(10 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)
It seems that I’m (unfortunately?) old enough to have a memory. And unlike most Americans, who live in what Gore Vidal likes to call the United States of Amnesia, I can remember what politicians said and did, and what the outcomes were.
Throughout my lifetime, politicians who were correct about things generally are not remembered fondly, and they were often not victorious in the next election. Whereas the people who were wrong about almost everything keep getting more Friedman units from the voters, as if we just know they’ll someday get it right.
It seems being correct counts for nothing! We keep electing people who, if they’re intellectually honest, have to constantly apologize for all their wrongheaded ideas and their votes for things that didn’t come close to producing the promised outcome. Or if they’re sociopaths like Dick Cheney, they just deny that they said what you clearly heard them say. Or they deny the actual outcome, by producing phony measurements (aided by the “think tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute, whose goal it is to produce phony measurements while sounding “academic.”)
A scientist would never accept these kinds of results! In a scientific world view, correct predictions are the most important currency, and incorrect predictions are how you figure out what (theory) not to trust. Of course science doesn’t deal with broken campaign promises, but one would assume that would count against the politician who made them and didn’t keep them.
How can democracy be so screwed up?
Some (few) examples below.
Jimmy Carter’s “crappy” speech that everyone snarkily makes fun of:
In little more than two decades we’ve gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof… This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our Nation…
Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this Nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977…
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our Nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel…
Point six: I’m proposing a bold conservation program to involve every State, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle…
Ronald Reagan’s response amounted to “Party On Wayne! Party On Garth!”
Now who was correct? And who got the uber-palooza funeral week that made him out to be a saint?
Bill Clinton on the telecom “reform” bill that he lobbied for:
I wish to congratulate the Congress for passing the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1995…
As a result of this action today, consumers will receive the benefits of lower prices, better quality and greater choices in their telephone and cable services, and they will continue to benefit from a diversity of voices and viewpoints in radio, television and the print media…
The actual outcome:
Well, that went well, didn’t it? But did being wrong about this (and many other things) ding Bill Clinton’s popularity?
How about Reagan and Laffer’s “cut taxes and it will increase revenue” trick? We all know how many trillions that cost us. Yet Mondale is the butt of the jokes.
How about NAFTA? This is what the Clintonistas predicted about NAFTA:
Then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno wrote in an L.A. Times op-ed (10/22/93): “The bottom line . . . is this: Mexicans come to America illegally because they seek work. It’s that simple. We will not stop the flow of illegal immigrants until these immigrants find decent jobs, at decent wages, in Mexico.” Reno concluded that NAFTA was “the only real, sustainable way to substantially halt illegal immigration.”
The outcome? “Illegal” immigration is about double what it was back then. Mexican workers average household income fell by 15% from 1994 to 2004. Oops. Our bad.
And then there is Iraq. An optional war that has killed more than 1 million people, and made more than 4 million homeless, and for good measure made another 8 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance. That fine mess… we get to choose between several nutball candidates who think it is going swimmingly, one who wants it to last 100 years, a candidate who now apologizes for voting for it, a candidate who won’t now apologize for voting for it, and one who says he was against it back then but has continued to vote to fund it. Seems to me there is one group missing… the people who were correct about the damn thing.
I could go on and on (and on and on)… a virtual Energizer Tigger of errors. The point is, why do we keep listening to these people who are wrong all the time? (And don’t get me started about Thomas Friedman and the wrongheaded media…)
There were actual candidates — usually considered the “far left” — who correctly predicted the outcomes in all of these instances. Those who advocated for energy efficiency and alternative energy back in the 1970s were correct to do so. Those who opposed NAFTA and telecom reform were correct in their concerns. Those who thought supply-side economics was voodoo to benefit the rich were 100% accurate. But they don’t get to run things.