We can’t discourse

While driving around last night to pick up some New Year’s Eve supplies, I heard a snippet of a Hannity radio show that reminded me of our advanced society’s weakness in handling discourse.

It went something like this:

Hannity: Your guy has spent a lot of money.

Lady Caller: Well, he inherited all that spending from Bush.

Hannity: Bush added $4 trillion to debt in 8 years. Obama added $6 trillion in 4 years. That wasn’t all inherited from Bush.

Lady Caller: Well, I’m a small business owner. I know you have to spend money to make money. [Inconsistency]

Hannity: Well, he’s going to keep spending it for the next 10 years.

Lady Caller: You don’t know if that’s true. He hasn’t yet. Well, if the Republicans get in power, we won’t have any workers rights. [Red herring]

Hannity: Workers’ rights?  etc.

I don’t listen to a lot of talk radio, but I would expect better discourse control from Hannity. He’s been at this for years. For this lady, you don’t even have to make any of your own points. Just steer her back into her own fallacies and watch her crash and burn on her own words.

He should have stopped the conversation at her inconsistency, exposed her ludicrous ‘spend money to make money’ reasoning and not even addressed her red herring of workers rights until she adequately explained the previous two problems in her dialogue.

The conversation should have gone a little like this:

Hannity: Your guy has spent a lot of money.

Lady Caller: Well, he inherited all that spending from Bush.

Hannity: Bush added $4 trillion to debt in 8 years. Obama added $6 trillion in 4 years. That wasn’t all inherited from Bush.

Lady Caller: Well, I’m a small business owner. I know you have to spend money to make money.

Fantasy Hannity: Stop. First, you blamed Obama’s spending on Bush. Then you supported Obama’s spending by saying you have to spend money to make money. Is spending money good or bad?

Fantasy Lady Caller: Well,I didn’t like how Bush spent it. Obama has been spending it to get the economy going.

Fantasy Hannity: Okay.You think Obama is a better investor than Bush. That’s rational. It may not be true, and so far does not seem to have proven out since it’s not apparent whether the big increases in government spending has helped or hurt, but it’s rational.

Now, you said you have to spend money to make money. In your business, is there any restriction on how much money you spend? How long would you stay in business if you planned to spend 30% more money than you brought in for the foreseeable future.

Red Herring Alert

Last week, I heard a local liberal radio talk show host repeat, with gusto, the claim that President Obama has the lowest spending growth since Eisenhower.

Several places have addressed this claim. Here’s one and another. They raise some good points.

But I think spending growth is a red herring. The issue is actual government spending, not spending growth.

As Arthur Laffer and Steve Moore pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, President Obama took over after the grandest public spending binges of all times, one that was supposed to be temporary.

Claiming that locking that temporary spending binge into the budget going forward is a sign of conservative fiscal management is spin.

Consider a CEO who gives himself a $300 million bonus and draws the ire of the Occupy Wall Street types. He gets fired and the next CEO gives himself a $301 million bonus and tells Occupy friends not to worry because the growth in his salary is the lowest in recent history. I don’t think many people would fall for that.

City Hall, Hall, Hall, Hall

Here are paraphrased excerpts of a conversation between a local radio talk show host and a member of the local Occupy… movement.

Radio host:  I’ve seen the Occupy movement identify problems, but I haven’t seen solutions.  What solutions do you guys propose?

Occupier:  Well, it’s still early in the movement.  That’s next.  I can tell you we are working passionately on solutions.  There are a couple of good ideas that have percolated up already. 

One, we should amend the Constitution to only have campaign speech from real people.  That means that corporations and foreign entities should not be able to control this.

Another one, the Fed should help everybody, not just the big banks.  We need to give assistance to small businesses too.

Regarding the first solution, I would recommend that these folks closely study what happened after the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform.  This well-meaning legislation just pushed dollars from campaigns into organizations like MoveOn.org and Swift Boat veterans.  In other words, it didn’t really limit anything.

Regarding number two, eesh.  How tough is it to learn this lesson?  They don’t want to change the processes that lead to the corrupt distribution of taxpayer dollars.  They want to control it.  For the good of all of us!  To lead us to a new land!

Great example of a healthy discussion

One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage health exchanges between folks with opposing viewpoints.  I heard a great example of such a healthy exchange recently.

If you have 18 minutes to spare, click here and listen to the podcast of a radio talk show host go toe-to-toe with Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill (look in the podcast window on the right of the page in the August 11 podcasts).

Host Greg Knapp does a good job at doing something that is hard to do — hold a politician accountable for not giving a straight answer.  Other journalists should study this podcast.  They should also know their stuff.  Knapp seems to and is able to come back and not get bulldozed by the lofty and voluminous words of a career politician from the highest level.

The conversation covers the debt ceiling increase, the fact that Democrats hadn’t passed a budget for quite some time, health care, calling tax breaks ‘subsidies’ (something McCaskill is famous for) and whether McCaskill takes the corporate jet tax break that Obama wants to get rid of.  It would have been funny if Knapp would have asked if she considers that a subsidy from other taxpayers (I think he might have under his breath).

I’ll also give credit to McCaskill for going into hostile territory and sticking it out against a worthy opponent.  I’ll be surprised if she comes on his show again.  I doubt she has ever had her platitudes challenged so well before.

Such healthy exchanges are rare in this country.  At all levels, we seem to avoid confronting those with opposing viewpoints.