Tag Archives: political spin

Accentuating the Positive….

Some readers may be old enough to remember the Sammy Davis Jr. hit song, the one that advised listeners to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…and don’t deal with Mister In-Between.”

I think Governor Pence took that advice too seriously.

A couple of days ago, an Indianapolis Star article trumpeted the governor’s “good news” that “From February to April, Indiana saw a .5% decline in the unemployment rate, from 5.9% to 5.4%. That’s the 5th largest decline in the nation in that time period.”

That sure was accentuating the positive. The negative–which certainly was eliminated by both the Governor and the Star’s coverage– was reported by  the Institute for Working Families, which noted that during that same time period, 18,800 Hoosiers had dropped out of the labor force.

Per Derek Thomas, senior researcher for the Institute:

As a percent of the labor force, that’s the second largest exodus from the labor market in the U.S. during that time period – just behind Wisconsin. This means that the unemployment rate decline can be explained – in part – by the number of Hoosiers leaving the labor force. Workers are only counted in the unemployment rate if they are actively seeking work. If someone finds no success in the job market, gives up the job search, and leaves the labor force, the unemployment rate goes down – but not for good reasons.

The Governor also took credit for GM’s recent decision to invest 1.2 billion dollars in upgrades to its Fort Wayne plant. During an interview on a local radio show, he attributed the decision to passage of Right to Work and repeal of the Common Wage, implying that Indiana’s efforts to neuter labor unions were the key to GM’s decision.

Ironically, not only is the GM plant unionized, but the company’s massive retooling will be done by union construction workers pursuant to precisely the sort of project labor agreement that Pence demonized in television ads this spring.

I understand accentuating the positive, but inventing the positive takes real chutzpah.

I wonder what the weather is like in the reality the Governor inhabits.

Politics and Pathology

There is a spectrum we all recognize in political debate: first is fact—verifiable, objective reality. Then there is spin—a partisan interpretation of that reality. And then there’s propaganda—flat out lying.

All politicians engage in spin that sometimes crosses the line into propaganda. The Romney campaign, however, seems constantly to operate in “propaganda” mode.

What are the differences?

Under “spin,” we might list things like Romney’s constant complaint that Obama hasn’t negotiated a “single trade agreement.” The President has revived agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama that had been stalled in Congress, but these aren’t technically new agreements. Romney promises to see the Keystone XL Pipeline built and implies that its construction would mean more oil for America, although pipeline owners have been clear that the oil is meant for Asian markets. Accusing the President of “apologizing for America” requires taking a lot of words out of context, but even this stretch probably falls within the typical political spin cycle.

Other pronouncements, however, are categorically, demonstrably untrue.

Perhaps the most egregious lie is that Obama has been a big spender—that under his administration, spending is “out of control.” Actually, as Rex Nutting reported in MarketWatch (a web site affiliated with that known liberal outfit The Wall Street Journal), you’d have to go back to the Eisenhower Administration to find a rate of federal spending growth lower than that of the Obama Administration. That conclusion holds even if you include the stimulus, which was passed by Bush but spent during Obama’s first year in office.

Romney repeatedly says the President “promised to bring unemployment below 8%,” but reporters have been unable to find a single instance of Obama making such a statement. He insists that repealing Obamacare will reduce the deficit, in the face of widely accepted Congressional Budget Office calculations demonstrating that repeal would vastly increase the deficit. Romney’s claims about job creation at Bain were so outsized he has had to walk them back.

There’s Romney’s widely criticized campaign ad featuring a recording of President Obama’s voice making a boneheaded remark about the economic meltdown—a recording conveniently “clipped” to remove the lead-in phrase: “Mr. McCain even said….” When confronted with this clear distortion, Romney admitted the President was quoting McCain, and laughed it off; worse,  he has continued to run the blatantly misleading spot.

More recently, Romney “quoted” The Escape Artist, a book about the Obama Administration, for assertions the book never made—the author has been making the rounds of political television rebutting Romney’s “quotes” (and happily suggesting that people buy the book to see for themselves).

There are plenty of other examples of persistent mendacity; so many, in fact, that there are a couple of websites cataloguing them. But the lies that mystify me are not those obviously motivated by political ambition and/or a calculation that a weakened media won’t notice. What mystifies me are the unforced, totally gratuitous lies.

Remember when Romney said he’d been a hunter in his youth? And then had to walk that assertion back when reporters could find no record of the permit he claimed to have held? Or his insistence that his father, George Romney (whom I greatly admired) had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King? His “memory” of that event was only corrected when photos surfaced placing the elder Romney somewhere else on the date of the supposed march.

Romney’s habitual, almost compulsive make-believe is provoking considerable comment. Time Magazine recently ran a pop-psychology article titled “The Root of Mitt Romney’s Comfort with Lying.”

Lying of this magnitude, I submit, is not political. It’s pathological.

Spin Cycle

I get so disheartened listening to political arguments about health care reform.

It’s not that I am a big fan of the bill that finally passed. I would much rather have seen “Medicare for All,” for policy reasons not germane to this post. But I have been astonished by the venom that the bill has engendered. It’s bad enough that crazies like Glenn Beck compare Obama’s effort to provide health care to the uninsured with Nazism. The despicable lie about “death panels,” hyped by Sarah Palin and her ilk, was equally odious. But perhaps the most annoying of these efforts at disinformation has been the recent effort by presumably serious GOP lawmakers to persuade the public that the Affordable Care Act–which they dub sneeringly as “Obamacare”–is a “jobs killer.”

This all started when the Congressional Budget Office reviewed the Act. Along with concluding that the reform bill will reduce the deficit significantly over the next ten years, the CBO noted that the measure will allow a number of people to leave the workforce. Congressional Republicans immediately cited this as evidence the Act was a “job killer.”

What the CBO found, however, had nothing at all to do with the number of jobs. It had to do with the number of people who are currently working only because they need affordable health insurance.

In other words, there are people who are only working because they desperately need employer-sponsored health insurance. These are people who have the means not to work full-time, if they have access to a health insurance market that currently shuts them out. Many of these workers will choose to retire early because they will now be able to buy their own health insurance.

This is what Republicans mean when they say that health care reform is ‘destroying jobs.’

There’s a reason many of us despair of ever having reasoned, rational discussions of policy. When ideology and political posturing trump reality, the common good–not to mention common sense–gets lost in the spin cycle.