Reality? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Reality

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Reality? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Reality

Imagine you were handed a map, and on that map, right where the Western Hemisphere was supposed to be, you saw a sharp jagged line and a caption that read, “Here, there be dragons.”

Probably, you wouldn’t want to use that particular document to circumnavigate the globe.

Yet that’s precisely the kind of flat-Earth nonsense we are using to steer our ship of state, and you hear nary a whimper from the media, or either political party.

Exhibit A has to be almost anything Rick Perry says.

The Recovery Act created zero jobs? A lie. It created and preserved jobs.

The science on global warming is not settled? Wrong. Nearly every scientific organization says that climate change is a fact and that humans are causing it. Yet the press and people like Perry still raise long discredited denier talking points to refute this consensus. Like vampires, these non-facts refuse to die, and when they show signs of dying, the press administers CPR.

Evolution is a “theory that’s out there but it’s got gaps?” No. Wrong again, cowboy.

Texas is a jobs miracle? Government has never created a single job?

Well, since 2007, private sector jobs decreased by .6% in Texas, while public sector employment (AKA government jobs) grew by 6.4%, much of that funded by the federal stimulus program. Exactly the opposite of what Perry claims. Texas is a national leader in one category: low-wage, low-benefit jobs. That’s just the kind of miracle that awaits credulous voters who can’t see past the slick, corporate funded advertisements to ... reality.

Perry is merely the leading clown of nine evil clowns vying for the Republican nomination. They all seem more interested in making you afraid and making you hate than in making you laugh. They also display a contempt for reality and truth. Yet their individual lies – as destructive as they are – are small potatoes compared to the faulty map we’re using to set national policy.

We can start with Reaganomics and its toxic legacy. You know, government-is-the-problem-shrink-it-until-you-can-drown-it orthodoxy, combined with the notion that the free market is the font of all good things, if we just leave it alone and get gubmint’ off its back.

This particular bit of idiocy has been tried three times. First in the 1880’s through the 1890s, then again in the 1920’s, and finally between 1980 and 2008. Each period featured laissez-faire economic policies like low taxes, small government, deregulation, and corporate-friendly policies. And guess what? Each period brought extreme income inequality and the inevitable economic collapse that follows.

It’s possible after the Great Depression a few folks still believed these policies could lead to prosperity. But after 2008? After going 0 for 3? In baseball, there’s a name for that: striking out.

But that’s reality. And we don’t need no stinkin’ reality.

Want another dose of reality defying mythology? How about notion that cutting debt will increase economic growth -- the prevailing view of the Republican Party, and apparently Obama and the press. Has this particular antidote ever cured the patient?

Nope. Killed it, more often than not.

But that’s reality. And we don’t need no stinkin’ …

Here’s another. Trickle down economics. Seen anything trickling down, lately?

No, you haven’t. In fact, since Reagan introduced this “theory” from the back of a crumpled napkin, the income of the top 1% has doubled. Yours? Not so much. You've lost ground.

But that’s reality. And we don’t need no…

How about the idea that the rich are the “job creators?”

Again, not so much. Right now corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in assets because there's not enough consumer demand to justify hiring. Throwing more money at the ultra rich will make them even richer, but it will have no effect on the economy until consumers start buying – and the only thing that can make that happen is a government stimulus large enough to create jobs and restore confidence.

But that’s reality. And we don’t need …

And how about the wellspring of right wing whackiness? Specifically, the notion that unconstrained capitalism is a necessary pre-requisite for freedom. That the two are joined at the hip, inseparable – that one cannot stand without the other.

This particular bit of reality-bending lunacy was popularized by Milton Friedman. It explains why, to right wingers, socialism is bad, why regulations are perceived as a commie plot (especially environmental regs), why the free market is sacrosanct, why the entire Republican Party is anti-science and in thrall to climate denial.

Each implies a legitimate role for government intervention in the market; therefore – in the minds of the wingnuts -- each threatens freedom.

Here again, reality differs. With totalitarian China practicing virulent capitalism, with successful examples of social democracies, and with the advent of a new kind of tyranny – the tyranny of the unconstrained corporation – Freidman’s linkage of capitalism and freedom is revealed as nonsense.

But that’s reality and we don’t …

Yes we do, damn it. We do need some stinkin’ reality. We need a whole lot of it, and we need it now, or the whole damn country will follow Rick Perry or some other lying demagogue off the ragged edge of civility and into the mouths of dragons.

Are we likely to get it? Hell no.

With the mainstream media playing the part of a mute stenographer, the Democrats trembling at the first sign of opposition and coughing up our lunch money like a pre-pubic nerd trapped in the bathroom, and Citizen’s United turning our elections into a bidding war, we’re about out of stinkin’ reality.

And that makes us out of luck.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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