While doing some reading on yesterday's topic, and more specifically the Greatest Story Never Told economy since 2001, I came across a slightly old but positively stunning example of a common logical fallacy – begging the question, a.k.a. circular logic. This is simply any argument in which the conclusion is also a premise or precondition of the same.

It has long been an open secret (to anyone who cares to pay attention) that the overwhelming majority of the costs of Bush's economic policies have simply been shifted into the future. In some cases they have been so cynical as to pay for tax cuts and portions of the prescription drug benefit program with line items in the 2009 budget. It's fairly clear, as Leon Panetta states in this article from 2005, that whoever follows Bush into the White House is A) going to have zero ability to implement any sort of domestic agenda, B) going to spend 99% of his/her term dealing with the mess they inherited and C) probably going to be a one-termer. Why? See A and B.

What I find so amazing about that article is a quote from Lindsey Graham which I assume barely registered with most readers. If not for James Inhofe, Graham would be the undisputed reigning Biggest Idiot in the Senate (a feat akin to being the dumbest journalism major at Arizona State). We all expect him to say ridiculous things by the dozen. But this takes it to a whole 'nother level (you may need to read the whole article to get the context):

With a fix to the AMT, deficits in a decade would likely reach $650 billion to $700 billion, said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). "The days of being everything to everybody are quickly coming to a close," he said, adding that a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts would make it politically impossible to borrow the full cost of a Social Security fix. "We have to look at the deficit in a holistic way."

Wait, what? Social Security must be privatized because we can't keep funding it on the fly….and we can't do that because….George W. Bush has bankrupted the country with half-assed right wing economic policy….such as privatizing Social Security. If you're confused, let me break it down for you.

  • 1. Eight years of neocon fiscal policies and mass privatization have bankrupted the government.
  • 2. Neocon fiscal policies and mass privatization are necessary because the days of government being able to afford things like Social Security are over.

    So let's do an analogy using Graham's "logic." You're in good health. You go to a doctor who insists that you are sick, or about to become sick, and need to start taking massive doses of prescription drugs. You protest, "But I'm fine!" Finally he wears you down and you agree to take the 20 pills per day that he prescribes for you. You become deathly ill. As you stagger back into his office he says "See? I told you that you'd get sick. The only cure is to double the dose. Of everything."

    You've really got to hand it to the supply-siders and Cato Institute types. They kept complaining about how we couldn't afford to have government solve our problems. After 12 years of right-wingers in Congress and the White House, they're right. That's really clever. Telling people that we can't afford the New Deal didn't make much sense until they bankrupted the nation and proved themselves "right."


    • Good post, Ed. The same logic also applies to the global warming issue, on which Mr. Inhofe has been the number one denialist.

    • My favorite part about begging the question is how it is always misused in speech.

      "We see x, which begs the question y." != "We see x, which leads us to wonder y."

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