A Facebook friend of mine – a conservative Republican who used to have a blog and podcast here in Wisconsin – posted this week, "What would this country be like if Obama and other socialists could achieve everything they dream of? Watch the Olympics this winter to find out. Hotel rooms with no lights, no water, no sheets, no beds, and no walls! Fire escapes locked! But, you get a free stray dog or two."
At first I imagined Oprah: "You get a dog! You get a dog!" That sounded like fun!
But then I tried to figure out what exactly my friend could have meant by suggesting that the problems of the Sochi Olympics, like the infrastructure failures he referenced and the serious allegations of corruption and cost overruns (not to mention the shy fifth ring at the opening ceremony), were the logical end result of the Obama administration's policy goals.
Even in this short complaint, it doesn't make a lick of sense, given how much conservatives like him complain about Obama's regulatory regime. I mean, if anyone is going to mandate that the job-creating angels of America's hotel industry have to overspend on crap like fire escapes and safe drinking water, it's that socialist Barack Obama and his goons over at OSHA and EPA, right?
Conservatives have spent the better part of Obama's presidency warning he wanted to turn the U.S. into Canada or the U.K. – those bastions of socialized medicine! – but the 2010 winter games in Vancouver and the 2012 summer games in London went off without a hitch and were widely praised. Oh, and there was actually an Olympic games held recently in a socialist paradise, Beijing in 2008, and they were perhaps the best-run in recent memory.
But picking apart Facebook-level logic is almost too easy – and really, you can't expect much more than Facebook-level logic on Facebook.
In the pages of the flagship newspaper of Wisconsin's largest media organization, though, you ought to expect something a little better. If you read Christian Schneider's Sunday column, though, you got something not one micron smarter than my Facebook friend.
Lacking even a trace of self-awareness, early in his op-ed Schneider writes that "the language of modern progressivism is hopelessly rooted in the past," and then he proceeds to red-bait contemporary Democrats in a way that would make the 1950s jealous. Within a few dozen words, Schneider moves easily from Nancy Pelosi to genocide ("The collectivism of agriculture in Russia in the early 1900s led to the murder and starvation of tens of millions of peasants") as if the first thing Nancy Pelosi will do if the Democrats take back the House this fall is organize the death squads.
The nominal topic of Schneider's op-ed is the report last week (pdf) from the Congressional Budget Office indicating that overall, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare in the current argot) is doing remarkably well, and after last fall's website glitches, is expected to hit its enrollment targets a little late – but it will hit them.
What conservatives seized upon, often with a flurry of wrongness that would embarrass a normal human, was the report's indication that with cheaper health care (or, in rare cases, with the disincentive to earn more because it would affect the availability of a subsidy), people would choose to work fewer hours, leading to about 2.5 million fewer full-time-equivalent workers ten years from now. To be clear, that's not 2.5 million fewer jobs or 2.5 million fewer workers total, since many people will work fewer hours rather than quit or retire outright, but the equivalent of that many 40-hour-a-week workers.
Republicans and conservatives spun this into massive layoffs, claiming at first that the CBO report proved Obamacare would force employers to cut hours and jobs as they've always believed. That lie was beat back long before Schneider's deadline, so Schneider instead falls back on the old chestnut of tying elected Democrats to communists. By cherry-picking some quotes from the week's news (including from Pelosi) and from some website called "marxists.org," he is able to claim that giving people greater economic freedom to decide whether and how much to work is the next step in the Democrats' grand socialist plan.
"Currently, about 138 million Americans are being oppressed by their jobs," Schneider writes, "if the left has its way, the country will be better off when that number is much lower."
(I will pause here to point out that Schneider, who thinks the freedom to work less is a bad thing, writes two 800-word columns a week.)
The opposite is in fact true, with the report concluding that "On balance, the CBO estimates that the ACA will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years ... the net increase in demand for goods and services will in turn boost the demand for labor over the next few years." In other words, Obamacare will lead to more jobs, not fewer; there will be more people working than there are now over the near term. With the unemployment rate still high, this is good news.
Schneider goes on to offer a much more subtle lie about what the CBO report said, claiming that under the ACA "low-income individuals are now incentivized to work less, and are denied the upward mobility regular employment brings."
I'm not sure who exactly it is who believes that taking a second job at Wendy's in order to pay for the kids' cough medicine is "upward mobility," but he's badly misreading the CBO here again. Where the CBO report talks about the effect on poor workers, it says that the ACA's subsidies and changes to Medicare will generally cause the poor not to work less, but to work more – and even to spend their sudden extra money on other things, which is why overall there will be more demand for workers.
"From the report: "CBO estimates that the ACA will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services." Socialism? Hardly – that's an active free market, folks.
Why Schneider and those like him think that a massive underclass and chronic shortages of goods and services ("standing in line for half a day for toilet paper," he says, ha ha) is the goal of Democrats, or why my Facebook friend thinks crumbling infrastructure and unsafe conditions for workers and hotel guests is the goal of Obama's administration, or why conservatives think Medicare death panels under Sharia law is the ultimate goal of liberals, is simply beyond me.
At least when the dirty hippies like me used to complain about George W. Bush, the conspiracies made sense – sending the country into a war we didn't need would feed tax dollars directly into the pockets of big Bush donors and associates like Haliburton. Toilet paper shortages at the hotel with no bathroom walls (but with an Islamic prayer rug) doesn't sound like it could be anyone's idea of a reasonable end game, does it?
If ever anyone needed an incentive to try to work a little harder, it's Schneider – the truth-bending and red-baiting is far too easy of a way out.