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Is it my imagination, or has the liberal wing of the media's attacks on conservatives turned into a bunch of cheap gotchas involving nitpicked analogies and quotes taken out of context? Perhaps it has always been this way and I never noticed until this year. Or maybe I'm spending too much time reading The Huffington Post. Maybe you can help me sort this out.

Before I continue, I should note that my own views don't map closely to either the liberal or conservative camps. So I don't have a poodle in the fight. I'm just observing a trend.

Consider Rick Perry. He called Social Security a "Ponzi scheme." As analogies go, that's a good one. I believe I have used it myself. It's a colorful way of saying the math doesn't work well when the population of retired people greatly increases and the number of workers funding Social Security does not. Literally no one on Earth disagrees with the central point of Perry's analogy. But I keep seeing Perry's Ponzi scheme quote reported as if it were some sort of idiot misunderstanding or conspiracy theory or foreshadowing of evil. WTF?

I've never seen more vicious, cheap attacks on a candidate than I've seen leveled at Michelle Bachmann. Recently she made a glancing reference to a well-known joke/parable about God using natural disasters to get the attention of humans. When I read Bachmann's quote, I understood her generic point that politicians need to open their eyes to both the problems and the solutions in front of them. The liberal media reported the quote as if a crazy street person was yelling that God sent floods as a message.

I think it's entirely fair to question candidates' beliefs in heaven, and magic, and their abilities to interpret the mind of God. Perry and Bachmann have religious views that overlap with the majority of Americans. But is it really news when a Christian uses a creative God reference in a speech?

Consider conservative Ben Stein. He famously argued that the rape allegations against Strauss-Kahn were worthy of doubt based on the profile of the accused, and that the presumption of innocence was appropriate. No one, including the police and prosecutors, disagrees with Stein's point that Strauss-Kahn doesn't fit the profile of a LIKELY hotel maid rapist. And no one disagrees with the principle that accused people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, as hard as that sometimes is. But the liberal media distorted Stein's point about statistical likelihood (which is arguably within Stein's field of expertise: economics) into the ridiculous idea that economists never rape. Then the media crucified Stein for being, by their own distorted implication, a crazy supporter of rich people who rape hotel maids. WTF?

For the record, I am totally opposed to rich people raping hotel maids. But only two people in the world know for sure what happened in the Strauss-Kahn case. The rest of us are just guessing based on our impressions of likelihood. Stein's article might have gone over better if he had acknowledged that, generally speaking, false accusations of rape are far less common than genuine ones, and that too has to figure into the statistical mix. But is it a gotcha when someone fails to mention the obvious?

Consider Mitt Romney's quote in the context of taxes that corporations are people too. That quote was reported as if Romney is so out of touch with ordinary humans that he doesn't know the difference between an artificial legal structure and a living person. Only a robot could say such a thing! But of course his point is one that 100% of real humans agree with: Corporate profits flow into the pockets of employees and shareholders. I remember a time when a gaffe meant you were wrong. But apparently being 100% right isn't a defense if you're also a conservative.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Conservatives have been saying vicious and untrue things about liberals forever. And perhaps conservatives are still way ahead in that game. My only point is that it seems to me the liberal wing of the media has ratcheted up their fake gotcha game on conservatives to a new level. Am I wrong about that?
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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 26, 2011
Regarding Social Security, Economist Dean Baker summed it up nicely:

"The comparison [of Social Security to a Ponzi scheme] is quite deliberately intended as a slander against the integrity of the program. It has no meaningful basis in reality.

At the most basic level, Social Security has 100 percent transparency in its finances. Anyone who cares can find the past, current, and projected future income and cost of the program in great detail in the annual trustees reports. The basis of every Ponzi scheme is deception: the claim of enormous returns. There is zero deception in Social Security.

And, these projections show that the program can pay all benefits for the next 35 years with no changes whatsoever. They also show it can pay more than 75 percent of benefits indefinitely. A tax increase that is less than 5 percent of projected wage growth over the next three decades would allow it to pay all benefits into the indefinite future.

The way in which Social Security is ostensibly similar to a Ponzi scheme is that it depends on new workers in the future to meet obligations that it incurs today. This also happens to be true of any debt issued by either the government or the private sector.

If the size of the working population in the United States collapsed tomorrow, then it would not have the tax revenue to pay off government bonds. Similarly, if the public stopped buying General Electric’s products, it would also be unable to pay off its bondholders. Yet no one in their right mind would describe the bonds issued by the federal government or General Electric as Ponzi schemes.

The reality is that there is no realistic basis for the comparison between Social Security and a Ponzi scheme. The proper response to Governor Perry’s charge should have been to ask whether he had any understanding at all about the country’s most important social program. He had committed a gaffe of monumental proportions. The media should have focused on exposing the governor’s ignorance, not trying to imply that in some alternative universe he might be right." [end quote]

I would like to add that I personally investigated many real Ponzi schemes when I served on a Federal Grand Jury. I indicted people for that crime. Let me assure you that Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme, and that Rick Perry's comments were nothing less that idiotic.
Sep 6, 2011
We don't need to end Social Security, we just need to increase the tax from the original 2% to the current 15% and onward to 30% or so.

Rick Perry is a heartless bastard for suggesting otherwise.
Sep 5, 2011
I'm just surprised (and pleased) that it took so long for them to get down in the mud with the rest of the pigs.
Sep 2, 2011
@Phantom II - not quite. I was pointing out that people do *not* go to jail for performing those acts. As for SS itself, it isn't the thing which is putting the economy in peril. Just check the numbers, and you will see that the top 1% or so have so much of the wealth and income that the bottom just can't earn enough, as there isn't that much in circulation.

Consider that the bottom 50% of US households have less wealth than the top 400 taxpayers, and collectively earn just 3% of the income in the country. To put it another way, the average in the top 50% is 32 times the average in the bottom. Had base wages risen with just the rate of inflation, SS would be awash with money.
Sep 2, 2011
@Paddington - not to put words in your mouth, but are you saying that when GM or the Tribune owner does it on a tiny scale, it's bad, but when the government puts the entire economy at risk and makes promises to everyone it can't keep, it's somehow OK? Why?

Look at the relative damage that can be done based on an individual corporation having bad or even corrupt managment, versus a government that spends more than the GDP and puts us all at risk?

Compare one bad corporation among the hundreds of thousands out there, versus a super-powerful, out of control government, and then say that the former is horribly corrupt but the latter is just fine the way it is? Does that really make logical sense? I hope not, or we're all lost.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 2, 2011
Whether or not SS is a Ponzi Scheme is irrelevant. Perry--like many conservative politicians--sees a broken government program and his instinct is to kill it rather than to fix it. While I don't disagree that the media prefers to focus on soundbites rather than substance, Perry also called SS unconstitutional and would like to end it, which is what liberals are offended by. Sometimes people in the media forget that not everyone has read Perry's book or has followed every speech his ever given.

Incidentally, SS absolutely is a Ponzi Scheme in the sense that it cannot pay benefits without people continuously paying into it, but that is false comparison because SS is not a hedge fund, it is a social safety net provided by the government that includes a guaranteed payout, but that collects a specific tax for that payout rather than, for example, funding the DOD. It is also worth noting that Congress had to specifically pass a law allowing them to raid SS and replace it with IOUs; in its original form, it was, as Al Gore said "in a lock box." Also, the Babyboomer Generation had to pay extra into SS to account for the disproportionate size of their generation, though that money too has now been replaced by IOUs.
Sep 1, 2011
@Phantom II - isn't that exactly what GM and other companies did? As I recall, none of them went to jail. The used-car dealer who bought the Tribune newspaper group used the pension funds as collateral for the loan to buy it, stripped it out, and then the comany went under, while he made a pile of money.
Sep 1, 2011
I have seen a number of posts here taking Scott to task for calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme." The problem with your criticisms is that he's right and you're wrong.

Dr. Walter E. Williams, well-known African-American conservative economist, posits the following (I paraphrase here): If it's illegal for an individual to do it, then it should be illegal for government to do it. Dr. Williams was talking in terms of redistribution of wealth, saying that if an individual were to do that, it would be called robbery; therefore the government does not have the right to break the law.

Segway to Social Security. Let's say a business set up a retirement plan and forced its employees to put a particular percentage of their pay into the plan (illegal already). Then, they raided the money that had been put into that plan and spent it on capital improvements to their business. They then borrowed money from the banks to pay off current retirees. As the company grew and took on more employees, they realized that they would soon have more money going out to retirees than they'd have coming in to the pension plan. So to counter this shortfall, they borrowed more money, running in the red.

Under Sarbanes-Oxley, the execs of this company would be in jail. The company would be bankrupt, and the employees would be out on the street with no pensions.

That's why Social Security is similar to a Ponzi scheme. There is no money in the Social Security trust fund. It has all been spent on other government programs. There are a bunch of IOUs in the form of T-bills in that fund. When SS started, the contributions of 17 workers paid each retiree's benefits. Now, it's slightly less than three, and by 2035 the estimate is that there will only be two workers paying each retiree's benefit.

If that isn't a Ponzi scheme, I don't know what is. The only difference between Bernie Madoff and the US government is that the government can force you to continue to participate.

Point to Scott.
Sep 1, 2011
Forgive me, but I just couldn't let this go by. A poster wrote: ". . .to anyone in here who refers to themselves or others as either liberal or conservative, you're an idiot. "

Further in the same post: "I tend to be traditionally conservative in most things. . ."

You know, people who have no cogent argumentr often resort to ad hominem attacks. But it's rare when a person commits an ad hominem attack on himself. A perfect example of being hoisted on one's own petard. Irony, anyone?

You've just GOT to love it!!
Sep 1, 2011
The big fallacy I can see with the Texas Tech Professor is that he lied from the start. He told the students, "All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A."

Then he failed the entire class. There's no lesson in government here; the only lesson is, "Never believe a professor who assures you that no one in the class will fail"

+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 1, 2011
Having spent my whole life surrounded by New York/northeastern ever-so-liberals, I would say that, yes, it has always been like that. I suffered from severe cognitive dissonance growing up, having been taught that "liberal" meant "open-minded, tolerant, etc.,", while the "liberals" around me were the exact opposite, DESPISING anyone who differed from them not only in political views, but in taste in music ("squares"), literature ("ditto"), recreation (ditto), habits.... This started with my father, who screamed that I was a "Fascist" for listening to a "peace" politician on television in what he decided was insufficiently respectful SILENCE. Of course, HE felt free to SAY hateful things whenever someone he disliked was on.

I was also taught that bigots (who, of course, lived only in the south) were stupid people who hated Negroes, Jews and Catholics. Some time when I was not looking, Catholics were declared fair game.

I suggest that this went unnoticed because when the approved hate-object was, e.g., "Russia", those were considered LIBERAL views by contemporary standards. The people now labeled "neoconservatives" appear to be those we used to call "liberal", and who have retained the same views they had all along.

Bracing for the stream of vilification from "open-minded liberals".
Sep 1, 2011
You're quite right. There are so many things genuinely wrong with the Republican candidates it seems weird that the media has to distort the facts like that. Is it maybe laziness? Anyhow, this is linked to and commented on here:
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2011
It is people shouting down anyone that threatens their freedom or sovereignty over whatever they think they ought to control. Truth is unimportant. Fairness is unimportant. On both sides.

Diminishing threats is paramount. Have you had a medical procedure lately. Wouldn't it be nice if doctors worked for free, or if someone else paid them. Just not me.
Aug 31, 2011
I don't read the Huffington Post, so take my comments for what they are worth. Where I have seen Bachman made fun of, including in the Financial Times, isn't so much her joke or her religious beliefs, it's her connecting the dots between natural disasters and her vision of good economic policy.

In the well-known joke, the canoe, motorboat, and helicopter that pass are clearly connected to the guys predicament of being stuck on his roof during a flood (there are probably different versions of this joke with different modes of rescue, but that's not the point).

Even if we take Bachman's statement as faith (God actively sends us messages in the form of extreme weather and tectonic shifts) or as a joke (she didn't mean it, but liked the imagery of the joke), there is nothing that connects a tropical storm flooding New York with a tighter budget. Heck, if she implied that God was trying to make the government spend money she may (possibly) have had a better analogy with the joke, but as it is, it is completely idiotic.

There is plenty to mock about her statement even assuming the best.
Aug 31, 2011
Nailed it one, Scott. You're reading too much HuffPo. Even a teensy bit of toxic waste is too much. Heh.

FWIW, you (and I) will always be in trouble with both sides (for different reasons), because lack of orthodoxy (like success) must be punished.

Imagine being a white Muslim candidate for Congress on the GOP ticket in 2008 in a majority black district in Texas... The hilarity that ensued wasn't funny.
Aug 31, 2011
Thanks for writing this. I wish discourse in this world would improve, but I'm not optimistic. I don't even think I'm going to share this with my friends on FB, because I've had bad experiences with discussions there. Also, you seem to be a glutton for punishment :).
Aug 31, 2011
"For your grades example,
A portion of all grades are divided equally, say 30%. That means people with a A get an A-. But the average is raised by that amount (30%) so a B gets a B . and an F gets a D-. Not everyone gets a B because that would be communism. everyone is happy because they wont fail anymore. "

and this is why your example fails. In the real world, the number of rich (a's) lie on the extreme edge of the curve. Taking away enough grades to drop the a's from a to a- wouldn't raise all the F's to d's; it would probably raise all the f's to f 's.

In any event, before people start to yell at me, it's a poor one, because a "rich" person has potentially a lot more grade-leverage (the A scales to 1000 pts, the B to 100, the C to 10, D to 5 and the F to 1, say) so that reducing an A to an A- might be able to push 100 F's to D's. Maybe. And I think the rich should pay more (a rich person/corp gaming the tax code to pay almost nothing isn't fair). But taxing the rich isn't going to really change much. You need to move around funds on a titanic scale: cut the military in half, for example.
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2011
I don't think it's fair to use the Huffington Post as an example of the "liberal media." It's a blog. It's not intended to inform people, its supposed to help liberals get what you call "bias confirmation". I haven't heard anyone in a mainstream media organization make any of the accusations you listed.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2011
Ben Stein had a good point. Rich people don't commit violent crimes because they have much better opportunities for fun and profit -- and because the cost of getting caught (measured in many ways: money, reputation, loss of other opportunities) is huge even compared to what it would cost you or me. Conversely, for poor people, these costs may be zero or close to it.

But it seems to me that someone judging whether or not it happened should not just be looking at the reputation, known history, and possibly economic profile of the accused, but also at those of the accuser. Nafissatou Diallo has been convicted of making earlier false accusations of rape, and changed her story on this one at least three times.

Rape is a terrible crime and deserves felony-level punishment. But that is all the more reason why procedural protections for those accused of it must be strengthened, not set aside. Not all women are to be believed just because they're women.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2011
For the record, anyone who puts the terms liberal and conservative onto themselves or others is an idiot. These are extremely broad vague terms whose meaning has changed considerably since their invention. If you don't know a persons position on everything as they haven't told you them, then don't make assumptions. Makes you look stupid. In addition, don't call yourselves conservative or liberal because it makes you sound like you're incapable of having opinions of your own. Any healthy thinking individual is going to have opinions that transcend these vague, essentially meaningless terms.

Oh, you're a conservative, that means you were against equal rights for blacks since it was "liberal" judges who pushed these concepts forward? Oh, you meant SOME of your positions are conservative. You're a liberal? That means you support unfettered free trade and things like NAFTA right? Oh, you meant you're socially liberal. Grow the hell up and try and find some common ground, you'll find most people aren't so different from yourself.

That being said, I'd highly recommend anyone here to read anything you can find by Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall. Although she calls herself progressive and posts over at Opednews.com, she has a very blue-collar background and her main goal is trying to unite the progressive movement with the working class. Articles about how progressives have gotten on the wrong side of gun-control, why both parties try to shun Ron Paul, and how upper-class "liberals" have essentially alienated working class folk with their lifestyle crusades are hard to ignore. The woman freaking knows everything, pumping out articulately sourced articles on totally different topics almost everyday.

All in all, a "left-wing" voice who does not go in for cheap shots:
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