"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane." - George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four
In this passage of the novel, The Inner Party interrogator of thought-criminals, O'Brien, says of the mathematically false statement that control over physical reality is unimportant; so long as one controls one's own perceptions to what the Party wills, then any corporeal act is possible. (Thanks Wikipedia.) Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently did an interview regarding his tax plan with Chris Wallace of Fox News which mimicked the famous dialogue between Winston Smith and O'Brien.
WALLACE: (Regarding the Bush Plan), The Tax Foundation says the middle class would see after-tax income increase 2.9 percent. But the top 1 percent would get a boost of 11.6 percent.
BUSH: Look, the benefit of this goes disproportionately to the middle class. If you look at what the middle class pays today compared to what they would pay in our tax plan —
WALLACE: But they get a 2.9 percent increase in after tax income —
BUSH: Because higher income people pay more taxes right now and proportionally, everybody will get a benefit. But proportionally, they’ll pay more in with my plan than what they pay today.
WALLACE: Well, I mean forgive me, sir, but — but 2.9 seems like it’s less than 11.6.
What's going on here? It's simple. Jeb Bush is lying, and demanding that everyone believe his lie. And this typifies the campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. The candidates are lying. Constantly. They lie about the facts. They lie about their personal backgrounds. They lie about their plans for the Presidency. When they're caught lying, they tell an even bigger lie. And, most interestingly, they sometimes try to reshape perception of history and reality to make their lies appear true.
Returning to Nineteen Eighty Four, the protagonist Winston Smith has an important job. He alters old issues of the newspaper in order to make history more closely align with current Party propaganda. Carly Fiorina, another Republican Presidential candidate, is doing the same thing. As I discussed in the last edition of this series, Fiorina claims that secretly recorded video recorded by the anti-choice group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) shows Planned Parenthood selling the body parts of aborted fetuses and otherwise breaking the law. The accusations against Planned Parenthood are false.
Called to account for this (from Ana Marie Cox of the Daily Beast),
"Fiorina didn’t just repeat that she had seen something that does not exist, she accused the organization of something that the "sting" video’s makers hadn’t: "Planned Parenthood is aborting fetuses alive to harvest their brains and other body parts. That is a fact." To be clear, with this statement, Fiorina isn’t just repeating a mischaracterization she already told (that Planned Parenthood "harvests" organs that are intact after an abortion). Rather, she is saying that Planned Parenthood aborts fetuses alive, for the purpose of harvesting their intact organs. She added, "Planned Parenthood will not and cannot deny this because it is happening."
That last bit is a hoary nugget of rhetorical flim-flammery on par with "When did you stop beating your wife?" It tries to reinvent lack of engagement as admission of guilt. Except Planned Parenthood has denied allegations of illegally “harvesting” organs—and six different state investigations (Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and now Missouri) have backed up those denials.
Instructively, what’s disturbing about Fiorina’s falsehoods isn’t that she lied, or even that she seems to believe her own lies. It’s not even, really, that her lies get bigger every time.
No, what should give you pause is that by sheer force of articulated will she has fabricated her own reality, to the point that her Super PAC spliced together a different video to illustrate just what it is she said she saw. Think about it: If Fiorina had stuck to some kind of emotionally-charged but non-specific description of the video, there would be no second round of debate. As it is, Fiorina didn’t just lie—she created a storyboard."
Well, I have to give Fiorina one thing. At least she cares enough about accusations that she is lying that she at least tries to alter the past so that her lies become truth. As we'll see, some of the 2016 Republican Presidential candidates can't even be bothered to do that.
Part Eight. Republican Presidential Candidate Round-Robin
Myth: Dr. Ben Carson's remarkable personal story includes overcoming a history of violent conflict with his peers as a youth, turning down an offer to attend West Point, and a harrowing tale of how he sheltered his white classmates during Detroit race riots.
Fact: These incidents, as described in Carson's memoir, Gifted Hands are not true. More information here. Carson's response to these controversies has been bizarre. First he admitted to Politico that he had not received an offer to attend West Point. Then when Politico reported this admission, Carson claimed Politico was lying. When confronted with some of Carson's other fabrications, his campaign replied, "Why would anyone cooperate with your obvious witch hunt? No comment and moving on…… Happy Halloween!!!!!" Carson also held a recent press conference where he attempted to address the falsehoods in Gifted Hands by launching into an angry tirade against the media in the form of long-debunked President Obama conspiracy theories. Pretty strange stuff from a candidate who claims to believe that honesty is more important than political experience.
Myth: Senator Marco Rubio's tax plan, which cuts taxes for businesses and individuals at all levels of income, would create a budget surplus within ten years.
Fact: Numerous independent estimates have found that Rubio's plan would actually increase the national debt by roughly $5 trillion dollars according to some sources, or as much as $12 trillion according to Citizens for Tax Justice. The idea that the economy would be so stimulated by the tax cuts that revenue would actually skyrocket comes from "The Tax Foundation." From Ezra Klein reporting on Vox (with another interesting allusion to Orwell):
"(W)hat Rubio is saying is that his massive tax cut is actually going to mean more tax revenue for the government — that two minus one will equal four."
"The Tax Foundation is an amalgam of anti-tax advocacy group and tax policy think tank: It produces research, churns out charts and tables, and scores tax plans, but it's motivated by an anti-tax agenda."
"Its assessments of tax cuts are, as you might expect, considered rather rosy by more mainstream economists."
"Indeed, it's so optimistic that when New York Times's Josh Barro ran the results by "10 public finance economists ranging across the ideological spectrum," none of them would endorse the Tax Foundation's conclusions."
Myths: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," "They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists." - Donald Trump, 6/16/15
"The Mexican government ... they send the bad ones over." - Donald Trump, 8/6/15
Fact: Donald Trump. Where to begin? From the day Trump announced his candidacy, the Washington Post called him, "a fact checker’s dream … and nightmare," and devoted a lengthy article to debunking all the lies and myths just in his announcement speech. To date, Politifact.com has fact checked 67 of Trump's statements and rated zero of them "true" while rating three-quarters of them, "mostly false," "false" or "pants on fire."
And hoo boy, does Trump hate Mexicans and other Latino immigrants. He wants to create a "massive deportation force" which apparently would push the entire undocumented immigrant population of eleven million south of the border. It's also possible that Trump means more than eleven million folks however, as he also believes that children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants are not citizens.
Regarding the myths in the above Trump quotes:
*There is no evidence that any Mexican policy pushes anyone, criminal or non-criminal, into the United States.
*Regarding the rapists Trump alleges are crossing the border, Jake Miller of CBS News notes,
"Asked why he used the term "rapists" to characterize Mexican immigrants, Trump pointed to recent reports that as many as 80 percent of the female immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are sexually assaulted during the trip. CNN's Don Lemon then pointed out that those reports document immigrants being raped during their journey across the border - not the immigrants raping people after they get here."
*Regarding the link that Trump alleges between immigration and crime, he actually has it backwards. Both immigrants and first-generation immigrants have a lower rate of criminality than other Americans.
Myth: "The last president we had was Ronald Reagan that said we’re going to dramatically cut tax rates. And guess what? More revenue came in, but tens of millions of jobs were created." - Senator Rand Paul
Fact: Republicans really, really want you to believe that tax cuts create economic growth. Study after study after study demonstrates that they do not. Regarding Rand Paul's remarks, Conor Lynch of Salon has a good summary of the real Reagan record:
"First of all, fewer jobs were created per year under Reagan than under either Clinton — who increased income taxes — or Jimmy Carter. (Two million jobs were added per year under Reagan, compared to 2.6 million under Carter.) Second, revenue did not increase with Reagan’s tax cuts, but with his four subsequent tax increases (passed in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1987). The first major income tax cut came in 1981, which slashed the top rate from 70 to 50 percent, and reduced — yes, reduced — revenue by $208 billion in its first four years. And, of course, the federal debt just about tripled under Reagan, who increased spending (especially on defense) while revenue decreased overall (when measured to the GDP)."
Myth: "Virtually every person across this country has seen premiums going up and up and up," due to Obamacare. - Senator Ted Cruz, 10/16/13
Fact: This quote predates the Presidential campaign, but the candidates are still saying this same thing, in one form or another. Long story short, on average, premiums have risen by about 5.8 percent per year since Obama took office, compared to 13.2 percent in the nine years before Obama.
Myths: "America’s gun-related homicide rate … would be about the same as Belgium’s if you left out California, Illinois, D.C. and New Jersey, places with some of the strictest gun control laws in the U.S." - former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, 8/20/13
"(T)he jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws, almost without exception … have the highest crime rates and the highest murder rates." - Senator Ted Cruz, 1/7/13
"(I)n state after state after state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the nation (there exists) the highest gun crime rates in the nation. Chicago would be an example." - Carly Fiorina, 10/24/15
Fact: I hear this nonsense from pro-gun friends sometimes; the idea that places in the US with more gun control have more gun violence. First of all, Huckabee, Cruz and Fiorina are both wrong. Politifact rates Huckabee's claim as "pants on fire," saying, "removing the four states from the equation, as Huckabee did, doesn’t really budge the firearm-related homicide rate for the nation as a whole." Regarding the Cruz and Fiorina claims, at the state level, there is absolutely no doubt that states with the strongest gun control laws have the lowest gun death rates per capita, while those with the loosest gun laws have the highest gun death rates per capita. At the metropolitan level, for 2009-2010, the top gun murder rate areas were, in order: New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham and St. Louis. All five of those cities are in states that are dominated by Republicans and thus have comparatively loose gun laws.
Myth: The 2015 world power agreement to curb Iran's nuclear capacity, "doesn’t send international inspectors. This deal trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves." - Senator Ted Cruz, 9/1/15
Fact: The agreement requires Iran, (from Eric Bradner of CNN), "to provide inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, access to all of its declared facilities so that the agency can ensure there is no potential for military-related developments."
Furthermore, the agreement is working as designed: Iran has begun shutting down uranium enrichment centrifuges. Republicans were in more or less complete agreement last summer that the nuclear deal would, "pave the way for a nuclear armed Iran." Don't they feel silly now?
How best to summarize the 2016 Republican Presidential candidates? Easy. From Nineteen Eight-Four, one more time:
"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. "Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. "Reality control," they called it: in Newspeak, "doublethink.""