Close readings: With 48 hours to go, Palin spreads misinformation
With approximately 48 hours until we hit the federal debt ceiling and maybe cause dead financiers to rise from their graves and devour the faces of the living, the Senate is working on a deal. If you read down a few paragraphs in that article, you will find a quote that Ben al-Fowlkes described as the kind of thing you’re supposed to talk about with your caucus, not the New York Times. “Anybody who would vote for that in the House as a Republican would virtually guarantee a primary challenger,” says Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R–KS). Not a primary challenger to Tim Huelskamp! How will the Republic survive? In the contest between individual selfishness and collective responsibility that is our legislative October, selfishness is still fighting. Case in point: Sarah Palin’s screed of misinformation and contradictory indictments of the president, posted yesterday on her damn Facebook wall.
We spend a lot of time around here wondering if people like Palin are intellectually dishonest or merely stupid, but this one reaches a new nadir of cynicism. Just to ensure that her supporters agree with her, she begins with some utter disinformation about the debt ceiling:
Apparently the president thinks he can furlough reality when talking about the debt limit. To suggest that raising the debt limit doesn’t incur more debt is laughably absurd. The very reason why you raise the debt limit is so that you can incur more debt. Otherwise what’s the point?
The point is that raising the limit allows the Treasury to borrow money to pay debts that the federal government has already incurred. We’ve talked about this widespread misperception before, but it’s kind of amazing to see Palin promulgate it here. Her argument is awesome, too: it’s absurd to say that raising the debt limit doesn’t incur more debt, because the reason you raise the debt limit is to incur more debt [empty phrase]. It’s an A because A argument worthy of a high school sophomore, by which I mean unworthy of same.
But giving her supporters baseline “information” that will prevent them from thinking properly about this situation regardless of their political views is only part of “Obama’s Debt Default is on His Shoulders While We Shoulder His Impeachable Offenses.” The other part is insisting that Obama be impeached, via similarly tortuous logic. It’s best to take this one in steps:
- “It’s…shameful to see [Obama] scaremongering the markets with his talk of default.” Palin believes that the Constitution requires us to pay our debts, which is possibly true. She also believes that daily tax receipts are enough to service the debt, which is either demonstrably false or simply misleading, depending on whether you believe the experts who say the numbers don’t work or the experts who say the Treasury can’t crunch the numbers quickly enough to make them work. Bottom line, Palin believes that hitting the debt ceiling is not a big deal.
- “That’s why President Obama wants to increase the debt limit. He doesn’t want to make the tough decisions to rein in government spending.” Here Palin continues to use “scaremongering” as a transitive verb, accusing Obama of scaremongering the markets and senior citizens. She ignores that every president since Reagan has raised the debt limit, and it goes without saying that she continues to ignore the unanimous predictions of economists and financiers.
- “Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense.” This is the cockroach thorax where the creamy center of Palin’s argument ought to be. If Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit and we default—something Palin says won’t happen, but is predicted by everyone else including, at this point in the argument, Palin herself—the president should be impeached. But if he avoids default by acting without Congress to raise the limit himself, he should be impeached, too. Basically, we should start drawing up the papers right now. The only reason we wouldn’t impeach the president is if Congress does something Palin urges it not to do.
Her argument is the opposite of thinking. It starts with a lie; it proceeds from that premise to make a series of assertions supported only by repetition, and it concludes by contradicting itself to construct a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario for the president. So business as usual for Citizen Palin.
What’s amazing to me, though, is that this Facebook wall post has 3.8 million likes. Probably a lot of her supporters liked it without reading it, but I suspect a comparable number read it without hitting the “like” button. This woman’s misleading, poorly argued demand that the president be impeached for something her party’s House delegation did was read by 1% of the US population. More people read it than read Ornstein and Mann’s book about the problem it reflects. To a person of sense or education, Palin’s arguments are repellent. Yet to a large portion of America’s body politic, she’s the most inspiring public figure to emerge in years. Maybe that’s a problem we should think about addressing.