Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fox News at it again

From Fox News's website today:

As discussed yesterday, Republicans are trying to score points on a statement by Obama to small business owners that "you didn't build that."  Now, as a generally rational person, you might ask what exactly is the identity of "that".  Is he telling small business owners that they didn't build the Grand Canyon?  A child's laughter?  How could we find out what he meant?

You might start by looking at the context of the statement.  So here it is:
If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
It immediately becomes clear that the President is referring to the common goods of infrastructure, an educated work-force, and such.  Romney's claims that Obama was telling small business owners that they didn't deserve credit for building their businesses is wrong on its face.  There can't be any legitimate dispute over this.

But Fox News chooses to clearly pick sides in the dispute, supporting the Republican position.  For starters, the structure of the headline puts Obama in a conflict with a a "small biz widow", and the ground on which the conflict will be fought is her dead husband's business.  Then we get a picture of the old dead guy himself.  They follow that up with a truly stunning subheadline, "Eileen Vento answers Obama's statement that small business owners - like her late Joey - 'didn't build that'".  The subheadline accepts as fact the Republican misreading of Obama's statement.

The linked article continues  the assault on the truth, quoting Vento and others who chose to take offense.  Besides giving unopposed views of people who don't know what they're talking about, the text of the article, written by a supposed news reporter, includes pearls like "The president's slight of entrepreneurs also riled David Ruff, owner of..."  Again, the "news" article presents as fact a Republican talking point which is demonstrably false.

All of this would be fine if it were an opinion article.  Fox should be ashamed to call such lies "news".


NWest said...

One thing - those common goods Obama refers too are more often than not things that are properly done by *state* and *local* governments, not by the feds.

Education? Local / State. We can have a debate on the effectiveness of student loans - my opinion is that on the whole they are a net negative to society.

Roads/Power/Water? Local/State.
(Except for the federal highways, which are just a giant transfer of money from the people of the states to the feds, then back to the states, with "administration" costs deducted).

Also - I highly, highly doubt that it was the intent of DARPA to build a system that companies could make money off of when it built ARAPNET. Also - there where a bunch of other networks soon after ARAPNET, and it was the mesh of all of these which built the internet. ARAPNET was a good starting point, but left on its own, would never have amounted to much. Ma Bell had a monopoly for 50 years, and the telephones in the late 70's were virtually the same as the ones in the 30's. *That's* the power of government innovation.

NWest said...

Please note one of the early rules of ARAPNET:

"It is considered illegal to use the ARPANet for anything which is not in direct support of Government business ... personal messages to other ARPANet subscribers (for example, to arrange a get-together or check and say a friendly hello) are generally not considered harmful ... Sending electronic mail over the ARPANet for commercial profit or political purposes is both anti-social and illegal. By sending such messages, you can offend many people, and it is possible to get MIT in serious trouble with the Government agencies which manage the ARPANet."

TableTopJoe said...

NWest, as to your points:

1. Education:
Isn't it true that the federal government has been developing and implementing educational policy for at least the last 35 years?

Isn't it also true that "No Child Left Behind", "Race to the Top", and "Elementary and Secondary Schools Act" are all federal-level education policies enacted by the past three presidents?

Isn't it further true that approximately 40% of most state/local educational budgets are transfer payments from the federal government? Without such transfer payments, do you think that your beloved NWEST (which I assume to be the NWest U.S.... i.e. Oregon, Washington, Idaho) would be at a perennial disadvantage, educationally, to the wealthier NEast (i.e. Boston and New York)?

It's a nice copout to say that it's state/local policy, but reality doesn't exactly support you.

2. Roads/Power/Water

Let's take these individually, if possible.

Regarding roads, you're entirely correct that wholly intrastate roads are generally funded by local/state entities. That takes care of Division St. in Chicago, but it doesn't take care of the Dan Ryan Expressway (for example). Again, as to your "transfer" comment, it appears to me that you didn't pay attention to the classes discussing some of the original causes of the Civil War, in addition to slavery. One of them, incidentally, was the perrenial inability of Southern states to fund infrastructure improvements, resulting in oligarchical arrangements where a few cotton barons held sway over 90%+ of the Southern population. Never mind such trivial "facts."

Power & Water... as a regulatory attorney in the midwest, I can assure you that power and water are heavily regulated and influenced by the federal government. I'm sure you have no idea what a regional transmission authority is, and I'm disinclined to explain it to you. Nonetheless, it IS regional in nature and thus regulated by the federal government. Again, without such arrangements, the NWest might have power in Seattle and San Francisco, but the rest of y'all are SOL.

You only reinforce Obama's point. Not all research that will eventually create enormously profitable items/functions has an immediately recognizable profit potential. No private enterprise would have been willing or able to develop the internet. Read today's Slate for further explanation.

Libertarian rantings are always so fun because they fit so neatly into a nice little box... The government will get out of the way and the private sector will do it more efficiently. VOILA! ABRA CADABRA!

Too bad reality has this terrible habit of encroaching on neat little theories. Just ask the old line communists about reality and human nature encroaching on theirs.

NWest said...


It must be lonely at the top up there, looking down on us "little people". It clearly must be that we just don't have the intellectual capacity to properly *understand* you. I resent your condescending tone and attitude.

What has 35 years of development and implementation of "educational policy" (translation from bureaucrat-speak = money) bought us for our federal "investment"? Real (*if you believe the so-called CPI) spending per pupil has gone up by 50% in the past twenty years, but writing, math, and science skills are declining.

Student success is primarily a function of inborn (genetic) intelligence (IQ), smart & involved teachers, parents, and the student culture. More federal money is not the answer. If schools with less money are at a perennial disadvantage, why do students at poorer private schools consistently do better than those at better funded public schools? My argument isn't that the federal government doesn't do it - it's that it *shouldn't* do it.

As for your brief foray into civil war history, it's clear that you believe that the southern planter oligarchy was *created* by the inability to invest in infrastructure, whereas my view is that the existing oligarchy itself worked to actively *prevent* industrialization of the south, as it would be disruptive and possibly remove them from power, much as the monarchs and aristocracy in the Ottoman and Habsperg empires worked to prevent innovation and industrialization. See Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson's "Why Nations Fail" for a more detailed historical analysis.

As for electrical power, I think nothing shows how poorly a government monopoly runs things than deterioration and lack of innovation in our power grid. We may never know why kind of power innovations may have taken place had a regulatory regime not taken hold. There are some amazing things happening in the field of miniaturized nuclear energy (power for small towns instead of big cities) with would allow for greater decentralization. Good luck getting that past captured regulatory regime.

So all of those private universities using private foundation grant money wouldn't think of doing something like that on their own? Why is it that taxpayers should fund these things?

TableTopJoe said...

Spare me the tripe about "us little people." Furthermore, if it is your contention that student success is merely about genetics and parents, why did we bother with the land grant colleges during reconstruction?

Since your argument about schools is that the government shouldn't get involved, are you then suggesting that we would be better off, as a country, if we continued the educational policies that were in place from 1790-1870? Are you arguing that those worked better than those of the 20th century? Would you like to see literacy rates that undercut that? Per capita income? Economic development?

Without public education and a gaggle of other things we've been arguing about here, this country would be Somalia before you know it. Perhaps in your mind's eye that's a feature, and not a bug?