Narrative as Denialism

Today’s reading is yet another example of how narratives — stories that simplify the world and make it more understandable, even if they’re completely fictional — dominate so many people’s beliefs, especially in politics, that they amount to a denial of reality. (This isn’t about that anthology that tries to correct myths of American history; this is about what’s happening right now.)

NY Times, Paul Krugman, 9 Jan 2023: Election Deniers Are Also Economy Deniers

The people who will be running the House of Representatives for the next two years — a group that does not, as far as anyone can tell, include Kevin McCarthy, who seems set to be speaker in name only — believe a number of untrue things.

Many, perhaps most, believe that the 2020 election was stolen, or at least that Joe Biden is somehow not the legitimate president.

Many believe that Covid vaccines do more harm than good, a belief that has contributed to thousands of excess deaths among Republican partisans.

Quite a few either subscribe to or are at least friendly to beliefs of the QAnon cult, which claims that the world is run by a vast conspiracy of pedophiles.

And just about all of them, again as far as I can tell, believe that the U.S. economy is in terrible shape, with the federal government at great risk of going bankrupt.

You’ve probably read a lot about the political delusions of Republican extremists — and these days a vast majority of Republicans in the House are either extremists or opportunists willing to go along with whatever the extremists want. It’s important, however, to realize that G.O.P. economic views are almost as divorced from reality as their political fantasies are.

Let’s talk first about the current state of the U.S. economy.

As Krugman goes on to explain, the US is not in a recession, inflation [including the price of gas] is coming down, and we’ve (effectively) regained full employment. He concludes thusly (note the “old line” about what the federal government is):

Still, Republicans are determined to see economic and fiscal disaster, and as always when Democrats hold the White House, they’re insisting that we must take drastic action to balance the budget.

That is, after we deal with their first priority: depriving the Internal Revenue Service of the resources it needs to go after wealthy tax cheats.

Anyway, as usual the G.O.P. is insisting that the budget can and must be balanced entirely by cutting spending. And as usual this insistence runs up against the reality that spending cuts that big would be politically impossible. In fact, they’d probably be politically impossible even if Republicans managed to destroy democracy completely, which some of them seem to want.

For the federal government is, as an old line puts it, basically an insurance company with an army. Other than military spending — only a small fraction of which, even now, goes to defending democracy in Ukraine — federal dollars mainly go to retirement and health care programs on which scores of millions of Americans, including many Republicans, depend.

So the new House majority is living in a fantasy world, insisting on a completely unworkable solution to a largely imaginary crisis. Unfortunately, as we learned on Jan. 6, 2021, political fantasies can have dire real-world consequences.


Short items

Here’s an expansion on one point in Krugman’s piece.

OnlySky, Adam Lee, 9 Jan 2023: Did anti-vaxxer deaths from COVID swing elections?

A plausible case can be made.


And about another Republican priority.

Insider, Bryan Metzger, 9 Jan 2023 (via): House Republicans voted to gut the House Ethics Committee, and George Santos said it was ‘fantastic’

Ha ha.

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