Mr. Ferguson’s latest piece graced the cover of Newsweek this week, and in my opinion, it could not have come at a worse time for Republicans, for a number of reasons.
First, because conservatives insist that Newsweek is part of the global “librul news media conspiracy” (which includes BBC, HuffPo, WaPo, NYT, and pretty much any source of news that isn’t Fox or the Christian News Network (an arm of the 700 Club).
But if Newsweek is part of the “Lame Stream Media,” and the LSM is blatantly liberal…how did Niall manage to get the coveted cover spot?
Is this a rare case of the Noble Conservatives getting lucky and scoring a rare victory against the monolithic media conspiracy, or is it evidence that maybe this much cherished conservative myth is…well….mythical?
And if the “Librul Media Conspiracy” is proved to be a myth, then that opens up a whole mess of problems for the conservatives, as it blows a gigantic hole into their carefully constructed world view, which outright requires a number of global conspiracies in order to make sense.
With the elections just months away, this is a bad time to have a core piece of your mythology called into question, so there’s that.
Then there’s the fact that Ferguson’s piece is “factual” but not very factual. Worse, since he’s a fairly smart guy, I’m pretty sure he knows that, and chose to write the piece that way anyhow.
Here are two examples of what I mean:
In the original piece, Niall says:
Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.
See what he did there?
“Welcome to Obama’s America” (what follows are the results of Obama’s policies…that’s why we call it “his” America…this is his contribution).
“Nearly half of the population is not represented on a taxable return” (by which, as he explains in his rebuttal piece, he means a Federal Income Tax return).
This, he connects to the number of people who receive government benefits by saying “almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.”
He’s not telling you what to think, but he’s connecting the dots in such a way that it’s obvious what door he wants you to go through, and we’re back to the “47% of Americans Pay no Taxes!” meme, which has already been debunked here.
Predictably, Left-leaning and Centrist bloggers pounced, pointing out that the po’ folks DO pay taxes, to which Niall replied, “yes, but I specifically referenced Federal Income Taxes.”
And that’s true.
It’s also true that nearly half of American’s don’t pay any Federal Income Tax, so as far as it goes, Niall is right. He’s showing you “facts.”
What he’s not doing, however, is showing you FACTS.
Yes. 47% of Americans do not pay income tax, but you can’t get from there to “We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.”
In order to get THERE, you need to look at the total tax system of the USA…not just the part that is convenient to your narrative, because “the taxes” as referenced above has to include ALL taxes, right? If it doesn’t, then it’s not “the taxes,” but only “some of the taxes,” and therein lies the problem, because when you look at the totality of the US tax system, you find that, far from being a 50-50 nation, we’re actually more like a 98-2 nation, with the tiny slice of the population that pays no taxes being exceedingly poor, hospitalized permanently, wards of the state, and the like.
The second example concerns the ACA (the Health Care Law, AKA “Obamacare”).
In this one, Niall says:
The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.
The CBO Report that Mr. Ferguson references ends by concluding that the ACA will, on the whole, reduce the deficit.
Niall retorts that his original piece specifically referenced the insurance-coverage provisions only, and (again rightly) points out that those provisions will increase the deficit.
Again…”facts” but not FACTS.
Yes…taken in isolation, those specific provisions WILL increase the deficit. And?
That does not change (in any way) the CBO’s final conclusion that overall, the law decreases the deficit, because we didn’t pass just that part of the law he wants to talk about…we passed the whole thing, and in order to talk about the impacts of the law, you’ve got to talk about the whole law…not just the part that makes your case look better, right?
So the law decreases the deficit, per the CBO report, but Niall clams that it blows the deficit up. The other thing to note here is that the CBO’s original estimate was for the years 2010-2020. The new estimate is for 2012-2022, so it’s NOT the same estimate seeing increased costs, but a ROLLING ESTIMATE, looking at a different frame of time. Not the same thing at all, and cleverly not framed that way by Mr. Ferguson.
Again, this is not some backwoods ignoramus, so I can only conclude that he knows he’s lying and doesn’t care. It makes a good story. It pleases the base. That’s the important thing.
And if that’s what you’re after, that’s fine. Knock yourself out, but at least be honest about it.
There are numerous other examples, from his insistence that the stimulus didn’t work (it did), blamed Obama for the jobs lost in 2008 (a year before the guy even got elected), and apparently holds the President accountable for his (Niall’s) bad dreams about what might happen re: foreign policy.
As I said…this is bad for Republicans on a number of levels, especially with elections coming up.
In any case, I’m not the first to point this stuff out, and I won’t be the last.
The injuns are circling, and Ferguson seems light on ammo. His rebuttals seem more like the wailing of a high school girl jilted at the prom than those of a guy interested in the truth, or even honest debate.
I’m definitely not saying that he’ll be fired, or even that he should be, but I would like to see his piece relegated to the fiction section, where it rightly belongs.