By Manifesto Joe
About 40 years ago, a neocon named Arnold Beichman, (1913-2010) a man who pretty much spent his life being an anti-communist crusader, wrote and published a book called Nine Lies About America. At the end of his life he was a research fellow for the Hoover Institution and a columnist for the then-Moonie-financed Washington Times. The man had started out as a Columbia grad and journalist for publications such as PM and Newsweek, so he seemed to keep increasingly bad company as he aged.
When Nine Lies was published, around 1972, the Western world's left wing was admittedly engaged in some excesses that lefties have lived to regret over the years. So, there may have been some reason for the wide popularity of this book.
But from what I've seen since that book came out, while I was still in high school, the Western world's right wing has arguably become even more excessive, promulgating what I refer to in the title of this essay. Here are 10 lies of the right wing, categorized by subject:
I have spent much of my nearly 56 years on this planet being relatively poor (you know, by American standards), so I know something about this firsthand. To hear right-wingers tell it, being poor is mostly a self-inflicted wound. One's advancement up the economic ladder is mainly a question of individual self-improvement, deferment of gratification, and so on.
These are certainly important considerations and traits. But anyone who has worked in the corporate world for any significant length of time has surely seen plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Humans are pack animals, and that holds true in the workplace. Bosses often tend to make decisions about promotions more according to personality than performance. Then, as observed by Dr. Laurence J. Peter, co-author of the famous 1969 book The Peter Principle, the promoted toady tends to advance to what finally becomes his or her level of incompetence -- and stays there, generally to screw things up for years and years.
Conversely, Peter observed another phenomenon in the workplace -- the supercompetent underling. This is from Wikipedia:
In addition, Peter suggested the idea of “Super-Competence” in an inappropriately low position. He proposed that this employee will have two paths dependent upon their leadership. Competent People Managers will promote this employee for the betterment of the company. Incompetent People Managers will most likely feel intimidated and/or threatened by this employee. This employee is a disruption to their perceived natural order and will almost certainly drive them to set this employee up for failure and/or dismiss them. Organizations with poor leadership cannot handle this type of disruption to their hierarchical structure. A Super-Competent employee “…violates the first commandment of hierarchical life with incompetent leadership: [namely that] the hierarchy must be preserved…”
From what I've seen, this employee is highly competent and intelligent, but doesn't usually "suck up." The person's stellar performance is not rewarded, and managers will actually resort to making things up to either hold them down or, preferably, fire them.
In America, the "social safety net" is so porous and flimsy that losing a job means almost certain poverty, at least in relative terms, for most people to whom this happens.
There are also factors such as catastrophic illnesses, and of course the sheer luck of the draw at birth. I've seen "well-born" people do all kinds of things like flunk or drop out of college, lose job after job, get busted, etc., then finally clean up their act and start taking advantage of opportunities by the time they are 30 or so.
If, on the other hand, a person is not "well-born" but instead has "losers" for parents, that person usually can't afford to blow one, not even one, of the rare opportunities life will present to them at a tender age. If they do, by the time they are 30, it's usually far too late. Such people rarely have second chances.
In short, the right wing's depiction of poverty and its causes is pretty much a lie.
In the 1990s, when I was in a shop, a clerk who had apparently been reading books by Rush Limbaugh, and taking them seriously, tried to tell me that since 1965, the U.S. had spent $6 trillion on welfare. I told him he was sadly mistaken. He started trying to find a passage in that silly book. It was taking too long, so I just left with my merchandise.
Later I realized where Limbaugh, or some other right-wing demagogue, had come up with that figure and was getting the rubes to believe it. He was including ALL federal social spending since 1965, which would include Social Security (which operates not like welfare, but rather like an insurance policy), Medicare, Medicaid, and all others.
When somebody says "welfare" to me, I think of the program called Aid to Families With Dependent Children, which was actually a very small and restricted program that was in operation from 1935 to 1996. That year, Congress replaced it with the program that is now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
For the sake of brevity, I won't delve into whether what Molly Ivins famously called the "welfare deform" of 1996 was a good idea, dependence, unwed motherhood, and such. I'm sticking to the unfortunate fact that millions of ignorant Americans believe that the federal government has blown trillions of dollars on "welfare."
In 1996, spending on AFDC peaked at $24 billion. Even if you presumed that the government spent that much in real dollars in each of those years since 1965 -- and it damn sure didn't -- multiply that times 30, and what you get is $720 billion, a far cry from the alleged $6 trillion.
These are lying assholes, and they lie deliberately to gullible rubes.
The right has been persistently lying about this for many decades to keep the U.S. from "socializing" medicine. They consistently invoke "free market" arguments on this issue.
Even if one presumes the superiority of "free markets" -- and that's a big presumption -- health care has never met the "free market" model. When you are sick, do you get to shop around for ambulance services or hospitals, like some Arab trader? Ultimately, I don't even get to choose my own doctors. They have to belong to the "network" that my private insurance covers.
The invocation of "free market" arguments on health care has been one of the right's most pernicious and toxic lies, for it has resulted in the denial of affordable health care to millions upon millions of Americans. They don't even tell you that you often end up paying higher taxes and premiums, anyway, because uninsured people go to charity hospitals for care.
Health care doesn't meet the criteria of the "free market" model, and it never has. They lie, and lie, and lie some more.
This is still a staple of classical economic theory, and it's the biggest crock of bullshit in the right-wing economist's arsenal. It is, in short, that supply creates its own demand.
My understanding is that one of the major causes of the Great Depression was that supply simply outstripped the capacity of consumer demand to absorb it. Wall Street could afford to keep factories producing ever-greater numbers of cars, but Main Street was falling behind and couldn't afford the payments. So, inventory stacked up, people got laid off, they could afford even less, and a vicious downward economic cycle was set into motion.
In recent years, we've seen similar things, to wit in what we now call the Great Recession. There's no problem with productivity -- the U.S. economy doubled in size since 1980. Problem was, wages and salaries were stagnant, so people either couldn't buy what they were producing or had to go deeply into debt to afford the stuff.
It's time to put Say's Law on the ash heap of history, where it belongs. But it remains as a lie on the pages of economics textbooks.
The Invisible Hand
You know this one -- Adam Smith's amazing self-correcting capitalist economy. Problem is, it only works when you have a lot of competitors in a given sector, few barriers to entry, and honest price competition. Absent those things, there's a reason why the hand is invisible -- it probably isn't there.
Oh, but sometimes it is. I've felt that invisible hand a few times. Always felt more like a fist to me.
I recall having an argument with a person who was working in some area of law enforcement. The person was basically in favor of putting each and every lawbreaker in prison and throwing away the key. The person was also in favor of making prisons a lot tougher. They were supposed to be too much like country clubs.
I've never been in prison myself, but I've known a few people who have been there, and none of them ever described it like any country club you'd want to belong to. They are nasty, ugly places, with many cell blocks actually run by the worst prisoners themselves while corrupt guards turn a blind eye. The word "punk" originated from the term for kids who were forced to submit regularly to sodomy by older and tougher convicts.
OK, suppose we've settled the matter that prison isn't a place where any sane person wants to go. The U.S. has nearly 2.3 million adults incarcerated. Taxpayers are already paying to have 1% of all American adults in some sort of jail. Can one seriously think that they are going to pay more? Here's a link to a Wikipedia article on the subject.
Then there is a basic human-rights issue involved here. When you put a person in jail, even for a night, you have taken away this person's freedom. I don't know how you think of that where you're from, but to me that's always seemed like a pretty big deal. To a sane person, the burden of proof seems to be on society as a whole. Society had better have a damn good reason to deprive me of freedom and levy fines -- not just because I chose to smoke something other than tobacco.
The idea that it deters crime hasn't borne up historically, and now, in the age of DNA testing, we're finding that it probably has led to the execution of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people.
But even presuming guilt, does a person about to commit murder think in sane terms about deterrence? Would they do it if they didn't think they could get away with it?
As Gallagher says, it don't make no sense.
This, again, is from Wikipedia:
Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense. To them, the United States is like the biblical "shining city on a hill," and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.
Since the 1960s, postnationalist scholars have rejected American exceptionalism, arguing that the United States had not broken from European history, and has retained class inequities, imperialism and war. Furthermore, they see most nations as subscribing to some form of exceptionalism.
With the events of recent years, the proponents of "American exceptionalism" are finding out the hard way that our Japanese, Chinese and Russian competitors regard it as nonsense.
A man I knew in the 1980s presented to me the extraordinary idea that war is often a very good thing. He explained to me that his parents met because of World War II, and besides, sometimes you need a war once in a while so that bad elements of society can be eliminated -- as though criminal types are the only people who get killed in wars.
At the time, I was practically speechless. If I heard that man repeat this today, I'd urge him to go visit the nearest VA hospital and take a good look at the basket cases. He might also want to visit a homeless shelter and look at all the amputees, many of whom would not have survived past conflicts. Nearly half of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are filing disability claims, promising an enormous burden on the taxpayers of the future.
It's never been worth it. And, it's a monstrous lie.
Most right-wingers don't even seem to have a clear understanding of what socialism is.
All dictionary definitions refer to it as an economic system in which the MEANS OF PRODUCTION is predominantly owned either by the government or cooperatives, not by private concerns.
To right-wingers, the criterion is "redistribution of wealth." I have news for them. Every time government, at any level, taxes and appropriates money for projects of any kind, wealth is redistributed. It is strictly a question of to whom. They seem to object only when the beneficiaries are relatively poor, not when they are rich. In the latter case, it's viewed as "smart business."
I suppose it's a lot like Stephen Colbert's definition: A socialist is anybody who wants to spend government money on something you don't like.
Well, that's 10 lies, I believe. Until next time ...
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.