Sunday, May 28, 2006

Will and Poor Testament

Much like his predecessor as America's most incisive public conservative thinker -- a term loosely used -- George Will emulates William F. Buckley in that he is routinely thumped for his variegated crimes against logic by people who actually think. Lately Will has been at times cogent and at others not so, and while I did enjoyed his slapping of John McCain for what is sure to be some flagrant hypocrisy on the subject of campaign finance, Will's most recent effort, advocating for open, free "market-based" campaign financing, employed a fallacious argument that could not be allowed to pass without comment.

Will argues that a large majority of the American public have expressed opposition to public campaign financing because only a small percentage of taxpayers check off the contribution box on tax returns. While drawing such a conclusion from that statistic might seem dubious to you or I, it is axiomatic to George Will. The argument not only employs an enormous logical leap, it is, at its utmost, entirely specious. Will employs here the classic argumentative tactic of conflating correlation with causation.
Even though the checkoff does not increase the individual's tax bill, support peaked in 1981, when 28.7 percent of taxpayers used it. So even then it was opposed by more than 70 percent of taxpayers. In 1994 Congress responded by increasing the checkoff's value to $3. This empowered fewer people to divert more money from the government's pool of revenue collected from all taxpayers. All this to fuel a program opposed by the vast majority of taxpayers, a program that subsidizes political advocacy that most taxpayers do not endorse.
As readers can see from this, Will's crime against logic is far worse than simply arriving at an unsupported conclusion. He arrives at an unsupported conclusion based on an unsupported premise, which is assumed to be fact: not checking the box on a tax return means you, as a taxpayer, oppose public financing. It might surprise many taxpayers to learn of their surprisingly strong opposition to public campaign financing as it was probably hitherto unknown to them until George Will finally pointed it out.

In fact, Will, as he often does, fails to account for any external factors that are, in all likelihood, far more influential in this matter than opposition to public financing of presidential campaigns, such as simple apathy or downright disdain for the political process. With Congressional approval dipping to new, low levels, it would appear to be a far more reasonable conclusion that most people simply won't contribute money to a political system they largely regard as populated by a lying, thieving bunch of as-yet-unarrested criminals. That the American political class is viewed this way by a nearly equally large majority of Americans Will thinks "oppose" public campaign financing, is due in no small part to the fact that political campaigns in this country are extremely beholden to big money influence. While Americans view Congress as corrupt and choose not to contribute to the political campaign circus, Will interprets this as "opposition" to public funding and, as corollary, support for privately financed campaigns. I doubt one could come up with a more wrong-headed conclusion regarding the current political climate.

To illustrate the absurdity of Will's causistic reasoning, we could very easily draw the conclusion that, because most elections (until the 2004 presidential one) see a majority of Americans choosing not to vote, the majority of the citizens of this country oppose democracy. Is that really what Americans are saying by not voting? It is if you draw conclusions the way George Will does -- with a big, fat, giant, red crayon. There has been much written about why Americans are so thoroughly apathetic about their own democratic processes, much of it centering on disenchantment with the political process and the corruption that has been introduced by the now enormous money flows.

The larger issue of the tawdriness of the American campaign spectacle is left untouched by Will, for it hardly serves his purpose to acknowledge the shameful state of monied politics today. While most other democracies have hard and strict limits on the length of election campaigns, in the US, the campaigning never stops. So much time is now spent by national candidates humping for money at fund raising events -- and doing so on the tax payer nickel -- nothing of much serious thought is ever conducted within the halls of Congress or the White House.

By this I do not mean that serious things do not arise, but that they generally do so because so little attention is paid by elected officials, who are now pressured by increasing demands for time on the fund-raising and campaign trail. You need only look at the current state of things to see that that is a truism. Iraq, torture and NSA spying are due in no small part to the fact that elected officials were cursory and brief in their treatment and oversight. We have astounding debts and trade imbalances because elected officials failed in fiscal oversight of the Treasury and catered to corporate interests at the same time they were off attending their own fiscal conditions.

Indeed, most of the activity we see Congress engaged in these days is simply reactive; what does the latest poll show? what did the White House just do? what, in god's name, did the NY Times just print? And these reactive strikes are carried out from only one perspective: election or re-election prospects. You need only watch Bill Frist tell Americans that now -- right now -- gay marriage and flag burning are the country's two biggest concerns, when what they really are is the latest, desperate move by a Senate Majority leader, worried about poor poll numbers and a looming election, pandering to an ever-diminishing GOP "base."

The political class in this country is now entirely invested in one thing and one thing alone: ensuring their next electoral victory. This has never not been true but today money -- not policies or ideas -- is the dominant factor in elections. And what conservatives like Will, who think that politics, and therefore government, ought to function as a "free market," continously fail to acknowledge is that, in a free market, the goods will always go to the highest bidder.


Blogger The Alan Abbott said...

I know this isn't realy a coment, but I think you will find it interesting... Please read...

is it really possible to have a peoples party at this point in time? A party who's candidate was chosen, and supported by the American people?
Yes... it really is possible. And high time if you ask me.
When I was in school they told me I could be anything I wanted. Even the president of the United States. But they never taught me how. Oh sure, we had a class president and all that, (and I seem to remember something about a cartoon bill that kept getting vetoed or something), but somehow I just don't think it's the same thing. But I have asked dozens of people (smart ones too) if they new how to go about being president if they chose to. None of them had the slightest clue. Not that I would ever want to be the president. I can't even ballance my own check book, (or remember if that cartoon bill ever got passed or not) let alone trying to balance the budget for a nation. However, I have met quite a few people along my journeys that I thought had all the attributes I would like to see in a president. Strong, responsible, honorable people, always seeming to naturally look out for the needs of others, less fortunate, and weaker than themselves, while at the same time accomplishing great feats of productivity, (including balancing their check books).
Ive met them in all walks of life. All shapes, sizes, sexes, and colors. Proud Americans, all of them. According to our constitution they have the right to run for president. The only question is... how? Well check it out...

A Letter to Michael Moore...

Hey Mike,
I hope all is going good with the new project. I can't express to you how much I appreciate your work. You both inspire me and give me hope that someday we the People will find our voice again and take our country back. On that note, I have a great Idea I’d like to share with you. This is an idea I’ve spent serious time thinking about. I’d like to humbly ask for your help. The idea needs shepherding from someone of your caliber. So here it is…

“The People’s Party”
A reality television game show
by Alan Abbott

Contestants will compete for a chance to run for President of the United States for the People’s Party.

Possible contestants, chosen from the general public, are asked (via television & radio) to send in a video tape or DVD, 3 minutes or less explaining why they or the person they are nominating should be considered as a presidential candidate.

The show will be run Documentary/American Idol style. The cameras follow each contestant on their quest. Throughout the campaign contestants and their entourage travel together, eat together, stay at the same hotels, and share the same campaign headquarters in the convention rooms at the hotels where they stay.

The American public will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice by telephone and the contestants with the lowest number of votes steps down each week.

The winner of the show wins the candidacy for the Peoples Party, and actually runs for president of the United States of America.

That is the basic idea. I see it as an entertaining way to empower the people to establish their own party, educate the public about what it takes to run for president. Most importantly, it will give the people a chance to take their country back.

I have been developing the show for over a year and have a lot more material. I didn’t want to bombard you with it all right now. I have made several trips to and from L.A. (from Maui) trying to contact you through “more appropriate means” than e-mail, but to no avail. So here we are.

This is actually the second e-mail I have sent you, but I fear the first may have gotten lost in the crowd, as I know you try to respond to all your e-mails. So just to give you a heads up, I am going to ask a few friends to give me a hand in getting your attention. After all, election time is around the corner, and I’d like you to be given the first opportunity to give the country back to the people. Hope you don’t mind. Please feel free to e-mail me or call me at; 808-264-0984. Thank you for your time.


We The People
Really can make this happen. More impossible dreams have come true. But we have to work together. Together... the American people can do anything.
I am asking all of you to please copy this entire post and send it to then send it to everyone you know.
Michael Moore is my first choice, but I know he is not everybody's cup of tea. If you have someone in mind you like better for the task of producing, directing, and/or hosting The Peoples Party? Copy and send this entire post to them, and tell them so.
But please keep in mind that the show, and everything written here is copywritten so please don't try to pass it off as your own, you'll just get yourself in a lot of trouble. Do however feel free to share with as many people as you want. In fact please do. Post it everywhere!
I sent this letter to Michael Moore on May 19th, 2006 but Mikes a busy guy. He probably hasn't even checked his email yet. He is currently shooting another feature documentary, and I'm sure the shooting schedule is very labor intensive. Not ot mention the amount of e-mails the guy must get every day. Then when he does finaly get a chance to read them, I'm sure he has a priority list of some kind. Either way, he has not returned this e-mail yet.
But Michael is not the only person that is important to reach. If we are going to make a difference we have to work together, and spread the word to everyone.

Thank you all very much.
Sincerely, Alan
Power To The People

8:35 AM  

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