Friday, March 09, 2007

The Alternate Reality of Hard Right Wingers

Every now and then we run across a column, or post, or letter that is so off the wall, so barking mad crazy as to defy rational response. The cognitive dissonance we feel is usually due to the strength and mass of the opaque mental constructs of the ideologically extreme. Facts do not obscure the right winger's view of these constructs. Neither do written words. No, the hard right winger see what he wants to see, reads what he wants to read, with no fear whatsoever that what is perceived bears little or no correspondence with what actually exists.

For just one small and insignificant example of this phenomenon in action, we can turn to my friend and recently re-employed Jason Williscroft. I'm happy to report he has re-established his blog. I surfed over there tonight to see what mischief he's been up to and I find he's still mumbling to himself about me after all this time.

As I scanned the first sentence or two, where he called me a "cranky old fibber" (totally unfair -- I am not a fibber.) I wondered if this was going to be as good as when he ragged on my observations on unemployment using health insurance policy sales at his small company to refute the unemployment numbers (huh?). Or when he tried to make the argument that fewer Iraqis were being killed after the Iraq War started than before it began (double huh?). Or when his dad argued that the US Post Office would work a whole better if they were funded by user fees (triple huh? The USPS does run on user fees. They're called "stamps".)

I was a little disappointed then to see that he merely missed the whole point of my light hearted post suggesting that out of work Republican congressional aides find employment as CapitalOne barbarians. Oddly, our Jason thought my point was that I "maintain(ed) that the economy is so bad that the average recently unemployed Republican may have to tighten his belt a notch?"

He then proceeded to lecture me on why the economy is so terrific, without regard to the use of messy facts:

  • "national unemployment at record lows," Jason says. Sorry friend. December's unemployment rate was 4.5%. Not bad, but not a record low, considering that rate was 3.9% in the December before President Bush was installed. 6.8 million were unemployed by the BLS' definition in December 2006 when Jason penned this claim. 5.6 million were unemployed six years before.
  • "gas prices bottoming out" Jason says. Are you kidding? Being grateful for $2 gasoline after it went up to $3 is like being grateful to the guy beating your head with a ball pien hammer simply because he slowed down a bit. Of course, gas prices may be on the march again, so the shelf life of Jason's optimism may be expiring.

Beyond these unreal claims, what's weirder is that he thought I was talking about the economy at all. These right wingers are so hard wired with their preconceived notions of liberals, folks like Jason will see and hear me claim the economy is terrible and the sky is falling, regardless of whether that has anything to do with what I'm really saying or not. This reality-bending phenomenon is hilariously chronicled by Tom Tomorrow in his This Modern World comic here and here.

So, Jason, for the record: no I do not think the sky is falling down. The economy is not in great shape, but it is not in the tank either. Growth rates are down in the Bush era from the Clinton era, but we aren't in a recession at this point. Unemployment is up from the Clinton era, but it is not to depression levels. There are big economic worries out there, like our massive debt both government and consumer, our annual budget deficits, the bursting of the housing bubble and our ridiculous trade imbalance. However recognizing these present risks is not the same as saying the sky is falling down. There is more to the world than black and white absolutes Jason. Not only are there shades of grey, but there's a wonderful array of colors and hues out there.

As for what the economy is like for our Jason? He says of his recent bout of unemployment after his company collapsed: "I had so many offers rolling in that I took an extra month off just to evaluate them and make sure I didn't blow any opportunities."

Yeah, whatever dude. I'm just glad you found a job. Congratulations and best of luck in your new endeavor.