Contrary to the implication of the title of the game (to which I would like to see a sequel, hint hint Ensemble Studios… oh wait, Ensemble Studios doesn’t exist anymore), the age of mythology isn’t in the distant past. Mythology just takes a different form these days. Republican mythology is a particular brand of mythology in which socialists are a genuine threat rather than a largely ignored smattering of academics, and Newt Gingrich is a towering intellectual giant rather than a complete dumbass.
So I’m starting a new series called Right-Wing Mythology, in which I debunk a particular tenet of right-wing belief in the US. (Speaking of serieseses, I’ll probably do more Emphases on Twit here and there, but I don’t pay nearly as much attention to Twitter as I did back when I was unemployed, so, y’know.) Now, the focus here will be very specific: I won’t challenge every single untrue thing some wingnut commentator says. And I won’t address patently obvious things like “Obama is a Muslim,” because a) duh, he’s not, and b) even if he were it would influence my opinion of Obama to a slightly lesser degree than his preferred brand of soap.
No, the focus will be on “facts” that pretty much every conservative takes for granted, things that seem like common sense to them, if only because they’ve been living in the Fox News bubble for too long. Things like “the government is inefficient at everything ever” (to be addressed in a future entry) or “the Chinese are about to plunge their hands into our chests a la Temple of Doom and pull out all the money we owe them” (already addressed that, try to keep up). Other future topics will include Social Security, taxation, and maybe Ayn Rand or something, who knows.
Today, to start off, I’ll address two myths. The second one’s on the house. As is the first one.
Right-Wing Myth #1: Obama has massively expanded the federal government
How do you measure the size of the federal government? For simplicity’s sake let’s go with the two most obvious: federal budget and number of federal employees.
Conservatives do love to talk about Obama’s alleged fiscal irresponsibility. And indeed, the federal budget increased by about $452 billion between 2008 and 2011. That proves it! Well, not really.
Suppose a year ago it cost you $20 to fill up the gas tank of your car. Now it costs you $35 to fill up the gas tank of that same car. Is that because you expanded your gas tank? Of course not. It’s because the cost of gas increased.
Similarly, one of the biggest drivers of the budget increase since 2007—before Obama took office, one should note—has been the increasing cost of existing government programs, most significantly welfare and other need-based programs. And the reason those costs are rising is because more people need welfare. You may recall that we’re in a recession. How you feel about whether or not they deserve that welfare is irrelevant; despite Gingrich’s bloviations, Obama didn’t initiate or even grow those programs. They simply serve more people now, because more people live in poverty. Let’s look at the breakdown:
But whoa thar! you might say. Why is the “Other” category so enormous in 2009? Well, because of the stimulus, of course. But not so fast—it’s not Obama’s stimulus, it’s Bush’s. It’s the TARP program initiated under President Bush in 2008. It gets factored into the 2009 budget because the 2008 budget was passed back in 2007. You know how it is. In fact, the entire 2009 budget was passed back in 2008, when Bush was President, and as you can see, the budget did not suddenly balloon as soon as Obama signed his first budget for 2010. That’s all that really needs to be said about that.
But what about federal employees? Well, let’s look at dat chart too.
I guess you could say so, but Obama isn’t presiding over a government any larger than the one Reagan and H.W. Bush did. Incidentally, the vast majority of the increase in employees went to two departments: Health and Human Services (thus implying that the hirings there are the result of the same increase in welfare needs brought on by the recession and not by any deliberate action on Obama’s part), and Homeland Security. Say, that reminds me, who was the last president to add an entire executive department to the federal government? (Hint: it wasn’t Obama.)
Right-Wing Myth #2: The US government oppressively over-regulates business and stifles competitiveness on the global market
This is an easy one. The conservative trope, as you probably know, is that business regulation in the US is just redonkulous, and it’s totally punishing our valiant Galts, and that’s totally why they can’t hire more people, and also it makes America less competitive and it’s probably also why we, unlike Iran, have gays in our country.
Let me introduce you to something called the Ease of Doing Business Index, measured by the World Bank. This index ranks the countries of the world (except the ones where you can’t really do business, so North Korea’s out) in order of how “business-friendly” their regulations are. The US is fourth. Fourth most business-friendly. In the world. Only Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand outrank us.
Those countries that are supposedly welcoming business with open arms, thereby just forcing US corporations to fire a bunch of Americans and hire a bunch of outsourced workers? Well, China is 91st in the world. India is 132nd.
Yeah, the US is ridiculously lax on business. Businesses get away with a lot, in case you haven’t noticed, such as bringing the economy to the brink of collapse and then facing absolutely no consequences for it.