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The Conservative Quest to Eliminate Facts

Memo Pad Politics

The Conservative Quest to Eliminate Facts


by Joe Miller, @jjosephmiller

Director of Digital CommunicationsThe Century Foundation, @tcfdotorg

The very first post at FactCheck.org referenced that great line from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but not their own facts.”

During the years I spent at FactCheck, I certainly wittnessed my share of politicians trying to make up their own facts. And while I wasn’t allowed to say this at the time, it was always pretty clear (to me, anyway), that one side was making up a lot more facts than the other. Republicans have happily embraced half-truths and outright falsehoods. From “Death Panels” to climate change denialism to the austerity discussion to Paul Ryan’s budget math, the GOP appears to have embraced a policy of Making Stuff Up.

But now it seems that conservatives’ War on Facts has entered a new phase. If the facts are against you, just stop collecting them.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, has introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from collecting data about the economy.

That’s right. The bill would require that the Census Bureau stop collecting the information that economists use to calculate (among other things) the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate, housing construction rates, trade deficits, and much more.

So you might well be saying, “This sounds like a pain for economists, but why should I care if a bunch of stuffy economists are inconvenienced?”

The answer is that without this information, it will be impossible to tell how much any legislation coming out of the Congress costs.

When the Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost of a particular piece of legislation, they have to have something to compare it against. They do this by calculating a budget baseline—that is, they look at how much the federal government will spend and how much revenue it will collect under current law. It’s that last part that’s important here.

To know how much money the government will collect in taxes, you have to know a lot of things about the economy generally. Much of this is incredibly complicated, and a whole lot of extremely smart CBOers spend hundreds of person-hours each year trying to produce aneconomic forecast. Not being an economist, I can’t tell you exactly what goes into all of those models, but I do know one thing for sure. If you want to know how much tax revenue you’ll collect, you pretty much have to know how many people have jobs.

But, then, if you’re just planning to make up your own numbers anyway, you probably don’t much care whether the CBO has the data it needs to produce accurate estimates.

Image: kosheahan via Flickr.com


  1. sigrid28 May 2, 2013

    The GOP has taken a page from the playbook of the NRA, which has succeeded in getting laws passed that curtail government funded research on the effects of gun violence. What next? Burning books and the Inquisition, with Ted Cruz as the Grand Inquisitor?

    1. Dominick Vila May 2, 2013

      Indeed, we seem to have too many Torquemadas running amock.

      1. sigrid28 May 2, 2013

        Always happy to have a fact to research! What a grand name for the first Grand Inquisitor (1420-1498)!

        1. Dominick Vila May 2, 2013

          Since I don’t know the etimology for the surname of Tomás de Torquemada I’ll make up my own. Tor = torch. Quemada means burned. Seems appropriate considering the misdeeds of this augustus Dominican friar and father confessor of Queen Isabella…

          1. sigrid28 May 3, 2013

            If you have sussed this out correctly, I believe we have a circumstance fact deniers cannot enjoy: an instance when truth is stranger than fiction.

    2. Suralin Kotare May 3, 2013

      Nobody expects the Republican Inquisition!

      1. Dominick Vila May 3, 2013

        At this point, the issue is not expectancy but ridding ourselves of their Acts of Faith and purity of blood efforts.

    3. Michael Kollmorgen May 6, 2013

      This is why these nutcases want to teach creationism in our public schools. None of it is based on facts, just beliefs.

      That way they grow up an entire generation of dumb asses. There is no better way to control a population than to keep them dumb and don’t desire to seek facts.

      Just throw a bible at them. That’s what they want!

  2. Dominick Vila May 2, 2013

    All Americans are entitled to express their opinions, but that does not mean fellow American should let their claims go unchallenged when the goal is to distort the truth and project an illusion of rightfullness where the only “facts” are deceit and overt lies. I have been a Democrat since I became an adult, and while I disagreed with many Republican policies, I always respected their right to propose what they believed was best for the country. My inclination to consider, or at least listen, to what conservatives were proposing was influenced by the fact that while our approaches to problem solving may have been different, both sides shared the same goal: doing what was best for the United States. Sadly, what is happening today has little to do with ideological pragmatism, and a lot to do with intolerance, lack of compassion, hatred and greed, and nothing will stop those whose ultimate goal starts and ends with what is best for themselves.

    1. sigrid28 May 2, 2013

      It seems like nothing will stop a minority of obstructionists and fact deniers from bringing the United States to a standstill, but I’m convinced that this is only for the time being. Historically, totalitarianism succeeds by silencing the opposition. But in this case, Republicans and their base are outnumbered, and the GOP is gradually becoming even more impotent because they refuse to recognize the truth, whereas liberals, minorities, and the young don’t have that luxury. They have to live in the real world. GOP apologists, such as the neocons and trickle-down economists, have been discredited. Their greatest weakness is that they have convinced themselves that they no longer need to argue for their point of view, indefensible as it is. We, on the other hand, have facts on our side, an insistence on the truth, and the conviction that political discourse can influence public opinion. Why else would we sit here, clicking away at our keyboards daily, undermining their slipping stronghold, word by word.

      1. Dominick Vila May 2, 2013

        I hope you are right, but considering how long these campaigns of misinformation have been going on I am not holding my breath. I new thread just came up that addresses the sickening salary ratio between CEOs and their employees that ties nicely to this subject and highlight the pervasive circumstances afflicting most members of our society. Our social problems may be influenced by ideology and the effectiveness of massive amounts of money being spent to either distract of convince the naive that they are lucky they have the privilege to exist, but the bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of Americans only get crumbs – and a heavy dose of Goebellian garbage – while a few own most of our wealth and controls the government that is, in theory, supposed to defend our interests.

    2. BDC_57 May 4, 2013

      Yes you are right when the tea party came in a bunch hate groups attached themselves to the party and started spreading ther lies.

  3. docb May 2, 2013

    This is so incredibly outrageous as to be fiction surely! So I binged it..Sure enough there was the fat little toad proudly extolling the Bill.. as a cost savings!

    The level of crazy from the right is beyond comprehension! They have been elected by those of the same mental incompetence and fear of reality. At least we know their base is dying off or switching side or to the middle..That is the only redeemable feature of this gaggle of incompetents! Get active…get loud..get busy …we have toads to remove!

  4. Ray Ward May 2, 2013

    The GOP has one agenda, to make our President look bad. They don’t care how dishonest they are or how the everyday American is effected. They hate President Obama and won’t support any legislation that he supports. Hell, now they are blaming the President for not getting Gun control legislation passed, due to the backlash from the voters, against those who voted against background checks. The so-called party of high moral standards and family values will sell their souls to the devil to see Obama fail. Our only hope, as a society, is that the country can survive until the mid-term elections and that enough people turn off FOX News and Rush to insure the Dems gain control of the House and can maintain the Senate. Until then, we will see gridlock not seen in our history and more people will suffer financially, medically and we will see more mass shootings.

    1. FredAppell May 2, 2013

      Anyone listening to FOX or Rush is not likely to ever turn away from their messiahs. I strongly agree with you, the right truly does hate Obama. I don’t
      even care about why they hate him, it’s a moot point at this stage of the game.
      On a personal level, I like Obama very much and I hope he succeeds in righting the ship but he really does seem like he doesn’t have much left for the battles ahead. I’m not so sure he’ll be any good for a second term, however, if his healthcare plan turns out to be better than any of us could have ever imagined,
      it may in fact not only save his legacy, it could give him momentum for the next 3
      years. In turn it could hand the house back over to the Dems.

  5. tranz2deep May 3, 2013

    “secret Law”, “Secret Budget”..
    It all adds up to a shadow government, and I can’t stand the thought of it!

    1. Michael Kollmorgen May 5, 2013

      We’ve had a “shadow government” all along. It’s called the top 10% of our society.

      They’re the ones that dictate policy.

      They’re the ones that leave only about 30% of our nation’s wealth to the rest of the 90% of its population.

      If it looks, smells and acts like a Shadow Government, it probably is!

      Now that the Supreme Court has given Corporations human rights, well, there’s no longer a shadow to hide behind.

  6. David Turrentine May 3, 2013

    Back to the world of Reagan; appear nice and personable and nevfer tell the truth. The GOP is not the perty of Lincoln, but the party of Reagan taken to the extreme.

  7. tagbot May 3, 2013

    Faux News is our Pravda. Fortunately, the Russian news program RT.COM broadcasting on the net out of Washington D.C., provides a good counterpoint to the Faux News. The irony is that, most of the Soviets knew that Pravda was lying to them. The millions of Americans who watch Faux News don’t even have as much SNAP as the unlucky proletariat had in the old Soviet Union.


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