Saturday, December 1, 2012

Civility Watchdog: December 1, 2012, Edition

Below are some recent remarks and/or events highlighted for their relevance to civil, productive debate:
"The President has said he wants a so-called balanced approach to solve this crisis. But what he proposed this week was a classic bait and switch on the American people -- a tax increase double the size of what he campaigned on, billions of dollars in new stimulus spending and an unlimited, unchecked authority to borrow from the Chinese. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign. These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), December 1, 2012, during the weekly GOP address.

Comment: Hatch is claiming that Obama has no mandate to enact certain policies, because they are not the policies Obama campaigned on. Also, he is indulging in "radicalism" rhetoric. Finally, he is engaging in "bipartisan" rhetoric, apparently arguing that ideas that have been rejected on a bipartisan basis are radical and wrong.

"Unfortunately, some on the other side of the aisle are advocating a disastrous Thelma and Louise strategy that would take us over the cliff, putting millions of middle-class families, small businesses, and our already weak economy in further jeopardy. They want more and more of the American people’s tax dollars to spend without putting in place any meaningful and responsible reforms to the biggest government programs on the books. That just doesn’t make sense."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), December 1, 2012, during the weekly GOP address.

Comment: This seems like demonizing. It's not the case that Democrats don't want meaningful and responsible reforms on big government programs. Rather, they disagree with Republicans about which reforms of big government programs are meaningful and responsible.

"We should not raise these taxes, but we should enact comprehensive tax reform that will generate more revenue, create jobs, and increase our GDP by as much as 3.5 percent. We should find a solution to ensure the survival of the Medicare program. And the President should work with Republicans to bring down our country’s unsustainable debt."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), December 1, 2012, during the weekly GOP address.

Comment: Hatch is engaging in "comprehensive" rhetoric. He wants to preserve tax cuts for the middle-class (which Democrats also want) while also preserving them for wealthier families. This would involve a compromise on the part of Democrats -- a compromise that Hatch advocates -- and so he describes the proposal as "comprehensive tax reform". This sounds far more lofty than "holding these tax cuts hostage for those tax cuts" -- which, of course, is how Democrats and President Barack Obama describe the very same bargain. One man's "comprehensive deal" is another man's "hostage-taking". If you like the deal, you praise it as "comprehensive, and if you don't like the deal, you excoriate it as "hostage-taking".

"So let’s begin by doing what we all agree on. Both parties say we should keep middle-class taxes low. The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to do the same thing. And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. But it’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans."
-- President Barack Obama, December 1, 2012, during the president's weekly address.

Comment: Obama is using "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Obama could preserve tax cuts for middle-class families if he would agree to preserve the tax cuts for wealthier families, as well, as Republicans are advocating. Does this mean Obama is "holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage" because he insists that tax rates go up on wealthy families? Why should the "hostage-taking" rhetoric be applicable only to Republicans, and not to Obama and Democrats? Or, why not instead describe Republicans as supporting "comprehensive" tax reform?

"Democrats seem to have neutralized the traditional G.O.P. advantage on social issues, so that the election really was a referendum on economic policy. And what voters said, clearly, was no to tax cuts for the rich, no to benefit cuts for the middle class and the poor."
-- Columnist Paul Krugman, November 30, 2012.

Comment: Krugman is claiming that Democrats have a mandate to enact certain policies. But his argument presumes that people who voted for Democrats did so without any caveats or misgivings about their economic policies. Plus, Republicans were given control of the House of Representatives in the election, and their opposition to the economic policies of Democrats was also clearly stated. So, do they have a mandate to block Democrats? And vice versa? Or did votes instead provide a mandate for compromise? Maybe no mandate at all was given. Krugman's remarks might also be an appeal to popularity.

"Schools are fucking ruined, and schools are ruined not because they’re out of money, but because we’re flooded with Mexicans, and they’re not into studying. They don’t come from that culture, and we’re not asking them to change. That’s the thing. We have a culture that is not focused on the schoolwork. It’s a different culture. It’s, by the way, why their culture is failing, and their country, ironically, it’s why they’re here. They’re here because they ain’t into studying. And somebody needs to tell them to get into studying. The family has to get into studying. The families have to be -- the family is all you’re ever going to use, or all you’re ever going to need, when it comes to this topic. There’s just not enough money for the school system. There’s not enough principals. You’ve heard this speech a million times. Families need to take cultures. Basically what we need to is go, ‘Look, here’s our culture. Our culture values family, studying and hard work and education.’ That’s our culture. Now you’re presumably coming from a country that does not focus on that as much in your culture."
-- Comedian Adam Carolla, November 28, 2012, on a podcast for The Adam Carolla Show.

Comment: What is Carolla's evidence for these remarks about Mexicans? That they don't value schoolwork or studying, hard work or education? What proof does he have that this is true of Mexican culture as a whole? People can have any number of reasons for leaving their home country, education isn't necessarily one of them. And, while it's undoubtedly true that there are people who don't apply themselves to school and education as much as they could (or should), does it follow that the entire culture they belong to is dismissive of education? This seems like hasty generalization at best, and an awfully derisive caricature -- even racist -- at worst.

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples. Click here for previous edition.)

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