I have a friend who is a delightful person and highly intelligent. That being said, she constantly bombards Facebook with far left wing links. I often look at these. As I have said before, if you can’t argue the other side of an issue, you don’t know enough to argue your own opinion. Frequently I see the bad assumptions I talk so much about permeating these articles. The other day I saw one such article that stood out by the audacity of its title:
The Simple Truth: President Obama is Too Intelligent for Republicans to Understand.
I highly suggest you click on this link for a moment and read this article. I also suggest you revisit my previous blog post:
Top Ten Bad Assumptions: 1 – If we disagree, you are either mean or stupid.
I would now like to analyze this article. The author, Allen Clifton, provides three examples which “prove” how much smarter Obama is than the Republicans. I would like to take a close look at each of these examples. I would then like to talk a little about how intelligent Obama really is.
Obamacare is Clifton’s first example of the “big picture thinking” that Republicans are too stupid to grasp because “Republicans seem unable to understand anything beyond the spoon-fed bumper sticker talking points they’re given by the GOP and the conservative media.” Clifton states that in the long term medical rates will go down because increased preventative care will cause a reduction in more expensive treatment down the road. Let’s assume that Clifton’s premise is true that increasing preventative care is a force that will drive down healthcare costs. The “big picture” piece that Clifton is missing is that there are many, many forces at work in the market. Some of the forces push costs down and some push costs up. For example, Obamacare reimburses doctors at a significantly reduced rates compared to private insurance. As a result, many doctors are refusing to accept patients with Obamacare. At the same time, Obamacare enrollment is increasing. With supply going down and demand going up, this inevitably is a force to either push costs up, or if costs may not go up because of regulations, it will cause a shortage in medical care. Here is an article from USA Today titled “Some doctors wary of taking insurance exchange patients” explaining the situation.
I am not expert enough to say whether the forces pushing costs up or those pushing costs down will prevail. This certainly is a subject for reasonable debate. Clifton, however, looks at one small piece of the overall “big picture” and makes a definitive statement while ignoring the rest of the picture. At the same time he derides Republicans for being too stupid to look at the big picture. Ironic, isn’t it?
The Minimum Wage
Clifton’s second example of Republican stupidity is the minimum wage. He notes that Republicans call it a job killer and refute this with this powerful argument: “It’s not.” I’d like to refer here to Dr. Thomas Sowell about the minimum wage:
Minimum Wage Exploitation (if you prefer audio)
Dr. Sowell is basically stating that a minimum wage job is the bottom rung on a career ladder. A person with no skills works for a low wage. In the process, the person gains skills that allow him or her to earn a higher wage. A company will only hire a worker, at minimum wage or any other wage, if the company expects that the value received from the person exceeds what it costs to employ that person. As the cost rises, fewer people will be hired. This is basic economics. When we raise the minimum wage, we are cutting off the bottom rung of the ladder. As a result, some people will never, ever climb that ladder.
This does not mean we should not raise the minimum wage. In any policy, there are winners and losers. There are trade-offs. If we raise the minimum wage, the clear winners are people who now have a job at the new higher wage. It is very easy to see that they are better off, and they know it. There are losers too, but they aren’t so clear and the losers may never know they are losers. The primary losers are people who never get hired who would have gotten hired if the minimum wage had not risen. If the employers have to raise prices to pay for the higher wages, the consumers who pay the higher prices are also losers. The companies who have to pay hire wages without getting more for their wages are also losers, although I am sure that this would be unimportant to Clifton.
Clifton also claims that the workers will make more money, spend the money, and this will help the economy making everybody a winner. This would be true if the higher salary was due to increased productivity, to the worker earning more because the worker is worth more. When productivity increases, the pie gets bigger. If, however, this is just an arbitrary raise without any productivity increases, the pie isn’t getting better. It is just being cut differently. This means that every extra dollar that the higher minimum wage worker spends, somebody else is spending a dollar less. There is no spending boost in the economy.
The key point here isn’t to say that the minimum wage shouldn’t be raised. The key point is to say that it is complicated, that there are trade-offs that should be weighed. Clifton is denying the complexities of the issue and proposing a simple answer. Remember that Clifton’s whole point was to say how stupid the Republicans were and how Republicans didn’t understand the issue.
Clifton states, “When it comes to ISIS,Republicans just want to send in troops and ‘crush the terrorists’.” Note that Clifton put “crush the terrorists” in quotes. I am not sure who he is quoting. I have not heard a single reputable Republican advocating sending American ground troops to fight ISIS. Clifton is raising a straw man argument. He is saying his opponents are for a position and then ridiculing the position, when his opponents don’t have that position. Clifton states:
When it comes right down to it, I really do believe a huge part about why so many of the non-racist Republicans are against President Obama is because many of them are simply unable to grasp his “big picture” thinking that drives a lot of his policies. That requires intelligence and far too many conservative would rather just be told what to think by Fox News. They want their policies to be so simplified and catchy that they fit on bumper stickers.
He is clearly stating that Obama has a “big picture” policy, that Obama’s understanding is so much better than the Republicans’. Is he referring to the same Obama who over a year ago scoffed at ISIS as a threat calling it the “JV team.” Here is a link to a Politifact article which shows Obama’s statement and stating that his later denial of referring specifically to ISIS is false. Obama also removed all troops from Iraq, overriding his top advisors who wanted him to leave behind a residual force. This Time article “Leon Panetta: How the White House Misplayed Iraqi Troop Talks” references former Obama CIA leader and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on this subject. On the way to taking over major Iraqi cities, such as Mosul, ISIS had to cross a wide open desert which would have made them sitting ducks to an air attack if we had kept a residual force.
Why therefore should anyone believe that Obama has this “big picture” view of ISIS that the Republicans are just too dumb to understand?
Obama: The Super Genius
In addition to saying that all Republicans are idiots, Clifton is stating that Obama is such a genius that his detractors, idiots such as Dr. Thomas Sowell, can’t keep up with his intellect. I ask where is the evidence that Obama is such a genius? I am not saying Obama is stupid. After all, he graduated from Harvard Law School. What about Obama though should make us think he is that much more intelligent than his opponents? Obama still has not authorized the release of his grades in college. Does anybody really think that if his grades were exemplary, he wouldn’t release them?
I will tell you what shocked me more than anything else when it comes to realizing Obama’s understanding of policy. In 2011, in an interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, Obama blamed unemployment on advances in technology:
There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.
By Obama’s logic, we never should have invented the plow. For example, lets say we have an agrarian society where it takes everyone’s efforts to grow enough food to feed the society. Then somebody invents the plow. Now only half of the people are needed to do the farming. We can say that the plow made half of the society unemployed. Now, however, the labor that has been freed from farming can do other things. People can be blacksmiths, shoemakers, merchants and artists. Overall, the society is wealthier than it was before.
The concept here is that technology increases productivity. Productivity is the total value of goods and services produced divided by the costs of providing these goods and services. Productivity from labor can be thought of as the total value of goods and services produced per working hour. A person’s productivity represents the most somebody is willing to pay that person. When we increase productivity, we can pay the person more. New technology may cause some people to lose jobs in the short-term. The proverbial buggy whip employees were put out of work by the invention of the automobile, but overall society was better off.
This is something that they teach in Economics 101. It is simple, basic economics. When Obama blamed unemployment on ATM machines and other technology, he showed he did not understand the basic facts about economics. This is the man who is in charge of the economic policy of the United States. This is the super genius whose knowledge leaves everybody else in the dust.
I don’t think so.
Bad Assumption 1 Revisited – If we disagree you are either mean or stupid.
I don’t know Allen Clifton. I think he is probably a fairly intelligent person. Like my friend who posted this article on Facebook, he is also probably a nice person. I think he is also totally blinded by bad assumption 1. By demeaning his opponents, by saying they are all stupid, this means he doesn’t need to seriously look at their arguments. This also means, he doesn’t need to examine his own arguments, his own views. As I have said previously, just about every issue has two sides. If you can’t argue the other side assuming that your opponent is a well-meaning, intelligent person, that means you don’t really understand the issue. I think we are all much better off if we can jettison this bad assumption.