Up is down and down is up: The new political vocabulary

Up is down and down is up: The new political vocabulary
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In Wonderland, Alice was heard to say: “I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards.”

Wow, America is in Wonderland. Half the country sees the other half as upside down. Heading into the midterms, there’s little middle ground, largely because of the polarizing President TrumpDonald John TrumpWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs Wake up America, your country doesn't value your life MORE, with his legal drama adding fuel to the fire.

Take income inequality. The rich appear to be getting a lot richer. And so the new socialism of the Democrats says it’s “obvious” that we should tax the rich and companies more, and give the money to everyone else. Except that moderate Democrats going back to Jack Kennedy have pointed out that investment would dry up, capital would leave the country, companies would become less competitive, and everyone would be poorer. So, tax the rich and hurt the poor. The irony is that when you lower tax rates, especially on companies and the rich, tax revenues go up and that leaves much more “fairness” to spread around. Tax revenues are up nearly 10 percent this year. Trump an instrument of fairness? Down is up.


Take the poor and disadvantaged minorities. Since the 1960s, America has spent literally trillions of dollars in welfare payments and special programs for housing, food and education for the poor. And, as Shelby Steele points out in his seminal book on modern American politics, “White Guilt,” the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) was right all along: the welfare programs have utterly failed. They have embedded a culture of dependency among the poor and created an industry of Democratic “leaders” calling for even more welfare funding.

And, as Steele points out, those advocating even more welfare spending are wrong, patronizing and somewhat racist. Again, that Trump guy is creating jobs and lowering African-American unemployment, reducing food stamp rolls, and that might create real hope and change in American cities. Huh? I thought they called him racist. Down is up!

How about global warming? The many disastrous predictions of global warming have not come true. Rising earth surface temperature, warmer Southeast and Midwest, Greenland icecap disappearance and sea water rise, more hurricanes; data suggest the forecasts were wrong. Forest fires? The experts tell us the principal causes are more homes closer to forests and less thinning of forests because of — wait for it — “wilderness preservation.” The inconvenient irony is that extreme global warming “solutions” may distract from the implementation of real policies that most voters want: clean air, clean water, less serious industrial poison.

By claiming extreme problems and demanding extreme changes that distort economics, raise the price of energy by five to 10 times, raise the price of transportation, and ultimately food, the net result of climate change-extremism may well be to make food sufficiently expensive to spur global starvation. So “deniers” may really be saving the Asian and Central African poor from starving. What? Down really is up!

Medicare for all, pushed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on MORE (I-Vt.). Why not? Health care is a “right,” right? Everyone should have free access to health care. Except, the National Health Insurance Experiment in the mid-1970s, examining the impact of the public single-payer model and cost-sharing across the country, correctly predicted that the lack of effective market mechanisms to control costs would bankrupt Medicare (we’re very close) by now, and that a full, national, single-payer system would bankrupt the country. Medicare already is rationed — many doctors won't accept Medicare patients — and it will get worse as the feds reduce payments to doctors to control costs and there are fewer doctors. In short, Medicare for all will mean Medicare for none. Up is down.

The journalist and satirist H.L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple  and wrong.” Most politicians, TV pundits and voters may never have heard of Shelby Steele or H.L. Mencken, and so, really believe that up is down. We get daily newspaper commentary, cable TV news, political debate and social media commentary that screams “up is up” ... when it actually may be down. We’re left with a world in which what is so obviously right — for example, new socialism and environmentalism — often is wrong. And what is so obviously wrong — such as Trump — often may be right.

In Lewis Carroll’s classic “Through the Looking-Glass,” Humpty Dumpty tells Alice: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” Hmm, I think that I just saw that person on TV, or running for office, or across the dinner table.

Grady Means is a retired corporate strategy consultant. He was a special assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller for domestic policy in the Ford White House, and the White House liaison to RAND on the National Health Insurance Experiment. He was an economist and policy analyst in the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1971-73, where he worked on restructuring welfare programs and helped write the HMO Act of 1973.