Monday, May 22, 2017

Defense of the Indefensible

In our time, political speech and writing are
largely the defense of the indefensible
— George Orwell

As powerful as threats of violence, authoritarians wield words, Orwell taught us.

They dress up their psychotic plans in stale metaphors, hoping to make us fear things that aren't dangers, and dismiss things that are.

Banalities like fake news and job killers are used to discredit problems, while canards like innovation, fair trade and healthcare access masquerade as solutions.

Fake news. "The fake news media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people," President Trump repeatedly says. In reality,
Macedonian teenagers and other black hats generate fake news; The New York Times does not. But by declaring all news "fake," Trump can in two words cast doubt not only on unwelcomed news reports, but on poll results, census data, economic studies, and scientific findings.

Job killers. Trump labels all government regulations "job killers" without regard to data from the
Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows only two tenths of one percent of job losses result from regulations. Job losses, in fact, result from long-term and seasonal business declines, financial mismanagement, and changes in ownership. But by rescinding "job killers," Trump can assist scheming real estate developers, hedge fund managers, chemical and refinery company owners, and Fortune 100 CEOs.

Innovation. "The government should be run like a great American company," Trump insists. That means stripping non-defense programs and outsourcing activities like public education, prison administration, drug addiction treatment, and veterans' healthcare. Trump ignores the fact that a lot of private-sector innovation is bolted onto government innovation. He's appointed his son-in-law to run his vulture fund, the "White House Office of American Innovation."

Fair trade. “I’m not sure that we have any good trade deals,” Trump has said, and plans to cancel or renegotiate every deal he thinks is "unfair" to the US. But "fair trade" is merely a euphemism for protectionism, the enemy of free trade. Research by the US International Trade Commission shows our membership in the World Trade Organization, for example, has doubled trade, creating new and bigger markets for American exporters and cheaper goods for American shoppers. But Trump ignores that.

Healthcare access. Trump's system to replace Obamacare would force people with pre-existing conditions into "risk pools." Healthcare premiums for those people would cost considerably more than everyone else's. The fact remains, while risk pools would lower premiums for well people, they'd make sick people's premiums unaffordable. They'd enjoy "healthcare access" in the same sense poor people can enjoy views of the greens by gazing through the fences around any Trump golf course.

What's the best defense against ready-made drivel?

Periodic reminders of your humanity.

As Orwell's contemporary Aldous Huxley said, “The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”

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