Monday, April 8, 2013

Questionable Assertions Analysis

Questionable Assertions Analysis
P. Schultz
April 8, 2013

Here are some of the “questionable assertions” I detected in an article in the NY Times on this date. The article is entitled in part, “Obama Must Walk Fine Line….”

“The challenge for Mr. Obama became evident as soon as he took office, when Republicans almost unanimously opposed his economic stimulus package even as the recession was erasing nearly 800,000 jobs a month. The author Robert Draper opened his recent book about the House, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” with an account from Republican leaders who dined together on the night of Mr. Obama’s 2009 inauguration and agreed that the way to regain power was to oppose whatever he proposed.”

I do not doubt that this dinner and conversations took place but am doubtful that the Republicans were being genuine when they “agreed that the way to regain power was to oppose whatever he proposed.” The results of the 2012 presidential election would seem to undercut this analysis and it would seem that those results were not too difficult to predict. Thus, it would seem that the Republican strategy was simply a mistake or, more likely, was aimed at achieving something other than regaining power. For example, it might just be a way to preserve, as nearly as possible, the status quo, suspecting that Obama and the Democrats would play along for the same reason, an interest in preserving the status quo. And by opposing whatever Obama proposed, they could make their stance in favor of the status quo look like they were concerned with genuine political change. By playing along, Obama would look like he was stymied in his attempts at genuine political change while actually being content with the status quo.

Now, insofar as this is accurate, then the following assertion is less than persuasive:

Members of both parties say Mr. Obama faces a conundrum with his legislative approach to a deeply polarized Congress.”

If both the Republicans and the Democrats are interested more in preserving the status quo than in genuine political change, then the Congress is not “deeply polarized.” Of course, as this is the linchpin of most analyses today, this suggestion will be dismissed out of hand by most people. Again, by acting as if they were deeply polarized, the Republicans and Democrats can pretend to be interested in genuine political change while being unable to accomplish it, along with even accomplishing a modicum degree of genuine political change. And “all or nothing” strategy guarantees that nothing, or almost nothing, will happen. And, unless you were satisfied with almost nothing, why choose this strategy? Genuine political change can come in doses or stages; it need not come all at once. Everyone knows this, including of course those we have elected to the Congress and the White House.

            Of course, the American people seem to be aware of the shell game being played at their expense. A poll by the Pew Research Center bears this out, as 56% of those polled agreed that the political system is not at fault; rather, it is the members of the Congress who are “the problem.” Of course, what the people polled may not be aware of is that what they conceive to be “the problem,” the members of the Congress perceive to be “the solution!” And they may also not be aware of the degree to which the system favors incumbency and, therefore, undermines attempts to “solve the problem” as it is conceived by the people.

When asked if the current problem with Congress is a broken political system, or the members themselves, most people continue to point to the lawmakers. A majority (56%) says that the political system can work fine, it is the members of Congress that are the problem. Only about a third (32%) says that lawmakers have good intentions and it is political system that is broken.”

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