Nutty Republican Logic Explained

In a recent post I used the term “nutty Republican logic” in regard to issues such as benefit programs and taxes. I didn’t really explain why this logic is “nutty,” however. So let me do so here, beginning with an allusion to a logical conclusion once reached by Aristotle.

The great Greek philosopher believed men had more teeth than women, and believed this for a very logical seeming reason — men generally have bigger jaws. Bigger jaws, more teeth. What could seem more logical? Except, of course, that had he bothered to go the empirical route and actually count teeth (something he doubtless considered beneath his dignity), he would have found that men and women have the same number.

Such pure logic, devoid of actual observation, resembles how present-day Republican political logicians approach many issues. One example of their approach can be seen in the food stamp issue I noted in my previous post.

These worthies begin with the perfectly logical (and correct) idea that there’s fraud and waste in a food stamp program that is currently tapped by one in seven Americans and an even larger percentage of the country’s children. This idea is certainly correct because any very large program, whether administered by a government or a private entity, has some waste and fraud.

Republican logicians then express a determination to eliminate this waste and fraud because of this country’s present fiscal difficulties. The reality of these fiscal difficulties is also not debatable. So far so good.

Next, however, they take another step that might seem valid in strictly logical terms, but is utterly silly in real world terms. This is the assumption that if we simply reduce food stamp funding by a reasonable estimate of fraud and waste in the program (5 percent, 10 percent, 20 percent, pick any number for this example), nutritional needs of the hungry will still be met while only the waste and fraud in the program would be eliminated.

Here, however, is what would really happen to the food stamp program in the real world were Republican logic applied. Part of that reduced funding would lead to staff lay offs, which would make finding and eliminating waste and fraud less likely. Even worse, because wasters and fraudsters are generally far more experienced and adept at gaming a system than ordinary program recipients are just using it, they would quickly sleaze new ways to game it no matter what steps are taken, while the real needy, the real hungry, the kids who only eat well once a day in school and eat macaroni and cheese for supper the last week of every month, take a hard nutritional hit.

This same kind of nutty logic is being employed again and again today by Republicans. They note a real problem, cite fiscal necessity, then come up with a solution that fits a logical model with no real world resonance.

And the solution they come up with is always the same — cut funding. Do this, they blandly assert, and market forces, innovation, or some other mechanism will automatically kick in and: Provide the same needed nutrition for the deserving for less; force the long-term unemployed to quickly find new jobs when their extended benefits run out; have undiminished educational standards after spending on education is slashed and teacher morale is trashed; and on and on.

Like some theologians whose proofs of God begin with the taken-for-granted fact that God exists, and only facts that lead to this conclusion are acceptable, Republican nutty logic users begin with the taken-for-granted fact that less spending on anything is good, and proceed to cite facts (or just plain made up suppositions) that lead naturally to this conclusion.

That nuttiness in some form has always been rampant within this country’s political circles is a well established fact. In many past situations it has even been entertaining and harmless. The fact that the present-day variant of such nuttiness actually is setting the national agenda is scary as hell.

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