A lot of people will occasionally believe something that “just ain’t so.” Fortunately most will let go of an erroneous belief when presented with proof that their belief is incorrect, but that is often not the case if the person is a conservative. Conservatives are notorious for clinging to, and repeating, myths and falsehoods long after they have been debunked. Although an exhaustive list of myths that conservatives cling to would be longer than space permits here, below are ten things that many conservatives believe that “just ain’t so.”
1. President Obama is spending the United States into the poor house.
On June 12, 2012, Godfather of “supply side” economics Arthur Laffer and libertarian flunky Stephen Moore wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal that disingenuously claimed that President Obama continued the Bush administration’s record of spending when he took office. Laffer and Moore blamed the Democratic congress that took office in January 2007 for spending levels during the last two years of the Bush administration, and made the following claim:
After taking office in 2009, with spending and debt already at record high levels and the deficit headed to $1 trillion, President Obama proceeded to pass his own $830 billion stimulus, auto bailouts, mortgage relief plans, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms and the $1.7 trillion ObamaCare entitlement.
CNNMoney.com explains how the auto bailout helped the economy and prevented an even bigger cost to the treasury: the loss of tax revenue from General Motors and Chrysler if those companies had failed, as well as the loss of thousands of jobs, which would have added to costs for unemployment insurance and would have deprived the government of the taxes paid by the laid off workers.
Laffer’s and Moore’s article appeared to be a response to a WSJ Market Watch story from May of that year by Rex Nutting, where he explained in some detail how spending growth has actually been lower under Obama than under all of his predecessors dating back to Ronald Reagan. Who was right? Politifact.com rated Nutting’s claim as “mostly true.”
2. Obamacare changed federal policy on abortion and permits federal funding for abortions on demand.
The site LifeNews.com claimed that Obamacare “bypasses the Hyde Amendment,” which forbids federal money being used for most abortion services. Section 1303 (a) of the Affordable Care Act states explicitly that health plans are not required to offer coverage for abortion services. It further states that nothing in the law changes current federal or state laws regarding abortion. The President issued executive order 13535 clarifying that the law did not have any effect on the Hyde Amendment.
3. Social Security is going bankrupt.
Failed Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan features the claim that “Social Security Is Going Broke” on his website. He says
Projected long run program costs are not sustainable under current program parameters. The Social Security Trustees project that the cash flow deficits that began in 2010 will continue permanently.
However, Social Security is not going bankrupt, either fast or slowly. John T. Harvey explained on Forbes.com why Social Security cannot go bankrupt. Since the system is designed to pay benefits to current retirees from payroll taxes contributed by current workers, the system can’t run out of money as long as tax revenues equal benefit outlays. The Social Security Trust Fund, he argues, is unnecessary, and actually reflects payments made by past workers that were in excess of what was needed for benefit payments.
4. Ronald Reagan tried to cut spending and balance the budget, but Democrats in congress wouldn’t let him.
Americans For Tax Reform makes the following claim:
Faced with a Democratic Congress and the challenge of curbing the power of the evil Soviet Union, President Reagan could not adopt his full agenda for cutting both marginal tax rates and spending.
Actually, for four of his eight years in office congress approved budgets that were lower than what the Reagan administration had requested. Also worth noting is that during most of Reagan’s time in office Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate.
5. We were attacked on September 11, 2001, by people who “hate our freedoms.”
So said George W. Bush on September 20, 2001. Bush claimed, in a speech to a joint session of congress, that
They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
But the mastermind of the attack, Osama bin Laden, gave a different explanation. In a detailed letter, bin Laden claimed the attacks were because of American military involvement in the Muslim world. In a letter addressing the attacks, bin Laden said:
(Q1) Why are we fighting and opposing you?
(Q2)What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?
As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:
Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.
The letter goes on to list the grievances that bin Laden had against the U.S., from American and Israeli involvement in Palestine and Lebanon, to support for Indian and Russian actions against Muslims in Kashmir and Chechnya.
6. Bush did a better job of protecting our embassies than Obama is doing.
In September 2012, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer implied that events such as that year’s storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo never happened under George W. Bush. Krauthammer said on Fox News Special Report:
So to imply that we somehow had mistreated Muslims, which was the premise of his speech, and how the Iraq war had inflamed the Arab world against us — well, there was no storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in those days.
Actually, U.S. embassies and consulates were attacked thirteen times during the Bush administration. Policymic.com provides the following list:
- January 22, 2002-U.S. consulate in Calcutta, India attacked
- June 14, 2002-Suicide car bomb detonated outside U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan
- October 12, 2002-U.S. consulate in Indonesia attacked during the string of attacks known as the “Bali Bombings”
- February 28, 20030 U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan attacked again
- May 12, 2003-Terrorists storm U.S. compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Nine Americans die
- July 30, 2004-U.S. embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan attacked by Islamists
- December 6, 2004-U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia attacked
- March 2, 2006-U.S. consulate in Karachi attacked for a third time. Diplomat David Foy is killed
- September 12, 2006-U.S. compound in Damascus, Syria attacked
- January 12, 2007-Greek terrorists fired a rocket propelled grenade at a U.S. consulate building
- March 18, 2008-A mortar was fired at the U.S.embassy in Sana’a, Yemen
- July 9, 2008-Four attackers fired on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey
- September 17, 2008-Two Americans and 16 people overall died in a second attack on the U.S. embassy in Sana’a
7. Scientists still disagree on whether climate change is taking place and if human activities are responsible.
A 2010 report on the site ClimateDepot.com trumpets the claim that “more than 1000 international scientists dissent” in regard to global warming. A close inspection reveals that many of the scientists who are among the skeptics are not meteorologists or climatologists, but rather are chemists, theoretical physicists, and others whose fields have little or nothing to do with climate and weather. A survey of peer reviewed literature conducted by SkepticalScience.com found that out of over 12,000 papers that took a position on climate change, 97 percent agreed that global warming is occurring and that humans are responsible. So technically there is disagreement on the subject, but not much.
8. The U.S. government gives away free ‘Obamaphones’ to undeserving welfare recipients
According to the website Freegovernmentcellphones.net, the “Obamaphone” myth started with an email that was circulated in 2009. The email made the following claim:
…welfare recipients are now eligible to receive (1) a FREE new phone and (2) approx 70 minutes of FREE minutes every month. I was a little skeptical so I Googled it and low and behold he was telling the truth. TAX PAYER MONEY IS BEING REDISTRIBUTED TO WELFARE RECIPIENTS FOR FREE CELL PHONES.
FoxNewsInsider.com is one of many right wing sites to perpetuate the “Obamaphone” myth. The site offered an “expose” of Obamaphone abuse filmed by none other than James O’Keefe, whose heavily doctored video was at least partly responsible for the demise of ACORN. What conservatives like to call the Obamaphone refers to the federal Lifeline program, which has been around since the 1980′s and was started by none other than Ronald Reagan. Reganphone anyone?
Orignally the Lifeline program applied to landline phones. But as the cost of cell phones came down over the years it made sense to include those in the program. Freegovernmentcellphones.net sums up the issue:
…in 2008 the first application of this program for mobile phones began when a company called Tracfone started their Safelink Wireless service in Tennessee. Aha, some say, that’s the same year Obama was elected! Well, that’s true. But the service in Tennessee was launched three months prior to Obama being elected. And that means the discussion and approval of the extension of the program occurred under President Bush’s watch.
9. Non-union power crews were turned away from New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
The claim, spread far and wide in right wing media, is that power crews from non-union southern utility companies were not permitted to work in New Jersey when cleanup from the storm started. TheBlaze.com picked up the story from the Alabama television station that originally ran it:
With millions still struggling to get power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, non-union work crews from Alabama have been turned away by New Jersey. The reason? Their non-union status. WAFF in Alabama reports that the crews rushed to help after receiving calls from Seaside Heights, NJ. However, when they arrived, they were told that their services would not be needed.
The story was completely false, and was debunked by the power companies that were involved within hours of being first reported . CBSNews.com reported on November 2 that spokespersons from Decatur Utilities, Joe Wheeler EMC, and Hunstville Utilities all denied that any of their workers were “turned away” due to non-union status. The Alabama station later issued a clarification, but the damage was done, and the incident became part of the right wing vocabulary.
10. America is a conservative country, and most Americans consider themselves to be conservatives.
So proclaimed a Fox Nation story from 2011. As usual, a Fox site has a problem with math. They accurately quote the numbers from a Gallup survey, but they missed one little detail. In addition to the 40 percent surveyed who identified themselves as conservative, 35 percent called themselves “moderate,” and 21 percent identified themselves as “liberal.” So the total of the “non-conservatives,” 56 percent, is substantially greater than the percentage of conservatives. A more recent survey shows that fewer Americans consider themselves to be “economic conservatives,” and the number who call themselves “socially liberal” is at an all time high.