Zombie lies

I think I first heard the term “zombie lies” from Duncan Black. That link goes to top hit for “atrios zombie lies”, not necessarily the first instance of him saying it, by the way, and I’m not saying that he invented the term. But he uses it often, and it always seems to refer to the same idea: a zombie lie is an argument or idea that has been thoroughly debunked and refuted, time and time again, and yet still seems to have people in the public sphere promoting and defending it.

Like the zombies of fiction and fantasy, you can’t put them down. No matter how many bullets you put in them, no matter how many times you stab one, they just will not die.

And the zombie lies seem to revolve, politically anyway, around conservative policies and themes. Like the whole “Social Security is going bankrupt!” zombie lie. You hear this a lot. You heard it from President #43 right after he was elected in 2004. You hear it even today, while we are in the middle of an economic disaster caused by tax cuts and deregulation. But the fact of the matter is that Social Security as currently structured will pay out full benefits until the year 2041. Y’know, somehow I think we have some time to deal with the “problem” of a fully-funded safety net for retirees and the disabled for the next 32 years. Maybe we could be focusing on the more immediate problems right now?

Another zombie lie is related to, and in argument against, the just-passed mostly-spending bill in Congress, and can be summed up in the phrase “government should be run like a business!” This zombie lie includes the idea that “we’re broke – we shouldn’t borrow any more!” It’s a bit more insidious because individual Americans can certainly understand their own household economics: when income decreases, spending should likewise decrease. You don’t borrow money when you’re broke. The reason this is a zombie lie, though, when applied to governments and larger economies is that only the government is large enough to absorb the costs of infusing new capital, in the form of spending, into an economy in an effort to reverse an economic depression. If no individual is spending any money because of a depression, it takes the government to step in and make things happen.

How do we know that this is true? Because FDR’s New Deal spending is what got America out of our Great Depression. In fact, when FDR gave in to some “fiscal conservatives” in Congress and cut taxes and decreased spending, in 1937, you can plainly see that those cuts reversed the gains from the previous spending. It may seem counter-intuitive to those of us who are clipping coupons and cutting back personally, but if we want to get out of this economic nightmare, we should be cheering the spending portions of the stimulus bill that just passed, and should be booing the Republicans who forced a bunch of tax cuts into it.

Just look at how great President #43’s tax cuts were at sustaining and building on President Clinton’s budget surpluses. Oh, wait. #43 turned a $127 billion dollar surplus into a $455 billion dollar deficit.

We need more spending; and because #43 left us in a hole with his tax cuts for the rich and his wars of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan that costs us billions, and the free money give-away to banks and financial institutions (which I will admit, President Obama supported at the time and is continuing), our situation is far more dire than it should have been. But that doesn’t take away the proven fact that building infrastructure and putting more capital and money into the economy is the answer, in a nutshell.

Luckily, that’s what President Obama is proposing. Sadly, the Republicans seem to want to obstruct that spending and, in some cases, Republican state governors are considering refusing the money. That’s about as willfully destructive and ignorant as they could possibly be.

Y’know, just like zombies.