At the bottom of this post, I’ve pasted an article by Paul Krugman, which was presumably published originally in the New York Times (the source was not given when it was forwarded to me). Here is my response to Krugman’s abuse of Dickens’ Christmas Carol:
It seems to me that Republicans and Democrats have both been guilty of increasing the power of central government to the detriment of the rights of individuals and families, and of local government. This issue is, therefore, not a question of right and left but right and wrong. I must say, however, that the author of this piece should not quote from works of literature that he clearly does not understand in order to make his point. Whenever Scrooge uses the phrase “humbug” he is being a cad and a scoundrel. The “humbug” he condemns is the full, religious celebration of Christmas and the love of neighbor that it necessitates. He believes that Christmas is “humbug” because he is a radical materialist who only cares about himself and his own possessions. It is for this reason that the four ghosts are sent as agents of supernatural grace. The truth that Dickens reveals in A Christmas Carol is that the poorest and weakest members of the community, symbolized by Tiny Tim, have the right to life. Thus, the Ghost of Christmas Present condemns Scrooge for stating that the weakest members of society should be allowed to die to “decrease the surplus population”. Here is the Ghost’s reply to Scrooge’s heartless utilitarianism:
“Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered what the surplus population is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”
The Ghost is right and Scrooge is wrong. And this is the reason that millions of people could never vote for Obama. Any politician, whether he be on the so-called left or the so-called right, who supports the killing of unborn children, the weakest members of the population, should not get our vote. And all the talk by such politicians of “humanitarianism” or the “love of the poor” is nothing but blatant hypocrisy for as long as they support institutionalized infanticide – or, to use Scrooge’s turn of phrase, it is mere “humbug”!
Date: Friday, December 24, 2010, 2:52 PM
December 23, 2010
The Humbug Express
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Hey, has anyone noticed that “A Christmas Carol” is a dangerous leftist tract?
I mean, consider the scene, early in the book, where Ebenezer Scrooge rightly refuses to contribute to a poverty relief fund. “I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing,” he declares. Oh, wait. That wasn’t Scrooge. That was Newt Gingrich – last week. What Scrooge actually says is, “Are there no prisons?” But it’s pretty much the same thing.
Anyway, instead of praising Scrooge for his principled stand against the welfare state, Charles Dickens makes him out to be some kind of bad guy. How leftist is that?
As you can see, the fundamental issues of public policy haven’t changed since Victorian times. Still, some things are different. In particular, the production of humbug – which was still a somewhat amateurish craft when Dickens wrote – has now become a systematic, even industrial, process.
Let me walk you through a case in point, one that I’ve been following lately.
If you listen to the recent speeches of Republican presidential hopefuls, you’ll find several of them talking at length about the harm done by unionized government workers, who have, they say, multiplied under the Obama administration. A recent example was an op-ed article by the outgoing Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who declared that “thanks to President Obama,” government is the only booming sector in our economy: “Since January 2008” – silly me, I thought Mr. Obama wasn’t inaugurated until 2009 – “the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs, while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.”
Horrors! Except that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government employment has fallen, not risen, since January 2008. And since January 2009, when Mr. Obama actually did take office, government employment has fallen by more than 300,000 as hard-pressed state and local governments have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters and other workers.
So how did the notion of a surge in government payrolls under Mr. Obama take hold?
It turns out that last spring there was, in fact, a bulge in government employment. And both politicians and researchers at humbug factories – I mean, conservative think tanks – quickly seized on this bulge as evidence of an exploding public sector. Over the summer, articles and speeches began to appear highlighting the rise in government employment and issuing dire warnings about what it portended for America’s future.
But anyone paying attention knew why public employment had risen – and it had nothing to do with Big Government. It was, instead, the fact that the federal government had to hire a lot of temporary workers to carry out the 2010 Census – workers who have almost all left the payroll now that the Census is done.
Is it really possible that the authors of those articles and speeches about soaring public employment didn’t know what was going on? Well, I guess we should never assume malice when ignorance remains a possibility.
There has not, however, been any visible effort to retract those erroneous claims. And this isn’t the only case of a claimed huge expansion in government that turns out to be nothing of the kind. Have you heard the one about how there’s been an explosion in the number of federal regulators? Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute looked into the numbers behind that claim, and it turns out that almost all of those additional “regulators” work for the Department of Homeland Security, protecting us against terrorists.
Still, why does it matter what some politicians and think tanks say? The answer is that there’s a well-developed right-wing media infrastructure in place to catapult the propaganda, as former President George W. Bush put it, to rapidly disseminate bogus analysis to a wide audience where it becomes part of what “everyone knows.” (There’s nothing comparable on the left, which has fallen far behind in the humbug race.)
And it’s a very effective process. When discussing the alleged huge expansion of government under Mr. Obama, I’ve repeatedly found that people just won’t believe me when I try to point out that it never happened. They assume that I’m lying, or somehow cherry-picking the data. After all, they’ve heard over and over again about that surge in government spending and employment, and they don’t realize that everything they’ve heard was a special delivery from the Humbug Express.
So in this holiday season, let’s remember the wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge. Not the bit about denying food and medical care to those who need them: America’s failure to take care of its own less-fortunate citizens is a national disgrace. But Scrooge was right about the prevalence of humbug. And we’d be much better off as a nation if more people had the courage to say “Bah!”