Mr. Milbank in this posting criticizing the Tea Party engages in the White House’s two favorite argument styles: straw men and false choices. ‘Puter takes no position on whether Mr. Milbank is actually a White House media plant, but it seems a reasonable supposition based on the fact that the Washington Post’s entire commentariat (save George Will) seems to have swallowed the President’s messianic act hook, line and sinker.
See how ‘Puter did that? He ascribed views to Mr. Milbank, and motive as well, based on his suppositions, while presenting the argument as fact. Man, making stuff up and passing it off as news is easy.
Now that ‘Puter’s done with the meritless ad hominems, let’s actually engage Mr. Milbank on the substance of his charges.
Mr. Milbank writes regarding NOAA’s success in getting the track, if not the intensity, of Hurricane Irene mostly correct:
Such successes might provide an antidote to the souring of the public’s confidence in government. By coincidence, a Gallup poll released Monday showed that only 17 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a new low.
More likely, however, Americans won’t have long to savor this new competence in government. NOAA has already been hit with budget cuts that will diminish its ability to track storms, and FEMA, like much of the federal government, will lose about a third of its funding over the next decade if Tea Party Republicans have their way.
Ah. So according to Mr. Milbank, people who believe in limited government are in favor of shutting down every single government agency, including the ones (1) with an important purpose and (2) functioning efficiently. Bullshit. One can clearly be in favor of smaller, limited, efficient government without taking the position that all government agencies must, of necessity, be closed. This is what logicians call a “false choice” and White House Press Secretary Carney calls “Gospel truth.”
It is further consistent, logical and reasonable to determine whether important agencies can operate more efficiently. Heck, even the White House agrees with this position, based on its incessant “waste, fraud and abuse” eliminationist rhetoric.
Mr. Milbank continues is his miscomprehension, or lies if you prefer, regarding the Tea Party saying:
Tea Partyers who denounce Big Government seem to have an abstract notion that government spending means welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies. Almost certainly they aren’t thinking about hurricane tracking and pre-positioning of FEMA supplies. But if they succeed in paring the government, some of these Tea Partyers (particularly those on the coasts or on the tornadic planes) may be surprised to discover that they have turned a Hurricane Irene government back into a Katrina government.
That’s one model. The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good. You might call that the Tea Party model.
Again, ‘Puter calls bullshit on Mr. Milbank’s characterization. Certainly you can find a few far out wackos at any event advocating shutting down government altogether, return to the gold standard and Birther/Truther nonsense (hey, nice to see you Rep. Ron Paul (R-Crazytown)). But these positions are not representative, and Mr. Milbank knows or should know that.
As to Mr. Milbank’s characterization that big, bloated entitlement bureaucracies leading to an inevitable cratering of our federal government, well, it simply seems true to ‘Puter. Unfortunately for Mr. Milbank, it also seems apparent to those wild-eyed crazies at the Congressional Budget Office who repeatedly warn that entitlement spending will bankrupt our nation in short order.
Heck, ‘Puter’s betting that a good 75% of self-identified Tea Partiers could live with current discretionary spending levels if entitlement programs were reformed. Note well, Mr. Milbank, ‘Puter did not say canceled. He said reform. As in, “Hey, Medicare and social security are functionally insolvent, but they’re really important. Let’s fix them on a going-forward basis.”
Finally, ‘Puter notes that not once in Mr. Milbank’s ill-considered hit piece did he cite any member of the Tea Party as calling for shutting down NOAA, the centerpiece of his pro-unrestrained big government piece.
There’s enough conflicting data and argument to sort through without this type of article. Misrepresenting another’s position accomplishes nothing. It does not move the issue closer to resolution. In fact, such misrepresentations usually harden positions and make compromise less likely.
Unfortunately, misrepresentation and logical fallacy seems to be the White House’s current preferred method of dealing with inconvenient truths. It is a shame to see a Washington Post columnist adopting this dishonest method as well.