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Sunday, November 7, 2010

This Week in Limbaugh Idiocy

It was a busy week for Rush Limbaugh to display just how stupid he is.

But it was more than just idiocy involved in comments like, "Barack Obama does not like the way this country was founded, he does not like the way it is, he does not like the fact that there is prosperity here, he does not like the fact this country exists."

To say that Barack Obama opposes the existence of the United States of America is both psychotic and vile, but it's typical of how Limbaugh thinks about his enemies.

This week, Limbaugh's idiocy centered on the election.

On Wednesday, Limbaugh denounced the fact that Republican female candidates were being called "the B-word, the W-word, the slur" just a few minutes after saying about Nancy Pelosi, "Ding, dong, the witch is dead." Not satisfied with his hypocrisy, he returned to the subject on Friday: "now the feminazis are clearly supporting witches, as in the case of Pelosi."

Noting several pundits who failed to predict two years ago that Republicans would take the House, Limbaugh proclaimed: "These are perfect examples of how noted elite political pundits put their ideology into their reasoning and therefore become unable to see reality."

According to Limbaugh, "They rely on the fact that nobody's gonna go back and recall what they said. They rely on the fact that nobody's gonna go back and look at what they said and remind anybody of just how off-base they were. And it all is rooted in the bias and arrogance, conceit of liberalism." While Limbaugh denounced liberals for "bias" and "arrogance" because their predictions more than a year ago were wrong, Limbaugh somehow overlooks his own off-base predictions made on election day itself, when he claimed that "Delaware is a close race, Delaware is a race in play, the Senate race, how can that be? How can Delaware be in play? I have been saying from the get-go that that race was competitive, that it never has been a 15-point race. We'll see tonight if I'm right."

Of course, Limbaugh was wrong: O'Donnell lost by 16.6 points, not the 15 points that Limbaugh considered impossible to believe. Limbaugh concluded about these bad predictions by liberals, "The point is they're wrong. Liberalism is a lie." By his logic, this proves that all of conservatism is a lie.

But the election provided an opportunity for Limbaugh to dip into his deep reservoir of conspiracy theories, as when he claimed that "Any Democrat win last night was either the result of fraud or deceit." He blamed "fraud" in Nevada and called it "suspicious" that Harry Reid won.

Everything Limbaugh looked at was part of Democratic conspiracy: "the Democrats have a slush fund of over half a billion dollars. What do you think the stimulus bill really was? Didn't create jobs, did it? It was out there to fund Democrat campaigns."

Limbaugh, of course, had no evidence for his bizarre claim that stimulus money was funnelled into Democratic campaign coffers. Considering that all of the money spent on the stimulus is publicly revealed, as is the source of all the funding for Democratic campaigns, Limbaugh's assertion cannot possibly be true. Only a lunatic would believe it.

Of course, Limbaugh has proven himself to be a lunatic over and over again. On Monday, he declared: "The people who are now in power are willing to destroy the economy, your savings, just to win their elections in 2006 and 2008."

Yes, Rush Limbaugh actually believes that Democrats conspired to destroy the US economy in order to win the elections in 2006 and 2008. He doesn't have any evidence for it. And it makes no sense since the housing and stock market bubbles didn't burst before the 2006 election.

Another conspiracy theory touted by Limbaugh was his belief in a Democratic plot that "would take your 401(k) away from you." Limbaugh claimed, "The unions and their Democrat friends in Congress are still pushing to do away with your 401(k)s. They essentially are doing for a bailout of their pension plans with your money." He cited the idea of guaranteed retirement accounts: "this Ghilarducci babe is a professor of economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research. She's the one that went bat nuts. She's the one when they asked her about this said, 'Oh, Limbaugh, he's nuts! He doesn't understand what I'm talking about. He doesn't have brain power to understand what I'm talk about,' and yet here today, earlier this month, it has now become official with a proposal by Tom Harkin (Democrat-Iowa) and Bernie Sanders ("Democrat"-Vermont) to create the GRA to take your 401(k), take it away from you, replace it with 600 bucks a year at 3%, and give the money to the unions to make their pensions whole. That's what they're proposing."

I emailed Ghilarducci about Limbaugh's comments, and she responded, "Everything about what he said about me is a lie; except the 'babe' part. I am a babe, that's true."

As Media Matters for America noted, Harkins and Sanders didn't propose or mention GRAs. As for Limbaugh's claim that "They want to take the money away from you," the website Factcheck in 2008 examined this claim from the fringe of right-wing nuts like Limbaugh and found that it was completely false.

Basic factual errors are the hallmark of Limbaugh's show. Some, like his claim on Wednesday that Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) lost his re-election, are occasionally corrected because they are so obvious (Limbaugh always blames someone else for his mistakes). But many of Limbaugh's misstatements are never scrutinzed.

On Friday, Limbaugh proclaimed: "When Ronaldus Magnus came into office, the American economic growth rate was 1.7%. That was the GDP: 1.7%. Two years later, by 1983 -- and, remember, we had a very bad, steep recession in 1982. Listen to these numbers. Gross domestic product when Ronaldus Magnus came into office was 1.7%. By 1983 it was 10.9%. That is real economic growth."

That would be real economic growth, except that everything Limbaugh says was a fabrication. When Ronald Reagan came into office, the GDP growth rate wasn't 1.7%. Real annualized GDP growth was 7.6% in the fourth quarter of 1980 and 8.6% in the first quarter of 1981, when Reagan's policies couldn't have had any impact yet. In 1983, the highest GDP growth rate was 9.3% (not 10.9%) in the 2nd quarter. Except for that one quarter, the GDP growth rate during the entire Reagan Administration never reached the growth rate of 8.6% that Reagan inherited.

It's unclear exactly where Limbaugh got his invented numbers. It appears that Limbaugh simply made up the numbers without caring at all what the truth was.

Limbaugh said about the media on Thursday, "They simply lie. And they lie without fear because no one has ever called them on it and if anybody ever does call 'em on it they don't care, 'cause that was yesterday, and they accomplished what they wanted with the lie as far as they're concerned, and they move on."

That summarizes the Rush Limbaugh show very well. He lies without fear, even declaring, "So once again, documented to be almost always right 99.6% of the time."

But my favorite Limbaugh idiocy of the week was his column in the November 2010 issue of the Limbaugh Letter, where he wrote: "Any Republican who puts working with Democrats ahead of working for the American people will suffer the same fate as the Blue Dog Democrats: become an instinct species."(page 3)

Rush is man who doesn't think—he just uses his instincts. Perhaps we could even call him an "instinct species," but not one going extinct anytime soon so long as millions of conservatives delight in being instructed in Limbaugh's peculiar mix of juvenile insult humor, insane conspiracy theories, and a delight in ignoring reality.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Compromise: It's the Economy, Stupid

Compromise is not a terrible political strategy under most circumstances. But the current situation in the American economy and American politics makes compromise the worst possible alternative for Obama and the Democrats. The Republican Party has been taken over by the Rush Limbaugh wing, and none of its policies are good for America. And the economy is about to get substantially better, which would give Obama credit for economic success if he doesn't compromise.

The explanation for why the Democrats suffered severe losses in the 2010 midterm election can be summarized in four words: It's the economy, stupid.

Of course, other reasons will be offered in the battleground of punditry seeking to analyze the voting. Left-wingers will argue that Obama refused to pursue sufficiently progressive policies and therefore his centrist approach failed to activate his base of voters. Right-wingers will argue that Obama pushed far left-wing policies and therefore alienated independents while motivating conservative voters. Political experts will point out that the incumbent president often suffers heavy losses in the off-year election, especially when defending a large number of districts in hostile territory where Democratic numbers were inflated from 2006 and 2008. There's a small amount of truth in all of these statements.

But it was fundamentally the lousy economy that proved to be the downfall of Democrats in 2010, just as it was for Republicans in 2008. When the economy is in terrible shape and lots of people are unemployed, the public tends to blame the party in power. Of course, this is unfair. Obama and the Democrats didn't cause the Bush recession, and they accomplished much to offset its terrible impact. The much-maligned Obama stimulus plan was a tremendous boost to the economy, albeit too small to fix the badly weakened economy from the Bush recession. Fairness has nothing to do with politics, however.

Even a popular president can suffer badly when the economy sours. George Herbert Walker Bush had approval ratings near 90% at the start of 1991 after war with Iraq, but by 1992 when the unemployment rate hit 7.8%, his approval plummeted down below 40% and he lost re-election. And an unpopular president can see his fortunes turn thanks to the economy. Ronald Reagan's party suffered a thrashing in the 1982 mid-terms elections, and his approval rating dropped steadily below 40% in 1983 thanks to the recession his policies brought on. But the economy recovered, and so did Reagan's approval ratings, which jumped substantially and allowed him to win re-election in a landslide.

Obama has several advantages going into 2012. His approval ratings have never sunk to Reagan's lows, and unlike with Reagan, it is irrational for voters to blame Obama for a recession that began more than a year before he took office as president. Most polls indicate that Americans tend to blame Bush more than Obama for the recession, although Wall Street and Congress also take the blame.

Much like Reagan, Obama remains personally popular despite the economic mess he inherited. And even the high unemployment rate under Obama never reached the levels it did under Reagan, although the Bush recession was much more severe and long-lasting than Reagan's recession.

It is almost certain that the economy will improve by 2012, and it probably will improve a lot. Although some economists fear that we are in a period of long-term stagnation, the reality is that unemployment has already peaked, the GNP has been growing, albeit too slowly, for a year, and the economy is almost certain to get better. This is a natural consequence of what happens after a recession, but someone will get the credit for it. A compromise with the Republicans will mean that Republicans will be able to claim credit for economic growth. Keeping the course will mean Obama and the Democrats get the credit.

In 1996, Bill Clinton followed the guidance of his Machiavellian advisor Dick Morris and used a strategy of triangulation, shifting hard to the right on many policies and effectively abandoning many Democrats in Congress. But what ultimately succeeded for Clinton was not triangulation, but hardball politics. When Newt Gingrich and the Republicans sought to shut down the federal government, Clinton stood up against them rather than compromising. And what proved to be the most successful thing for Clinton (and is the main reason for Clinton's enduring popularity today despite various scandals) was the incredible growth of the economy in the 1990s.

The 2010 elections were far worse than I had expected a year ago, but that's solely because the Bush recession was worse than almost anyone had imagined. It's all about the economy.

Refusing to compromise on policy doesn't mean Obama should speak out publicly against the concept. Getting rid of earmarks, as Obama suggested in his press conference, is a great example of where Obama can push for progressive reform while appearing to compromise with the Republicans who pretend to oppose earmarks.

The reality is that nothing important will get done in the next two years under a Republican House and a Democratic Senate. Obama needs to get whatever important legislation he wants passed in December, including an extension of the tax cuts for the middle class. And then he needs to focus the next two years on using the power of the executive branch to get progressive reform put in place.

The big winner in the 2010 election was populism, and Obama's greatest failure as president has been his inability to adopt populist rhetoric against the faux-populism of the Tea Party movement. If Republicans want to run in 2012 on expanding the deficit with tax cuts for the very rich, Obama should welcome that as a huge winning issue. Policies like this will enable Obama to take a populist stand on an issue that polls well, establishing the fact that he's the champion of the middle class. Combined with an improving economy, a new populism and a refusal to compromise with the terrible policies of the Republican Party will enable Obama to win a Reagan-style landslide re-election and take back the House in 2012.

Crossposted at DailyKos.