Friday, October 21, 2011


Ah, autumn. Leaves changing, football on TV (Let's Go Mountaineers!) and the Republicans still telling the same tired lie about the President and the 2009 so called stimulus. What lie is that, you ask? Well, it's actually a compound lie. One which can indite the president and his policies in multiple ways. They go like this.

"Obama lied because..." Or, "The stimulus failed because..." Or the ever popular, "Obama is a failure because..." See the cleaver combining of the President himself with the failed program. So what is all this lie telling and failing about? It's about one little number... 8%.

Here's what happened. During the run up to passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the said "stimulus," one of the President's advisors, Christina Romer, then chair of The Council of Economic Advisers, made the prediction that the ARRA would bring unemployment down to the aforesaid 8%. Since that time, of course, the unemployment rate has not fallen to 8%, so that, in whatever Never Never Land the Republican Party resides, the entire program was a failure. Period. No discussion needed. Oh ya, and since Obama said it (by way of an adviser's words) he lied to the American people.

This is A number 1, super high quality BS, and to my mind anyone who holds and expresses that position not only shouldn't run for office, he or she should probably be treated for a mental disorder. Let's start with the "Obama lied," group.

No matter how you cut it, paste it, or fold and spindle it, Ms. Romer's statement was, is and always will be, a prediction. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the term:
1. The act of predicting
2. Something foretold or predicted; a prophecy
Nothing in the definition of the word relates in any way to the truth of the statement. In fact, we are faced with predictions all the time which we know may not happen. We may say, when we go to work without an umbrella and it rains, that the weatherman lied, but everyone knows it's not a lie. It was a prediction. If that's not enough how about these gems of prediction: "The fighting won't last more than six months." "The war will be paid for by Iraqi oil." "They will greet us as liberators."  Or my favorite, "We know Saddam has WMD and we know where they are." Each of these came from Bush folks before we invaded Iraq. Each was wrong. Point this out to Republicans and see how many rise up on their hind legs and say that George W. Bush lied. So I think we should agree that predictions that prove false are not, on their face, lies.

But, you say, what about the obvious failure of the stimulus to meet the goal that was predicted. Again, one must start from the proposition that a failed prediction or prophecy as to the result expected from some program or action does not necessarily mean that the program or action was a failure. It just means that the particular program or action didn't match the prediction. I can predict that WVU will win tonight's game by 30 points. If they only win by 20 does that mean that the WVU football team is a failure? It may show that I'm a failure at predicting, but it really doesn't say anything about the success or failure of the team.

Likewise,  while Ms. Romer's prediction missed the mark, I think it's a stretch to then declare the entire program a failure because of it. What Ms. Romer is guilty of is a failure to follow Scotty's first law of engineering: When the Captain asks how long the very important repair to the warp engines will take, tell him three hours if you think it will only take an hour. That way being done in an hour, or even two, means you did better than your prediction and the good captain will keep you around. Had Ms. Romer only thought to predict that the ARRA would hold the unemployment rate below 12% we wouldn't be talking about this almost three years later. And let's not ignore a very important fact. The Great Recession was far worse than anyone predicted it would be. In fact the full extent of the downturn is not yet fully known, but just this year we discovered that it was far deeper and wider than was reported even just a year ago. Under those circumstances it looks to me like the ARRA was a success. But then I'm one of those strange fellows that think that any money pushed into the Main Street economy, so long as it stays in the U.S.A., will act as a stimulus.

Now, it may be that the Republicans aren't just mouthing the talking point of the week when they call the stimulus a failure. It just might be that they have a different view of what a prediction should be. Maybe they like that part of the definition that says a prediction is prophecy. Couple that with their often repeated swipes at the President's acting as if he's "The One," and it all makes sense. Of course, to make the logic work out Obama has to actually, you know, be "The One." I don't think their willing to accept that, so their arguments that the ARRA was a failure, or that the President lied, just make them look stupid. It's going to be such a fun election season. I may have to take up knitting!

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