The story behind this quote involves a personal incident, but it could also apply to the Republican Party and their flacks at Fox News. They mostly do fiction.
The personal story is this: I recently contacted the coordinator for a book club in our community (which is laden with affluent retirees who live in waterfront properties), and I suggested that her club might like to read my book, The Fair Society, and then have me come to discuss it with them.
Yesterday I got a phone message from her saying, in a somewhat harsh tone, that she had read the book and had decided not to recommend it to her club. “We mostly do fiction,” she said. If I had suggested an Ayn Rand novel to her, perhaps I might have had a better reception. It struck me that, in this community as elsewhere in our society, we have a gated community of the mind – a walled off, defensive elite steeped in self-serving myths and less-than-half-truths. The search for truth is irrelevant. The very concept of fairness threatens an ideology that justifies self-interest over the common interest. According to a reviewer of my book in the Wall Street Journal, fairness is a dangerously “radical” idea.
Inside this gated community, the “huddled few” recite a conservative catechism that provides ideological comfort food. One example is the claim that the welfare state is driving us to bankruptcy. Actually, we don’t have a deficit crisis in this country; we have a revenue crisis -- with taxes at the lowest percentage of national income since 1960 (before Medicare and Medicaid) at about 15 percent, versus 20 percent in most other wealthy countries and even in our own only a decade or two ago. Top (marginal) tax rates in 1980 were 70 percent; now the top rate is in the 30s. We even had a tax surplus under President Clinton. Our deep deficit was caused by the Bush era tax cuts, two unfunded wars paid for on the national credit card, and a cratering of tax revenues in the Great Recession. Indeed, we already have the lowest level of welfare spending among the top tier countries.
Then there is the charge that President Obama’s economic stimulus package “failed,” because we haven’t returned to full employment. Wait a minute. The stimulus package was designed to be a tourniquet for a hemorrhaging economy, and it did stop the bleeding. In fact, some 40 percent of the stimulus dollars were in the form of tax cuts (which Republicans only like when they can take credit for them), and it did, after all, result in the saving or creation of some 4 million jobs. Not too shabby. To do any more, the package needed to be much larger (as some economists at the time warned), but the reason why it was not larger was because Republicans in the Senate would have blocked it. So, as I said, the Republicans these days mostly do fiction.
The latest example is Governor Mitt Romney’s charge that President Obama has made things much “worse” in this country during his watch. He’s to blame for our non-recovery – not the depression (yes, depression) in the housing market and home construction/improvement industry, or the continued outsourcing of jobs overseas, or the tight consumer credit, or the weak consumer demand (wages have been flat while CEO salaries have ballooned upwards), and other conditions in our capitalist “free market.” Come on Mitt. It’s time to stop doing fiction.