Educational Dysfunction in Congress?

Having served some time in the halls of academe, I have always been loath to criticize the American education system, but it does seem that educational dysfunction has now spread to the halls of Congress. On her show last night, Rachel Maddow pointed out that Senator Rand Paul does not seem to understand the definition of plagiarism. ( Maybe Paul was just trying to (rather ineptly) talk his way out of the fact that two of his speeches were lifted, verbatim, from wikipedia segments. Or, maybe he just really doesn’t know what plagiarism is.

Last December I sent a copy of the Congressional Research Service study to our Congressman, Duncan Hunter. I was responding to an e-mail from him. I wrote:

“Your comment that increasing the top marginal tax rate ‘would harm the very job creators we need to get Americans back to work…’ simply ignores the empirical evidence presented in this study. The data indicate that neither the top marginal tax rates, nor capital gains tax rates have any significant effect on private saving and investment, labor productivity, or real per capita GDP growth rate. Raising the top marginal rate will not affect job growth!”

I shared my opinion of voodoo economics and went on to say:

“Keynesian economics does work–as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman points out time and again! The share of the top 0.1% of income has grown from 4.2% to 9.2%, while middle income earners have lost ground in the last ten years, according to the Census Bureau. The disparity between the haves and have-nots in the USA has grown to the levels of 1928.

Way back in the 19th Century, people realized that it was cheaper to build schools than jails.” (Yes, once I develop a good sentence, I tend to use a lot.) “The government put forth such socialistic programs such as the Homestead Act. It is not un-American to “redistribute” wealth. The rich did not develop their wealth in a vacuum. They benefited from the infrastructure that the government provided–as President Obama so correctly stated “They didn’t build that.” By “that” he meant the infrastructure and services. Much of that infrastructure was built in the 1950’s and 60’s, funded by tax revenues from much higher top marginal rates. The ‘Greatest Generation’ did their duty. It’s time for a new generation of rich to pay their fair share.”
He did respond very politely, and even said that I “make some good points.” He then countered my argument with a survey that was made by the National Association of Wholesalers and Distributors. A survey, not a study. I wrote back:

The information you have supplied is from a survey of manufacturers who say they have postponed hiring or reduced their workforce, etc. Sound very impressive–but is it true? Did these employers postpone hiring because of the threat of higher taxes–or because of the uncertainty of what the Congress will or will not do? The greatest hit on the economy during the Obama Administration was the slow-down after the Republican lead Congress (very irresponsibly I believe) threatened not to raise the debt ceiling. I am a little dubious of what this survey–which sounds like a push survey that provides the survey takers with the result they desire… I am more impressed by the actual statistics that are provided in the Congressional Research Service Report. I believe that manufacturers will respond to market demand for their goods, not the income tax rates of their executives. It is the uncertainty of what the government will do that leads to their hesitation.

Here is a link to more evidence that tax cuts for the wealthy do not create job growth: There are references to several academic studies within the link.”

I did not receive a reply to my latter letter. Perhaps Hunter was countering my argument based on actual data with that of a survey, because that was the best argument he could muster. Or, maybe he doesn’t understand that there is a difference between actual data about what businesses do in a given situation, and what business owners say they do or would do.

Perhaps our current crop of Congressmen did not get as good an education as my generation. Could that explain why so many who call themselves fiscal conservatives, including Hunter, voted against ending the government shutdown and raising the debt limit? The shutdown has cost the economy over $20 billion, and even the threat of not raising the debt limit has had untold damage. Perhaps they really don’t understand what constitutes empirical evidence, the needed support for all scientific theses. I suppose I should not be surprised by this, as many of these Tea Party Congressmen doubt the theory of evolution, for which there is more evidence than there is for atoms or molecules.


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