09 October 2014

The GOP's List of Spectacularly Wrong - But Sincerely Panicked - Major Predictions

You can tell a lot about a worldview by how well it predicts. Of course worldviews are weird tools that can more readily shape us than we shape them. Because of this, even if a worldview is proven wrong we are likely to defend it.

Mitch McConnell is the minority leader of the US Senate. If he and the Republicans win the November election, he'll be the majority leader of the world's most powerful legislative body. In a recent interview, he criticized Obama for presiding over a "jobless recovery." Mitch has been in the Senate since 1985 and this year's job total will be nearly double the average during his time. (Okay - 1.85X, but that's pretty close to double.) It used to be that the Republicans limited themselves to bad predictions. Now, emboldened by a decade in which voters have not held them accountable for a worldview that predicts nothing accurately, they have decided to simply lie about current reality. It's not obvious that voters care; Republicans will probably win the Senate.

The Republican Party McConnell helps to lead has made predictions on a series of issues during this century, and their record is nearly perfect and worth reviewing.
  1. Tax cuts will create jobs and won't create a deficit because the economy will grow so much faster.
  2. Iraq has WMD
  3. Iraqis will greet us as liberators.
  4. Iraq will become a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, a model for other countries and help to stabilize the region.
  5. Financial deregulation will make the economy stronger.
  6. TARP will cost taxpayers billions.
  7. The deficit needed for stimulus, to help the economy recover, is growing out of control and will take down the economy.
  8. Obamacare will raise medical costs.
  9. Obamacare will cost us jobs.
  10. Obamacare will drive up the deficit, a deficit already out of control.
  11. Obama can't control the border.

All of these predictions were made with great certainty, alarm in their eyes and conviction in their voice. So how did they do?
  1. In the three decades before the Bush tax cuts were enacted in 2001, job growth averaged 19.8 million jobs. In the decade after the Bush tax cuts (2001 - 2010), the American economy lost nearly 2 million jobs. And the deficit? When Bush won office there was a budget surplus of $236 billion. A decade later, there was a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, a swing from positive to negative the size of Australia's entire economy. It would be hard to imagine a scenario in which Republicans were more spectacularly wrong. But they didn't stop there.
  2. It turns out that not only did Iraq not attack us on 9-11 but they didn't even possess weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten us or our allies. Nothing was found during the decade in which US investigators and troops scoured the country.
  3. Iraq is now a terribly divided country. About the only thing that the major parties could agree on recently is that they wanted America out. 
  4. Iraq has become a model of corruption and minority oppression. Millions have been displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Neighboring countries are ravaged by civil war and now ISIS threatens to further de-stabilize the region. Worse, the various forces battling in this region are better trained and better armed - now able to kill more efficiently and effectively - thanks to a massive infusions of American money, arms, and training.
  5. Bush raised up a vision of increased rates of home ownership, praised financial de-regulation and free markets. The subprime market that emerged out of this deregulation helped to blow up the global economy. The Great Recession caused unemployment to spike into double-digits across most high-income countries and the banking rescues cost trillions of dollars. Trillions. 
  6. TARP - the bailout program that was a joint product of Bush and Obama administrations - not only stopped banks from failing but paid back billions to American taxpayers. 
  7. The deficit that was seemingly growing out of control is now well under control. No one even talks about it. It is now at 2.8% of GDP (which is below average), down nearly a trillion from the peak it reached during the Great Recession. Neither inflation nor interest rates spiked as alarmists warned. 
  8. Before Obamacare was enacted, per capita spending on healthcare rose about 4% a year. In the most recent 3 years, it was gone up 1.3%, the lowest 3-year rise on record. 
  9. Obamacare will cost us jobs, Republicans warned. They are right about this. People who used to take a job just to have healthcare coverage are now using Obamacare instead. But more broadly, last decade's loss of more than a million jobs is on track to become a job gain of 20 million in this decade. A drop in the rise of healthcare actually helps American companies to be more competitive.
  10. Healthcare costs drive the deficit. Now that healthcare costs are rising more slowly, revised estimates for this - and future years' - deficits have dropped. If Obamacare has actually helped to lower prices, it has lowered the deficit. 
  11. Net immigration from Mexico is roughly zero (there are about as many Mexicans returning to Mexico as coming to the US) for the first time in decades.
The GOP's major prognostications of the last decade have been wrong. Spectacularly wrong. It isn't hard to get predictions wrong. Anyone who tries to predict makes mistakes. It is hard to so consistently be this wrong. Now, of course, the next line of defense against actually changing a worldview is to claim that the facts are wrong, to change labels, to simply deny. (It's hard to know where McConnell's "jobless recovery" claim falls among these categories. Is he denying the facts reported by the BLS? Does he have a new label for a recovery that creates jobs? Is he denying that the economy is creating jobs?) This mix of denial and dismissal seems to be the direction McConnell wants to lead Republicans in now. Sadly, I think they'll have a pretty good following. 

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