On a recent broadcast of the Anderson Cooper 360, Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, was asked just exactly where Republicans planned on cutting the budget. She answered, “I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Imperial Palace Hotel.”
Anderson decided to check on the figures, since the story picked up steam and was then reiterated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. After all, if it was disseminated on his show, he wanted to be sure it was accurate. Of course, it was wildly off base. The cost of the trip was very much in line with what was spent on trips by his predecessors, President Bush and President Clinton. And it was nowhere near $200 million a day.
In the last presidential election, during the vice-presidential debate, Sarah Palin declared that Joe Biden had voted against funding the troops in Iraq. He did, indeed, vote against a bill that funded the troops, which also had a provision deleted that put a timetable on the troops staying there. However, he voted for an almost identical bill that included that provision. So while I suppose an argument could be made that it wasn’t completely a lie, it was certainly less than the truth. And her assertion that the Obama health care proposal had “death panels” was also false; she had heard that from another source and started using it herself, but the proposed bill actually contained no such provision.
In our own state (surprise, surprise), lies have been propigated for many candidates’ uses. In the recent election for the governorship, Democratic ads claimed the Republican challenger, Chris Christie, was going to end mammograms for women. In actuality, he stated he favored the option of the availability of cheaper, more limited health plans, as a way to lower the cost of insurance.
And the ‘90s, Jim Florio, in his campaign for governor, stated he “saw no reason why taxes would have to be raised.” It wasn’t long after he took office that we had the biggest tax increase in the history of the New Jersey, including raising the sales tax to seven percent. Either he had a plan for that all along, or he was such an incompetent analyst of the state of our finances that he didn’t deserve to be governor in the first place.
Now, I’m not referring here to the lies that politicians tell when they get themselves into trouble. Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook,” and Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” come to mind. Nor do I refer to broken campaign promises, such as George Bush (the father) famously saying “Read my lips, no new taxes,” or Lyndon Johnson’s infamous, “We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home,” prior to the buildup of the Vietnam war.
I’m referring to the complete and utter lies the politicians tell, for their own political gain. Are we really supposed to believe they don’t know the truth? Are they being fed misinformation by their aides? Or are they oblivious to the fact that they are lying?
There are other types of lies that are even more harmful. Perhaps the worst of the “lies,” while not stated outright, is the state of our annual deficits. The practice of including the social security surplus is relatively recent, and because there was a surplus, it made the budget deficit look smaller than it actually was. Since the social security trust fund, which was originally conceived as a separate fund, brought in more than it sent out, the surplus was used to say the general fund deficit was less. Deceptive, to say the least.
In the same vein, much of the war funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been through “emergency supplemental appropriations,” and therefore also not counted as part of the deficit. Obviously less than an honest accounting to the taxpayers by our politicians.
For a democracy like ours to work, we need to know the truth. We are supposed to have politicians who have opposing viewpoints, but the debate is on which viewpoint is shared by most of the people, or which viewpoint will lead to a better future for your country. Instead, it seems to be about who can lie about their opponent better, and convince people that the other candidate, or in more general terms, the “other party” is doing things that are unconscionable. And if there isn’t anything obvious, they just make them up.
We need to find some leaders who are willing to stand up and tell us the truth. Sometimes it will hurt, and sometimes it will be hard to listen to, but that’s what leaders are supposed to do. Where are the honest, honorable men and women who want what’s best for the country, and willing to tell us what we need to hear to make a good decision about our future and our county’s future? How about a little truth?