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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adrift in a Sea of Left-Wing Crazy Talk

Today, I made a stupid mistake. I visited It was the first time I had done this in a while, and I'm deeply ashamed of myself. This is not to say I regret it; RealClearPolitics is a great site and an excellent fix for political junkies, newsmongers and dataphiles. (I made that last word up.) Yet, therein lies the biggest problem it poses. If you're like me, then you've visited RCP in the past hoping to find one or two opinion/analysis/editorial pieces on a salient issue and maybe spend 20 to 30 minutes total on the whole endeavor before returning to your work. Sometimes it works out that way, but sometimes you get pulled down a rabbit hole and wind up sifting through site after site, article after article, wasting hours of time that you'll never get back. By the time you're satisfied, all you can do is cut your losses and try to avoid making the same mistake in the future. Such was the case with me on many occasions; I had finally resisted the urge to visit RCP for so long that I thought I could check out the site without falling into the same trap that I had so many times in the past. When I tried to do that earlier today, however, it didn't quite work out that way. One click led to another, and I soon found myself adrift in a sea of left-wing crazy talk.

I decided to write this blog post to call attention to two particularly ridiculous pieces of nonsense by well-respected (in left-wing circles) commentators. The first was a blurb by UC Berkeley professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. It was entitled “How to create (lousy) jobs.” (Somehow, before I even read the piece, I knew it was about Rick Perry and Texas.) The sub-head read, “Rick Perry has spurred job growth in Texas by driving out unions and effectively lowering wages.” Now, I’m not sure whether Reich wrote that or the site editors at Salon put it in, but it’s just B.S. What’s more, Reich admits in the first paragraph of his article that “governors have as much influence over job growth in their states as roosters do over sunrises.” So, how exactly can Perry be “driving out unions and effectively lowering wages”? Reich doesn’t say. Instead, he rattles off a series of talking points, making specious assertions without offerring any hard-core data to back them up. Then he gets to the crux of his argument: when "governors try hard enough," he says, "they can create lots of lousy jobs. They can drive out unions, attract low-wage immigrants, and turn a blind eye to businesses that fail to protect worker health and safety."

Reich adds:

Rick Perry seems to have done exactly this. While Texas leads the nation in job growth, a majority of Texas's workforce is paid hourly wages rather than salaries. And the median hourly wage there was $11.20, compared to the national median of $12.50 an hour.

First off, if you're not counting benefits, then $11.20 an hour is pretty good money for someone just starting out, especially if you don't have more than a high-school education. Second, Reich neglects to mention that Texas is one of the youngest states in the U.S. (only Utah has a lower median age), which explains our relatively low median wage. In his eagerness to dump on the Lone Star State, Reich neglected to carefully edit his piece and let a positive fact or two slip. For example, he mentions that Texas "has the lowest percentage of workers without health insurance."

Reich then goes off on a tangent, bashing supply-side economics and conservatives in general. The only other part of his post that I want to call attention to is this paragraph:

Besides, how can lower incomes possibly be an answer to America's economic problem? Lower incomes mean less overall demand for goods and services -- which translates into even fewer jobs and even lower wages.
First of all, that's only true if everyone's incomes are lower, meaning total income, and with it, overall demand, is down. However, until recently, household gross income had been growing steadily in the United States. Second, Reich purports to be concerned about American jobs and wages, but while higher incomes translate into more consumption, they don't necessarily translate into more consumption of domestic goods. As a former Secretary of Labor, Reich should have known this.

The second little gem I wanted to critique here was Jonathan Capehart's latest column for the Washington Post. It was entitled, "Obama’s fight — for respect." After listing a series of what he perceives as House Speaker John Boehner's slights at President Obama, Capehart offers this analysis:

When George W. Bush was president, harsh things were said all the time by congressional Democrats and their leaders. Some even crossed the line. Yet, while there was disdain for the man in the Oval Office, respect for the office itself was never in doubt. I seriously worry that it’s in doubt now among some Republicans. Each petty slight by Boehner is one more chip away at respect for the presidency.

First off, to say that some Democrats "crossed the line" with their attacks on George W. Bush is, I think, a supreme understatement. Secondly, WHAT?!? So the intense, hyperbolic vitriol heaped on the last president (not to mention his family, his party and virtually every member of his administration) never evinced a lack of "respect for the office" of president, but earnest, understandable and (in my opinion) legitamite criticism of the current preisdent's policies and behavior does?

Capehart then showed us just how deep his hero worship of BHO runs. According to him, Obama "is bigger than most of us. So the petty slights that get a lot of us riled up probably don’t register to him. He’s a thinker and plotter with his eyes on the prize down the road, not the daily hysteria taking place on the road to get there."

Assuming Capehart is expressing his true feelings and not just trying to be inflammatory or provocative, I think he's kidding himself. Either that or he's incredibly oblivious to the manner in which this president has conducted himself. Ever since he took office, Obama's proven himself to be immature, vindictive and thin-skinned. I'll spare you all a long list of examples, partly because I think any reasonable, detached observer would draw the same conclusion. I contacted Mr. Capehart to see if he could explain his puzzling statements. If he responds, then I will be sure to update this post accordingly.

The Web is replete on any given day with similar examples of left-wing drivel that I could criticize, which is why I try generally to avoid venturing on to any "gateway" site that could lead to the sort of time-consuming endeavor that ate up much of my afternoon and evening today.

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