...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003
      ( 9:06 AM )
Everything is Political

You may have noticed that I never tire of talking politics. This may get old for some people... but I feel so strongly that if we don't involve ourselves actively in our civic environment, we are abdicating our power as citizens. We really need to pay attention and be direct about things, and it's never going to change, so I'll probably never stop talking about it.

That being said, let me begin this post by mentioning briefly that poop, like politics has its place. Just like politics in the wrong place can corrupt decision making at the highest levels (as we shall observe in a moment), poop on the living room floor is not so pleasant either. I realize that I am still a couple of years away from the whole potty-training issue, so it's not like I expect toilet usage from my 14-month old. However, I do expect the poop to stay in the diaper. Let's just say even OxyClean had a tough time with this one. Sigh. The never ending delights of having a toddler in the house. It's more adventure than a puppy!

Speaking of poop, the President is not going to escape continuing questions about his ability to effectively lead this country, even though he's hiding out on his "ranch" for a month. In today's NY Times, Krugman asks the question

how can Congress or the public make informed
votes if both are fed distorted information?

Not only that, but how can the President and the administration make informed decisions if they are filtering all the information through the "tell me only what I want to hear" filter?

The agency's analysts find that they are no longer helping
to formulate policy; instead, their job is to rationalize decisions
that have already been made. And more and more, they find
that they are expected to play up evidence, however weak,
that seems to support the administration's case, while
suppressing evidence that doesn't.

Am I describing the C.I.A.? The E.P.A.? The National Institutes
of Health? Actually, I'm talking about the Treasury Department,
but the ambiguity is no coincidence. Across the board, the Bush
administration has politicized policy analysis. Whether the subject
is stem cells or global warming, budget deficits or weapons of
mass destruction, government agencies are under intense pressure
to say what the White House wants to hear. And the long-term
consequences are likely to be dire

It turns out that not only is the administration manipulating its agencies to provide only the information it wants the public to hear, it's feeding this information to the press as if it were full and neutral analyses.

For his June 22 interview with Howard Dean, Tim Russert
asked the Treasury Department to prepare examples
showing how repealing the Bush tax cuts would affect ordinary
families. Presumably Mr. Russert thought Treasury would provide
a representative selection — that is, like many in the media, he
doesn't yet understand the extent to which Treasury has become
an arm of the White House political machine.

Here's the way the twist works:

...the examples Treasury provided to Mr.
Russert and others in the media were wildly unrepresentative.
To give you a sense: the Treasury's example of a "lower
income" elderly household was one receiving $2,000 a year
in dividend income. In fact, only about one elderly household
in four receives any dividend income, and only one in eight
receives as much as $2,000. Not surprisingly, the "Russert
families" gained far more from the Bush tax cuts than a
representative sample. As Mr. Sullivan put it, "If this continues,
the Treasury's Office of Tax Policy may have to change its name
to the Office of Tax Propaganda."

Propaganda seems to be the name of the game for all subjects under discussion for this administration. The talk now of "the economy improving" and "things getting better in Iraq" and "creating jobs" and "being more secure" is just talk. While numbers may show slight gains in the economy, there are no new jobs, there are more people losing jobs, and now even those numbers are suspect.

And even if you aren't bothered by an administration that
systematically misleads the public, you ought to be worried
about the decisions of an administration that systematically
misleads itself. A leader who is told only what he wants to hear
is all too likely to make bad decisions about the economy, the
environment and beyond.

The "and beyond" is what I'm worried about.

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