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Attempting to Mix a Hypocrisy Tonic

My uncle loves to send me right-wing chain emails about the dangers of government, the evilness of Obama, all the crazy things “the liberals” are up to, and sprinkles in some nativist xenophobic blather for good measure. Honestly, he’s a great guy personally, but seriously warped with partisanship, paranoia, and populism like others swept up with Tea Party style politics. His colleagues don’t seem much better. I recently got into an email row with one of them over the Massachusetts RMV offering a spanish language manuel and test (written by volunteers). I pointed out among other things that multiple studies and surveys (here, here, and here) show that 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants and Americans in general overwhelmingly speak English. He responded with “I think you’re wrong” and asked about some anecdotal cases. Failure to deal with actual evidence doesn’t often lead to a fruitful conversation.


Most of the emails I get sent end up being demonstrably false, yet that doesn’t appear to give my uncle any reservations. Bizarrely, these emails often bash big government and advance some pretty narrow (and wrongheaded) views about the constitutional limits placed on our government. I say bizarre because he works for the government. I hope this will be a hypocrisy tonic:

FAA wastes stimulus funds:

  • Lake Cumberland Regional Airport in Kentucky got $3.5 million to build a glass-fronted terminal in 2004 that was largely unused until the first passenger flights began this June. The airport now has six flights a week.
  • Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama got $22 million to build a $35 million terminal with a sloping glass facade and a rotunda topped with a domed ceiling that reflects the historical architecture of the state Capitol.
  • Halliburton Field Airport in Duncan, Okla., got $700,000 for a terminal with a pilot room and a reception room. The airport, open only to private planes, has 24 landings and takeoffs a day, mostly local pilots in piston-engine planes.
We can privatize many of the FAA’s duties for example:

Air Traffic Control. The Federal Aviation Administration has been mismanaged for decades and provides Americans with second-rate air traffic control. The FAA has struggled to expand capacity and modernize its technology. Canada privatized its ATC system in 1996. It set up a private, nonprofit ATC corporation, Nav Canada, which is self-supporting from charges on aviation users. The Canadian system has received high marks for sound finances, solid management, and investment in new technologies.

Delayed? Blame the FAA:


Go to the site to watch the video. 


[update]: He does recognize the irony but it doesn’t seem to affect his politics. I think that might show the mind’s ability to compartmentalize and hold mutually contradictory beliefs. 

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The Purge Continues

March 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Two posts ago I wrote, “I’m not sure what it will take to regain a sane GOP.  More people like David Frum would help.”


Well looks like it is going to get worse before it gets better for the mainstream conservative movement. Frum was pushed out of the American Enterprise Institute:

I have been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 2003. At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of that relationship.

He’s criticized Rush, Palin, and the current Republican Party in order to improve it – unacceptable, I guess. Bruce Bartlett had a similar experience at the National Center for Policy Analysis. I don’t really understand what is driving the conservative movement to such extremes – anything Obama does is evil to them even if they supported it before he did. Bartlett reveals:

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

The huge losses to the Republican Party that the Bush administration and the recessing economy caused may very well have given the GOP the wrong lesson. Almost all moderate Republicans lost their seats, leaving only the hard right wing in control. Doubling down and listening to Rove doesn’t seem rational. Frum probably had it right that the Republican Party needs to recognize that talk-radio and Fox News don’t have the GOP’s interests at heart – they want ratings. 

Anyone have any theories? My feeling is that a sluggish economy led to a growing populist movement which is fed by ratings hungry right-wing media along with the loss of the liberal and moderate Republicans in the legislature.  The most active potential Republican voters are also the most extreme so any politically minded politician has to crater to those sentiments. But do think-tanks like AEI really need to tailor their messages to this movement? They have no elections or ratings to worry about – aren’t they non-profit? Are their donors that swept up with the rest of the paranoid right? 

Dog Bites Man

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Bruce Bartlett shares results from a survey of Tea Partyers.  

In short, no matter how one slices the data, the Tea Party crowd appears to believe that federal taxes are very considerably higher than they actually are, whether referring to total taxes as a share of GDP or in terms of the taxes paid by a typical family. 

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president.

Surprise! They don’t know much. Facts were never too suited to populism. Full Survey Here

"Whaddya got?"

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Bill alerted me to this piece in the New Yorker on the current wave of populism in the US. It seems anything those in power do is automatically wrong even when it’s things voters say they like. The author, James Surowiecki, argues that anything done will be unpopular until it starts working – so don’t worry too much.

The temptation, then, is simply to abandon ambitious plans in an attempt to annoy no one. But a better approach would be to recognize that voters’ anger is less ideological than pragmatic: at heart, it’s the product of the weak economy and the poor job market. (The movement that today’s populism most closely resembles is Ross Perot’s, which arose, similarly, during a downturn.) And while that means that there’s no way to make voters happy without improving the economy, it also means that, if you start creating jobs, people will start to feel better.

Populism is basically an emotional response, not a rational one. Voters seem to want to cut the deficit and do more for jobs; they want healthcare reform but things to stay the same for them; they like what is in the stimulus package but not the stimulus package. In all downturns populism springs. We can’t just pull out the weeds; we need to till and reinvigorate the soil so something better grows out of it.
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