Monday, February 11, 2013

'The Ignorance Caucus'

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Paul Krugman today dubs congressional Republicans the Ignorance Caucus, particularly when it comes to health care and Eric Cantor's recent pronouncements on same.

...
...For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions.

...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. Cantor’s support for medical research is curiously limited. He’s 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 they’re 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 that’s a good idea (it isn’t), 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. Cantor’s colleagues — particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia — have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don’t like..

This same caucus is decisive in the Arkansas legislature nowadays. Sen. Jason Rapert is the leader. The fellow who says his invocation of "stars and bars" in an incendiary nativist speech to the Tea Party was only a slip of the tongue, not evidence of racial incitement, also says he'll present evidence at the proper time to show that every court opinion you've read about for the last 40 years really didn't prevent Arkansas from banning abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. Sen. Missy Irvin, stupefyingly, echoes Rapert and even expropriates the word "choice" for her support of legislation that would allow women the choice of following Irvin's religion or getting a back alley abortion. Guns? The state has a demonstrably leaky system of permitting concealed carry permits, but the Ignorance Caucus wants to eliminate the only check on errors — public records. The Ignorance Caucus believes cutting the income tax on the wealthy will spur the economy, mountains of evidence to the contrary, including the last decade of federal experience. There's lots more. But don't bother to confuse this group with the facts.

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