Political talking heads on TV are not my cup of tea. Apart from a good laugh, I don’t have much use for them. Anything I see is usually emailed to me in a video clip or snagged off of someone’s Facebook page. Much to my surprise, Bill Maher had a libertarian guest on his show…not just any libertarian, but Nick Gillespie – editor in chief of Reason TV and reason.com. He did very well considering that it’s virtually impossible to dumb down his position enough so Bill Maher and his viewers can understand. On top of that, he had to combat the usual childish, amateur debate tactics of a discussion panel skewed in the opposition’s favor. Childish/amateur debate tactics defined:
1) A perverse version of identity politics.
If an argument cannot be countered with facts, sound reasoning and logic, then throw the person in the camp with the “enemy.” It makes no difference that Gillespie did not endorse any plan (Republican or Democrat) currently on the table. It’s important to cover up the fact that Nick Gillespie is the only TRUE liberal on that stage. We can’t have people figuring that one out! Because he is not in favor of raising the debt ceiling, then he is an evil Republican. The comical thing about this is during the debate, they proved that there was no difference between the two parties since Obama was the one who played fiscal warrior when Republicans were spending money recklessly under Bush. Nonetheless, this tactic works very well with robotic audiences. Simply label your opponent as the enemy, and then the audience will tune him out.
2) Sputtering out baseless claims that detract from the original topic… such as “wages have not gone up in 30 years” and “tax revenue has decreased.”
Neither of these points have anything to do with the debt ceiling issue. The first is blatantly false. Wages depend heavily on the state of the economy, industry, demand for the type of work and one’s level of education. While global competition and less demand for certain jobs have caused wages to decline or remain stagnant, it is beyond disingenuous to generalize it to apply to ALL wages. It was interesting that the subject was changed when Nick mentioned the weakening of people’s purchasing power due to inflation as a key issue. In addition, there wasn’t a chance to discuss the parallel between the rapid growth of government at the expense of the private sector.
The tax revenue argument is a very easy one to debunk, but I don’t blame Nick for not delving too much into this. Maher was right there to back him into defending the Bush tax cuts (thus helping with his identity politics approach), which would deviate further from the matter at hand. It is noteworthy to point out that tax revenues (like wages) depend heavily on the macroeconomic environment. I won’t spend much time on this topic either since I abhor the current income tax system. Taxing income and using the tax code as a market steering effort is extremely flawed and is nothing more than another avenue of centralized planning. If we are not talking about the “Fair Tax,” then we are not talking!
The only thing to take away from this is that Nick correctly pointed out that the government has a spending problem. After the Bush tax cuts, the government collected enough tax revenue to actually CURB the deficit in 2006 in spite of all of the reckless spending and funds needed to fight two wars.
Last but not least, 3) mischaracterizing the issue at hand…
Maher’s intellectual void when it comes to economics is downright scary sometimes. Nick laughably characterized it as “junkie” logic. Put simply, the government does NOT have to raise the debt ceiling to avert default. Have any of you stopped paying your federal payroll taxes? Are there any self-employed people not making estimated tax payments? The government is still collecting revenue on a daily basis. To expand on Maher’s flawed analogy, maybe we don’t “go out to eat” this Friday so we can pay for all of our dinner bills coming due!
The only thing the decision to not raise the debt ceiling amounts to is that the government cannot apply for a credit line increase. It must use the funds it currently HAS and is still COLLECTING to pay its bills. Do businesses fold if they are denied a credit line increase? Does a family have to file for bankruptcy if they are denied an additional credit card? Wake up and smell the coffee America. The rug is being pulled over your eyes once again.
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