If you are even remotely paying attention to the news these days, it’s hard not to feel like you are living in bizarro world where things are upside down, where the Earth is spinning backwards on its axis, where facts are beyond irrelevant and often simply fabricated on the spot to support the talking point of the day.
Think about it. We were told for weeks that if President Obama and Republican congressional leaders in Washington didn’t reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, the nation’s credit rating would be downgraded and the stock market would crash.
The two sides reached an agreement, one-sided as it was with all cuts and no revenue, then Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating anyway and the market crashed, slicing away huge chunks of middle class retirement savings in the process.
Republican leaders and their tea partiers blamed the downgrade and the resulting stock market chaos on President Obama of course. They cited the S&P downgrade as evidence of his failed leadership and further confirmation that he should have agreed to even more spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment to the constitution.
But the S&P report explaining the downgrade specifically cited the Republicans unwillingness to consider any revenue increase as a problem.
GOP leaders even refused to consider closing corporate loopholes, much less asking the wealthy to pay more, an idea supported by a significant majority of Americans according to the latest polls from Gallup and CNN.
The S&P analysis also expressed serious doubts about the wisdom of a balanced budget amendment, saying it would limit the federal government’s financial flexibility. The Republicans in Congress kept citing the report anyway as they blamed Obama, even though much of it contradicted their own position.
Then there is the issue of jobs, which the average American cares far more about than the exact size of the current deficit or a ten year plan to reduce the debt.
There’s plenty of evidence that immediate and significant public investments would help jumpstart the sputtering economy and create jobs. That’s true despite the desperate effort of the radical right propaganda machine to rewrite history and cast President Franklin Roosevelt as “one of the biggest villains of the 20th century, as one local right-wing pundit put it.
But it’s not just liberal economists who think it is time for more public investments. Many conservative politicians in Washington now opposing any new spending privately believe it too.
One national columnist suggests that Obama take the hundreds of letters he has received from Republicans (including ultra conservatives like Michelle Bachmann) since 2009 asking for new federal spending in their districts to create jobs and put them together as a package to get the economy moving.
The letters made a persuasive case that public investment works. That would be a hard stimulus plan for the conservatives to oppose, but the remember this is bizarro world where two years ago House Majority Eric Cantor supported a light rail project in Richmond claiming it would create thousands of jobs in his district.
Now he opposes the very project that he proposed be funded and doesn’t believe that public investments can create jobs at all, an absurd notion repeated every day in Washington and Raleigh and rarely challenged by the media.
Raleigh is squarely in bizarro world too. The Republican leaders of the General Assembly keep saying they did not cut one teacher or teacher assistant position in the budget passed this year and teachers and teacher assistants keep getting fired.
The school systems that are not laying off teachers are using left over federal stimulus money to keep them, funding the Republicans opposed in the last two years and money they blasted Democrats for using.
Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis said recently in a fawning profile in a business publication that his goal is to make North Carolina the most competitive state in the Southeast when it comes to economic development.
The article failed to mention that North Carolina is already ranked as one of the most business friendly states in the country. It did quote Tillis saying that the state would be worse off if it didn’t have such an “extraordinary” higher education system.
The budget Tillis helped push through the General Assembly this summer made the largest cut in funding to the university system in history, a reduction of $347 million. The total cut to UNC-Chapel Hill is 18 percent. Higher education won’t be extraordinary for long if Tillis keeps putting budgets together.
President Roosevelt told Americans during the Great Depression that they had nothing to fear but fear itself.
But that’s not much solace these days. There’s plenty to fear, most prominently politicians willing to say absolutely anything—regardless of how absurd it is or how much it hurts the country—and media that for the most part are unwilling or unable to call them on it.
Bizarro world indeed.