Excuse Me While I Hit Myself Repeatedly with a Hammer….

A recent post at Maddowblog began with the following observation:

Since so much of the public has no idea what the debt ceiling is, what default is, what bond markets are, or what the full faith and credit of the United States means, polling on the subject just doesn’t tell us much.

The post went on to describe a different sort of poll that proved the point; it asked about the debt ceiling, but phrased the same question two different ways. When asked simply whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling, respondents were pretty evenly split. The second version asked whether Congress should prevent the government from borrowing money in order to pay its debts;  73% of those responding to the question when it was posed that way said such a step would seriously harm the economy, and opposed it. Only 22% approved.

The American people aren’t stupid. When the question is asked using language citizens understand, they resoundingly offer the right answer. The lesson of this–and multiple other examples–is twofold: (1) the public is generally unfamiliar with the language of its own government, with many equating “raising the debt ceiling” with incurring new debt; and (2) polls that politicians reference to “prove” that the American public is on their side of an issue tend to be worthless and/or deceptive.

Thanks to their own extremism and lack of elementary economic knowledge, the Tea Party zealots who have captured one of America’s major parties and the House of Representatives are poised to do substantial damage to the people they have been elected to represent.

Pundits from both Left and Right (even Karl Rove!) predict that the government crisis they are determined to precipitate will create a backlash that can only hurt the GOP, but those warnings are falling on deaf ears. As a friend of mine used to say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

The broad, sane middle of the American public will need to batten down the hatches and prepare for a totally unnecessary period of fiscal and economic misery–brought to us by people motivated by one and only one “principle”–ensuring that thirty million Americans currently without health insurance don’t get access to healthcare.

And to make sure they don’t, they’re willing to plunge the country into another recession.

Excuse me while I go hit myself some more with that hammer….


  1. This is just my take on the national debt situation: ask yourself if you spent the same amount of money on food today as you did one year ago today – would you purchase the same amount of food to feed your family? Yes; I do understand that the national debt and how it is incurred is much more involved than a family budget but simple facts are simple facts. Costs of everything have risen while the median income of most of this nation has remained the same or been lowered drastically. The 1-2% of Americans who receive a much lower tax rate would not go hungry if their rate were returned to what it was before Bush’s preference for the wealthy in this country. The same cannot be said for most of the nation. I haven’t seen this issue mentioned lately in all of the BS going on in Washington regarding the government shutdown being based on repealing the ACA. We have lost sight of the bottom line; the GOP is taking full advantage of our poor memories.

  2. How do we get ourselves out of this mess? I was struck by the brewing “scandal” involving Chuck Todd at NBC – when he says it is not his responsibility to point out the lies of the Republican party when it comes to the ACA. If not them, then who? Who is in a more qualifies position to point out the lies of the right than the media? Is it not responsible journalism to point out that when a pol says blue is green that they are WRONG? Similarly if a pol says things like the ACA will do this or that when in actuality it does neither but something else entirely is that not also responsible journalism? Sometimes I think they are so afraid of not having these idiots on their shows that they give them a pass and never press them on the truth. Some pols have let it be known that if they are quizzed too much or given hardball questions they will not appear on the Sunday shows. So these shows are becoming crap. They are all becoming faux media events where pols get to show up, walk down their talking-points list and no longer get SERIOUSLY challenged when they are full of BS. The media needs to step up and start being journalists again, asking hard questions and pressing these idiots on their lunacy, or we are ALL in serious trouble.

  3. Sheila:

    This is just another reason why we need Plain Language in government (and in the media, law, and private sector, as well). Plain Language is not only a nice sounding term (that makes sense), it’s also a movement with standards, best practices, and lessons learned.

    President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act on October 13, 2010. The law requires that federal agencies use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” On January 18, 2011, he issued a new Executive Order, “E.O. 13563 – Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.” It states that “[our regulatory system] must ensure that regulations are accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand.”

    Source: http://www.plainlanguage.gov

    Plain Language Guidelines: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/FederalPLGuidelines/TOC.cfm

    A report on the impact of Plain Language on the Australian Divorce Court system:

    The state of Oregon has established that using Plain Language increases tax compliance (they collect more revenue): http://www.oregon.gov/DAS/pl/docs/leg_reports/1_r_w_agencies.pdf

    Thanks for sharing this post, Sheila. Keep up the great work (as usual).

    Scott Abel

  4. And the good part about all of this is that it’s going to feel so good when you stop hammering yourself in the head, you’ll be glad you did it.

    I personally am glad to see that your commenters today referred to “the act” correctly as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That other term is yet another poke in the eye of President Obama. The Tea Party Republicans just never give up, do they? Furthermore, they have no clue what they’re asking for here, nor what the ramifications will be.

  5. Betty I think calling it by its right name is a good idea, however, I also like the President has owned the term “Obamacare” thus taking away some of the sting of TEABAGistan using it a pejorative.

  6. “You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.” Please share with me the name of your friend, I would like to properly attribute the quote when I start repeatedly using it myself.

  7. Wiki Answers (and I’m suspicious of anything ‘Wiki’) says it was Jonathan Swift.

    Thanks, Larry! I like your position about ‘Obamacare,’ too. They can’t put much past our President. He’s taken more crap than we will ever, EVER know, and he’s handled it well. They should be embarrassed, but alas, they have no shame!

  8. Larry G, your comment brings to mind something I read on Facebook about Chuck Todd. I’m stealing and paraphrasing someone else’s saying: I’ve heard Chuck Todd does unmentionable things with donkeys. It’s not up to me, however, to say whether or not that’s true.

Comments are closed.