My leftist friend Paul still insists that FOX News is biased to the right (which they are), but it’s just a conservative myth that most other national news organizations are biased to the left. Take a look at these Newsweek covers:
Bias? What bias? We don’t see any bias.
In his excellent book “Bias,” Bernie Goldberg (who worked at CBS for many years) explained that the liberals who dominate the nation’s newsrooms don’t believe they’re biased for one simple reason: they see the liberal viewpoint as the obviously correct viewpoint, and so in their minds, they’re just reporting the truth.
With that in mind, here’s how Andrew Sullivan of Newsweek explained the Obama cover:
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Sullivan defended his story, saying he was simply telling the truth about Obama, whom he described as a “sensible, pragmatic centrist.”
Well, the good folks are Newsweek are quite upset that health-care “reform” almost wasn’t passed. Apparently longing for the good old days when Congress could expand the size of government without provoking a big ol’ fight, the online edition of the magazine explains just how broken the system is in an essay titled
What Happens When Congress Fails to Do Its Job?
Don’t be fooled: The House and Senate still need fixing
The “don’t be fooled” part of the subtitle is directed at all you crazies who think passing a health-care bill over the objections of the people who will pay for it means Congress has regained its all-important ability to manage the country, the economy, and our lives. Nope … according to Newsweek, too much partisanship is getting in the way of even more “bold” congressional action. Why, heck, it’s gotten so bad that Evan Bayh, the media-darling senator who was once on Obama’s short list for vice president, has decided to quit!
Americans were left with a bizarre spectacle: a member of the most elite legislative body in the most powerful country in the world was resigning because the dysfunctions of his institution made him feel ineffectual. “I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way,” Bayh explained, “creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning, or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor.” This is what it’s come to, then: our senators envy the influence and sway held by university presidents.
My goodness … what kind of crazy world is it where people who start businesses are considered more useful than a group of 100 blowhards who spend their days taxing those businesses and telling them how to operate? Doesn’t the public understand that only government can make us great?
What we have learned instead is that even in those rare moments when bold action should be easy, little can be done.
So, let me get this straight: foisting a multi-trillion-dollar entitlement (and debt) on the public — at half least of whom are vehemently opposed to it — should be easy? I don’t think so. I’m a bit of a history buff. I’d read rather a lot about Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders. They didn’t believe “bold” government action should be easy.
Consider the position of the Democrats over the last year: a popular new president, the largest majority either party has held in the Senate since the post-Watergate wave, a 40-seat majority in the House, and a financial crisis. Congress has managed to pass a lot of legislation, and some of it has been historic.
I keep meaning to put together a dictionary to help normal people translate media-speak. In plain English, bold action and historic legislation mean “massive expansions of federal power that we in the left-wing media support.” When Republicans engage in massive expansions of federal power, the favorite media-speak adjective is unprecedented … as in “The Patriot Act grants unprecedented powers to the FBI.” (That’s true, and if you care about liberty and the Constitution, you should be p!$$#@ off about the Patriot Act.) So until I get around to that dictionary project, just remember: bold = good, historic = good,unprecedented = bad.
But our financial system is not fixed and our health-care problems are not solved.
You mean the same bunch of economic illiterates in Congress who broke the financial system haven’t fixed it yet? The same government that sparked runaway inflation in health care by making it “free” to millions of Americans hasn’t figured out how to solve all the problems they caused? Well, clearly we need to stop getting in their way. (If you’d like to know more about who actually broke our financial system, I highly recommend two books: Meltdown by Thomas Woods and Architects of Ruin by Peter Schweizer.)
Cap-and-trade, meanwhile, is floundering in the Senate. In the event that it dies, the Environmental Protection Agency has been preparing to regulate carbon on its own. Some senators would like to block the EPA from doing so, and may yet succeed. But those in Congress who want to avert catastrophic climate change, but who don’t believe they can pass legislation to help do so, are counting on the EPA to act in their stead.
Uh, you’re kinda missing the point there, Newsweek. If the EPA can simply impose caps on carbon without Congress passing a law, that it doesn’t mean Congress is too weak. It means the federal agencies are far too powerful.
The financial meltdown was, in many ways, a model of quick congressional action.
I’d say it was a perfect model of quick congressional action: a massive increase in federal power that was unconstitutional, enormously expensive, completely unnecessary, and will ultimately do far more harm than good.
TARP had its problems, and the stimulus was too small, but both passed, and quickly. After they’d passed, though, it became clear they weren’t sufficient, and that Congress wasn’t going to be able to muster further action.
A trillion-dollar stimulus package was too small? Exactly how much of our kids’ and grandkids’ future earnings should we have stolen in order to create a really effective stimulus package?
Here’s a crazy idea: maybe we should review some U.S. economic history to see what actually cures a recession. After FDR was elected, he raised taxes, increased spending, and slapped a gazillion new regulations on businesses — thus expanding on what Hoover had already tried. It was such an effective cure, the country finally shook off the Great Depression a mere 10 years later.
In 1920, there was a panic and recession that was actually worse than the first year of the Great Depression. But 18 months later, it was over. What bold action did the feds take to stimulate the country out of a deep recession? Nothing … unless you consider cutting taxes and the federal budget to be bold actions. (Newsweek certainly wouldn’t.) They let the over-leveraged and inefficient businesses fail, so their assets could be absorbed by people who knew how to use them. That’s what’s supposed to happen in a market economy. Propping up losers just more diverts assets to people who obviously aren’t the best at making use of them.
So the Federal Reserve, in consultation with congressional leaders, unleashed more than a trillion dollars into the marketplace. It was still the American people’s money being invested, but it didn’t need 60 votes in the Senate.
Once again, you’re missing the point here, Newsweek. The Federal Reserve shouldn’t have the power to “unleash” a trillion dollars’ worth of federal debt on the public without congressional approval. That’s just a sneaky form of taxation without representation.
As for foreign policy and national security, Congress has so abdicated its role over war and diplomacy that Garry Wills, in his new book, Bomb Power, says that we’ve been left with an “American monarch,” which is only slightly scarier-sounding than the “unitary executive” theory that the Bush administration advocated and implemented.
Yes, Congress has abdicated its role. But it’s not because they don’t have enough power; it’s because they’re afraid to use it. (I mean, what if you voted for a war resolution and then the war didn’t go well? Next election cycle, you’d have to do something silly like stand before the cameras and scream, “The President lied to me!”)
Congress used to function despite its extraordinary minority protections because the two parties were ideologically diverse. Democrats used to provide a home to the Southern conservatives known as the Dixiecrats. The GOP used to include a bloc of liberals from the Northeast … But the parties have become ideologically coherent, leaving little room for cooperation and creating new incentives for minority obstruction.
Yeah, it was nice when the two parties didn’t stand for anything particular. That way the “moderates” could vote for Democrats, then Republicans, then Democrats, then Republicans, and still pretend they had some clue as to what they actually believe.
The problem has become sufficiently severe that senators, who normally cling to their institutional traditions like Vatican cardinals, are talking about addressing it. “Next Congress,” Harry Reid said to a group of reporters in March, “we are going to take a look at the filibuster. And we’re going to make some changes in it.”
Go for it, Harry. It’s a senate rule, not a power granted by the Constitution, so you can change it if you want. And I’m sure the voting public would love to see another power grab on the heels on the health-care “reform” bill.
But the rise of the filibuster is not just a case of rules-gone-wild: it’s evidence of a broader polarization in the United States Congress. As the party heretics lost or switched sides, Republicans and Democrats found themselves more often in agreement with themselves and less often in agreement with each other. According to the political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal, Democrats and Republicans now vote against each other more regularly than at any time since Reconstruction.
We’ve had a war, an economic meltdown, and an unprecedented — sorry, I mean historic — expansion of the federal government into the financial markets and the health-care system. If people aren’t polarized, they’re either stupid or dead.
What’s important about all those examples is that at no point did the minority party come to the table and propose a serious alternative. Republicans left the health-care system to deteriorate, and Bob Dole went so far as to vote against two bills that had his name on them in the mid-’90s.
Yes, of course. Anything that isn’t run by the federal government will just deteriorate. We’d better get the feds to take over the computer business, the entertainment business, the online retail business and all those other businesses that are barely regulated — they could go belly-up any day now. And it’s not like the Republicans suggested, say, allowing interstate competition in the health-insurance business, or reforming malpractice so doctors will stop running needless tests just to avoid lawsuits.
In fact, the filibuster was not an invention of the Founding Fathers. It was an accident: in the early 19th century, the Senate cleaned out its rule book and deleted the provision that let them call a vote to move from one issue to another. It took decades until anybody realized the filibuster had been created.
That tells us all we need to know about the brilliance of our elected representatives.
But Gregg is right to emphasize the importance of checks and balances to the system. The problem is that gridlock-which is partly the result of the filibuster-is eroding them. If the minority is always obstructing, then Congress can never govern.
Horrors! Imagine the state we’d be in if Congress couldn’t pass a few hundred new laws every year. Next thing you know, there’d be lawyers on unemployment.
And when Congress can’t act, the body cedes power to others. That worries longtime observers of the institution. “The Founders would be appalled at the notion of Congress delegating its fundamental lawmaking responsibilities to others,” says Norm Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
Yes, I’m sure they would be appalled. But they’d be even more appalled to find out there’s a federal income tax, trillion-dollar federal deficits in spite of the income tax, two million federal employees, hundreds of federal departments and agencies, and laws being passed that force the states to spend money they don’t want to spend. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Founders would be meeting in secret somewhere right about now, making plans.
Meanwhile, those who can act gain power at the expense of the Congress. The office of the president has grown in stature and authority. Early presidents delivered the State of the Union as a written letter because giving a big, dramatic speech to Congress would have been seen as overstepping the boundaries of the executive office.
Now that’s something I’d like to see: a letter receiving 37 applause breaks.
Modern presidents use the State of the Union to set the legislative agenda for Congress’s next session, a development that would have shocked the Founders.
No, they’d be shocked that Congress didn’t have the guts and the common sense to tell the president to stuff it. But perhaps the voters will.
Even as the left’s useful idiots in the press continue sounding alarms about a warming planet and trying to explain away the Climategate emails (“Hey, no big deal; happens in science all the time”), that darn old weather just won’t play along. Record low temperatures were set this week in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. Many of those records were set more than 100 years ago.
The honest climate scientists (known as “deniers” and “skeptics” in the press) have been saying for years that climate is cyclical and we’re most likely heading into a cooling span of 30 years or so … and perhaps even a longer span that will become another “mini-ice age.” (See this post for an excellent lecture by an actual scientist.)
We’ve been setting record low temperatures for three years in a row now. If this continues as predicted, it’s going to be rather difficult for the alarmists to insist that a 21-year warming period is a long-term trend, while a 30-year cooling period is an anomaly. But I’m pretty sure they’ll try anyway. Their funding depends on it.
Fortunately, the politicians still have to worry about what the voters think. Cap-and-trade has never been about saving the planet; it’s an excuse to raise taxes without saying “taxes.” But it’s going to be a tough sell when the voters are freezing their butts off and shoveling snow.
“Sure, Doctor. I’m looking forward to seeing this myself.”
“Let’s see … slide this over a bit … hmm, pretty bad. Your weight is up again.”
“Uh … Doctor, you mind getting your foot off the scale?”
“So … you want to weigh me again now?”
“Sorry, I’ve already recorded the results. You can step down now.”
“Just as I predicted. Man-made body enlarging. I told you to stop consuming so much animal fat.”
“There’s nothing wrong with eating–”
“If this keeps up, you’ll weigh 650 pounds by the year 2030. It’s a looming disaster.”
“Doctor, excuse me, but there’s no way I’m gaining weight. Look at me. I had to buy a smaller belt last month.”
“That’s a temporary anomaly. I’m more interested in the long-term trend.”
“I’ve been shrinking for two years now. I’ve also been eating more animal fat. So it can’t be making me fatter. Your theory doesn’t hold up.”
“Do you weigh more than you did 40 years ago?”
“Yes, I was a skinny runt 40 years ago.”
“And did your fat consumption go up during the past 40 years?”
“I was 11 years old 40 years ago! Of course I eat more now.”
“Aha! So you agree there’s a long-term trend in your body enlargement.”
“Those are natural forces at work. I’m pretty sure that’s been happening forever.”
“But the rate of the enlargement has accelerated. Look at your weight chart. See there? All nice and even for two decades, then it shoots up here at the end. It looks like a hockey stick.”
“That chart is bull@#$%!”
“It can’t be. I showed it to a bunch of doctors who are friends of mine and they agreed: it looks like a hockey stick. We even wrote a paper about it.”
“Look, Doctor, I went through a period in my thirties when I was fatter than I am today, and I wasn’t eating animal fat because I was a vegetarian. Now I’m experiencing a thinning trend, even though I eat a lot of fat. So obviously, fat isn’t the problem, and that chart is bull.”
“I see. So you’re a denialist.”
“I suppose you don’t believe the Holocaust happened either?”
“No! I mean, yes, I believe it happened. There’s evidence it happened. But there’s no evidence that I’m gaining weight!”
“Who’s paying you to say this? The dairy industry? The cattle ranchers?”
“Nobody’s paying me! Just use your senses! I’m smaller!”
“This is the worst case of denial I’ve ever seen. I’m afraid we’re going to have to institute a fat-and-trade system. Every time you consume fat, you’ll need to pay me a stiff fine. Or you can buy a fat credit from another tubbo who’s willing to go without butter for a week. It’s the only way to stop you from getting larger.”
“I AM NOT GETTING LARGER!”
“Yes, you are. It says so right here in my computer data.”
“Let me see that.”
“No. I will not have you second-guessing my data. I don’t have to show you anything.”
“Yes, you do, Doctor. And if you don’t, I’ll call my lawyer and have him file the papers.”
“Damn! I was hoping you didn’t know about that law. Now I have to destroy the data.”
“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”
“Give me that book!”
“Hey! Give that back!”
“Back off, Doctor, or I’ll smack you. Let’s see … Hey, what’s with all the emails and notes?”
“Nothing. Just doctor’s notes.”
“Nothing, my @##. Look at this: ‘James – I figured out how to apply Mike’s trick of mixing belt-ring data with actual weight measurements to hide Mr. Naughton’s mid-thirties fattening period.’ What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It doesn’t mean anything! ‘Trick’ is a common term in medical research. Give me that back!”
“And here’s a coding comment from the guy who designed your computer program. What does he mean, he’s having a hard time writing code that produces the results you want?”
“You know … just programmer lingo. That’s how they talk.”
“And this one: ‘James – Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues to boycott medical journals that publish articles by doctors who have seen people lose weight on high-fat diets. By the way, please delete this after reading.’ And you printed it out? What are you, an idiot?”
“Oh, I see. Already reduced to resorting to attacks on my character, huh?”
“And what’s up with this one: ‘James. The fact is that we cannot account for Mr. Naughton’s failure to gain weight in recent years, and it’s a travesty that we can’t.’”
“Well, uh …you see, the theory is still correct, because uh … I mean it’s not like we have anything to hide!”
“Let me get this straight … you wouldn’t give me your data, you threatened to destroy your data so I wouldn’t see it, your programmer was upset because he was having a hard time producing the data you wanted, you applied ‘tricks’ to your data, and in spite of all that, your colleague thinks it’s a travesty that you can’t explain why I’m not actually gaining weight. I’d say you were hiding something, Doctor.”
“But the theory is still correct! I’m sure of it! To hell with your annoying weight loss.”
“No, to hell with you, to hell with your theory, and to hell with your fat-and-trade fines. I’m leaving.”
“Don’t go outside while you’re angry, Mr. Naughton! You’ll get heat exhaustion!”
Some years ago, when I was complaining about a biased article I read in the newspaper, my wife asked what exactly I meant by “biased.” If the reporter is simply citing facts, where does the bias come in?
So I got out of couple of markers and asked her to highlight the paragraphs that either quoted conservatives or re-stated the conservative point of view in yellow. She did. Then I had her take a blue marker and highlight the sections that quoted or re-stated the liberal point of view. When she was done, she got the picture: there were twice as many column inches devoted to the liberal point of view. It happens all the time.
That’s just part of how bias creeps into the news. I don’t think it’s done consciously — that is, I don’t believe reporters and editors sit down and plan out how to bias a story — but there are consistent patterns. Here are a few of them, with samples from yet another biased article I read in our newspaper earlier this week. That article was about congress threatening to strip the Federal Reserve of its authority to regulate banks — something the reporter clearly doesn’t favor.
1) Sneak your point of view into the headline and callouts.
Callouts, if you’re not familiar with the term, are miniature headlines or large-font quotes interspersed throughout an article to give it more “white space.” The headline for this story in our newspaper was EXPERTS WARN: DON’T STRIP FED OF POWERS. The two callouts were CONSENSUS IS LACKING and A CONVENIENT TARGET.
Hmmm, think there’s any attempt to steer the reader’s opinions there? The headline could’ve just as easily read: CONGRESS CITES FED’S FAILURES or FED ACTED WITHOUT AUTHORITY. Both would be true.
2) Make sure the beginning and end of the story quote or re-state your point of view.
Ask any journalism teacher which are the two most important paragraphs in a story. The answer is, the first and last. Those are the most likely to be remembered. Here is the first paragraph as it appeared in our paper:
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd’s sweeping new financial overhaul legislation, which proposes to strip the Federal Reserve of its authority to regulate banks, threatens the central bank’s time-honored independence and its premier international standing, experts warn.
Here’s the last paragraph in our paper:
“The major original purpose of central banks was to be lenders of last resort. You have to know to whom you are lending, how good is their collateral, how solid the institution is as a whole,” Gramley said, arguing that the Fed must retain its regulatory authority over banks. “It just seems to me that having the expertise that the Fed has . . . is absolutely indispensable.”
Okay, dear readers, there’s the real story: Experts warn that stripping the Fed’s powers in a bad idea, and the Fed’s expertise is indispensable. Bias aside, those opinions are laughable. The Fed was a major cause of the mortgage meltdown. More on that later. The point is, the hearings the reporter attended included many speakers citing the Fed’s failures. Their opinions could’ve made up the first and last paragraphs. But that’s not the takeaway message the reporter wanted to convey.
3) Write as though all the experts agree with your preferred opinion.
Look at the opening paragraph again. The attempt to strip the Fed’s powers “threatens the central bank’s time-honored independence and its premier international standing, experts warn.” The accurate statement would be some experts warn. Many other experts clearly believe the Fed is too powerful. The article mentioned — fairly deep in — that Ron Paul wants the Fed’s power stripped. Ron Paul wrote an entire book on the Fed. In other words, he’s an expert. And time-honored is a bit of a loaded description, isn’t it? Why, we mustn’t mess with such a time-honored tradition!
I see this kind of nonsense all the time in articles about global warming. Reporters simply write something like, “Scientists say climate change is real and the effects will be dire.” Once again, the accurate statement is that some scientists make those claims. Many others dispute them. A document disputing the man-made global warming theory has been signed by 31,000 scientists, including 9,000 with PhDs in climate-related disciplines. You’d never know that by reading the news.
4) Toss in a few opinions as if they’re facts. (Maybe nobody will notice.)
If I bang my head on the kitchen table while reading the newspaper, it’s usually because of this particular method of biasing a story. Here’s an example from the Fed story:
The Fed’s a convenient political target because many ordinary Americans are thirsty for revenge for the damage that Wall Street wrought on Main Street.
Notice the reporter’s opinion simply stated as a fact … The meltdown was Wall Street’s fault, not the Fed’s. I’m not denying Wall Street played a role — they bought and sold all those mortgage-backed securities that tanked — but the meltdown couldn’t have happened without the Fed. Here’s why:
Let’s assume we’ve got banking system where no one is playing with the money supply. For me to borrow money, someone else has to save money. You make a deposit; I take out a loan. The bank lends me your money. If everyone wants to borrow and few people are saving, two things will happen: 1) Interest rates will go up because the demand for a limited resource is rising, and 2) the banks will be picky about who they approve for loans, since they can only make a limited number of them.
If interest rates go up, the borrowing frenzy ceases. If the bank is being picky, people with lousy credit won’t receive mortgages. Either one automatically puts the brakes on the kind of mortgage mania that led to the meltdown.
Now… enter the geniuses at the Fed. They decided the economy needed to keep rolling. So they did what only the time-honored, independent Fed can do: they created more money out of thin air to keep the money supply growing and the interest rates down.
How do they create more money? Simple … they print Federal Reserve checks and deposit them in banks. The banks only have to keep 10% of their deposits on reserve, so by the time a billion-dollar deposit from the Fed works its way through the banking system, it can create nine billion dollars in new loans. No new wealth was created — wealth is good and services, not pieces of paper — but more money was created … again, out of thin air.
This magic money is what enabled the banks to keep writing mortgages, long after the pool of qualified buyers had been exhausted. Those mortgages became securities. Those securities tanked. Take away the Fed’s monkeying with the money supply, and it wouldn’t have mattered how greedy bankers and Wall Street executives were. The money to feed the greed wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have existed. When people can borrow wealth that doesn’t actually exist, a crash is inevitable.
But enough about that … back to how to bias a story.
5) Toss in a few statements that simply aren’t true.
The story on the Fed contains this little gem:
Critics counter, however, that the Fed pumped trillions of dollars into the economy to combat the recent financial crisis with virtually no direct authority to do so, and no effective oversight from publicly accountable branches of government. They argue that the Fed should be subjected to democratic checks and balances, just as other powerful arms of government are.
The Fed is not an arm of the government. It’s a consortium of private banks that sets rules for other banks. The government’s only real role is in appointing the chairman and one of the regional governors. If the reporter doesn’t know that, he’s on the wrong beat. If he does know that, he’s playing a bit loose with the facts.
The legislation that created the Fed was concocted during a secret meeting of private bankers that took place in 1910. Before the Fed was created, any bank could issue certificates of deposit against their gold reserves. People traded those certificates as paper money. The bankers who created the Fed realized if they could obtain a monopoly on issuing currency, they could control the banking system and make themselves extremely rich by charging interest on magic money. The senate approved the creation of the Fed on a voice vote in December of 1913, after most members had gone home for the holidays. It is not, and never has been, a branch of the government … but the federal government loves the Fed because it can legally create money out of nothing — which the government can then spend.
6) When quoting people, make sure the side you don’t like argues and contends. But make sure your side explains, warns and cautions.
In journalism school, I was taught that the only neutral words for quotes are said and says. Everything else imparts a meaning. In the story my wife highlighted some years ago, the conservatives — who were clearly identified as belonging to a conservative think-tank — were always quoted as arguing or contending. Meanwhile, their opponents at a liberal think-tank — who were simply identified as researchers, without the liberal label — were quoted as explaining. Once I pointed it out, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
But again, it happens all the time. Take a look at these quotes from the story on the Fed (pardon the repeats … some sentences are multi-biased):
Critics counter, however, that the Fed pumped trillions of dollars into the economy to combat the recent financial crisis with virtually no direct authority to do so, and no effective oversight from publicly accountable branches of government. They argue that the Fed should be subjected to democratic checks and balances, just as other powerful arms of government are.
“I am with Dodd on this one,” said Alice Rivlin , a former vice chairman of the Fed from 1996 to 1999. “The Fed has not distinguished itself as a regulator.”
On the other side, Rivlin’s former colleague Laurence Meyer , a Fed governor from 1996 to 2002, called the Dodd legislation “political posturing” by a “hate the Fed crowd.” He warned that taking the most experienced regulators off the supervisory beat “increases the risk of crisis going forward.”
At 82, Lyle Gramley brings the long view to the debate. He was a Fed governor from 1980 to 1985, a turbulent period of deep recession, and understands why the Fed is so unpopular today … Taking bank supervision away from the Fed, however, could come back to haunt lawmakers, he cautioned.
Economic historian John Murray , a professor at Ohio’s University of Toledo , sees an old-fashioned political power grab at play with the Dodd legislation.
“I think Congress doesn’t want to let a crisis go to waste,” Murray said, warning that any legislation that weakens central bank independence invites politicization of monetary policy. “I think in the long run, that’s probably not a very good idea.”
Wow … lots of warning and cautioning from the experts who don’t want the Fed to lose any power — although the reporter managed to let one expert who supports the Fed argue one point.
By the way, if Professor Murray thinks monetary policy isn’t already politicized, he’s going senile. Where does he think all that bailout and “stimulus” money is coming from? That’s right … it’s being created out of thin air by the Fed. That’s why conservatives and libertarians want to reel in the Fed and reduce its power.
There are other ways to bias a story, of course. You can select only the facts you like, or interview only the experts who support your case. Bernard Goldberg finally got peeved enough to write his book Bias when his then-employer, CBS News, chose to interview just three economists who were on record against the flat tax (which was supported by many other economists, including a Nobel Prize winner), then end their story with, “All the economists we spoke to think the flat tax is a terrible idea.”
CBS also failed to mention, in a story that blamed California’s budget crisis on Proposition 13, that state revenues had actually increased by 25% in the previous four years while spending had increased 40% … not worth bringing up, apparently. I blurted out some choice words when that report aired.
Do yourself a favor and try this at home. Open your paper and check the headlines and callouts, especially in political stories. See which side of the story is told in the first and last paragraphs. Notice who’s arguing and contending, and who’s explaining and cautioning. Look for opinions passed off as facts.
Out of curiosity, I added up the words in the quotes and statements for or against stripping the Fed of its powers in the article I just examined. For stripping the Fed: 238 words. Against stripping the Fed: 340 words.
Our local paper has been annoying me for several weeks now by running a series titled Tracking the Stimulus. (Examples here and here.) Every damned article is a love letter to the federal government, regaling readers with stories of all the wonderful things that are happening in Tennessee thanks to the stimulus, and usually ending with an upbeat quote from some welfare — uh, I mean stimulus — recipient.
Some sample opening paragraphs:
If you want to see the stimulus in action, head into the classroom.
Thousands more Tennessee students next year will have access to online courses because of $6 million in stimulus funds being doled out to districts.
For three months Ian Abbott waited, his offer of employment with the Metro Police Department contingent on whether a federal stimulus grant was approved. Last month, Metro came calling for Abbott and 49 more future officers, all to begin training at the police academy next month and all paid for with stimulus money.
My goodness, isn’t the stimulus package the greatest thing ever? If we could just spend another five or ten trillion dollars the government doesn’t have, our society would probably be perfect.
Tired of merely gagging, I finally fired off a letter to the newspaper. I’m 99 percent sure they’ll never print it, so here it is:
TRACKING, BUT NOT UNDERSTANDING, THE STIMULUS
For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading the Tennessean’s series on Tracking the Stimulus, which I’ve mentally renamed Hooray For the Stimulus Package, Rah-Rah-Sis-Boom. Every other day or so, we’re treated to yet another fawning article. Isn’t the stimulus wonderful? Look at all the people being helped. Look at all those jobs being created.
There’s just one small problem: governments can’t create jobs, any more than you or I can sit in a bathtub and raise the water level by scooping water from one side to the other. All governments can do is transfer jobs from the private sector to the public sector, or from one industry to another, or from one generation to another.
Sure, governments can hire people. They do it all the time. And that would be a swell job-creating program if not for one minor detail: the people they hire have to be paid. The only way to pay them is to collect the money from other citizens. That’s money the other citizens can no longer spend – and spending is what creates and supports jobs.
To understand the economics involved, let’s create a couple of simple examples. Suppose I earn $80,000 per year, but my wife is unemployed. So, to create a “stimulus,” I hire my wife to watch my children and pay her $40,000 per year. Boy, we must be better off now; our combined income just went up to $120,000.
Pleased with the infusion of cash, my wife goes shopping. Reporters from the Tennessean tag along and write glowing stories about all the employment my wife is providing with her purchases of cosmetics, kitchen appliances, clothes, toys for the kids, and new furniture for the house. Hooray for the Stimulus Package, Rah-Rah-Sis-Boom.
Those are the effects of the stimulus that we can see. But in economics, there are always unseen effects as well, because economics is all about trade-offs. In this case, what the reporters don’t see is that because I had to pay for my wife’s shopping spree by taxing my own income, I can no longer buy fishing equipment, a big-screen TV, a new computer, or anything else on my shopping list. My stimulus package didn’t create any new jobs; it merely transferred employment from the industries I prefer to those my wife prefers.
But since our government is already in debt and running gigantic deficits, we’re not paying for the stimulus by taxing our own incomes; we’re borrowing the money from future generations, which brings us to our second example:
Worried about an economic downturn in my community, I take out a credit card in my son’s name and go shopping. Once again, reporters from the Tennessean tag along and write glowing stories about all the employment I’m providing with my purchases of a new entertainment center, a car, a trip to Disney World, and a boat. At least one of the articles will end with a grateful salesperson saying something like, “I just don’t know what I would’ve done if Mr. Naughton hadn’t come along.” Hooray for the Stimulus Package, Rah-Rah-Sis-Boom.
All is well until my son grows up and finds I’ve left him saddled with a mountain of debt. Now instead of creating and supporting employment in his adult years by buying his own car, boat, entertainment center and fishing equipment, he’s stuck paying my debts. Once again, my “stimulus” shopping spree didn’t create jobs; it merely transferred them from my son’s generation to mine. We can see the jobs I saved by spending his future earnings to benefit myself, but we don’t see the jobs that were never created because I reduced his disposable income ahead of time.
And that’s why politicians can get away with this economic hocus-pocus. We thank them for all those “new” jobs we can see. We rarely blame them for the jobs that are destroyed in other industries and in future generations, because that requires literacy in basic economics – which most of the public and, inexcusably, most media reporters lack. Perhaps we should spend some stimulus money to buy them a few books on the topic.
This week I read a breathless article in the newspaper recounting a survey that shows more and more Americans are having doubts about global warming. The writer was clearly upset about the survey and suggested two possible causes for this disastrous swing in public opinion: 1) Republicans have gotten very good at spreading denialist propaganda, and 2) people are too worried about the economy to pay attention to the global-warming activists.
I think there’s another possible explanation. I’d even call it the likely explanation: people have actually stepped outside and noticed it’s friggin’ cold out there. Buried waaaaay deep in last week’s Washington Post was this little gem:
Something happened in Washington on Friday that had not occurred in 138 years of weather history: For the first time since the National Weather Service began compiling daily data here, the high temperature for Oct. 16 was below 50 degrees.
Coldest October 16th in at least 138 years. Boy, that global warming is getting serious, all right. (We also had a record cold day last week here in Tennessee, by the way.)
Naturally, the editors at the Washington Post couldn’t bring themselves to put this story anywhere near the front page — not when the Senate is about to debate a cap-and-tax bill that’s supposed to help us forestall the horrors of global warming. No matter. People tend to notice when they’re freezing their butts off — as they did in the Western states a couple of weeks ago:
An early-season snowstorm blanketed the U.S. West, dumping as much as 20 inches of snow on Wyoming and forcing the postponement of a Major League Baseball playoff game. Record low temperatures were set in at least three states.
Higher elevations in Wyoming had snow accumulations of 20 inches (50 centimeters), while areas around Casper had 10 inches from a storm that swept through yesterday and this morning, said Mike Pigott, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com in State College, Pennsylvania. Casper normally has an inch and a half of snowfall by this point in October, he said.
“The story here isn’t so much the snow, but the record-smashing cold,” Pigott said in a telephone interview.
Denver posted a record low of 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) this morning, breaking the old mark of 25 degrees, Pigott said. Casper, Wyoming, touched a low of 12 degrees this morning, shattering the old record of 21 degrees, he said.
The downturn in temperatures didn’t begin this year, either. A year ago, London was blanketed with snow in October for the first time since 1922 — just as the House of Commons was set to debate global-warming legislation. What a pickle: the alarmists want to ram fat new taxes disguised as global-warming prevention down our throats, but the freakin’ weather just won’t cooperate.
According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated. The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.
But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down. These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years. So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles. Professor Easterbrook says: “The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling.”
This is stunning news. Not the stuff about the oceans — I already knew about that — but the willingness of a BBC reporter to note that there was global cooling from 1945 to 1977. In case your history is a little rusty, that would be the era in which the automobile became hugely popular and industrialization grew at a monstrous rate after World War Two.
The same reporter even cited an inconvenient but well-established and verifiable fact: there’s been no global warming whatsoever since 1998. This puts the alarmists in the embarrassing position of trying to convince us that a 21-year warming span that ended a decade ago proves that humans are heating up the planet, but a previous 32-year cooling span and the current 11-year cooling span are both meaningless — even though they occurred while CO2 was rising. I guess at some point, media reporters finally conclude that maintaining a shred of credibility with the public outweighs the need to push an agenda.
Of course, those are just small, recent cycles. Lately I’ve been reading Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth, which is so full of citations, they take up nearly a third of each page. I don’t recommend tackling the book unless you really like jumping into heavy-duty science, but here are some highlights:
The earth has been warming and cooling in cycles pretty much forever.
Nobody knows all the factors that influence the warming and cooling trends, but the computer models based on CO2 concentrations are utter failures. Sunspots and naturally-occurring changes in the oceans seem to be the biggest factors.
During our last warming trend, Mars was also getting warmer. (Gee, that sounds like the sun might have something to do with it.)
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been many times higher than it is today. During some of those high-concentration periods, it was cold, not warm.
A thousand years ago, it was warmer than it is now. (The polar bears survived, in case you’re wondering.) The Vikings formed colonies in Greenland and grew crops that don’t grow there today — it’s too cold. This is just one of several long periods in human history that were warmer than the 20th century.
The cold periods have been the worst for humans. It was long cooling periods, not hot ones, that turned fertile lands into deserts and led to crop failures, famines, rampant diseases, forced migrations, and wars over fertile lands. The warm periods have been relative nirvanas.
Naturally, everyone who still depends on global-warming hysteria for grants or fund-raising is busy cranking out press releases to explain away the recent cooling trend or trooping up onto Capitol Hill to predict disaster — from all that non-existent warming.
I suppose if they’re smart, they’ll check the forecast and try to schedule an appearance on a day when there’s no risk of another record-cold temperature being set.
Just when you though the United States was finally going to get serious about protecting the planet from an atmospheric buildup of perfectly natural gases, it turns out we’re ignoring one of the biggest threats of all: gassy cows.
When a friend of mine sent me this article, I thought it must be a parody of real news from The Onion. But nope … according to the article by the Associated Press (which they apparently expect us to take seriously), cows produce more greenhouse gases than coal mines and landfills. Here are some quotes:
One contributor to global warming – bigger than coal mines, landfills and sewage treatment plants – is being left out of efforts by the Obama administration and House Democrats to limit greenhouse gas emissions: Cow burps.
Belching from the nation’s 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about one-quarter of the methane released in the U.S. each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest source of the heat-trapping gas.
Heat-trapping gas, hmmm … Considering that animals who burp and fart have been around for millions of years, you’d think this information would prompt intelligent people to wonder if the whole global-warming theory is a lot of cowpie. But that’s not how our friends at the Associated Press reacted. The article is clearly lamenting the fact that Congress is too afraid of the farm lobby to include cow burps and farts in legislation “to limit greenhouse gas emissions.”
But of course, that legislation isn’t really about limiting greenhouse gases; it’s about collecting new taxes in the form of “air pollution” permits. If you have a functioning brain, you ought to be suspicious when natural gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are labeled as “pollutants” – especially when plants and animals have produced the vast majority of those gases since the dawn of time, at least among living creatures.
Normally, politicians can barely contain their excitement when they realize they’ve found something new to tax. If you’re a Monty Python fan, you may recall the sketch in which members of her majesty’s government were trying to figure out how to tax sex. So I believe the Associated Press when it says politicians are sidestepping the gassy-cow issue because they fear the farm lobby. But that misses the point. The intelligent reason not to tax this form of “pollution” is that it’s a deeply, totally, and unbelievably stupid idea.
In fact, the idea is so completely and utterly stupid, greenies and vegetarian activists couldn’t stop themselves from supporting it. The greenies love it because they tend to be scientific illiterates who believe natural gases are imperiling the planet, and the PETA crowd loves it because it punishes people who eat meat.
(If you want a good laugh, check out Penn & Teller’s Bull@#$% episode on environmentalism. They got hundreds of greenies – including supposed experts on the environment – to sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide … otherwise known as H2O … otherwise known as water.)
Well, I have my own proposal to limit greenhouse gases. If we’re going to tax methane, then to be consistent and fair, we need to tax all sources of it – including humans. As anyone who has worked in an emergency room near a college fraternity during initiation week can tell you, humans produce a form of methane that’s not only a greenhouse gas, but highly combustible as well. One flick of a Bic and POOF.
However, some humans produce more cubic feet of methane than others, so the relevant question is: how do we measure the emissions? The cheap and easy way would be to employ some sort of listening device – but that would place a disproportionate share of the tax burden on men, who tend not to be very subtle about these things. My junior year in college, I shared an apartment with three other guys in a cheaply-constructed building. One Sunday, the morning after we’d hosted a kegger, the cranky girl next door accused of us illegally keeping ducks.
Women, on the other hand – and I’m not mentioning any names, because she proofs my blog posts – produce methane that rivals ninja assassins for its ability to sneak up and kill you without being seen or heard. Clearly, we need an equitable form of measurement.
So I’m proposing that some government contractor produce a Toot-O-Meter that would precisely measure human methane output. Then all we’d need is an army of methane officers to follow people around and take readings. We can even sell the idea as another example of “creating green jobs.”
I don’t actually believe governments can create jobs, as I explained here. And as anyone who reads this blog knows, I think high taxes are destructive and man-made global warming is an inconvenient myth, as I explained here. But in this case, I’m supporting the whole ball of wax … the new taxes, the increase in government employment, everything. Why? One word: revenge.
For years, vegetarian wackos such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest have been agitating to slap high taxes on the foods they don’t think we should eat: fatty foods, fast-foods, animal foods, big foods, and pretty much everything else most of us enjoy. They also propose one stupid, expensive regulation after another, without ever concerning themselves with the cost to consumers, who ultimately bear all costs imposed on businesses.
But with my plan, I believe much of the burden and the cost will, at long last, fall largely on the vegetarian activists themselves. To explain why, I must first recount my run-in with a can of vegetarian chili.
Some years ago, I flew from Chicago to Las Vegas for an acting job. It’s not a long flight – at least not under normal circumstances. But this flight seemed to take forever, thanks to the can of vegetarian chili I consumed just before catching a taxi to the airport.
The first belly-rumble began just before the drink cart came around. I asked a flight attendant if they kept any antacids on board. She said sorry, we have Bufferin for headaches, but that’s it.
The next rumble was louder and actually hurt.
By halfway through the flight, I was literally holding onto my aching, bloated guts. Yes, I should’ve visited the restroom, but I couldn’t predict what the result would be. And worse, there was a line. That meant someone would be 1) standing just outside the door, which wasn’t soundproof, and 2) entering the bathroom as I exited. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing, but I didn’t want people pointing at me and whispering.
So I clenched my aching guts for the rest of the flight … and while waiting for my bags … and while waiting for a taxi … and while waiting to check in at the hotel … and I was growing ever-more bloated and miserable the whole time. The desk clerk even asked if I was okay.
Finally, in the sanctity of my room, I un-clenched my guts, at which point I produced the longest continuous methane emission of my life. I had to re-hitch my belt twice before it was over. My nether regions grew numb from the prolonged vibration. The planet was unaffected, but the hotel room definitely underwent a climate change. And yes, the ice in the nearby ice bucket became thinner.
The culprit, of course, was the vegetarian chili. It was full of beans – one of the few sources of protein vegetarians can eat without facing a moral crisis.
Based on this experience and a few others from my vegetarian days, I’m pretty sure vegetarians emit more greenhouse gases than the rest of us, and they should bear the cost of all that extra pollution. Since we know they’ll never resort to eating meat instead of beans, we could even design a methane cap-and-trade system.
Revenue benefits aside, this would provide the rest of us with some serious entertainment value. Imagine how much fun it would be to see a bunch of self-righteous PETA wackos gather for a protest in front of a meat-packing plant, then scatter like rats when a Toot Detector van screeches onto the scene.
In fact, I’d volunteer to be a methane officer myself, as long as I was guaranteed to be personally armed with a Toot-O-Meter and assigned to monitor Michael Jacobson of CSPI. I’d love to see his face when his own dietary choices cost him some extra dough.
“How was your lunch, Mr. Jacobson? Yes, I hear the vegetarian burritos are quite good. Would mind stepping over to the curb for a moment, sir? No, no, please remain clothed. Other people are still eating.”
As an added benefit, Jacobson would have to control his excitement upon discovering that yet another food contains saturated fat. Otherwise, when media dutifully assembled to record his outraged comparisons to a stick of butter, the performance would be marred by the sound of my Toot-O-Meter ringing up fresh charges.
The only real problem I see with my proposal is that it would be expensive, burdensome, difficult to implement, inconsistently applied, prone to corruption, and ultimately useless.
Which means it would probably sail through Congress with overwhelming support.
Clips from news stories published in the past year:
The coldest summer ever? You might be looking at it, weather folks say. Right now the so-called summer of ‘08 is on pace to produce the fewest days ever recorded in which the temperature in Anchorage managed to reach 65 degrees.
This winter has been one of the toughest in decades, with temperatures today reaching as low as -38C in large areas of the Midwest.
Germany marked record low temperatures for the third day in a row on Thursday, with meteorologists measuring a frosty -33.4 degrees Celsius (-28 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Bavarian Alps in the early morning hours.
Flint broke a 95-year-old record early Wednesday morning when the temperature plummeted to a frigid 19 below zero.
Charlottes Pass at 13 degrees below average set a new Australian record for cold today at -13 degress celcius. This sets a new cold record for April for anywhere in Australia.
If it seemed cold to you in Green Bay on Saturday, it was. The high temperature for the day, reached at 9:50 a.m., was 52. That set a record for the lowest high temperature for June 6, according to the National Weather Service office in Ashwaubenon. The old mark was 53, set in 1943.
Last summer was one of the coolest on record. It was followed by one of the coldest winters on record, which in turn was followed by a record-cool spring. May in New Zealand was the coldest on record … but the resorts were delighted, because ski season arrived early. In Michigan, farmers are concerned that frost is killing off their crops – in June.
Faced with these inconvenient truths, several prominent members of the media apologized for having such a girl-crush on Al Gore, promised they’d no longer count U.N. bureaucrats with no scientific background as “scientists” who believe humans are causing global warming, and assured the public they will stop referring to CO2 – one of the most common and natural substances on the planet – as a “pollutant.”
Kidding! Of course that didn’t happen. Good news doesn’t sell newspapers or draw ratings, and good news on the climate doesn’t support the agenda of the media’s favorite political party and the president they openly worship. (I’m assuming they would view a cooling trend as good news, which is itself debatable. Warm weather supports life. Cold weather kills.)
Instead, we are being treated to the same old scare-mongering. I recently bookmarked this article on the MSNBC site, which offers a harrowing vision of what the U.S. could look like in 2100 if we don’t stop global warming: forest fires, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, beachfront property in the Rockies … oh my!
Well, yeah, the country could end up like that. Or, given the current cooling trend, Americans could end up freezing their asses off while paying through the nose for heating fuel, thanks to all the “cap and trade” schemes designed to stop global warming. Either scenario is possible, and of course the MSNBC article is pure conjecture. But look at the words the writer chose:
We can still turn it around, but here is the world our grandchildren will live in if we don’t.
Pardon me? This is the world our grandchildren will live in?! She doesn’t know that any more than I know they’ll be ice-skating in Miami.
And you wonder, “Is climate disaster already upon us?” Scientists say the answer is “yes.”
Uh, no … some scientists say the answer is “yes.” Some also say the answer is “no,” or at least “we have no idea.” An anti-Kyoto petition states:
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”
That petition has been signed by 31,000 scientists, including 9,000 with doctorate degrees in atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, or environmental science. (They apparently forgot to consult with Al Gore before forming their opinions.)
After I read the article online about how the Antarctic ice is getting thicker, I kept my eyes open to see how often the story was picked up by major U.S. newspapers and TV networks. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t – but a story about the ice thinning in the western region of Antarctica was.
A more recent news story warned that CO2 “pollution” is estimated to increase by 40 percent over the next 30 years or so. (Oh my gosh! My kids will have to wave the stuff out of their faces just to see where they’re walking!) The story doesn’t say anything that isn’t true, you understand – that is the official government estimate. But a journalist without an agenda might bother to mention a few facts to provide a little perspective, such as:
It’s an estimate … one that assumes we won’t develop a new means of producing energy in the next 30 years.
If humans increase their CO2 output by 40 percent, that doesn’t mean CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will rise by 40 percent. Humans produce a fraction of the CO2 emitted – about 5%. (Plants and animals contribute more of the “pollutant.” That’s why the greenies are so upset about cow farts.)
Carbon dioxide makes up about .039% of the atmosphere, and is estimated to account for about 2.3% of the total greenhouse effect.
So the real story is that if nothing changes in our energy use, humans will add another 40 percent to the small fraction they emit of a gas that causes a teensy bit of the total greenhouse effect. Is that enough to tip the atmospheric balance, give the earth “a fever,” melt the ice caps, and sink Manhattan? I don’t know. Neither does Al Gore. Neither does whoever wrote the story. But given our record-cold temperatures over the past year, I doubt it.
The scare-mongers will, of course, start coming up with ad-hoc theories to explain the cold weather: It’s an anomaly, you see, so it doesn’t mean anything … Without man-made global warming, it would’ve been even colder, and when this anomaly is over, we’re going to be cooking the planet again … Well, global warming actually causes colder weather … Global warming? Did we say “global warming?” We meant “climate change,” and by gosh, look at the change in climate!
Real scientists have a word for ad-hoc theories: bull@#$%. I learned a lot about ad-hoc theories while researching my documentary Fat Head. Ad-hoc theories are how bad scientists explain results they don’t like. Ad-hoc theories are how the anti-fat hysterics defend the “saturated fat causes heart disease” theory, despite all the evidence against it.
In real science, you propose a hypothesis, then check the data as it comes in to see if it supports the hypothesis. If the data doesn’t support the hypothesis, a real scientist concludes that the hypothesis is probably wrong. (Unfortunately, real scientists are becoming a rare breed in some fields.) The recent cooling trend certainly doesn’t support the theory that human beings are giving the planet a fever.
So what’s causing the cooling trend? Nobody knows for sure. But buried beneath all the noise about man-made global warming, there has long been a competing hypothesis to explain climate change: sun spots. According to this theory, sun spots produce warmer temperatures on earth.
The bad thing about this theory is that it has zero appeal to leftists. You can’t blame American corporations, industrialization, capitalism, greed, the World Bank, Republicans in general or George W. Bush specifically for what happens on the sun. U.N. bureaucrats can’t release position papers on global sun-spot initiatives and feel self-important. Environmental groups can’t raise millions of dollars by promising to fight sun spots.
The good thing about this theory is that it seems to fit the actual data; when scientists compare historical warming and cooling trends (and there have been several of them) to sun-spot activity, there’s a strong correlation. Lots of sun spots, warmer temperatures. Fewer sun spots, cooler temperatures.
And guess what? Sun-spot activity has been declining lately. If the decline continues, we could even be heading into a “little ice age” – the kind Newsweek warned about in 1975 before jumping on the global-warming bandwagon a decade or so later.
Below, I’ve posted YouTube clips of a lecture by one of the many scientists who dispute the idea that we’re warming up the planet. (As far as I know, he doesn’t deny the Holocaust.) But first, here’s my favorite news clip from the previous year:
Snow fell as the House of Commons debated Global Warming yesterday – the first October fall in the metropolis since 1922.
The Gaffemaster is at it again. A few days ago, Joe Biden gave a speech to the big government-employee labor union and claimed that the stimulus package has already created or saved at least 150,000 jobs. This is supposed to be great news, but there are couple of little problems with it.
The Gaffemaster performing.
Here’s one: there’s no actual data to back up that claim. Or, as the Obama-worshipping media put it, the figure is “elusive.” (Apparently the figure got loose and is running around the West Wing, hiding under desks and nibbling on staffers’ cookies when no one is looking.)
So Biden’s staff found itself scrambling to save the Gaffemaster’s bacon, saying the figure was in a report they compiled … but, uh, well, it’s not actually in the report, you see, but it could be in another report due later this year.
Well, that explains it. At least they didn’t claim they were misled by the CIA.
Before we look at the other problems with the “creating jobs” claim, I need to make a confession that I hope won’t anger my conservative friends: I’m glad Biden ended up as Obama’s vice-president. The prospect of a bad economy being “fixed” by big-spending socialists scares the hell out of me, and Biden provides some much-needed comic relief.
This is, after all, the guy who explained to Katie Couric that when the stock market crashed in 1929, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt immediately went on television to calm the public, thus preventing a major panic. If you’re not a history buff, here’s what’s wrong with that story: 1) FDR wasn’t elected until 1932, and 2) there were no home TV sets in 1929.
I suspect that sometime in the near future, Biden will explain how people who listened to the Lincoln-Douglas debates on the radio thought Lincoln won because his arguments were superior, but people who watched the debates on TV thought Douglas won because he looked better on camera.
And it was Biden who, while on the campaign trail, encouraged a man in wheelchair to “stand up and let ‘em see you!” The major media and the late-night comics didn’t find this funny enough to bring to the public’s attention, but you can find it on YouTube. (And remember: they labeled Dan Quayle a moron because he misspelled “potato.”)
So I’m glad we’ve got Biden. But I digress. Back to the problems with Biden’s speech.
We’ll start with a really big one. In fact, this is the single most-important concept to keep in mind when you hear politicians talking about how this or that government program will create jobs! Ready? Write it down:
Governments can’t create jobs.
If you didn’t get that the first time, don’t feel bad; most reporters go their entire careers and never get it. So I’ll say it again:
Governments can’t create jobs.
What governments can do is transfer jobs from the private sector to the public sector. Or, if they’re engaging in “stimulus,” they can transfer jobs from one industry to another, or from some future decade to the present. But they can’t create a net increase in jobs, any more than you or I can sit in a bucket and lift ourselves up by the handle.
Sure, governments can hire people. They do it all the time. And that would be a terrific jobs program if not for one minor detail: the people they hire have to be paid. The only way to pay them is to confiscate the money from other citizens. That’s money the other citizens can no longer spend – and consumer spending is what creates and supports jobs. (Even your average reporter understands that concept.)
So when you “create” government jobs, you destroy private-sector jobs. Politicians get away with the “creating jobs” charade because people can see the new government jobs (Oh, isn’t it lovely? People are working!), but not the private-sector jobs that were destroyed in the process – especially if we borrow the money to pay the government employees. Then we’re merely destroying jobs in the future.
Meanwhile, the taxpayers end up on the losing side of this equation, because their hard-earned money ends up buying goods and services they wouldn’t choose to buy for themselves.
Need a clear example? Here’s one: if I spend my money, I get a high-def TV, or a new computer, or a down payment on a bigger house. I want those things.
If Obama spends my money, I get an additional scientist writing papers explaining that the planet seems to be warmer than it was 30 years ago. Or I get an additional government-supported theater group in New York City performing angst-ridden plays I wouldn’t sit through if you paid me.
In which scenario am I wealthier?
In the “stimulus” model, we give the confiscated income to private companies instead of government employees, but it works the same way. We save jobs in some industries while destroying jobs in other industries … usually in industries that weren’t rich enough or smart enough to hire lobbyists. And once again, the government uses your money to buy goods and services that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. If we actually wanted GM cars, GM wouldn’t need a bailout.
The idea of the government “creating jobs” is so appealing, a lot people insist it can be done simply because they wish it could be done. And politicians make it sound feasible by tossing out phrases like “the multiplier effect.”
If you find yourself desperately wanting to believe this fantasy, try this real-world example: Suppose you have a job, but your wife is unemployed. Well, heck, just “create” a new job! Hire your wife at a salary equal to yours. Now all you have to do is use up your entire paycheck to fund her salary — but you must be better off, because you’re both working now.
(If you actually believe this would make you better off, you should take the civil service exam as soon as possible. You’re perfect for government work.)
But let’s suppose governments actually can create jobs. Suppose the mystical “multiplier” effect is real. Biden’s proud announcement that the Obama administration has saved or created 150,000 jobs still has a little problem: it’s called basic mathematics. Let’s do some.
The stimulus package came with a price tag of more than $700 billion. If we truly have “created” 150,000 jobs, that means each new job cost the taxpayers around $4.6 million. Only in Washington would this be considered a good deal. If you have a real job with a private enterprise, ask your boss for $46 million so you can hire 10 new employees. See what kind of reaction you get.
And if you believe in the multiplier effect, I want you to explain how one new job can multiply itself enough to justify taxing ourselves, our kids and our grandkids to the tune of $4.6 million. Cancer cells don’t multiply that rapidly.
But since I enjoy the comic relief Biden provides, I’m going to cut the guy some slack and assume that these newly-created jobs are just the beginning. After all, the stimulus package was promoted as a two-year program. I’ll pretend I’m an Obama-worshipping, economically illiterate media reporter and assume we can stimulate ourselves into creating a million new jobs with all that borrowed money – without destroying any private-sector jobs in the process.
In that case, it’ll only cost the taxpayers $700,000 for each job we create. Wow, what a bargain! If my daughter grows up to be a surgeon and pays $100,000 per year in income taxes, it’ll only take seven of her to clear the bill for each job we “created” while she was in kindergarten. (More, actually … let’s not forget about the interest on the debt.) She’ll be so happy to know we employed all those artists, ACORN activists, and global-warming researchers at her expense.
I’ll probably still be working too, helping to fund the pensions of government employees who get to retire at age 50 or 55. Since my kids will be grown, I may even take another shot at being a touring comedian.
If so, I hope Biden is still alive. I want him to open for me.