Friday, January 28, 2005

Pushing the Agenda

Paul Krugman's piece on Bush playing the race card in trying to justify the privatization of Social Security is excellent and right on for this purpose. It is also, I think, revelatory of the "by any means necessary" strategies employed by the Bush administration in pushing an unproven agenda based solely on ideology which it's not clear that Bush himself understands. What troubles me though isn't that there's one man, or rather, a small comitted circle, pushing this through faulty reasoning (the statistical lies of the Social Security argument, the falsified uranium documents from Africa, the Medicare drug benefit, the logic behind No Child Left Behind). The most troubling thing is that the massive infrastructure of people it takes to support this reasoning exists. Whether it's the academics who run a sham study or the folks working in the private sector putting piece together some of this legislation for a paycheck or even government workers, I'm apalled. They knew there was little evidence that there were WMD's. They knew that cheaper drugs from Canada were safe. They know that black males who receive social security receive as much if not more than whites.

So beyond the outrage I have a question: If they know that they have to lie or mislead to achieve the policy goals that they are committed to, what makes so many people committed so committed to the goals?

Before your respond, click on the link to the Krugman piece. It's short and well worth the read independent of position.


Blogger Vergasy said...

Great topic TH--too bad the comments haven't filled up.

To take the example of Social Security, obviously some people support it out of self interest. There some who are ideologically opposed to it and others who stand to reap tremendous financial gains from privatization. These people are the core, the ones calling the shots. Think Bush, Cato, Norquist, Wall Street. These groups have to deceive to achieve their self-interested goals. Not everyone can reap huge financial gains from every policy, so $ isn't an option for garnering support. Regarding ideology, after spending a summer hitting the streets and knocking on doors, I'm pretty sure there are very few people out there who can actually be talked into taking a different political position--you aren't going to convince people who think SS is OK to change their minds.

I think any wide-spread support these proposals have stems from being under- and mis-informed. SS is in "crisis". There should be accountability in our schools. Saddam will give his buddy Osama WMD. People can be sold on policies through of fear (WMD, SS "crisis") or through appeal to vague principles/maxims (you handle your money better than the government, accountability leads to better performance), leaving the devil in the details--what was promised was not delivered. (E.g., even if SS privatization is a good idea, it won't be administered so that it is properly realized.)

Basically, some folks are self-interested, and they fool other folks into thinking policy X is in their best interest too. Maybe it's not so complicated.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Tally Ho said...

It's all interesting stuff. There are a bunch of people that work on how people form opinions and in America have tended to think the way they form them is relatively stable. However after reading one of the first classic studies of this type this week it seems that premising it all is the fact that people respect the way the system works and the civic culture that supports it. However, from Clinton to Rove it seems that the respect is off and the manipulation is on.

7:29 PM  

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