Skip to main content

Liberal Bias

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

-      Stephen Colbert, 2006

One of the longest running fictions regularly trotted out by conservative propagandists is that of liberal bias in the media and the classroom. Through incessant repetition, mostly by bad faith actors, this has somehow become received wisdom, despite being utter nonsense.

To be sure, both journalism and academia are rife with liberals. But is it a coincidence that these same people are also concerned citizens, that they’re educated voters whose brains get regular exercise? If conservative thought is unappealing, or even distasteful to these people, does that make them biased? What the propagandists call liberal, I’d call intellectually honest.

Of course, reporters and academics alike tend to look favorably on things like human rights, basic freedoms, and rule of law. But that doesn’t make them either biased or liberal. It just makes them American — or it used to. To say that a political viewpoint drives their conduct is disingenuous, dangerous, and very Republican. If legitimate intellectual inquiry happens to run parallel to the tenets of liberalism, and counter to those of conservatism, that’s not bias. That’s reality (Thank you, Mr. Colbert).

All the actual bias is on the other side — a bias toward corruption, toward self-dealing, toward putting as many thumbs on as many scales as possible. To hear conservatives turn it around and call it liberal is — you’ll be shocked to hear — projection on their part.

Because conservative thought is, really, an oxymoron. It is almost impossible to attribute to conservative thinkers — either journalists or academics — any idea, theory, or policy that derives from either intellectual rigor or good faith. The Republican party itself has not put forward a new idea of any kind for several decades, despite the multi-millions being regularly sunk into their so-called think tanks.

Any actual thinking done in these tanks inevitably starts with the solution: lower taxes and deregulation. It then works its way back to the problem, deftly retrofitting the hypothesis to the foregone conclusion. Anyone who doesn’t see the logic — or points out flaws in the methodology — is clearly showing liberal bias.

This has led to what Paul Krugman calls “zombie ideas,” ideas that have been thoroughly debunked, or marginalized, or otherwise ejected from the realms of respectable thought, but which live on long after their supposed deaths. They live on mostly through people with a vested interest in corrupt ideas, who will fund specious research, collect suspect data, and bend any results in the direction of their fraudulent payout.

By far the most prominent zombie idea is “supply-side economics,” which first came to our attention with Ronald Reagan. It was the brainchild of one Arthur Laffer, a quack economist still revered in conservative circles — Trump gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year, which should tell you all you need to know.

The supply-siders believe, with messianic fervor, that by lowering taxes you increase tax revenue. Got that? Lower taxes equals higher revenue.

“Voodoo economics” is what George H. W. Bush called it, but that was before he became Reagan’s running mate and ultimately embraced it. But Laffer’s theory was gleefully seized upon by the people who could most benefit from it, and who could finance the push for its adoption. What they got for their money was an elaborate pseudo-economic rationale — the “Laffer Curve” — purporting to prove, categorically, that up is down. And anyone maintaining that up is, in fact, up, is showing liberal bias.

But the theory, absurd as it is, has actually been tested in the real world, with predictably disastrous results. Reagan was elected largely to lower taxes for rich people (the first of many similarly-charged Republicans), and the Laffer Curve gave him the thin veneer of legitimacy he needed to rationalize the boondoggle.

Reagan proceeded to run up a huge, record-setting deficit — as opposed to taking in more revenue — which you might think would discredit the theory. Not so. Zombie-like, it rose from the dead to cause more misery. Specifically in Kansas.

Starting in 2012, when Sam Brownback — the now disgraced ex-governor — foisted supply-side economics on the state of Kansas, he went all in on the lower taxes. But somehow the revenue spike he was expecting never materialized. Just the opposite: the state started hemorrhaging money. So he went all in on austerity instead.

He gutted the state budget, starved the school system, crippled government services, pissed off just about everyone in the state, and drove a large segment of the electorate to vote Democratic for the first time in their lives. The current governor, a former Republican, was elected as a Democrat. In Kansas this is roughly the same as hell freezing over.

Of course, all the people who criticize supply-side economics — which includes all the world’s legitimate, intellectually honest economists — are known to be biased.

As am I. I’m biased toward curiosity, expertise, and accountability. I’m biased toward critical thinking, scientific inquiry, factual reporting, cogent analysis, and good faith agendas.

When did these things become liberal? I thought they were just common sense.

Berkley MI, 06/19/20


Popular posts from this blog

Warning: Red States may be Hazardous to your Health

In late September, a Nebraska woman was sentenced to two years in prison for helping her daughter obtain abortion pills. The case was less about abortion than about some bizarre behavior regarding the burial of the fetal remains, but this is still appalling on any number of levels. Even so, that’s not what piqued my interest. Rather, I was drawn to one curious footnote to the story, and I’ve heard nothing about it since. Apparently, the judge in the case had ordered the woman to undergo a psychological evaluation prior to sentencing. Presumably, the results might have helped to mitigate her sentence. Which sounds reasonable, perhaps even routine. But that evaluation never happened. It was, strangely, “cancelled due to lack of funding.” Huh? A person whose future may have hinged on that evaluation was denied it because the state couldn’t afford it? How underfunded are we talking? How many other people moving through the Nebraska judicial system haven’t rece

The Media Wakes Up and Smells the Fascism

  A funny thing happened on the way to the 2024 horserace. The mainstream media brought Hitler into the conversation. Trump gave them no choice. He kept amping up his rants in terms that were so explicitly Nazi, so lifted — practically verbatim — from Hitler’s speeches, that it was hard for them to keep ignoring what they’ve willfully ignored for so long. When Trump used the word ‘vermin’ in his Veteran’s Day speech , he was taking a whole chapter from the fascism playbook. Whether he knew it or not. Dehumanization — the art of equating human beings with insects — is a classic stochastic terrorism technique, beloved of dictators the world over. In Rwanda in the nineties, the Hutu tribe openly called its rival Tutsis “cockroaches” on the radio, inciting its members to exterminate them with machetes, which they did. We’ll probably never know who actually wrote the Vermin speech — Stephen Miller or Steve Bannon are likely suspects — but we can be sure it wasn’t T

Things Have Been Too Cheap for Too Long

  Once upon a time, gasoline cost roughly 35 cents a gallon. That halcyon era came to an abrupt halt during the Carter administration, when oil-rich Arab states severely constricted our petroleum supply, causing hours-long lines at the gas pump that are still fresh in the memory of anyone who was there. When the dust cleared, gas was four times more expensive, and now we count ourselves lucky if it’s only ten times that long-ago price. But we did get over it, more or less. We learned to live with it. Around that time, some pundit I can’t remember said something that has stuck with me ever since. To paraphrase, “This country was built on cheap energy and cheap labor, and we’re running out of both.” It stuck with me because it’s even truer now than it was then. This despite the best efforts of corporate interests — and their Republican flunkies in government — to do all they can to keep both energy and labor as cheap as possible. For several decades, they made