Mike the Mad Biologist

At TPM, Josh Marshall asks an “obvious” ‘framing’ question about the ARRA:

Why was the Stimulus Bill called the ‘stimulus bill’ and not a ‘jobs bill’?

To which Atrios responds with a “Pretty Obvious Answer“:

Because for whatever reason, economist lingo is what people in the Obama administration are comfortable with.

I actually don’t think that has much to do with it at all. I can’t be certain, but someone in the Hopey Changey administration must have thought of calling the stimulus bill a “jobs bill” (if nobody did, then these guys are a lot dumber than most people think they are). They probably decided against calling the ARRA a jobs bill because they thought that would be worse than calling it a stimulus bill.

A jobs program polls at around seventy percent, but, then again, healthcare reform, depending on how the question is asked, typically polls at around that number too. Yet even tepid, incremental healthcare reform is uncertain.

Because a jobs program would be anathema to the one group (actually, two, but I’m getting ahead of myself) that matters: the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. After all, that’s gummint intervention. Besides, War-Shing-Tun doesn’t know how to run a business. Thanks to the Blue Dogs, a “jobs bill” would have been dead on arrival (and remember that employment was lower back then).

Even though the Blue Dogs are a minority of the caucus (and hail from small states to boot), the traditional media, especially the Mandarin Class, loves these guys. And it’s not because there are pictures of Ben Nelson in bicycle shorts. Whatever the Conservadems espouse is the ‘center’, never mind that this supposed center is actually a rabidly dogmatic economic ideology.

One should wonder why a small minority of the Democratic caucus–one that is out of step with the Democratic rank-and-file, as well as those independents who lean Democratic–is treated so seriously. The reason is simple: the traditional media, especially the Washington press corps(e), is sycophantic. If the reign of Little Lord Pontchartrain taught us nothing else, it is that the rampant stupidity of an idea is meaningless to the Potomac Mandarins: what matters is the power possessed by the person espousing that idea. Thanks to the filibuster, which has turned into a de facto supermajority requirement, senators from insignificant, shitty states (hey, you elected these dumbasses) wield significant and disproportionate power. If there were no filibuster, Senators Conrad and Nelson would be insignificant backbenchers, scraping and begging for agricultural subsidies.

Without the filibuster, a good healthcare proposal would be taken seriously. Jobs programs would be the new center and as ‘serious.’ Malcolm Gladwell would write books about how jobs programs counterintuitively create jobs. But because they wield such power, their lunatic ideas, such as cutting benefits and spending during a recession with massive unemployment in order to solve a phantasmal problem in 2030, are deemed ‘serious’, even though the most accurate description would be ‘crack-addled.’

Regardless of whether one is left, right, up, or down, most of the readers at ScienceBlogs like to evaluate ideas on their merits, and on their effects (even if we strongly disagree on those evaluations). For those involved in fields that revolve around analysis, including science, it is abhorrent to think that an idea is justified simply because there is power behind it. But it gets worse.

What really matters is the assessment, accurate or not, of the power possessed by those who espouse an idea: this is what determines if that idea is ‘serious.’

The importance of misperception* is why theopolitical conservatives constantly pull of their con of pretending to be the cultural default setting–or ‘moral majority’ (to use a phrase). Of course, they are a small religious minority in the U.S.: even, if on an issue like abortion, if you add in conservative Catholics, they’re still a religious minority. If they were correctly understood to be relatively small–and slowly, that notion is creeping into the halfwit brains of our Villager betters–then their ideas lose credence, even though they’ve been batshit lunatic all along and should have never been taken seriously.

*Perception used to connote clarity and accuracy. After decades of mass media culture, its meaning has been changed to perspective, even if that perspective is stupid and wrong. Language matters…


  1. #1 Suzan
    November 19, 2009

    Thank you for this serious treatment of the most injurious lies of our time – that “centrists” are not even close to the center and that the moral majority is neither.

    These arguments need to be made on a daily basis (with as much PR time as the Impalin’ brigade gets from a fake book).

    We’ve just got to figure out how to “sex” it up (h/t to After Downing Street).


  2. #2 JasonTD
    November 21, 2009

    A jobs program polls at around seventy percent, but, then again, healthcare reform, depending on how the question is asked, typically polls at around that number too. Yet even tepid, incremental healthcare reform is uncertain.

    The DailyKos page you linked to in that part of your post also mentions a Gallup poll from last January that showed 78% favoring “Creating new jobs with major new government spending on the nation’s infrastructure such as bridges, highways, and power grids.” So, that seems to back up your argument that people favor a ‘jobs program’, if that means spending that can truly be considered investment, i.e. infrastructure that will improve efficiency and productivity.

    However, that same Gallup poll also shows that 75% favored “Tax cuts for businesses in order to save and help create jobs.” There was significant tax relief for businesses in the ARRA ($51 billion), but it looks like it was targeted at a few specific industries, rather than something broad-based aimed at job creation.

    Things that Congress is considering now (Health care reform, cap-and-trade, etc.) hardly look to be job-creators when you consider the taxes being imposed on businesses to pay for all of it.