Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Stupidity Of Evil, Or The Evilness Of Stupidity?

It seems to me that a lot of time is spent arguing about whether Republicans, and indeed politicians in general, are actively aware of it when they lie, or are simply so spectacularly uniformed they don't know that what they're saying is obviously untrue (this is known amongst less polite observers as the "Stupid/Evil Meter").

This isn't something that I think about all that much. Whenever the topic comes up, I'm always reminded of the scene in Iain Bank's Complicity where one character (who I can't name for fear of spoiling the book) argues there is no functional difference between deliberate acts that damage others and those damaging events that occur without intent, but only because those who are responsible for preventing them failed to perform their duties with any diligence.

That's not to say failure can be equated to active mendacity.  I think there's a strong case to be made that wilful neglect can be, though.  Which brings us back to politics.  If a politician advocates pointless or destructive policies because they have failed to consider or investigate its potential ramifications, then they are no less culpable than those that actively hide the truth.

Anyway, this all came back when I started reading about the 112th Congress, and how the Republicans want to run it.
[House] [m]embers offering bills for new programs will have to explain how they will pay for them, not by raising new revenues but by finding other ways to cut costs. Each bill introduced will also have to cite the specific constitutional authority for its contents.

A big exception will be the bill to repeal the health care law that House Republicans plan to bring up next week... Republicans [won't] have to abide by their own new rules that compel them to offset the cost of new bills that add to the deficit; the health care repeal and tax cuts are not subject to this new rule.  
The heath care bit is just the standard gob-smacking hypocrisy we've come to expect from the GOP, obviously, but it's the tax cut part that got me thinking about Complicity.  Aside from a small but vocal minority who are convinced that the War of Independence was fought over taxes and therefore all taxes are bad (a position no less stupid than me arguing our victory in WWII means Germany should become part of Poland), I thought the standard Republican rhetoric is that tax cuts automatically increase revenue, because everyone gets richer and can spend more.

Obviously, that's not true, and so obviously not true it's mathematically provable.  But that's frequently the argument used regardless.

I mention that because the GOP's deliberate choice to exempt tax cuts from their new rules rather implies that they themselves don't have any faith that the cuts are self-paying, or at least have no faith that there's any way to demonstrate it to anyone's satisfaction.  Admittedly, that only holds if the phrase "raising new revenues" refers to new methods for acquiring money, rather than changing the system so the current methods raise more money, but that seems to be the contextual interpretation (feel free to let me know if you disagree).

In other words, it looks like House Republicans have moved from the dial from "Stupid" to "Evil" at the legal level.

Well, they have on the payment issue, anyway.  The "constitutional authority" bit is merely stupid; just one more attempt to treat the Constitution as a simply-written rules manual rather than a complicated mass of differing principles and ideas.  I suppose it's nice to see that the GOP are so intent on following it so religiously, though.

Oh, wait.
King’s measure would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, ending automatic citizenship for anyone born in the country...  
Though others have called for changing the 14th Amendment, King said that ending birthright citizenship through statute makes sense because it’s easier to do.
It would be even easier for Senator King to just declare his law has been passed and fuck off to Bermuda.  The problem is that's not how laws work.  The Amendment itself, by the way, says "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."  I know the Senate is not the House, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for Boehner's mob to object.

The 112th Congress has been in existence for less than four days.

(h/t to LGM for the links).

P.S. I do have to give the Republicans credit for this, though.  I don't think I've ever seen anyone get out of a campaign promise (with a specific number attached, no less) by claiming it was "a hypothetical" before.  I've seen McArdle do it, obviously, because she's a talentless petulant hack.  First time for an entire political party, though.

1 comment:

Tomsk said...

Re your P.S.: Now that's the kind of pledge-breaking I can get behind. If only our government would follow suit.