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Tilting at Windmills

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October 29, 2010

THE CHALLENGE OF OVERCOMING IGNORANCE.... In a democracy, the system breaks down and produces counter-productive results when those in charge -- the voters -- are uninformed. And the fact is, a whole lot of Americans are deeply confused about the facts.

The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks and has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters.

Most voters don't believe it.

A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won't be recovered.

Public perceptions aren't even close to reality -- by a 52% to 19% margin, for example, likely voters think their federal tax burden has gone up over the last couple of years, even though it hasn't. Indeed, Democrats approved one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in American history, and the public has no idea that it even happened.

The same is true of the strength of the economy in general -- the economy stopped shrinking and started growing more than a year ago, but 61% of respondents in this poll said the economy continued to shrink in 2010, even though it hasn't.

In general, I've long considered one of President Obama's better qualities is his reluctance to talk down to voters. But it's possible his assumptions about maturity and the public discourse are simply too generous -- leaders can't assume the electorate has the wisdom to ignore nonsense when the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

Worse, this rewards Republicans, not just at the ballot box, but for lying uncontrollably for nearly two years. GOP leaders no doubt see polls like this and realize that the more nonsense they pump into the national discourse, the more anxiety-ridden Americans will believe things that aren't true.

I'll gladly leave it to others to explain how one overcomes such systemic ignorance, because I honestly don't have the foggiest idea. It's one thing for policymakers to adopt policies that make things better; it's something else for much of the public to simply ignore those policies and reject reality altogether.

To be sure, folks are busy. They have jobs and families, and it's not easy keeping up on the details of current events. I don't expect the typical middle-class household, struggling with bills and worried about the future, to start reading CBO reports in their spare time.

But it's worth realizing that uninformed voters make unwise decisions. The public has enormous responsibilities in our political system, and right now, far too many aren't prepared to act on those responsibilities in an effective way.

Ignorance spreads like a cancer, and right about now, it's making our body politic pretty sick.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (74)

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Comments

I suppose the first thing you could do would be to support the idea that the federal government can help during a depression by putting humungous amounts of money into the system. You know, as we figured out eighty years ago.

Posted by: Tom Allen on October 29, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Worse, this rewards Republicans, not just at the ballot box, but for lying uncontrollably for nearly [strike]two[/strike] 20 years.

Fixed that for you.

(Republicans lied under Nixon, Reagan and Bush I, but I would stop short of "uncontrollably." After Clinton's election, not so much.)

Posted by: Gregory on October 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, these answers are extrapolations of voter's accurate perception the economy sucks. If they make that decision, then they will attribute any bad quality suggested to them in a poll question (higher taxes, no repayment, etc.) regardless of the facts of the matter. If economists don't understand economics, it's a pretty big stretch to expect the rest of us to do so.

Posted by: JMG on October 29, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

In theory isn't this the job of the media? Maybe if the networks and cable news reported what was actually happening rather than scurrying around to interview every screwball with a teabag stapled to his hat, the public might be a bit better informed. And, though the Supremes would no doubt hold that it violates the free speech rights of corporations, how about a law saying that campaign ads had to be at least half true, before they could go on the air?

Posted by: john sherman on October 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

5 corporations own almost all the media in the United States.

Enforcement of anti-trust laws is a thing of the past, a quaint relic from the time of Teddy Roosevelt.

As long as plutocrats can blanket the country with their anti-American messages while their ignorant followers starve our schools so children never learn to think critically and analytically, the feudalists will continue to win.

Posted by: Gummo on October 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Welcome to Costco. I love you.

Posted by: TeaPartyTrue on October 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

JMG has it exactly right. The formal end of the recession notwithstanding, unemployment remains high, home values have tanked, and people generally feel broke. Their responses to many of those poll questions likely reflect their general perceptions about the economy. In case you haven't noticed, the American electorate has never been big on nuance.

Posted by: dr. bloor on October 29, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

"Winston Churchill once said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter...."

Stupidity below and love of power above

Posted by: jhm on October 29, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

so you are saying that Wishy Washy Centrism and hacktacular corporate-driven compromises don't allow the Democrats to differentiate their brand from the GOP, and that is voters fault for not recognizing the clear advantages of Tweedledum from Tweedledee?


I have some waterfront property in Florida you might be intersted in. Call me.

Posted by: some guy on October 29, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the answer:

1) It takes leadership -- which Obama has not provided. The president -- and any other putative leaders out there -- need to explain these facts to the American people. And they need to keep on doing so until they get their message across.

2) They have to take the gloves off. As I've been saying on lefty blogs for years: ITS THE LYING, STUPID. Our leaders need to call a lie a lie. Fuck civility. What we need is truth. The opposition will have to EARN our civility by actually deserving it.

We can't win if we have to fight to on the plane of reality but the Republicans get to fight in the land of make believe. After 30 years of this bullshit, its about time we started fighting back.

Posted by: The Fool on October 29, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Every time you call me ignorant, you just make me more determined to vote for Meg and Carly.

Posted by: Myke K on October 29, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Information filters through our society by osmosis. Even people who are too busy to regularly follow the news pick up facts and "facts" from occasional glimpses of newspapers, websites, TV news, and occasional remarks from friends, family & co-workers.

Over the past two years, falsehoods have been regularly, repetitively, and mind-numblingly stated and repeated by the right wing political/media complex. And they've filtered to the general public.

I don't blame them for arguing their side (though I do blame them for consciously lying). The real culprits are the many Democratic voices who could have been regularly, repetitively, and mind-numbingly stating and repeating the truth. On the Sunday shows, on CNN, wherever. In paid ads if necessary.

Sure, Obama could have said more, but he's just one guy. It's disgraceful that his case wasn't taken up by his supposed allies, who were focused only on inside baseball and saving their electoral hides. And now they're all reaping the consequences.

Posted by: Basilisc on October 29, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Obama needs to take on the corporate-controlled media.

He can do it subtly at first, saying things like, "You won't have heard this on the mainstream media, but my administration actually has cut taxes for almost every American."

When the celebrity newsreaders complain about Obama challenging their impartiality, Obama can explain that the current "fair and balanced" media model, where a reporter reports a quote from a Republican and an quote from a (moderate) Democrat, isn't really journalism.

Obama is even welcome to steal my line -- "I honestly expect to turn on the teevee and hear 'Today on Meet the Press, Republicans raise new debate on an old topic -- is the Earth round or flat? We'll hear debate from both sides of the issue.' Well I'm sorry to tell you, but there aren't two sides to every issue. The sun doesn't orbit the Earth. Tax cuts don't pay for themselves. The Community Re-investment Act didn't cause the mortgage crisis. I didn't nationalize the health care system, I'm not a Muslim and I do have a birth certificate."

Obama also either needs to move Fox "News" out of the White House press room or sit Steve Benen right beside them in the front row.


Posted by: SteveT on October 29, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is not "just one guy". He's the goddamn President of the United States. He's he ONLY guy with a bully pulpit. But he has failed to use it, and as a result he has failed to lead.

Posted by: The Fool on October 29, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

The only reason I know how TARP is working out is because I read Matt Yglesias' blog article a couple weeks back. 98% of the population probably thinks that money got flushed down the drain. They don't even understand it was a loan. Part of politics is messaging, and Obama isn't doing it well. He should have been doing "TARP Report Card" speeches.
I can understand people thinking we're still in a recession, since unemployment is a lagging indicator. The other two misconceptions are the administration's fault.

Posted by: Tim H on October 29, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

For the stupid, every game's a home game.

Take the stupid, and give the points. Always.

Posted by: The Smart Vegas Money on October 29, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

It was reported day before yesterday that more than $100 million were spent AGAINST Healthcare reform AFTER the bill was signed into law on March 23. Is it any surprise that the law did not become as popular as many expected it to be?

People blame the whitehouse for communication but I don't. In the first year Obama was everywhere..he did most primtime news conferences of any presidents, gave interviews to every network several times, did leno, letterman etc. The media started saying he was overexposed, that people had tuned him out. On healthcare alone he did 50+ events.

It is also true that people generally tend to believe negative things than positive ones. Lies about taxes and healthcare get more attentiong from average Joe than truth about actual policy.

Posted by: TT on October 29, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK
He's the goddamn President of the United States. He's he ONLY guy with a bully pulpit. But he has failed to use it, and as a result he has failed to lead.

Best research says the bully pulpit doesn't work, provided it exists at all

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 29, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

The most ruthless, rapacious, relentless, reactionary corporate oligarchs in the world have spent billions of dollars over a period of decades, using the most powerful brainwashing techniques ever invented, and the most far-reaching technologies of mass communication ever invented, hammering the American people with lies in furtherance of their monstrous greed and vicious class warfare against everyone else.

If anything, it's surprising that there is anyone left in American who has not yet been reduced to ignorant, stupid, fawning, idolatrous worship of the ultra-rich.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Blame goes to the media. More remotely:
1. Roone Arledge. When he took over ABC News, he declared that news divisions can make profits. Until then, news divisions were expected to run losses because they served the public interest.
And of course once ABC News began making a profit, the other networks (and then cable) turned their divisions into entertainment circuses.

2. The demise of the equal time rule.

Posted by: captcrisis on October 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

What Gummo said.

Our corporate media prints and broadcasts corporate propaganda, and that is why they parrot GOP lying points.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on October 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Syzygy posted this awesome text by Roger Schank a few days ago. Definitely worth re-reading.

Why do people vote Republican?

It is common to make the assumption that people are thinking when they vote and they are making reasoned choices.
I harbor no such illusion. No argument I have ever gotten into with these people, (despite avoiding talking to them,
I sometimes can't resist saying something true) has ever convinced anyone of anything. They are not reasoning,
nor do they want to try. They simply believe what they believe. What do they believe?

1. They don't like blacks. Forget the rest. It isn't that they are racists. They will be polite if a black person ever appears.
(This doesn't happen much, although I am sure they must live here too.) They just don't like them. They have no reason.
If you ask them today, as a result of recent remarks by Michelle Obama and their pastor, they will say that blacks hate America.
This is not the reason, but they sound more reasoned in their own minds if they say it that way.

2. They don't like wussies. The Democrats are always nominating wussies,—men who are not men. Obama looks
like his wife runs the show at home. Kerry? Gore? Dukakis. Wussies. Not real men. Bad people are trying to kill us.
We need to kill them first. Those guys wouldn't pull the trigger. (I am not making this up. I wish I were.)

3. They worry about money. Who wants to take their money away? Liberals of course. They want to give it to the blacks.

Where I live is not redneck country. There is a lot of church going but no talk about abortion or of being born again.
There is a just a distaste and distrust for people not like us (which I am sure includes me.)

It is all very nice to come up with complex analyses of what is going on. As is often the case, the real answer is quite simple.
Most people can't think very well. They were taught not to think by religion and by a school system that teaches that knowledge
of state capitals and quadratic equations is what education is all about and that well reasoned argument and original ideas will not
help on a multiple choice test.

We don't try to get the average child to think in this society so why, as adults would we expect that they actually would be thinking?
They think about how the Yankees are doing, and who will win some reality show contest, and what restaurant to eat in, but they
are not equipped to think about politics and, in my mind, they are not equipped to vote. The fact that we let them vote while failing
to encourage them to think for themselves is a real problem for our society.

The scientific question here is how belief systems are acquired and changed. I worked on this problem with both Ken Colby and
Bob Abelson for many years. Colby was a psychiatrist who modeled paranoid behavior on computers. The basis of his work was
research on how neurotic thinking depends upon the attempt to make inconsistent beliefs work together when the core beliefs cannot change.

Abelson worked on modeling political belief systems. He built a very convincing model of Barry Goldwater that showed that once
you adopted some simple beliefs about the cold war, every other position Goldwater took could be derived (and asserted by a computer)
from those core beliefs. The idea of a set of unchanging core beliefs is not true of only politicians or psychiatric patients of course.
Everyday average Joes behave the same way. Adult belief systems rest on childhood beliefs instilled by parents mostly and by assorted other authorities.

Republicans do not try to change voter's beliefs. They go with them. Democrats appeal to reason. Big mistake.

Posted by: davidp on October 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

The main problem is that the only consistent message the Democrats have been able to muster in the past 2 years is "Please, not in the face!" Granted, the economy is terrible, and the opposition can't be reasoned with, but Democrats are at fault for being totally reactive in their messaging and wishy-washy and fainthearted when they do finally manage to choke out a response. This has actually been a problem for Democrats for the last 30 years, but never more so than right now. I keep watching the Dems getting their asses handed to them in the media, and then in the voting booth, and think "Surely, they'll have to recognize what a disaster this is and develop a strategy to turn things around," but they're nothing if not consistent in their inability to set the terms of the debate, rather than reacting to whatever garbage the Republicans are selling at the moment. After 30 years of hoping they'll finally get it together, I've begun to wonder if they're doing it deliberately.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on October 29, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Effective media is the answer. There have always been plenty of politicians and hangers-on willing to say anything to get what they want. It is the media's job to call them out on their falsehoods. Our political press has been a miserable failure for 20 years and is just getting worse and worse. Not that there aren't people who do good reporting and analysis, but they are ignored or marginalized for the most part and we get vapid nitwits like Matt Lauer letting Newt Gingrich spout idiotic claptrap every other morning on national TV without even the most tepid pushback. Media is supposed to be the voter information clearinghouse. If the disseminators of this information are googly-eyed fanboys gleefully repeating the most dismal garbage and blatant falsehoods that radical cranks can invent, then what chance do most voters have to make informed decisions?

Posted by: Sinister Eyebrow on October 29, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

They have jobs and families, and it's not easy keeping up on the details of current events. I don't expect the typical middle-class household, struggling with bills and worried about the future, to start reading CBO reports in their spare time.

Posted by: iphone unlock on October 29, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Spread this around!!! People expect instant results. People are still unemployed or underemployed. But think how much worse it will get if the crazies take over. We can say, yes, let's watch the Rs crash and burn, but they'll take along the rest of us with them.

Posted by: Hannah on October 29, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

This is the fundamental flaw of our system. For a democracy to function, the people in it have to be informed AND take responsibility for electing competent official seriously. As Steve points out, most don't have time or patience to inform themselves and in turn don't take responsibility for the people they elect.

The number of ignorant, irresponsible voters (who vote or not) out there FAR out number the ones who are not. So we get the kind of officials we have now.

Posted by: r_m on October 29, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with the comments that state while the economy has grown in the past year, this means absolutely nothing to most people. I listen to family members joke about how the recession ended a year ago. They mock the federal govt because it says it ended. While technically under the definition of recession it did end. But for the nearly 10% without a job, it sure does not feel that way.

As for the tax part, the federal tax may have decreased but your argument ignores what may have occurred in states. The feds drop 20 bucks a week or so if you are lucky, but my state increased its sales tax by 1.25%, increased its gas tax, and property taxes have increased. So ask the question, have my taxes decreased and the answer is no.

I agree that voters are not very informed. And I think they vote against their own interests by voting for Republicans. But what Steve is discussing here is not so black and white.

Posted by: craig on October 29, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Unlike Bush, who spent tens of millions sending out special rebate checks, and prominently taking credit for them, Obama's rebate involved reducing federal tax withholding from paychecks. Most people didn't notice. Obama, perhaps for policy reasons (to encourage spending it rather than saving it, as was mainly the case with the Bush rebate), perhaps due to incompetence, did virtually nothing to make the public aware of this. Democrats, entirely out of incompetence, did virtually nothing to inform the public of the tax cut. The major media also did next to nothing to inform the public, and often misinformed them.

Posted by: steve on October 29, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

To all of those saying "blame the media..." Yes, the media isn't doing its job - but it hasn't been doing its job for years, if not decades, now. It should have come as no surprise to the Obama Whitehouse and to the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate that the media would lap up the spew coming from Republicans, no matter how crazy, specifically because it is so crazy that it makes for a "provocative" story, or "good" TV. By now the Democrats should have come up with a way to counteract the laziness/bias of the media. I realize it's difficult, but it is crucial for future success that the Democrats learn how to get their message out, learn how to make it consistent, and that the message resonates with the electorate.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on October 29, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think most of us want instant results (nice though that would be.) I think we want to see that the government (as well as the rest of us) is making things better.

Posted by: Tom Allen on October 29, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the place to begin is not with the public, but with elites. As much as we pay homage to democracy, the truth is that all societies are governed by elites. And the character of a society is often determined by the personal qualities of its leadership class.

And elites know that the public is always vulnerable to exploitation through propaganda because masses are predisposed to believe those things which support their prejudices. So, as long as some elites let other elites get away with murder by exploiting the public's basic ignorance or public affairs then we will continue to live in a dysfunctional democracy that resides in what Walter Lippmann (in Public Opinion) calls a "pseudo-environment," making pseduo-decisions based on pseudo-reality.

People can always live in fantasy land for awhile, just like they can continue to make fortunes in a bubble economy based on air. But eventually reality intrudes, with calamitous results.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 29, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

So how do people know the economy is bad? A large majority haven't lost their jobs or been foreclosed on. However, they've deduced the situation from media reports, observation, and communication with others.
It's not a stretch to expect them to know about changes in their own federal income tax burden.

Posted by: apm on October 29, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Reply to John Sherman's 10:50 AM post: As much as I agree 100% with your proposals, my gut feeling is this: what you're proposing will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN. The reason why: as Gummo brilliantly pointed out in his post (located right below yours), only five individuals -- Jeff Bewkes, Bob Iger, Rupert Murdoch, Sumner Redstone, and Jeff Immelt -- control almost all of the media in the U.S. today. Like all corporate CEOs, these five men all have ONE AND ONLY ONE mission in their lives: TO MAKE AS MUCH $$$$ AS POSSIBLE FOR THEIR STOCKHOLDERS! Always remember these fundamental equations:

TEABAGGERS = INCREASED RATINGS
INCREASED RATINGS = MORE $$$$ FROM ADVERTISERS
MORE $$$$ FROM ADVERTISERS = HAPPY STOCKHOLDERS

'Nuff said.

Posted by: Rich S. on October 29, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

some guy:
so you are saying that Wishy Washy Centrism and hacktacular corporate-driven compromises don't allow the Democrats to differentiate their brand from the GOP, and that is voters fault for not recognizing the clear advantages of Tweedledum from Tweedledee?

Uh, no. He's saying voters can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. Read much? Or just like to use any random occasion to bash Democrats?

Posted by: cr on October 29, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama administration...expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks

The first thing to do to combat ignorance is to stop conflating TARP with the entirety of the Federal government's rescue of the Wall Street banks.

I am quite aware that we're apparently going to come out ahead on TARP. But the Federal government, especially through the Federal Reserve, dumped a lot more money into Wall Street bank rescues than just TARP. (Maiden Lane I, II, III, anyone?) Yet every time I see someone claim that we're going to come out ahead on all the money we spent rescuing the Wall Street banks, it turns out that they're just talking about TARP, and they don't mention any of the other rescue spending.

So let's stop claiming we're going to come out ahead on bailout spending overall when all we know is that we're going to come out ahead on TARP alone.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 29, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, there is nothing to fix.
In a democratic republic the level of intelligence (or lack of ignorance) is equal to the expectations of the consuming voters.
Sure one side or the other can improve the quality/quantity of information (or disinformation), but the sad fact is that the voting populace wants to be ignorant and is just fine with the level of shit that it brings.

I'm hopeful that the incumbent party does not do as poorly as predicted, but I meet people every day whose lives were devastated by Bush policies and mismanagement, and were thrown a life line by the Democrats who are going to vote for teabagging idiots. They're the ones who will be screwed the worst first... again.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on October 29, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jersey Tomato wrote: "Yes, the media isn't doing its job - but it hasn't been doing its job for years, if not decades, now."

On the contrary, Steve Benen's post is evidence that the media has been doing its job very well.

The job of "the media" -- which in the USA is almost completely owned and controlled by a half-dozen giant corporations -- is to propagandize the American people in furtherance of the ruthless, relentless, rapacious class warfare of its corporate owners.

Did you think that the "job" of "the media" is to impartially inform and educate the American people of the actual facts of important issues, as a public service, out of the goodness of their hearts?

Don't be silly.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Obama needs to take on educating the public as job one. He should be full time for the next two years, hammering on the results of the policy initiatives taken in the first two years of his presidency. And calling out those who are lying to the public about those policies and results. At every chance, he needs to tell em what he's gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell em what he told 'em.

Posted by: sceptic on October 29, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

From SecularAnimist's post:

"Did you think that the "job" of "the media" is to impartially inform and educate the American people of the actual facts of important issues, as a public service, out of the goodness of their hearts?

Don't be silly."


BULLSEYE. Always remember these ancient words from the Bible:

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money".


In the same way, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for the corporate media CEOs to serve both the American people's right to know and their stockholders.

Posted by: Rich S. on October 29, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

"To be sure, folks are busy. They have jobs and families, and it's not easy keeping up on the details of current events. I don't expect the typical middle-class household, struggling with bills and worried about the future, to start reading CBO reports in their spare time.

But it's worth realizing that uninformed voters make unwise decisions."

True, and it does take some daily reading and evaluating objective information to gain even a rudimentary understanding of the facts; also an open mind. Unfortunately, as the world grows more complex and even more intellectual awareness and energy is required to gain even a basic understanding of politics and economics, the problem will only get worse. Listen to C-SPAN from 7:00-10:00 AM and listen to the callers. Once in awhile you hear something intelligent, and many of them who haven't got a clue at least sound sincere, but a good percentage sound of them come off as angry people repeating utter nonense directly from conservative talk radio or Fox News. The corporate (aka "mainstream") media probably bears the brunt of the blame. I invite anyone who has taught a classroom full of perpetual "D" and "C" students to weigh in with suggestions.

Posted by: Bob on October 29, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Ignorance spreads like a cancer, and right about now, it's making our body politic pretty sick."

Unlike "a cancer", ignorance doesn't spread by itself.

Rather, ignorance is spread by the corporate-owned media -- both the so-called "conservative" media and the so-called "mainstream" media, which differ only in the way they fine-tune their corporate propaganda for different audiences.

Rather than saying "ignorance spreads like a cancer", it would be more accurate to say "ignorance spreads like an epidemic of cancer caused by someone deliberately dumping carcinogens into the water supply".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 29, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks Obama hasn't been trying to drive this point home hasn't been paying as much attention as they think they have.

He's only mentioned these facts in speech after speech after speech, and Robert Gibbs has repeatedly brought it up in press briefings.

But there's not a fucking thing they can do if the media fails to report what they say, or does so while making it appear as opinion ("typical political spin") rather than rock-solid reality.

So while I agree eleventy million percent that Dems have -- once again -- failed to come out with a singular, easy-to-share-and-remember, focus-group-tested slogan or saying that encapsulate their successes, to say Obama and the White House haven't tried is just patently false.

Posted by: Mark D on October 29, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won't be recovered."

That is a true statement.

TARP has lost billions lent to banks that won't be recovered.

You see, you just need to start the quote at the right spot to make the point you want to make.

Facts may be stubborn things but quotes are far more flexible.

Posted by: neil wilson on October 29, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I have some half-baked ideas that I can't quite put into words, but I'm thinking that if and when the freaks like Angle get elected, they'll go to Washington and climb aboard the gravy train like everyone else.

Two things then happen - their base gets pissed off and disillusioned until the next time, while the "average Joe" sees these now "typical" politicians and wonders what we were getting so worried about.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on October 29, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Gee...Americans were hailed as brilliant when they elected Obama 2 years ago, how did they get so stupid, so fast...?!

Posted by: Average Joe on October 29, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

The "profit" is money directly transferred from the Fed. It is literally a shell game.

American's are not confused about the facts. They are not willing to swallow your naked lies.

Posted by: anon on October 29, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Here's are some facts for you, Steve.

Fact #1: Before Obamacare passed, my family deductible was $300 per year. After Obamacare passed, my old plan was no longer available (despite Obama saying it would be: "If you like your current plan, you'll be able to keep it.")

Beginning January 1, 2011, my family deductible goes up to $2,800.

Fact #2: When Obama spoke about bending the cost curve downward, what he really meant...as evidenced by the above...was: "Bend over and face downward."

And those ARE the facts, Steve.

Posted by: Jack Davis on October 29, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

some guy wrote : "2) They have to take the gloves off. As I've been saying on lefty blogs for years: ITS THE LYING, STUPID. Our leaders need to call a lie a lie. Fuck civility. What we need is truth. The opposition will have to EARN our civility by actually deserving it."

Actually, Joe did that to Obama during his speech.

Posted by: Harlon Katz on October 29, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think you assume the population is stupid, when the reality is politicians do not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Posted by: results909 on October 29, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Another last gasp of desperation.

Most voters think you, the other talking heads and the folks in charge in Washington are a bunch of scheming liars who will say and do anything to get their way.

Why not lend trillions, below cost, to the rest of us? We could then lend it to the banks at a "fair" mark-up and we could all be rich too! Or better yet, just mail me my share of the profits now.

Posted by: Sam Sixpack on October 29, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

The important fact is that Americans finally realize that politicians/government caused the mess we are in and the same idiots are still in power and making things worse.

Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Dodd, Frank and liberal/RINO top-down government meddling in the markets to increase home ownership among the "disadvantaged" caused the housing bubble, financial crisis, and recession.

It is obvious to everyone but the Democrats and their cheerleaders in the media that more of the same kind of meddling is not going to fix this mess.

The liberal regulators forced lenders to make risky loans by threatening them with fines and prosecution and called political opponents racists when they tried to reign them in.

Trillions of lost wealth later we have the same clowns wanting to waste even more.

Nov. 2 will be the beginning of the real recovery when the American people fire the incompetents, start to shrink the necessary evil of government, provide certainty, and allow Americans to keep more of their money so they can start and grow the private businesses that create real jobs.

The government with its bubbles, barriers, and burdens will be put in it place.

Posted by: Mike Constitution on October 29, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

You mean like Bush caused the recession which led to Obama's presidency. Funny how that one didnt bother people much.

Posted by: coley on October 29, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Thank-you for pointing out again how stupid and ignorant I am. I bow to the superior, completely honest, altruistic Democrats and just ask that you please take over and make all my decisions for me. Because your party has proven time and time again that you will only do what is best for me.

Posted by: tom on October 29, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

"I suppose the first thing you could do would be to support the idea that the federal government can help during a depression by putting humungous amounts of money into the system. You know, as we figured out eighty years ago."

Even Keynes admitted his policy could not work in the long run!! If the government had money sitting around doing nothing, it would help, but if it borrows from the private sector to give it back to the private sector explain how that helps.

Posted by: Dave on October 29, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

2 years ago we were sooo smart, now we are at best confused and at worst ignorant?

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Posted by: Mr. Krabby on October 29, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"In general, I've long considered one of President Obama's better qualities is his reluctance to talk down to voters."

Are we speaking about the same Obama? What's his first name?

Posted by: Captain Fantastic on October 29, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

When arguing that the general public is ignorant, you might want to provide at least ONE item of empirical data which proves your assertions. Oh, wait, your a liberal Democrat, my bad. And as for the economy growing. It has grown... at a slower rate than ever before. The United States Government reported that the economy grew 2.0 percent last quarter and 1.7 percent the quarter before that, Those numbers are PATHETIC, and would be much higher had Obama employed a different plan. I can get the numbers for Reagan's growth if you like, but you don't deserve the effort. If these numbers are your standards for economic growth, well then thank goodness all you do is blog. And as for 'lying', the Barack Obama does that every time he opens his mouth.

Posted by: chris on October 29, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I especially like the way Republicans got Barney Frank to say he wanted to "roll the dice" with more easy loans to people who couldn't otherwise own a home, and that Fannie and Freddie were just fine. Boy, if it weren't for really smart decisions and pressure by representatives like him, then . . . oh, wait. Must be more of my ignorance and stupidity coming through. Sorry about that.

Posted by: Terry on October 29, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

"The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks and has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters."

I guess that AIG, Fannie, and Freddie had nothing to do with Wall Street.

Someone needs to calculate how many IQ points a person looses by reading Steve Benen.

As for middle-class taxes... Don't try acting dumb. Robert Gibbs is already selling the VAT (sotto voce).

Posted by: Frank Youell on October 29, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

One great president said "You can fool some people all the time, all the people at some time, but not all the people all the time".

To bad for liberals like you that the people have figured it out!

Posted by: augustus on October 29, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I can't tell if you believe this stuff or if you are a partisan hack for Obama. Taxes weren't lowered. The alledged tax cut you speak of was just a change in the with-holding pattern...meanwhile, Obama and the Democrats raised the gas tax, the tobacco tax and several other taxes. The new Health Care Law raised taxes on every American and their do nothing atitude towards the upcoming rate hike is another tax increase.

The ignorance is coming from the Obama-minions who believe he cut taxes and saved the economy by increasing taxes, unemployment and taking Bush's horrible debt and more than doubling it.

Posted by: Dave F on October 29, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Clinton won election to the presidency in Nov. 1992 in large part by harping on about an economy that had been growing since March 1991 (according to the NBER). Was that also a problem of voter ignorance? Unemployment attributable to the 1990-91 recession peaked in June 1992. Unemployment attributable to the "Great Recession" peaked in July 2010. Again, were voters ignorant in voting in Clinton and maintaining large Dem majorities in 1992, or are they only ignorant when they're holding Dems' feet to the fire?

Posted by: Blue on October 29, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Prehaps you havent heard amount the massive new federal tax increases in the new obama healthcare program.Also maybe you havent heard that this is the most anemic recovery since world war 2.Even obama cant brag about that

Posted by: jamesjones on October 29, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think the main reason people don't care about the Obama tax cut is because it's only $8 or so per paycheck. For people struggling to pay off bills that's not going to help them out in a substantial way. Bush was genius in giving out checks of several hundred dollars at a time because that could take a huge chunk out of a credit card bill, pay a month's rent or buy a new television.

Would you rather loan $500 to the person who would repay you $5 at a time or give it back in two $250 payments? I know what I'd prefer...

Now, let's talk about the ignorant unwashed masses. They did, in fact, elect Mr Obama, so you have a point. The good news is that there are a lot more people engaging in the political process and educating themselves. It took this disastrous presidency to drag them along, but they are joining the political wonks. It's encouraging because it's not only their right as an American to do so... it's their duty. They certainly can't make things any worse. Perhaps a special one will emerge that can actually unite the country.

Posted by: AnnaC on October 29, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen,

Wow this is brilliant... so what you are saying is that voters are dumb, Democrats are smart, Republicans are evil...have I heard this before?

Consider though there can only be 3 causes of this. 1)Unions who are by far the biggest spenders in this election are in ineffective at changing public perception (and their influence has waned as they bankrupted the once strong corporations they once worked for); or 2)Teachers in our public schools (which are run by the Democratic friendly teachers Unions) are failing to educate our students to think critically; or 3) the mainstream media (dominated by Democrats) is not doing its job of thoughtfully investigating issues, presenting facts and letting people make up their own mind.

Or perhaps voters are acually smart and they realize charging trillion dollar deficits to our children is child abuse and taxation without representation. Or that $200 trillion in unfunded Social Security and Medicare benefits cannot ever be paid. Perhaps they realize that Unions, with Democratic support, are bankrupting our states and eventually the federal government. I can't be sure though, I just am not as smart as you are.

Posted by: ELF on October 29, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

No, Steve, I am very clear about the facts....the President talks down to us on a daily basis, just as you do. The economy in California stinks, just as unemployment continues to be over 12%. This is one of the most obtuse, immature opinion pieces I have ever read. The reason we all think our taxes went up is because the tax cut was so miniscule it was wiped out by local tax increases at the state and local level....our car tax in California increased by 50%, not to mention state income tax increases. Taxes in many states have increased. Your lack of deep thinking is startling.

Posted by: Clarke Hockwald on October 29, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

You want to believe voters are stupid. They're not. A less than lethargic growth rate feels like economic contraction because the unemployment rate is still way too high. The itty bitty tax break was insignificant/ineffective/useless (I actually got a tax increase and I make

Posted by: bogard on October 29, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Obama cut taxes for the middle class? Since are tax credits, tax cuts? That's an accounting trick. Also, tax credits are welfare payments in disguise. yes, that includes corporate welfare.

Posted by: Ed on October 29, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's truly amazing how American voters have gone from enlightened principled intellectuals with a vision of the future to stupid morons who don't know the facts in just two short years.

Posted by: Mike Lee on October 29, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Talk about lying..... much of the tax-cuts went to people who pay NO taxes whatsoever. Most Americans would (rightly) see this as an expansion of welfare, not a tax-cut. We've lost 3 million jobs since Obama took office - but we're the ones who are too stupid to see how wonderful his Presidency has been.

Its too bad we can't vote the media out along with the corrupt and deceptive Dems!

Posted by: Brian on October 29, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

And you wonder why the dems are done in 5 days??? People like you continue to talk down to the "less" educated, poor, moronic voter. How could "they" possible not know what is going on and how great BO and the Dems have performed in 2 + 4 years? How stupid voters must be if they don't beleive everything we tell them. Maybe you should do a litte more reading yourself, although I doubt your "humongus" brain could process any more facts. When you cherry pick a few facts like growth rate but ignore others like the money supply that is being pumped into this economy, you do everybody a disservice. Stop crying that the stupid voter doesn't get it and then point out 4-5 facts that any moron cold find. Why don't you present a full picture and then le the voters decide. Just as bad as scaring voters with false or manipulated facts is to present the few you like, ignore the others and then call voters stupid for not beleiveing you! I'm just as educated as you and in fact probably more educated than you. In fact, I AM A ROCKET SCIENTIST! But I don't fall for your premise that if I don't see the next coming of Camelot, tht I must be stupid.

Posted by: Chris on October 29, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

The author needs to be more honest. He does not really mind ignorance from the public, he just minds it when his governing preferences are currently "up to bat". I certainly can't find many progressive/liberal writers who were eager to correct the narrative that Bush was totally at fault for the housing crisis. This in spite of the fact that it was his administration that called out the problems with Freddie and Fannie and it was Frank and Dodd who said the programs were in great shape and we should just keep on lending, lending, lending to expand home ownership. Yes indeed, it would have been nice if the public had been more educated back in 2008 regarding the complexity of the problems we were encountering and it was a result of BOTH Republican and Democrat involvement. Ignorance was great back then as long as it led the public to believe everything was Bush's fault to the benefit of Democrat's.

Posted by: David B on October 29, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

I have an idea. Let's make every registered voter in the United States and Mexico take a test to make sure they're "informed" enough to vote. We can have the educated, progressive college professors around the country grade the tests to ensure the integrity of our democracy.

Posted by: bill on October 29, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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