Nate Bell Hitler quote update

When I first posted about the Hitler quote on Nate Bell’s facebook, I remarked that “So far, this story isn’t media related (although it will be interesting if and how the media report on it – especially the fact that the quote is a fabrication)”. That turned out to be right on the mark. If the issue has been reported at all, it was mostly assumed that the quote is authentic (Arkansas Online, Arkansas News, Tolbert Report). John Brummett refers to a “supposed Hitler quote” but doesn’t clarify the fact that it is a fabrication.

Does it matter, when a politician puts a quote said to be from Hitler on facebook, whether it is authentic or not? Recall that this quote was specifically fabricated for the very purpose that Bell used it: to insinuate an affinity between liberals and Nazis. A Rabbi Daniel Lapin invented the quote in a fictional letter in 2004:

I [the fictional Hitler] said that as long as we explain how the government is working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. It is truly heartwarming to see how well this lesson has been learned by some Americans. In the name of “the children,” incursions into the private lives of American citizens have been made that we Nazis would have gazed at with open-mouthed admiration.

To be sure, even if the quote somehow were authentic (and Hitler may have said all sorts of things), it would be outrageous to use it in the way Bell (and Lapin) used it. How genuinely deranged does a person have to be to liken traffic restrictions to Nazi death camps?

But the fact it’s a fabrication matters for two reasons:

1. Right-wingers fabricate Hitler quotes in order to use them as propaganda tools, and
2. Nate Bell would believe anything he reads on the internet.

One would think that any journalist, when reporting or commenting on such a matter, would invest a few seconds in a google search to find out about the quote in question. One would be wrong.

ADG again ridiculing Reagan deficit spending

Arkansas Democrat Gazette editors are really picking on poor old Reagan. Today, their editorial opens with a quote attributed to physicist Richard Feynman:

“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”

The quote can be found on numerous internet sites but none of them seem to give a precise source. Wikipedia classifies the quote as unsourced and doesn’t allow it to be attributed without authentication. Assuming it is authentic, however, it can be deduced what Feynman was actually referring to: namely, you guessed it, Reagan deficit spending. Reagan was the first and only president during Feynman’s lifetime (1918-1988) to exceed the 100 billion dollar national deficit mark, and the first and only to exceed the trillion dollar debt mark. Not that you’d know it from reading Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorials.
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Little Rock TV station KARK invents a “clash” at peaceful protest

Blue Arkansas draws attention to a case of what they call media sensationalism. The Little Rock TV station KARK said in a report of a protest rally against Republican policies which took place on July 22, at the occasion of a Republican meeting on a river boat:

That [debt crisis] debate floated down the Arkansas River where liberals turned out to demonstrate at a republican leadership summit on the Arkansas Queen. Things almost got ugly on the banks of the river when a brief clash broke out between demonstrators and North Little Rock police.

The rally in Riverside Park started peaceably enough. Protesters carried signs that said things like “Hands off Social Security” and “We are not expendable.”

The KARK video clip, as well as the clips posted at Blue Arkansas, does not show any evidence of a “clash” with police or of things getting “ugly”, unless citizens exerting their First Amendment rights by peacefully assembling, holding signs and chanting slogans are considered “ugly” by the KARK reporter. There is a brief scene of a policeman talking to a protester but no “clash” whatsoever. What seems to have happened was that the North Little Rock police tried to impose a so-called “free speech” zone on protesters. That very expression is of course Orwellian since it really signifies the curtailing of free speech. Apparently the police wanted to protect Republican politicians from hearing what their constituents had to say to them. A participant, Samuel Kauffman, has called the police action “outrageous and undemocratic”:

It goes against the very nature of our Republic, and it violates the purpose of police and government. The entire group should have been allowed to assemble peacefully anywhere in the public park, as the Constitution encourages.

He further notes that “After asking for an officer’s badge number, the police and Bureau stopped their unconstitutional harassment.”

I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the event but the video evidence provided by KARK itself clearly contradicts its narrative of a “clash” and “things getting ugly”. Instead of reporting the facts, the TV station made something up that didn’t happen. It did indeed engage in sensationalist reporting, as Blue Arkansas alleges, but even more troubling is a tendency to defer to authority and malign citizens for exerting political rights. Whatever happened to the ideal of journalism speaking truth to power and giving ordinary citizens a voice?

KARK should publicly apologize for its misconduct and give those protesters an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

Republican Nate Bell adorns facebook page with fabricated Hitler quote

Max Brantley at Arkansas Blog discovered an interesting story. Republican State Representative Nate Bell has put the following quote allegedly from Hitler’s Mein Kampf on his facebook page:

As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.– Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler

In response to the post, Bell has defended his choice of quotable statesmen in the following remarks on his facebook page:

“Comparing Dems to Nazis is wayyyy to easy. Let’s start with banning cell phone use while parked in a school zone. After all, it’s for the children. How about banning soccer goals in the entire state? Banning texting while walking? Banning private ownership of monkeys? The state determining how long my hamburger MUST be cooked? Banning wearing headphones while jogging? These were all Democrat bills introduced this session. Dems use children to pass bad legislation regularly.”

And:

“Apparantly there are some on the left who can’t see the irony in the fact that their side agrees with Hitler. I feel sorry for those who are so blinded to reality that they somehow see posting this as supportive of Nazism.”

Okay, lets get this logic straight.

1. Hitler allegedly said that pretending to care about children was a good propaganda strategy.
2. Therefore, anybody who claims to care about children must be a veiled Nazi, or at least belongs to the side that “agrees with Hitler”.
3. Food safety regulations, traffic laws and the like are the road to Nazism because they might prevent children from dying, which is exactly what Hitler was all about.

One wonders whether in Bell’s opinion, that also means that the Arkansas Family Council, which has tried to ban gay adoption in order to “protect the welfare of children”, “agrees with Hitler”.

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Arkansas Democrat Gazette editors make fun of Ronald Reagan

Today’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette editorial is a lighthearted satire on Reagan deficit spending. It opens with the following quote from Saint Reagan himself:

“Governments don’t reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people; governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth.”

Excellent joke – I never thought Paul Greenberg had a sense of humor. Reagan of course never balanced a budget, on the contrary he was responsible for record deficits as high as 6% of GDP, almost tripling the national debt. Neither did he control spending – he presided over a 69% increase in federal spending, much of which went to the military. He raised taxes on the people no fewer than 10 times during his tenure, including a massive tax hike in 1982 in the middle of a recession. No question, Reagan knew what he was talking about. He’s exactly the right person to ask for advice about balancing the federal budget precisely because he never managed to balance his budget, just as in our little Arkansas media world, ADG columnist Bradley Gitz is the right person to lecture Obama on economics precisely because he declared bankruptcy a few years ago. Yes, bankrupt deficit spenders are the fiscal experts of the hour. We need to hear more of their advice!

Oh wait, What are you saying?
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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette playing politics on front page

ADG opened today with the following front page headline:

Still no give in debt impasse
As deadline nears, 2 sides remain dug in

This followed a very similar headline just two days ago:

Neither side blinks in debt showdown

This is nonsense. There is one (1) side that is dug in, and that’s the Republicans. They have declared that they won’t vote for any raise in revenues (fn1) no matter what. As ADG reported on Tuesday:

“House Speaker John Boehner stood firm in opposition to higher taxes. (…) Said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: “We are not going to raise taxes. That’s all. (fn2)
Obama called on Republican leaders to show flexibility, saying he has “bent over backwards” to accommodate them in deficit talks. “I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done, and I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing if they mean what they say”, Obama said.

Obama has already offered wide-ranging budget concessions, including Social Security and Medicare cuts. The ADG storyline of “2 sides” unwilling to compromise is simply inconsistent with the facts.

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ADG’s Bradley Gitz reinvents US economic history

Sunday’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette featured a column by Bradley R. Gitz titled “Obama’s economics” . The article is really an exercise in “how many mistakes can you make in so many paragraphs”. The column contains so many demonstrable factual errors, even this cynic is mildly surprised by the ADG’s lack of editorial oversight. How many times can the ADG opinion editors afford to be caught red-handedly lying without causing embarrassment?

Gitz is a regular ADG columnist whose right-wing extremist views are well known. I won’t waste time examining these views. I continue to believe that the Gitzes of the world are entitled to their opinions but not to making up their own facts. We’ll consider his factual statements only. How many mistakes can you catch in just the following paragraph?

“As Milton Wolf notes in a perceptive column for the Washington Times, when Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in 1981 the nation was experiencing an especially severe recession featuring double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment. Reagan’s response was to implement a recovery program consisting of tax, spending and regulatory cuts coupled with a strong dollar monetary policy. Recovery came quickly enough for him to win 49 states in 1984, by which time the country had also embarked upon what would become two decades of virtually uninterrupted economic growth and wealth creation.
Barack Obama came to office facing comparably difficult economic circumstances.”

Here are the main factual inaccuracies in that single paragraph (scroll down for charts on unemployment, debt and deficits):

1. In 1980/81, as Reagan took over the presidency from Jimmy Carter, the nation did not experience a severe recession and unemployment was not in the double digits.

2. In fact, a severe recession started after Reagan had taken office. “The early 1980s recession was a severe recession in the United States which began in July 1981 and ended in November 1982. The primary cause of the recession was a contractionary monetary policy established by the Federal Reserve System to control high inflation” (in other words, what caused the recession was precisely the strong dollar monetary policy that Gitz praises.) (wikipedia)

3. Unemployment had been 6% in 1978 and 1979 and was below 8% in 1980 (Carter presidency). It shot up to almost 10% during the early Reagan years (1982 and 1983), which is higher than it has been at the height of the current crisis. It started declining in 1984.

4. The “two decades of virtually uninterrupted economic growth and wealth creation” were in fact interrupted by the 1981/82 recession (Reagan), the 1990/91 recession (George H. W. Bush), and the 2001 recession (George W. Bush), to be followed by the Great Recession that started in 2007 (again under George W. Bush’s presidency). Only the Clinton-years from 1993 to 2000 were recession-free.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman weighs in with a chart showing GDP long term growth rates. Reaganite growth rates were anything but miraculous. See also Richard S. Grossman debunking similar claims made in the Wall Street Journal.

5. Reagan did not cut federal spending, at least not in the aggregate. The federal budget continued increasing under his watch, mainly due to massive increases in the military budget. In total, Reagan presided over a 69% spending increase. Federal spending as a share of GDP reached an unprecedented 23.5% in 1983.

6. Reagan did enact tax cuts but also tax increases. He started with a major tax cut in 1981 (The Economic Recovery Tax Act) but this was followed by a series of no less than ten (10) tax hikes, beginning in 1982 (during the recession) with the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which collectively took half of the 1981 tax cut back (source).

7. Reagan never managed to balance the budget. His tax cuts and military spending were deficit financed. All of Reagan’s deficits were higher than all of Carter’s and all but one of Clinton’s. On average, Reagan’s deficits were 4.3% of GDP, compared to Carter’s 2.4% and Clinton’s 0.1%. The federal deficit reached an unprecedented 6% of GDP in 1983. In the words of Dick Cheney, Reagan “proved deficits don’t matter”.

8. In consequence, the federal debt almost tripled under Reagan’s watch, from about $1 trillion to $2.85 trillion (not adjusted for inflation).

9. Obama came to office inheriting from his predecessor the worst recession since the 1930s, triggered by a global financial crisis worse than anything seen in 80 years. Recall that the recession officially lasted from late 2007 to mid 2009, while Obama took office in January 2009. Reagan did not face a recession at all, let alone a crisis comparable to the Great Recession, when he took office in 1981. In fact, the main difficulty he faced was high inflation, which he brought under control at the price of a recession. Obama, in contrast, faced deflation. Does Gitz even know the difference?

In other words, you can’t possibly go wrong when you rely on Professor Bradley R. Gitz (PhD University of Illinois, “William Jefferson Clinton Professor of International Politics” at Lyon College), as long as you take the exact opposite of his claims to be true. Let’s point out the obvious. If any of us regular folks who actually work for a living, instead of being employed by a right-wing propaganda machine, managed to make so many mistakes in so short a time, we would be fired in an instant. Is there any kind of accountability at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette? Nope. None at all.

Update: Gitz’s Bankruptcy filing


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Charts

Unemployment Rates (for monthly rates, check the BLS)
The chart indicates Republican vs. Democratic presidencies by red/blue shading. Try looking for “double digit unemployment” during the Carter years (1977-1980). You’ll actually find it in 1982/83.

US Unemployment Rates

Federal Receipts, Outlays, and Deficits
Try looking for Reagan’s “spending cuts” – the orange line goes steadily up. Recessions are indicated by shading. Notice that only the Clinton years were uninterrupted by any recessions.

Federal Receipts, Outlays, and Deficits

UPDATE: Federal Spending as % of GDP
Due to military spending, the federal government was bigger under Reagan than under both Carter and Clinton. More precisely, the average of federal spending as share of GDP was 22.3% for Reagan compared to 21.2% for Carter, 21.9% for Bush I, and 19.4% for Clinton.

US Federal Spending

Gross Federal Debt
How did Reagan (as well as both Bushes) pay for tax cuts? Easy – by raising the national debt.

US Federal Debt by President