Misinformation could ruin America.
It afflicts us almost daily, could threaten our future and we have already seen some of the worst of it, we are told. Progressives say we should more strenuously limit free speech, appoint a national reality czar, establish a truth commission, blacklist the guilty and get Fox News off the air. And look, we just had another misinformation tragedy — what congressional Democrats put in a $1.9 trillion bill without a single GOP vote.
Fox News does not seem responsible, but misinformation was so overwhelming that this single most expensive piece of legislation in U.S. history was inaccurately called a COVID-19 relief bill. Fact check: Just nine percent of its funds have anything to do with COVID-19 health measures. Maybe someone told the Democrats that this identification made Republican opponents look uncaring while Democrats profit.
Oh, come off it, you say, but I’ve got an imagined reality czar sitting next to me, and he says that the business about political benefits is realistic but that a huge portion of this thing is a sham. He said the amount of money was a terrific debt threat, especially coming on top of some $4 trillion in past virus bills, but that he wanted to focus first on sending $170 billion to public schools refusing to open for full-time person-to-person teaching.
The lives and futures of literally millions of children, mostly poor ones, have already been severely damaged by this exclusion from classroom learning and friends, he said, even though the students would be safe from virus infection. He said $50 billion of unspent federal money is already available and that he agreed with those who say the fresh dollars should instead be sent to parents to hire tutors or to send their children to private schools, which many of the rich already do. With proper safety measures, he added, teachers are not at high risk.
Next? "Well," the czar said, "there’s the matter of buying votes by sending out $1,400 checks adding up to $400 billion to individuals and couples even with fairly high rates of income to stimulate an economy that, thanks largely to reopening bars and restaurants, was already stimulated to the tune of 379,000 new jobs in February. The last time checks like this were sent out they were largely put into savings, stimulating nothing."
"Meanwhile," he went on, "many of the poor and middle-income folks are getting all kinds of prizes, some of which may have made sense if considered separately with debate. One problem is that many will now make more from this new welfare state than they would with a job, and what the economy needs are workers. "
"Understand, too," he told me, "that states and cities will get some $350 billion even though something like 21 states actually did better in 2020 than in 2019 and not a few had rainy day funds that have already rescued them. Just a handful of states are in trouble, such as tourist states and those that were ill-managed, such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York."
"And the economy?" I asked.
"Even before this bill, our national debt owed to the public rose to 100% of GDP, the highest since World War II," he said. "Even though the interest rate is low, it could rise and the growing size of the debt alone could do us in as we try to pay interest off each year. President Biden is talking about higher corporate taxes, which would mean fewer jobs, lower wages, higher prices. Inflation, abetted by all the printed money, could say hello."
The source of the misinformation, he said, is the conspiracy theory that socialism works along with the usual suspects, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. What’s most frightening, he added, is that the misinformation about the bill has won support from 75% of the country. He said his information was a consequence of free speech and a free press we need more of, not less.
Jay Ambrose wrote this piece for Tribune News Service.
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