Among the Intellectualoids

Alley Cats of the Left

In what passes as their style of argument, Arianna and her acolytes will scratch your eyes out.

By 6.25.08

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Arianna Huffington is the editor in chief of the Huffington Post, one of the very top hangouts for the left wing of the Democrat party. These folks are riding high right now, because they and their champion Barack Obama have just beaten the Clintons for the Democrat party nomination, and they think they are going to take over the country this fall. Huffington gives us a clear insight into what these people are all about in her recent book, Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (and What You Need to Know to Stop the Madness) (Knopf).

The book title itself reveals the character of argument featured not only by Huffington, but of the entire activist left she represents. These people can't go more than three lines without falling into hysterical vituperation, or, in more colloquial terminology, foul mouthed name-calling. Their opponents are "right wing lunatics," who project "the intolerance of religious bigots." "The Republican race to replace George W. Bush turned into a competition to see Who Could Be the Biggest Neanderthal." Huffington says even her old friends from her Republican days "are now just as appalled as I am by the lunatic fringe's takeover of the Right, and the Right's takeover of America."

Huffington writes:

In the yearly contest for the coveted title of "Dumbest Senator," James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, is always in the running. Even in years when it seems like Kentucky's Jim Bunning may edge him out Inhofe will perform a thrilling last-minute, come-from-behind act of utter stupidity that wins him the tarnished cup for another year. And, to top it off, Inhofe is usually a contender for "Craziest Elected Official" as well.

I have seen Inhofe on many occasions engage in calm discussion of the issues presenting actual evidence for his positions. I have not seen that from Arianna Huffington.

ANOTHER FEATURE of the argumentation of Huffington and her left-wing colleagues is that their disagreements with their opponents never seem to involve a difference of opinion, or of philosophy, or of the effectiveness or justification of different policies. What their opponents believe and argue for is always a scandal. Their opponents are always "unduly influenced by industry," or industry stooges, or industry hacks. Their opponents are bad people with corrupt motives, arguing in bad faith. This means that the left never even has to engage in debate with opposing ideas, which is something they don't seem capable of doing.

Huffington, in fact, reveals her fascist tendencies when she repeatedly calls for the media to shut out all conservatives and their crazy arguments from any coverage whatsoever. "It would help if the media reacted to the Right's drivel by treating it with the contempt it deserves instead of dutifully reporting it as if it contained an ounce of logic or sanity." She continues, "The old-fashioned 'mainstream' media have, in many cases, become the best friend of the Right -- simply by adhering to the belief that every major issue has two sides, two valid perspectives, and both deserve to be given equal weight." Indeed, she repeatedly attacks the late Tim Russert for being too fair to conservatives and Republicans.

Huffington continues:

There are not two valid sides to issues like global warming or health care. We can argue about what to do, but unless you are crazy or a liar, you can't honestly claim that the drug and insurance companies aren't an obstacle to public health...or that global warming is a fraud and then demand equal time to spout some nonsense that gains an aura of legitimacy from the "let's hear from both sides" approach of the news media.

See the thuggish brown shirt tactics here? They want to shower conservatives with name calling, then smear them with allegations that their arguments are made in bad faith, and then demand that they even be excluded from public debate. This is not a discussion of ideas, it is all a purely ad hominem attack. Huffington's book should have been entitled Winning Through Intimidation.

On global warming, there is no basis whatsoever for saying the science is settled. Indeed, the better argument is now on the side of those who argue against the idea that man is causing catastrophic warming, with most scientists appearing to be skeptical of the global warming thesis. The left embraces global warming not because of the science, but because global warming is a tremendous justification for a massive expansion of government and a takeover of the private economy, which they ideologically prefer.

THE BIG PROBLEM for the left on global warming is that there has been no significant warming to date. (I don't consider warming of less than one degree over the last century significant.) Even the left now admits that there has been no warming over the last 10 years, and that there will be no warming for the next 10 years either. Indeed, a slight cooling trend has developed in the last few years and if this continues it will soon completely offset the very slight warming we have seen.

With the temperature data showing no significant warming, it makes no sense for global warming advocates to point out this or that supposed effect of global warming. To have global warming effects, you first need actual real global warming, which we do not have yet.

Another problem is that the left is in the completely untenable position of arguing for a regulatory takeover of the private economy, when the only scientific consensus that exists is that if global warming were real their regulatory schemes would not stop it. The cap and trade legislation pending before the Congress would impose a trillion dollars a year in unnecessary costs on the economy as businesses would have to pay for costly permits to emit supposed greenhouse gases in producing products and services for the American people. Yet, even global warming advocates admit such legislation would reduce global warming by only a tiny amount.

On health care, pharmaceutical companies produce drugs that save lives, cure diseases, and relieve pain. That's more than anyone at the Huffington Post has done to promote the public health. Yes, the public rightly demands a basic safety net so no one suffers without essential health care when needed. Just as in global warming, the left is trying to use this as an excuse for massively expanded government power and a takeover of the entire health care sector. But as I showed in a recent column here, such a safety net can be maintained while actually making government smaller,

Huffington argues for just expanding Medicare to everyone to achieve universal coverage. She is apparently completely unaware that we can't afford all of the entitlement promises we have already made, and trying to expand Medicare in this way would be foolhardy, a subject that was also recently fully explored in one of these columns.

WORST OF ALL, Huffington and her lefty colleagues suffer complete naivete about the dangers of big government. Will all be peace and happiness and in the public good when the government rules the entire health care sector? She shows no recognition of the problems of rationing and loss of freedom of choice and control over health care that we have seen uniformly when governments in other countries have adopted socialized medicine. Indeed, every one of these programs begins by promising free health care to everyone, and ends up establishing a bureaucratic monolith with the mission of denying health care, to control costs.

The left is sadly naive about the failure of big government on domestic issues across the board. They protest harshly about alleged failures and misjudgments in military and foreign policy. But on domestic issues suddenly government bureaucracy will make everything perfect.

Huffington goes on to blunder in regard to tax policy as well. She quotes Paul Krugman, an academic version of the Huffington Post brown shirts, saying,

The reality is that the core measures of both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts mainly benefit the very affluent. The centerpieces of the 2001 act were a reduction in the top income tax rate and elimination of the estate tax -- the first, by definition, benefiting only people with high incomes; the second benefiting only heirs to large estates. The core of the 2003 tax cut was a reduction in the tax rate on dividend income. This benefit, too, is concentrated on very high income families.

But Krugman here leaves out most of the Bush tax cuts, at least in terms of revenue loss. The tax cut package also reduced the bottom individual tax rate by 33%, from 15% to 10%. It also doubled the child tax credit from $500 to $1000. It also eliminated the marriage penalty.

These Bush tax cuts left the following result of Republican tax policies going back to Reagan. The bottom 40% of all income earners now pay no income taxes at all. In fact, they get net payments from the income tax system due to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the child tax credit. The middle 20% in income, the true middle class, pays less than 5% of the income tax. The Reagan Republican supply-side tax cuts for the rich actually all but abolished income taxes for the middle class and lower income taxpayers.

The top 1%, by contrast, pays a whopping 37% of all income taxes, while earning only about half as much as a share of national income. Looks like they are paying more than their fair share, actually. The top 10% of income earners pay 71% of all income taxes. Some tax cuts for the rich.

It was Reagan who first proposed the EITC, and the Heritage Foundation that first proposed the child tax credit. These along with the across the board rate cuts from Reagan through Bush are what eliminated taxes on middle income earners and below. The tax rate cuts for "the rich" provided highly successful incentives to take money out of tax shelters and invest in the real economy, resulting in more reported income to be taxed.

But Huffington dismisses the notion of any incentives from tax cuts, saying,

So just imagine you are sitting at the very bottom of the Forbes 400 with an even $1 billion in net worth. Do you think that a few million dollars one way or the other in taxes would make any difference at all in how you conduct your business life? If you're a highly competent...CEO, would you really pack it in and retire to Boca if you could make only $97 million a year instead of $100 million? Would you really throw in the towel? Similarly, if you're a lazy heir do you think you'd convert your investments into gold bars and bury them in your backyard just because you might have to pay taxes if you tried to increase your inheritance?

Amazing. In just one speculative, smart aleck paragraph, Huffington thinks she has blown away hundreds of studies over decades showing that taxes do, indeed, have a major, even determining effect on economic growth, as well as the huge successes of across the board tax rate cuts at the federal and state levels, and the same experiences internationally. Taxes do affect economic decisions at the margin, invest here or there, more or less, expand or contract a business, start a new business, hire or lay off workers, raise wages to attract more workers, or cut back, work longer hours to make money while the economy is hot, or slack off and take a vacation. These decisions at the margin add up to a major impact, and a huge tidal wave over the years.

In reading the words of Huffington and her compatriots at her website, one should remember the words of Jesus Christ, "Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing."

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.