sides of the political divide like to use (and abuse) science as a cheap prop to support their favorite brand of irrationality.

What we need to do as citizens and voters is to demand actual rationality, demand that politicians do what they are paid for, and punish deviants on both sides of the political spectrum.

Posted by fatman51 | Report as abusive

Thanks @Randy549. I think there is some merit to what @UrDrighten says too. It is not “the” reason, but I think it plays in as an influence from so powerful players that have no conscious. And they do exist.
Also @TheNewWorld is correct about the debt being hypocrisy, but both parties are fully and equally guilty. the 108th and 109th congresses were totally controlled by the republicans with Bush/Cheney and yet debt climbed and nothing was done.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Compiling an article of snippets of stupid comments is rarely reflective of the whole. Would that famous Democrat quote asking a General if the additional deployment of 8,000 Marines to Guam cause the Island to tip over be indicative of All Dems? Even I wouldn’t go that far.

Does the author believe unsustainable spending needs to be cut? No. Which is funny since the word unsustainable means it’s inevitable whether you do it willfully or not. Where’s the “reason” there? Agendized authors attempting to bolster their side by attacking the messengers of the opposition are guilty of not being able to attack the message: “spending must be cut.”

Posted by TomGenin | Report as abusive

This is just the left trying to marginalize the tea party as crazy when the crazy ones are those, like Wapshott, who want to keep increasing the debt $1 trillion every year until the economy crashes.

Posted by Gipper2000 | Report as abusive

Age of unreason? Try this for unreason. This is what happens when you run deficits all the time.

1.6% Inflation rate? Riiiiggghhhttt:

=======

Average Wages
1930 $1,970.00 , 1940 $1,725.00, 1950 $3,210.00 , 1960 $5,315.00 ,
1970 $9,400.00 , 1980 $19,500.00 , 1990 $28,960.00 , 2008 $40,523 ,

Average Cost of New Car Cars
1930 $600.00 , 1940 $850.00, 1950 $1,510.00 , 1960 $2,600.00 ,
1970 $3,450.00 , 1980 $7,200.00 , 1990 $16,950.00 , 2008 $27,958 ,

Average Cost Loaf of Bread Food
1930 9 cents , 1940 10 cents , 1950 12 cents , 1960 22 cents ,
1970 25 cents , 1980 50 cents , 1990 70 cents , 2008 $2.79 ,

Average Cost 1lb Hamburger Meat
1930 12 cents , 1940 20 cents , 1950 30 cents , 1960 45 cents ,
1970 70 cents , 1980 99 cents , 1990 89 cents , 2009 $3.99 ,

Posted by EnzyteBob | Report as abusive

“China’s official news agency has called for the creation of a “de-Americanised world”, saying the destinies of people should not be left in the hands of a hypocritical nation with a dysfunctional government.”

Our political parties are seriously hurting the country now. Both of them. We need a referendum vote on Term limits for congress and SCOUS and campaign finance reform. Nothing more or it will be turned into a never ending argument and well get nothing. Just those two things and all things can be achieved after just one or two election cycles. DEMAND IT!

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

From the opinion: “some people are too stupid to know how stupid they are.”

He’s right. You can’t reason with someone who takes pride in being stupid. I’m glad someone finally put what the majority of us are thinking in plain-speak writing.

Ironically, the most profoundly stupid are the ones who would advocate qualification (e.g., IQ, history, knowledge of government) testing for voters. They’d fail. Unfortunately, we have to protect them from their own stupidity to our own disadvantage.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive

Federal receipts total 2oo billion dollars per month.
Federal debt service totals 25 billion dollars per month.
Does the Dunning-Kruger effect hold for journalists too?

Posted by MPPB | Report as abusive

Wapshott, an extremist Progressive journalist of highly questionable intellect and always questionable motives spews forth institutionalized Progressive hate propaganda under the guise of writing about the documented and universally accepted superiority of Keynes over the Austrians.

JL4 immediately climbs out of its hole, blinking at the brightness, and mutters a relieved prayer expressing love for Wapshott because Wapshott has apparently confirmed for JL4 that JL4 must be intelligent because JL4 and Wapshott share a world-view, such as it is, and JL4 saw it in Rooters.

tmc, documented eco-fascist, nods its head in smug agreement with Wapshott’s hate spewage, while claiming innocence and feigning balance.

UrDrighten, quacking agreement with Wapshott, ascribes nefarious intent to the conservatives. “AFLAC!!!”

And so it goes. Watching Progressives stand around scratching and preening themselves is truly entertaining. When you clowns get over yourselves maybe we can get back to having a productive debate.

Posted by HamsterHerder | Report as abusive

Wapshotts’ article is so ripe with so many topics showing his arrogance, lack of civility and stupidity , it could spin dozens of comments. But let us stick just to his financial ignorance.

1. Yes Keynes won the day over 80 years ago and where has it brought us? Unconstitutional fed govt. established by liberal judicial opinion and not law.

2. Unsustainable debt. In case you don’t know it– America is bankrupt. When Obama leaves office he will have doubled the national debt. And his tired rhetoric that he couldn’t undo what he accuses Bush of doing is tired. Remember the housing crash which brought on the economic depression was born in 1976 with Carter and the Community Redevelopment Act. Advanced hard under Clinton and yes kept alive by Bush. There were predator banks out there, but it was mostly the govt. forcing banks under threat to lend to people the banks never would have that caused the bubble to grow and burst.

3. Job hemorrhaging didn’t start until AFTER Obama was electted. He has had 5 3/4 years to fix this economy and has failed. Remember the buck stops with the president according to Obama himself.

4. America does not have to default on any debt. Unl;ess of course the president orders it to happen. Our interest on the debt is approx. $230 billion a year and the fed takes in $3 trillion a year. More than enough cash to cover debt. (Remember any debt that people want to cash in on can be replaced by new debt–that does not add debt it just swaps it). Forcing the fed to live within its means would be hard for a few years, but like a household it would bounce back and continue on.

I for one am proud that the conservatives are winning the day (even though losing the popularity contest). If they hold the line we just may be able to save this once great nation for future generations.

Posted by nolidad | Report as abusive

As a added thought, I would personally love to debate Mr. Wapshott on “global warming” especially anthropogenic global warming!

Also I would love to have a second debate on purely scientific grounds on evolution being an established “fact” of science especially the “macro” evolution theories.

Posted by nolidad | Report as abusive

I have to applaud this article.
Not because I agree with its sentiments.
Not because I disagree with them either.
As a simple European wondering what on Earth, the world’s largest democracy is doing, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the meat of the matter.

However, I did love the creation of a straw man: the GOP member as a superstitious neanderthal hell bent on bringing in witch burning, Creationism and a balanced budget. The author creates a delightfully evil foe that he was then able to destroy utterly.

Such writing is rare in the modern age.

Posted by Thurlac | Report as abusive

Documented eco-fascist? That’s a new one for me. Where’s is your productive debate? Just name calling and labeling isn’t very productive. Entertaining, but not productive.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

@Decatur Your comment “American exceptionalism in the 20th century was built on investment in infrastructure, research, and education to foster commerce…” is right on and not pointed out often enough. The Republicans war on science and education may have already doomed our economic power for our grandchildren and perhaps our children. Debt is not the threat, failure to lead in science and technology, both based on reason, is the real threat.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

I have never seen a liberal write a check. If you are so consumed with how you are “helping” people by forcing them to do things with guns and government, then I have a few questions for you.
Why not write a check? Everything you make over the US avg of $40k, write a check as a donation to our glorious government and the wonderful things it does. Or to St. Jude’s Hospital. You won’t do either.
For a party in love with the law, why not support the law of the land, the Protection of Marriage Act? Or immigration laws?
There is a serious debate going on in America that I don’t think makes it to the blue states – have you gone far enough that you need to be elminated – in the same way that Tories were in the American Revolution, and Democrats in the South were during the Civil War. You need to wake up and be scared.

Posted by matt66210 | Report as abusive

I am encouraged to see more individuals expressing the thought that neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans are putting the interests of this country first.

Once more people acknowledge the fact that it is the American citizen that is being negatively impacted by the party politics within the Beltway, then change will happen. The old-line Dems and old-line Republicans will continue to solidify the power, influence and wealth they control, while at the same time exempting themselves from the legislation they impose on us. That’s how those within in the Beltway becomes multimillionaires during their elected tenures. Both Republicans and Democrats inside trade on the legislation in committee, they sell their votes to the special interests (all the while investing with those same special interests), and secure special consideration from the industries they are charged to regulate. That’s how they get rich “serving” the country.

This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. It is the political aristocracy versus the American people. It will take decades to unwind the damage both parties have done to this country by continually funding new “benefits” on the backs of the young people.

So, let’s see…the politico’s screw the working taxpayer of today, and diminish the future of young people through increased indebtedness. All so they can say “I won!”.

They’re right. 536 of them win, 315 million Americans lose.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive

Very good article, Mr. Wapshott. But, to go beyond it, we need to consider what scenario the 1% is operating under, assuming that what is happening now is according to their agenda. It seems a good guess (to me) that people who have a few billion dollars on hand may well believe they can turn a serious US financial decline and recession to their advantage. The US wouldn’t ever be the same afterward, but that is not their concern — they are above it, after all. Sure, it would be a little speed bump for them, but nothing they couldn’t easily absorb. Their enablers, the Tea Party toadies, need not imagine that they will be rewarded, of course.

Posted by bcrawf | Report as abusive

All the points in this article are just common sense, and them not being received as so shows how effective the Koch engine has been in its 1984-esque propaganda promotion. In the comments above, the only real criticism I see is ‘unsustainable debt’, but anyone actually concerned about the debt would immediately end our wars of choice and raise taxes. Reluctance to follow these straightforward steps shows that the real issue is not concern over the debt, but over quarterly returns for the rich, and ideology for the poor.

Posted by brianpforbes | Report as abusive

It’s unfortunate but true: the Republicans have become the loony party. There are Republicans in congress who truly believe Obama is a Muslim, that he supports Al Qaeda, that he’s a socialist dictator hell bent on destroying America. We have a Tea Party member who gets policy advice directly from God Almighty Himself through the power of Christian prayer, and another who believes there are 4 branches of government. The insane government shutdown was engineered by freshmen Tea Partiers who didn’t let their inexperience and ignorance of political process stop them from adopting a strategy of fiscal extortion that’s alarmed the more rational members of the public and caused moderates to go belly up.

Republicans aren’t driven by any coherent policy or ideology anymore. They’re driven by raw emotion: hatred, fear, and rage, all focused like a laser on anything Obama. Look at the comments section on any news site like this one, and see how many comments are rational policy discussions, and how many are just tirades, insults, and ad hominem attacks. I’ve been following the comments closely during the shutdown, and I’d say about 90% of the anti-Obamacare posters don’t even know what Obamacare is or what it does. These people have no regard for reality.

Do we need to do something about the debt? Yes. Definitely. But are these the people we want to trust to come up with some sane and rational method for doing so?

In 1944 as the war ended, the US debt was 120% of GDP. It was paid off in 30 years with no damage to the economy. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 95%. The economy boomed. Boehner and the Republicans say they’re serious about reducing the debt, but are revenue increases on the table? Absolutely not. These people still believe we need low taxes on the wealthiest because they’re the “job creators”. Well they’ve enjoyed super-low tax rates of 35% for 13 years and where are the jobs?

The Republicans have let their party drift to the right into a cloud cuckoo land where facts don’t matter Facts are the product of the liberal media and are not to be trusted. So they circle the wagons and sit inside talking to each other, saying only things they want to hear: Romney has the election sewn up. People will rally behind a government shutdown. Defaulting on the debt won’t really matter. National monuments they closed down are Obama’s fault.

In this kind of environment, the crazier you are, the better you’ll fit in.

Posted by dr_mabeuse | Report as abusive

Not just an opthalmologist but a self-certified one at that. Try doing that in any other learned profession and see how long before the state nails your buns for practicing without a license.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

So, by all means, let’s continue to kick the can down the road like all generations, including the “greatest generation.” It is the defintion of insanity thing all over again. All that comes out of this is the “promise” to talk about it in the future – nothing again. I would submit that it is the idiot, liberal Democrats that are plotting our destruction, albeit, with a ready hand from the Republicans.

Neither party has any interest in developing a path to prosperity, just the race to see who can outspend who. I can tell you that the GOP is NOT being pushed around by some “mysterious” (please read oouu along with this) radical sect. First, they are ‘the people’, not the leeches. Second, these people, of which I am proudly one, seek someone to represent them, neither party will, i.e. if only that really were true.

Finally, I do agree with one point in all the crap that is pontificated in this piece – it is time for a ‘showdown’ – pick your sides enslavement through socialism or freedom and prosperity, albeit with pain and risk. I choose the later.

Interesting the inclusion of Dunning-Kruger, must have been pride in ownership as it relates to this article.

Posted by kevin2ia | Report as abusive

GOP continues to believe its own Karl Rove numbers. Effectively, just putting a piece of black tape over the fuel gauge, while driving further and further out into the desert. “What bad news. If the car was going empty, it would tell me.”

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

@nolidad,
You would lose that debate about evolution, if you happened to debate a twelfth grader from my hometown. IF you have a problem with macro-evolution, you are plain wrong. It already calls you out as, yes, a neanderthal creationist. This is the point about denying science spelled out: just because you don’t understand doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Most science is counter-intuitive when you study it. For evolution to be discredited, you have to discredit geology, chemistry, genetics, the fossil record, the tree of life (taxonomic tree from biology)…

Just to name a few of many. If you can do that then you will win every nobel prize this year, because you would be the most brilliant scientist ever. The fact that your petty prejudices prevent you from seeing the obvious truth just shows how silly you are to think as you do. I know far less about AGW, but it makes me question your sources on that topic too. To go against a plurality of scientists you need evidence, something politicians of every stripe have a problem with.

@tmc, sorry for the republican comment, but you were comparing a political stunt of the democrats to the examples of science denial of the republicans, so I had to comment. I see your point now, but a political stunt is what it is, hardly indicative of any deeper foolishness (and both sides definitely do that)

Posted by Benny27 | Report as abusive

The tactic of not funding government is smells to most Americans because that is not what they think government should work. Bad laws should be repealed if and only if the majority wants it done.

Also it is not really lawful. Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment says all lawful debt will be paid. Section 5 of the same says Congress shall make provisions for the payment. Since the Constitution is the highest law in this nation, honest judges will have to issue orders striking down the 1911 and 1974 laws requiring a balanced budget or issue orders requiring the house to pass funding all lawful expenses.

Posted by Samrch | Report as abusive

The courts would take time to deal with issue and may be pact by years of Republican appointments. Which a financial
problems most by the illegal actions the the House”s Tea Party.

In sort the House’s Tea Party acts illegally and moves against majority rule.

Posted by Samrch | Report as abusive

Reuters, will you PLEASE get this left wing nut jobs op-ed off the front page. Other real authors deserve the spot far more than this guy.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

I think he’s more of a practical centrist loony than a left wing nut job, no complaints here.

Posted by Decatur | Report as abusive