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Reality check

By Tom Toles



Categorical denial

You're either with us or against us. Does that statement make you tingle with righteousness or furrow your brow? Brow furrowing gets you immediately assigned the "against us" camp. A polarized electorate is one manifestation of this type of thinking, though war is a much better one. I spend a lot of time criticizing conservatives, and allowing myself to be considered a liberal, and I guess you could say that I'm contributing to the problem.

But my version of mushy liberalism is of the mushiest sort. To me it just means following the evidence and trying to figure out the best answers. With conservatives having veered off into ultra-dogmatic cuckooland, that leaves just about all sensible discussion at least vaguely liberal. But the fact of the matter is that despite the brain's wiring, which has a heavy bias towards categorizing, the real world defies and blurs ALL categories. See if you can think of even a single category that has no ambiguous edges. Here's my candidate: people who insist on rigid categories, and people who don't. --Tom Toles




By Tom Toles  | July 15, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Economy and jobs, Media  
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Next: Unthinking cap

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One of the bloggers reminded me that, our infrastructure debt isn't counted as part of our national debt. True that.

It is also true that the money we spend on all health care, including money spent to treat (successfully or not) preventable diseases IS considered part of GDP. So that, finding a cure for ____ would result in lower GDP.


Why is it that, we can't find money to pay unemployment compensation to people who may have worked all their lives but are now out of work due to a struggling economy, but we can so easily find money to give tax breaks to people for money they may have done nothing whatsoever to earn simply because it comes in the form of capital gains or, better yet, inheritance?

If taxing investment income discourages investment, does taxing work discourage work? And what kind of businessman, I ask, would invest money (from tax incentives or otherwise) in equipment OR labor with which to produce goods for which there is no demand?
Where the logic is in some of the proposed and ongoing tax cuts, I just don't know.

Posted by: jonroesler | July 20, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Yo Tom, look at the lines on the drawing in front of you and you’ll find the answer to your question. Sets and set theory divide the world into categories that are sometimes unique and distinct. For instance, you’re either Homo sapiens or not, born in America or Africa, employed or unemployed, in debt or free of debt....

Of course, no political category, like pro and anti abortion or big or small government has absolute distinctions. Even the belief in God is blurred by those who aren’t sure if God exists.

Because all information comes through our five senses, which are open to interpretation, a prudent person has doubts about everything.

The deeper issue isn’t whether or not we can all be lumped into categories of liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican but whether the categories matter.

Those on the Right would call me a flaming liberal but I think it’s crazy to pay unemployment to construction workers when the American Society for Civil Engineers estimates that our infrastructure deficit is 2.2 trillion dollars. But our infrastructure deficit isn’t counted as part of our national debt. If it were, think of how much easier it would be to reduce the debt, create jobs and fix our infrastructure.

Posted by: EarlyBird1 | July 16, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

With conservatives having veered off into ultra-dogmatic cuckooland, that leaves just about all sensible discussion at least vaguely liberal.

The funny thing is that by your statement above I can only assume that you are one of the people that creates rigid boundries.

However, I would agree with you that all the best ideas are liberal. Of course I have a feeling that my liberalism (that of Locke, Smith, Paine, Mill, etc.) is different from your idea of liberalism.

Posted by: BradG | July 15, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The Google Machine Says:

"A study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA),[42] in the Winter 03-04 issue of Political Science Quarterly, reported that viewers of Fox News, the Fox Broadcasting Company, and local Fox affiliates were more likely than viewers of other news networks to hold three misperceptions:[43]

67% of Fox viewers believed that the "U.S. has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al Qaeda terrorist organization" (Compared with 56% for CBS, 49% for NBC, 48% for CNN, 45% for ABC, 16% for NPR/PBS).
The belief that "The U.S. has found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq" was held by 33% of Fox viewers and only 23% of CBS viewers, 19% for ABC, 20% for NBC, 20% for CNN and 11% for NPR/PBS
35% of Fox viewers believed that "the majority of people [in the world] favor the U.S. having gone to war" with Iraq. (Compared with 28% for CBS, 27% for ABC, 24% for CNN, 20% for NBC, 5% for NPR/PBS)"

Posted by: Kevin71707 | July 15, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

duke5: Curses. I thought I had a solid answer.

Posted by: Kevin71707 | July 15, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

It's ridiculous for people to award themselves the badge of 'critical thinker' just because they are liberal (progressive, whatever). Demonstrably more ridiculous is when they accuse those they disagree with of being the farthest thing from a critical thinker; or of watching ONLY Fox News! Using the same 'critical' process, the same must then be said of people who NEVER watch Fox News!
It's as if liberals believe Fox has a kind of Svengali-like affect on its viewers or that they are subjected to some form of Vulcan mind meld and are made incapable of changing the channel or at least disagreeing with anything that's said. For this to be possible Fox's viewers must all be schizophrenic because Fox has leftist guests too. The way Fox News is reprobated by the left signals 2 things... 1) simply, fear deriving from lack of knowledge and 2) irrefutable evidence of exactly what they accuse conservatives of - - close-mindedness.
And when liberals say they are simply "following the evidence and trying to figure out the best answers" why do we keep ending up with the worst answers? So-called "best" answers that lead to more socialism, more government programs and takeover of industries, more centralized control over our lives, less free market, less choice, less privacy, less freedom. Don't believe me? Ten years from now, check out how many of today's health insurance companies are still around.
The path we are on now IS toward Socialism and the decline of the greatest country and people that has ever existed on this planet - perhaps irreversible. I pray not.

Posted by: VRWC-1 | July 15, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

the laws of physics as manifesting through global warming and peak oil.

Posted by: spigzone | July 15, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Dear MelodysMind, They nowadays interchange Liberal with Progressive. The Progressives in San Francisco are now banning soda machines on Government property and want to ban pet stores. Progressive is more apt. ProgRESSIVE=oppRESSIVE.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 15, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I actually laughed to myself when I read that because it dawned on me that is exactly what has happened, you just put it into words. People that only watch media such as Fox News are easily identifiable because their arguments are the exact rhetoric echoed from their TV sets down to the commentary and even the exact verbiage. Any reasonable discussion that tries to search out the truth or solutions is automatically labeled as the terrible "L" word. If critical thinking is what identifies a liberal, count me as one.

Posted by: MelodysMind | July 15, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Princeple is, paradoxically, quite unambiguous. You can know position but not velocity or you can know velocity but not position.

Now, whether the princeple is a category, that's ambiguous.

(Oh, there are ambiguous math concepts)

Posted by: duke5 | July 15, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

The cartoon of 'the Newt' is appropo...I always find it quite amusing to read posts that have such a wide range of Repub bullet points; the same old tripe.

For the 'insanecommentor' that the Dems are 'ruining the country.' It's amazing to witness ignorance in pure form. Thanks to Reagan and Bush for deregulating the banks and with a little help from Clinton re NAFTA (opened the gates for massive job loss), we received gifts of the S&L debacle and the Wall Street crash (ie, the Great Recession). With particular attention to the years from '94 to '06, the Repubs had a feast at the expense of the citizenry.

Sadly, there are way too many Dems who still cozy up to Wall Street who are the real 'leaders' of our country. Oh, and please pay attention to 'who' is not allowing the current extension of unemployment benefits because of increasing the deficit while they wish to extend the Bush tax cuts for those whose incomes exceed $250K and adds over 22x's to the deficit than does extending benefits which actually pays back into the economy...the real cartoons these days are your Repub friends in the Senate and Mr. 'Boner' among the Reps...sheesh...

Posted by: ralphwgardner | July 15, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

If it's not "tax cuts" or "free enterprise" conservatives have nothing to offer as solutions to any of our problems. These things can do good in many situations, but they are not a panacea. They are pretty much all we've tried doing for a long time now and look where we are.

Posted by: jhnnywalkr | July 15, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with nanotheater, because (A.) nanotheather is correct and (B.) I'm a kissass.

Posted by: Kevin71707 | July 15, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Why are you (Tom Toles) the only one on the Post editorial page who gets 'it'?

Sometimes I read the editorial page, and the only thing that keeps me from using it to wrap fish or line the bottom of the parakeet cage is that I don't eat fish or have parakeets, and I'd have to cut your cartoon out before I did.

No cartoons about Newt- he's well into self-parody that you can't match. Excuse me now, I have to scrape the George Will off my shoes.

Posted by: nanotheater | July 15, 2010 4:09 AM | Report abuse

Why do liberals play golf? Because a bad day of golf beats a bad day of ruining the country anytime.

Posted by: insanecommenter | July 14, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I made a boo boo and spelled responsibility incorrectly. So sorry. Oh, and Mr. Toles. In the cartoon isn't it the Democrats in Congress that have to be comfortable with 9.5% unemployment? Isn't it too bad that we can't afford to make everyone a public sector employee? We could wipe out unemployment.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 14, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

In the sixties the Democrats and the Left followed the evidence and created the Welfare State. Personal repsonsibility was no longer necessary. The unfortunate could get all kinds of help from the State and Federal government and all they had to do was continue to add more children to a single parent home. Finally, in the nineties, a Republican Congress convinced a Democrat President, Bill Clinton, that all the "welfare as we know it" had to come to an end. Kevin 71707 is correct. Math has no fuzzy edges. And the math has finally caught up with us. Democrats AND Republicans can no longer spend more money than we have. But when it comes to the Left, if you don't fall in line with their social agenda you are a racist, an idiot, or some other common school yard name. The Left will not debate without calling people names. It is the Left that has to color everything in a shade of gray in order to frame their argument. If something is right or wrong the Left frays the edges so that their position can have some appearance of merit. There is right and wrong in the world. There is good and evil also. So much of the time the Left cannot see that or refuses to. The bag of tricks is old and has no intellectual substance. We are seeing now that following the evidence with the Left leads to bankruptcy, no solutions, and more Government.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 14, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

First Tom said:

"With conservatives having veered off into ultra-dogmatic cuckooland, that leaves just about all sensible discussion at least vaguely liberal."

Then Tom sneers at "people who insist on rigid categories".

Tom lacks self-awareness. Tom needs to needs to evaluate his own insistence on rigid categories. Tom needs to understand that only mindless partisans are so silly as to believe that all those who dare not share their narrow minded views should be monolithically labelled as "having veered off into ultra-dogmatic cuckooland".

I guess what I am saying is that Tom is massive hypocrite.

Posted by: bobmoses | July 14, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

A Ronald Reagan quote "You call it a Recession when your neighbor loses his job. It is Depression if you lose yours."

Tom---I would rather see a naked statue of Palin. You would never be able to publish that one now would you. The greatest aspect of being a reader and commentor is I can be with you or against you and still find humor in your illustrations. It takes all types of people to make up the World. It is sometimes difficult to deal with or expose all the kooks who are of the most extreme nature. Too many have found their way into leadership roles or powerful positions here and around the World.

Posted by: JONAHandtheFISH | July 14, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Math. Math has no ambiguous edges. What'd I win?

Posted by: Kevin71707 | July 14, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Well Toles, I have to categorically agree with you on this one even though we are not "wired" the same way. I also must say...that statue looks vaguely familiar to me : )

Posted by: bertzel | July 14, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

There's them that's ambiguous and them that's not...

Posted by: thanksforfish | July 14, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

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