Bush Tax Cuts — Selling the Fallacy

I warned you of X
X didn’t happen.
Therefore, I saved you from X.

This is the architecture of one of the most popular rhetorical tricks in the toolkit of every modern political pro. It’s a variation of your basic evangelical ploy of describing imminent damnation in chilling and eloquent detail before offering the promise of salvation. Scare the hell out of them before you save them, amen, pass the collection plate. George Bush used this new twist on the gambit to great advantage by claiming to have protected the country from terrorism because no major organized terrorist attacks took place after 911. It didn’t happen, ergo I prevented it. Obama has also gotten mileage out of the trick by saying ‘you don’t know how much worse things could have been had I not acted.’ with reference to unemployment and his stimulus measures.

I warned you of X
X didn’t happen.
Therefore, I saved you from X.

This simple fallacy seems to work again and again no matter how you dress it up. Imaginary cures for imaginary illnesses are the stock and trade of any rainmaker worth his salt and we appear always hungry for a new flavor of snake oil. The graceful politician can usually manage to take credit for natural events when they happen and also when they don’t happen.

I am old enough to be eligible for Social Security. For my entire life I have heard the doomsayers explain that the system is mathematically impossible and is sure to collapse in the year yada-yada which has already passed several times in my memory. The apocalypse sells. Global Warming is one of the most exciting franchises on the market today and likely will eventually gross more money than the industries which caused it in the first place.

While we are talking about fallacies, another one that is trotted out over and over is the old, ‘the rich create the jobs’ routine. It amazes me how easily that completely preposterous assumption rolls off the tongues of reactionary spokesmen and is accepted by the ears of otherwise reasonable people. It’s just wrong. The vast majority of the very rich don’t create squat. They clip coupons. They sit on boards and shuffle money around. They make bets and collect dividends. The only jobs the rich usually create are for people who count their money and protect it and those they hire to sell the lie that their prosperity is the source of all prosperity.

When the rare entrepreneur like Bill Gates invents an industry that actually creates jobs, what does he decide to do with his money? Give it away. Gates is a bright fellow and sees that the redistribution of wealth is not only the right and charitable thing to do, it is also necessary to sustain the system that makes his lifestyle possible. He also remembers that he wasn’t rich when he started Microsoft. The millions of jobs created directly or indirectly by Microsoft products weren’t jobs created by money, they were jobs created by good ideas. Creativity creates jobs, not plutocrats.

But now we are warned that if we don’t let the top two percent take a quarter of the wealth every year, that we are faced with a double-dip recession and no more jobs will be created. Ever. One thing that capitalism loves is a stressed labor market. A certain level of unemployment is desirable to keep the workers from becoming too proud of their labor and demanding a fair price for it. As long as labor is a buyer’s market, the oligarchs win and with globalization, the market is flooded.

I remember a political anecdote from the 1950’s. I was young and impressionable and the simplistic homilies of the far-right fascinated me like teenaged boys are fascinated by violent video games. The John Birch Society or some other xenophobic organization of the time told a story designed to scare the congregation about how the Chinese outnumbered us. It went: If you line all the chinamen up four abreast and start marching them into the sea, four every second, because of how god-awful many chinamen there are and their birth-rate, you could march chinamen into the sea forever. The chinamen would never end. A chilling thought to any red-blooded American, I know. I’m not sure if the mathematics are correct on this, but it makes a grisly and graphic image that is more convincing than raw numbers. I always imagined the chinamen marching From the sea four by four, up onto Venice Beach with seaweed hanging from their AK-47’s.

As it turns out, the chinamen didn’t even have to leave China in order to invade America. The efficiency, docility and sheer number of Chinese workers has guaranteed a perpetual labor glut in a globalized marketplace. They can march chinamen four by four into the labor market forever. This leaves the hapless American worker wondering where the town factory went and fighting for his job as a greeter at Walmart and ultimately working for Chinese wages. If anyone can look forward to jobs created by the American investor class, it is the Chinese.

The Poet’s Eye expects to see the ‘compromise’ tax bill passed. The Bush tax-cuts will become the Obama tax-cuts. This will buy enough food-stamps to placate our unemployed mobs and give the rich another couple of trillion dollars over the next few years, dollars that they will likely save or invest offshore. This is money that our nation could use for the things which are critical to our future prosperity, things like R&D, education and clean energy infrastructure. Instead it will only further concentrate wealth at the top. Why am I not surprised? This is the country whose youth are learning how to master the fifth level of Grand Theft Auto while Chinese students are learning differential equations.

Let me tell you how it will be;
There’s one for you, nineteen for me.
‘Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.–George Harrison

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One Response to Bush Tax Cuts — Selling the Fallacy

  1. Barbara says:

    Excellent piece!

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