Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just The Facts

Growing up as a child, one of the first police shows that I remember watching was "Dragnet". Sgt Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) never failed to get to the bottom of the case by looking for "just the facts". 

I find a comparison almost ludicrous today while looking at political perspectives. Don't get me wrong. I know that both parties have been guilty of taking liberties with the facts from time to time, but it certainly seems that the guilty party in recent days has been the political left. Take for example, unemployment numbers. Some of the liberal standard bearers like to crow over decreasing (or at least stable) unemployment based on those not claiming benefits. When the right points out that unemployment numbers don't include people whose benefits have run out or who have given up looking for a job in a climate providing far too few, they are criticized for ignoring or slanting the facts out there or of a misinterpretation of the facts presented. 

Some will then go on to point out that the number of jobs created (or saved) since they gained control of both the White House and the Congress have increased. When their opposition points out that many of those jobs touted were either government jobs or temporary govt jobs in the Census Bureau, they are decried for failing to properly give credit to the Administration for its success. When the right goes on to further complain that the bulk of the increase is in public rather then private sector jobs (and adding to the cost of government), the left miraculously shifts its perspective and castigates its opponents for not recognizing the fact that most of the public sector jobs described were temporary ones in the Census Bureau and that they no longer exist. 

Hidden in the double speak about these phantom Census jobs however, is the fact that there have still been far too many jobs being created in the last 20 months which been full-time positions for an expanding government bureaucracy (far more than those created in the private sector)

This kind of fact selection with unemployment numbers is not new to many on the left however, and shows the same myopic vision used during the often referred to and oft-lauded progressive thinking of the New Deal era. For those who take the time to track the facts, they will find that unemployment numbers were actually showing a gradual improvement after the stock market crash of 1929, and that the economy may have recovered on its own if not for the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930. This particular bit of government intervention in the economy was a tariff intended to raise the price of imported goods in order to drive up purchases of goods 'made in America', which would in turn produce more employment. 

In fact, while Smoot-Hawley did raise the price of foreign products; it had the unintended consequence of causing a trade war with the rest of the world, which led to an even larger and deeper economic crisis. This and subsequent interference on the government's part not only didn't reduce the problem of unemployment in the US, but in fact saw it increase to double digit levels in this country, and helped drag the crisis out until it was finally ended by the economic stimulus of WWII. 

Another example of such selective facts may be when some on the left point to the reduction of the federal deficit during the Clinton years. They use this debt reduction as proof that progressive principles and increased taxation lead to a reduction of the national debt. The inconvenient facts however, are that the decreases in the deficit actually occurred during the last years of the Clinton Administration, when control of Congress was taken by Republicans in 1994. The fulfillment of their "Contract with America" contributed to both welfare reform and overall reduced government spending, and is far more likely the cause of any deficit reduction. 

Similarly, some of the progressive persuasion will point to the fact that the national debt went up during the Bush Administration, but will carefully avoid the facts surrounding one-time spending related to 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror. Equally absent from the facts cited are that spending and the deficit increased dramatically beginning in 2007 when politicians with a more liberal viewpoint took control of Congress. Nor will anyone on the left acknowledge that even while the country was going through the darkest days of the financial crisis in 2008, that deficit spending came in at $800 billion (including the much ballyhooed TARP money loaned out and mostly since repaid). 2010 deficit spending however, now that we are coming out of this crisis (according to those same progressive thinkers) will exceed $1.4 trillion. Equally absent from these so-called facts is that the CBO expects the deficit in 2011 to come in at over $1.1 trillion under the current levels of spending in this progressively led Congress, even if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. 

There are of course more examples of such tainted and obfuscated facts, but there is not time or space to list all of them. We can use even these brief specimens however to illustrate that while those on both sides of the aisle can play fast and loose with the facts, that these days it is those on the left that find it far easier to argue their point of view when using only selected facts. Once such a selection process has occurred, considerable creativity in interpretation can likewise be used in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion guaranteed more by a point of view than those facts. While not alone in their guilt in such matters, the left appears to have taken such selective inattention to facts and interpretive creativity to a new level lately, and done so with particular glee. It likewise seems that they are incapable of providing any current argument based solely on 'just the facts'.

1 comment:

Roland Hansen said...

There is one fact about the rate of unemployment that concerns me: It is too darn high.

I also have an opinion about job creation: That is the role of private industry.