We Are Ignorant Because We Enjoy Being Lied to. Today We Look at Lies About the US Debt.

Summary:  Much of public policy debate today consists of lies by the Right and rebuttals using simple facts, which have no effect.  It’s a losing game, as an emotionally appealing Big Lie usually wins if repeated frequently to a weak and foolish people.

Today’s example, from that engine of misinformation the Zero Hedge website:

While we reserve judgment for S&P’s effectiveness at being accurate in anything they do (they are, after all a rating agency and as such they goal seek results to comply with what their paying groupthink seeking customers demand), we would like to redirect to the modest topic of CBO predictive efficiency (the organization that is at the basis of the current credibility spat between Treasury and S&P, and which, incidentally has created the baseline forecast against which the debt ceiling compromise plan is supposed to cut $2.1 trillion over the next decade), by pointing out according to the same CBO back in 2001, net US indebtedness in 2011 would be negative $2.436 trillion, the ratio of debt held by the public to GDP would be 4.8%, total budget surplus would be $889 billion, and GDP would be $16.9 trillion.

Here is the graph they show, from page 16 of “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2002-2011“, Congressional Budget Office, January 2001

The Zero Hedge propagandists omit the core of the CBO’s analysis:

“Although there are signs that economic growth is moderating from recent robust levels, substantial budget surpluses remain on the horizon for the next decade in the absence of large changes in policy.  Over the longer term, however, budgetary pressures linked to the aging and retirement of the baby boom generation threaten to produce record deficits and unsustainable levels of Federal debt.”

Rather than foolishly wrong, this was prophetic.  The CBO analysts correctly anticipated the 2001 recession, which despite the effect of 9-11 was the lightest of the post-WWII era.  They put these events properly in context against the larger story of the age wave.  Most important are the words “in the absence of large changes in policy.”  They could not know about the insanity to come.

Such as the policy changes made by President Bush Jr., which have put the US on the road to financial ruin.

  • Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA)
  • Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA)
  • Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (a fast trillion-dollar addition to Federal liabilities)
  • The long war to reshape the political fabric of the world, starting with the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan (far larger than retaliatory strikes at al Qaeda and their allies)

These were, like the Reagan tax cuts, devastating strikes at the financial foundation of the US government — which the CBO could not foresee.  That Republicans now pretend concern about the debt is no surprise; that their claims are taken serious shows mental dysfunction by the American people.   That conservatives use this forecast to disparage CBO shows their mastery of the big lie through long practice.

For other posts on this topic

For the full list see the FM Reference Page Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.  Here are some of special interest.

  1. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  2. More propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010
  3. The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
  4. Forensic analysis of propaganda: “Michelle Obama Keeps Socialist Books in the White House”, 19 February 2010
  5. About the political significance of the conservatives’ health care propaganda, 23 March 2010
  6. A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
  7. The similar delusions of America’s Left and Right show our common culture – and weakness, 26 March 2010
  8. Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
  9. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011
  10. Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011

This post originally appeared at Fabius Maximus and is reproduced here with permission.