Paul Krugman: Republican Party 'Believes In Suppressing The Facts'
Posted in the Minneapolis Forum
Saint Paul, MN
#1 Feb 11, 2013
Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speechs majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.
To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didnt succeed and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, thats not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach critical thinking skills, because, it said, such efforts have the purpose of challenging the students fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
And such is the influence of what we might call the ignorance caucus that even when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because its surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society were trying to change.
Want other examples of the ignorance caucus at work? Start with health care, an area in which Mr. Cantor tried not to sound anti-intellectual; he lavished praise on medical research just before attacking federal support for social science.(By the way, how much money are we talking about? Well, the entire National Science Foundation budget for social and economic sciences amounts to a whopping 0.01 percent of the budget deficit.)
But Mr. Cantors support for medical research is curiously limited. Hes all for developing new treatments, but he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed comparative effectiveness research, which seeks to determine how well such treatments work.
What they fear, of course, is that the people running Medicare and other government programs might use the results of such research to determine what theyre willing to pay for. Instead, they want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and let individuals make decisions about treatment. But even if you think thats a good idea (it isnt), how are individuals supposed to make good medical choices if we ensure that they have no idea what health benefits, if any, to expect from their choices?
Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantors colleagues particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they dont like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words sea-level rise.
And there are many other examples, like the way House Republicans tried to suppress a Congressional Research Service report casting doubt on claims about the magical growth effects of tax cuts for the wealthy.
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