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America’s Aversion to Taxes

There is something to be said for universal health care systems.

When my son developed a rash on an Italian vacation in Liguria last month, the pharmacist showed me to the doctor downstairs, who diagnosed the problem at no charge and sent me off with a handshake and a joke about a daughter in med school at the University of California, San Diego.

Italy may be in a funk, with a shrinking economy and a high unemployment rate, but the United States can learn a lot from it, and not just about the benefits of public health care. Italians live longer. Their poverty rate is much lower than ours. If they lose their jobs or suffer some other misfortune, they can turn to a more generous social safety net.

Every developed country aspires to provide a better life for its people. The United States, among the richest of all, fails in important ways. It has the highest poverty and the highest infant mortality among developed nations. We provide among the least generous unemployment benefits in the industrial world. Not long ago one of the most educated countries in the world, the United States is slipping behind.

The reason is not difficult to figure out: rich though we are, we can’t afford the policies needed to improve our record. The politicians in Washington all know that we face a long-term fiscal crisis. By 2020, 70 million Americans are expected to be on Social Security, up from 45 million in 2000. The ranks on Medicare will swell to 64 million, up from 40 million in 2000. Virtually every economist knows that just maintaining Medicare and Medicaid benefits will require raising taxes on the middle class.

But though the nation’s fiscal challenge has taken center stage in the presidential election campaign, raising more taxes from American families remains stubbornly off the table.

President Obama is willing to accept higher taxes on families earning over $250,000 a year. But he is going nowhere near higher taxes on the middle class. And Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential pick, Paul Ryan, are moving decidedly in the opposite direction. Not only do they want to extend indefinitely the tax cuts passed by President George W. Bush, but they are also calling for a piñata of additional ones, and would cut social spending in return.

Citizens of most industrial countries have demanded more public services as they have become richer. And they have been by and large willing to pay more taxes to finance them. Since 1965, tax revenue raised by governments in the developed world have risen to 34 percent of their gross domestic product from 25 percent, on average.

The big exception has been the United States. In 1965, taxes collected by federal, state and municipal governments amounted to 24.7 percent of the nation’s output. In 2010, they amounted to 24.8 percent. Excluding Chile and Mexico, the United States raises less tax revenue, as a share of the economy, than every other industrial country.

No wonder we can’t afford to keep more children alive. In 2007, the most recent year for which figures are available, the United States government spent about 16 percent of its output on social programs — things like public health, food and housing for the poor. In Italy, that figure was 25 percent.

American policy makers justify our choice for low taxes with the claim that they foster economic growth. But the evidence is, at best, mixed. Since 1980, income per person has grown roughly the same across developed nations, about 300 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. It has grown a little faster in the United States than in the European Union and Canada, but slower than in higher tax countries like Japan, Norway and Sweden.

To a large extent, this is because we have chosen a tax system that raises relatively little revenue and inflicts maximum economic harm. Every other industrial country has a national consumption tax, which can be used to raise a lot of money without distorting people’s economic incentives. The United States, by contrast, relies mostly on taxes on labor and capital that damp people’s drive to work and invest, putting a drag on economic growth. And the tax code is riddled with preferences and loopholes that further distort people’s economic behavior.

It is tempting to blame the administration of George W. Bush for the tax shortfall. At the end of the administration of President Bill Clinton, tax revenue reached almost 30 percent of the nation’s economic output. The federal government ran a budget surplus. The Bush tax cuts sharply reduced the federal tax collection. Then the Great Recession further eroded tax revenue. And, of course, nobody wants to raise taxes in the middle of an economic downturn.

Yet Americans’ aversion to taxes runs deeper. We’ve been collecting less in taxes than other rich countries at least since the early 1970s, relative to size of the economy. But according to Gallup, only three times since the 1950s have more Americans said their taxes were “about right” than said they were “too high.” Scholars have resorted to cultural traits to explain our reluctance to pay for our government.

Alberto Alesina, an Italian-born economist at Harvard, contrasts American individualism rooted in the belief that effort brings success with Europeans’ belief in state redistribution — born of Europe’s long history of inherited wealth. Americans who think they have a fair shot at striking it rich vote against high taxes on their expected future wealth. Europeans who believe wealth is mostly a matter of luck and connections are less resistant to paying taxes for collective welfare.

Support for taxes also depends on how the money is spent. In Italy and throughout Western Europe, every time a voter goes to the doctor, he or she sees taxes at work.

By contrast, the ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity of the United States can sap support for government redistribution. Ten years ago, the sociologist William Julius Wilson wrote that American whites rebelled against welfare because they saw it as using their hard-earned taxes to give blacks “medical and legal services that many of them could not afford for their own families.” In more homogeneous European countries, taxpayers may be more willing to pay for social programs because recipients are similar to themselves.

Where does this leave American society? Many conservatives in the Tea Party movement believe the government is already too big. Mr. Romney and most Republicans in Congress have even signed a formal pledge not to raise income taxes. Will no administration ever again dare raise taxes on the middle class?

It may not be impossible for the American political system to accept the case for a bigger government, with higher taxes and better public services. Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Mr. Clinton passed tax increases to address budget deficits.

Bruce Bartlett, a tax expert who worked in the administrations of Mr. Reagan and the elder Mr. Bush, says he believes that the deteriorating budget outlook will ultimately persuade the political class. “We need a few more years in which conservatives try to deal with the problem solely through spending,” he said. “We need to travel down this road a few more years and then people will recognize it is futile.”

There are tentative signs that Americans may become more willing to give money to Uncle Sam. Two of the three times that more Americans said their taxes were “about right” than “too high” have occurred since 2009. And the economic crisis might even increase support for government action.

The economists Paola Giuliano of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Antonio Spilimbergo of the International Monetary Fund found that Americans who experienced economic shocks tended to become more supportive of government redistribution, especially when the shock came in their late teens or early 20s.

When elections are decided by today’s 18- to 25-year-olds, perhaps the American debate over taxes will come to resemble that in the rest of the world.


Why are Americans so…

A map of American state stereotypes, generated by Google autocomplete.

In the months before a US Presidential election, the quality of political discourse hits new lows. Blue State/Red State tropes dominate the news cycle as the media gins up outrage over perceived injustices in the culture wars. It’s all about our differences. So I started wondering, how do Americans really think about “those people” in other states? What are the most common stereotypes? For each of the fifty states and DC, I asked Google: “Why is [State] so ” and let it autocomplete. It seemed like an ideal question to get at popular assumptions, since “Why is [State] so X?” presupposes that X is true.

The map above displays the results - just hover over the states. Most of the terms are about what we’ll call “culture,” or about the weather. Politics and economics also figure prominently.

A fair number of queries were factual inquiries: “Why is Iowa so important in the presidential election?” “Why is Delaware so business friendly?” Terms dealing with cost of living (“expensive”,”cheap”, etc.) showed up in a number of states. Weight was also a common query; people wonder why Alabama and Oklahoma are so obese, while Colorado and Vermont apparently have a reputation for being healthy. I compared some of those search terms to actual data in the images below.
Cheap (green) vs Expensive Cost of Living
Healthy (green) vs Overweight Obesity Ranking

The qualitative searches were most interesting to me. There are 12 unique terms that are classifiable as “culture/sentiment” queries, of which ten are negative: backwards, bad, boring, crazy, dangerous, hated, racist, stupid, trashy, weird. There were a few redeeming positive results; Colorado, Minnesota, Texas, and Vermont are “awesome,” and Montana, New Hampshire, and New York are “great.” But for the most part, it doesn’t seem like we think very nice things about each other…at the very least, we’re more inclined to search for articles supporting (or related to) negative biases.


The single most common result of all was “boring,” which appeared for 18 states with no particular regional concentration. Other popular terms (returned for 10 states) were “humid”, “windy”, “expensive”, and “liberal”. Strangely, Connecticut and Pennsylvania both returned “haunted”; apparently there are a lot of ghost sightings (and related walking tours). My favorite result of all was “enchanting”: New Mexico is beautiful.

State pride!

Only a few states returned suggested results for demonym queries. People search specificially for New Yorkers (so rude! so arrogant!), Californians (so weird), and Texans (so proud), but no one asks about Iowans or Kansans. I thought this was interesting; the states that returned results for demonyms are the ones that seem to be most outspoken about state pride, but that could be my own New York bias showing. In the handful of states that do return demonym results, “rude” and “stupid” are the most common queries. Obesity concerns appear a number of times as well (and were rolled into the obesity map above). “Orange” appears exactly once - I’ll let you guess which state.

Anyway, I thought the results were interesting…so there they are.

Rigorous methodology: The data set is Google auto-complete results for “Why is [insert state] so “. I took up to four results per state - one or two states didn’t even have four results - then grouped the results by term. I categorized the terms into buckets: economic, geographic, health, history, political, population, sports, weather, and “culture/sentiment”. The latter was a bit of a catch-all for ‘judgey terms’, ranging from “awesome” to “boring” to “racist.” Sometimes the classification wasn’t immediately obvious; for example, “Why is Alabama so good?” is pretty vague, so I followed the query through to the results, and determined it was most likely sports-related. (“Why is New Jersey so bad?”, however, was not about sports.) Your search results may vary (due to past search history, region, autocomplete results changing due to news events, and other factors). I did run these in both Incognito mode and regular mode, and the vast majority of results were identical. If you’d like the raw data, contact me.

Thank you to my husband, Justin, for all of the help w/the Charts API.

Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others

by Juan

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.

9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.

10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.


Why do Red States Vote Republican While Blue States Pay the Bills?

Federal Spending and Electoral Votes, 1984-2008

PDF link : http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1451268


Over 100 Million Now Receiving Federal Welfare

A new chart set to be released later today by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee details a startling statistic: "Over 100 Million People in U.S. Now Receiving Some Form Of Federal Welfare."

"The federal government administers nearly 80 different overlapping federal means-tested welfare programs," the Senate Budget Committee notes. However, the committee states, the figures used in the chart do not include those who are only benefiting from Social Security and/or Medicare.

Food stamps and Medicaid make up a large--and growing--chunk of the more than 100 million recipients. "Among the major means tested welfare programs, since 2000 Medicaid has increased from 34 million people to 54 million in 2011 and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) from 17 million to 45 million in 2011," says the Senate Budget Committee. "Spending on food stamps alone is projected to reach $800 billion over the next decade."

The data come "from the U.S. Census’s Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that nearly 110,000 million individuals received a welfare benefit in 2011. (These figures do not include other means-tested benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or the health insurance premium subsidies included in the President’s health care law. CBO estimates that the premium subsidies, scheduled to begin in 2014, will cover at least 25 million individuals by the end of the decade.)"

This is not just Americans, however. "These figures include not only citizens, but non-citizens as well," according to the committee.


7 Scandals That Reveal the Real Mitt Romney

Some great reporting reveals a self-serving man who is often tone-deaf to his impact on others and whose internal compass seems to spin wildly. 
August 14, 2012  |   BySteven Rosenfeld
Mitt Romney’s current media handlers would like you to think he’s a mild-mannered guy who has become increasingly conservative over the years—especially since he was pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-tax increases, pro-gay and fairly liberal as Massachusetts governor before he ran for president in 2008 and started pandering to right-wingers.
But a more complete picture of Romney is emerging this summer. Some great reporting by journalists reveals that the man behind the smile isn’t just a political flip-flopper who can't be trusted, but a self-serving man who is often tone-deaf to his impact on others and whose internal compass seems to spin wildly.

These seven recent reports reveal the real Romney—starting with a young man who didn’t care how he made money, as long as he made it. 

1. Bain Capital Launched with Funds Tied to Salvadoran Death Squads
People who start new businesses are always hungry for investors. But as Huffington Post reporters Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler found in their report, “ Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads ,” there was no possible way that anybody in 1984 could "check out" these families and be convinced this money was clean, as Grim told Democracy Now .  
“After initially struggling to find investors, Romney traveled to Miami in 1983 to win pledges of $9 million, 40 percent of Bain’s start-up money,” Democracy Now’s report began. “Some investors had extensive ties to the death squads responsible for the vast majority of the tens of thousands of deaths in El Salvador during the 1980s.”
As Amy Goodman noted, “The investors include the Salaverria family, whose former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, has previously accused of directly funding the Salvadorian paramilitaries. In his memoir, former Bain executive Harry Strachan writes, 'Romney pushed aside his own misgivings about the investors to accept their backing.' Strachan writes, ‘These Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital’s May investor meetings and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital.’”

2. Romney Wants Tax Cuts For the Rich Paid By Higher Middle-Class Taxes
Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts governor showed he had no aversion to raising taxes or fees, according to a report by John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign—including raising the state fee assessed to families before cremating the dead, which the state’s media called creepy. So it is not surprising that independent analyses find Romney’s 2012 tax proposals would hit other vulnerable people.
The proposals, in an analysis cited by the Washington Post and others, would cut taxes for the wealthiest 5 percent but raise taxes on everyone else. Extreme Liberal's blog posted a graphic that shows exactly how it would work, saying, “You may notice that everyone pays more in taxes right up until you get to the top 5 percent of the population. According to the analysis, those who make $3 million dollars a year would get a TAX CUT of $250,000.”
Romney obviously wants to protect the interests of the ecomonic class of Americans in which he resides—the rich. But what’s emerging is a more nuanced picture: he has no qualms beating up on the poor, including playing the race card, like many previous Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

3. Romney’s Racist Attack on Welfare
We have all seen this ugly script before. Bill Clinton went after Sister Souljah in 1992. Four years later he signed a bill “ending welfare as we know it” to win conservatives. Fast forward to spring 2012 and Newt Gingrich attacked Obama as the “food stamp” president, a swipe at poor and non-whites receiving benefits. Now Romney has accused Obama of wanting to eliminate work requirements for public assistance recipients.
As Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive has written, there are so many layers of hypocrisy here. “Romney says Obama wants to take the work requirements out of welfare reform. As evidence, he cites the administration’s recent decision to let states apply for waivers on these requirements,” he writes. “Never mind that some Republican governors have been applying for them. Never mind that Romney himself applied for one when he was governor of Massachusetts. And never mind that to get this waiver, states must be able to show that they’ve recently moved at least 20 percent more of their welfare recipients into jobs than in previous years. No, facts don’t matter.”

4. Romney, the Bad Neighbor
The personal is political. Romney thumbing his nose at his neighbors at a vacation home in La Jolla, Calif. shows that Romney does what he wants and doesn’t really care about the impact on others near him. There’s no other way to interpret it, according to this New York Times report, that recounts how after Romney bought his beach house he offended his neighbors by seeking to quadruple its size.
“The only thing he wants small is government and taxes,” said Mark Quint, a Democrat who lives three doors away and who hates the prospect of more McMansions such as Romney's plan. “He likes big houses, big families and big religion.” Quint also was peeved, the Times reported, because Romney had complained to the local police about beachgoers who drank or smoked pot nearby. The cops told Quint to report people smoking or drinking, saying, “Your neighbors have complained.”
Romney may end up buying another nearby large property, the paper speculated, even though he’s hired a local team to shepherd the project through the permit process.

5. Intolerant Then, Intolerant Now
There is always the question of how much people change—or don’t—over a lifetime. Before Romney entered business and politics, he was an active member of the church who took his pastoral role seriously, even as a graduate student at Harvard University.
This Washington Post profile of Romney from that time—as the young but highest-ranking Mormon in Boston—notes how he told an older, recently divorced women who had converted to Mormonism not to have premarital sex. At the time, the Post said many Mormon couples were at Harvard and the women were curious about feminism. The report goes on to say that Romney tempered his views by the time he became Massachusetts governor—which the 2008 McCain campaign opposition research reports shows. Another report from that period in Vanity Fair notes how Romney told a Mormon single mother who became pregnant to put her child up for adoption—which she refused. When she faced serious medical issues, he refused to come to her hospital bedside.

6. The Tip o the Iceberg?
As Romney seeks to convince Republicans that his views are more traditional, the question is not just "where is the real Romney?" but if he ever moderated those views in the first place. There are other stories of straight-laced insensitivity. Everyone has  heard about how he put the family dog in a cage strapped to the roof of his car for a drive to Florida. But a $200 million man and national candidate who doesn’t tip a barista?
There are many profiles of Romney—such as in Vanity Fair —that say his aloofness and clinical focus have been key to his success in business: he does not let empathy get in
the way of making a profit or closing a deal. But a president has to make ordinary people think that he understands and cares about them. And this is where Romney still seems challenged.
In 2010, Romney and his wife apparently went to a Borders bookstore in Utah and ordered two hot chocolates and didn’t tip the baristas, according to the blog Jesus’ General . That was cheap. But what happened next has been called strange. They didn’t finish the drinks, so Mitt approached the baristas and urged them to drink it.
The Portland Mercury  blog wrote about this incident and believes it’s true, saying, “Jesus’ General is best known as a satirical Web site, but I know the guy who plays the General, I've met him personally, and he swears that this story is true. It’s told by Bryan Young, an assistant director on the documentary This Divided State ; one of the baristas in question is Bryan's brother.”

7. Romney Campaign Takes Money From Olympic Bribery Scandal Figures
Romney’s relationship with dark financial patrons cannot be explained away as youthful indescretion—the start-up funds from men tied to Salvadoran warlords. Apparently, the candidate who likes to say that he helped the 2002 Winter Games move from the fiscal red into the black, and who helped to turn a page after an Olympic bribery scandal, has allowed his 2012 campaign to take donations from figures from that bribery scandal, according to longtime investigative reporter Wayne Barrett.
Barrett, a Newsweek/Daily Beast contributor and Nation Institute fellow, told Democracy Now about the tainted campaign cash. “He was a managerial success, Barrett said. “The problem is that he was brought in because of the worst Olympic scandal in history, and he befriended and awarded contracts to people deeply involved in the scandal that caused him to be recruited to this rescue operation. And he’s still collecting money from them.”
Romney, as we all know from his tenure at Bain, has a very can-do attitude about money. He will take it whereever he can find it, and use it for whatever is most expedient.
Americans will be introduced to a very stage-managed Romney in the weeks ahead, starting with the Republican National Convention. But glimpses of the real Romney will keep coming through. And the more Americans get to know him, the greater the chances that they will not feel comfortable with him as their next president.

Steven Rosenfeld covers democracy issues for AlterNet and is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).


Married Teacher [Brittni Nicole Colleps] That Had Party-Sex With Black Students On Trial: Whole Court Gets To Watch The Footage!

A jury took less than an hour Friday to find Brittni Nicole Colleps guilty. She was charged with five counts of having an inappropriate relationship between a student and teacher. The second-degree felony is punishable by between two and 20 years in prison per count.

Authorities say the 28-year-old former Kennedale High School English teacher had sex with the students at her Arlington home over two months. Jurors heard graphic testimony from the involved students during the trial and were shown cellphone video of one encounter involving multiple students.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday; the defense didn't call any witnesses.

Kennedale is a suburb of Arlington, southeast of Fort Worth.

* She was screwed the moment the tape was shown in court. Five blacks kids lovingly banging the white mama who then swallows some of the cum as well. This is Texas after all. Cuckolding is fun and bring together couples even closer sexually. Brittni husband should been in charge of the recording and possession thereof of the contents if it involves third party. But he was not around trusting Brittni will be responsible enough to handle any issues arising during the gang-bang. The law is law and despite the kids are all over 18, it was still stupid of the Colleps to be involved with high-school kids. Now their life is ruined.


The Crackpot Caucus

The tutorial in 8th.grade biology that Republicans got after one of their members of Congress went public with something from the wackosphere was instructive, and not just because it offered female anatomy lessons to those who get their science from the Bible.

Take a look around key committees of the House and you’ll find a governing body stocked with crackpots whose views on major issues are as removed from reality as Missouri’s Representative Todd Akin’s take on the sperm-killing powers of a woman who’s been raped.

On matters of basic science and peer-reviewed knowledge, from evolution to climate change to elementary fiscal math, many Republicans in power cling to a level of ignorance that would get their ears boxed even in a medieval classroom. Congress incubates and insulates these knuckle-draggers.

Let’s take a quick tour of the crazies in the House. Their war on critical thinking explains a lot about why the United States is laughed at on the global stage, and why no real solutions to our problems emerge from that broken legislative body.
Clockwise, from top left: Representatives John Shimkus of Illinois, Joe Barton of Texas, Jack Kingston of Georgia, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Todd Akin of Missouri and Paul Broun of Georgia 
Clockwise, from top left: Seth Perlman/Associated Press; Manuel Balce Ceneta, via Associated Press; Stephen Morton, via Getty Images; Daniel Acker for The New York Times; Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press; Paul Morigi, via Getty Images for OvationClockwise, from top left: Representatives John Shimkus of Illinois, Joe Barton of Texas, Jack Kingston of Georgia, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Todd Akin of Missouri and Paul Broun of Georgia

We’re currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, a siege of wildfires, and the hottest temperatures since records were kept. But to Republicans in Congress, it’s all a big hoax. The chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change, Representative John Shimkus of Illinois is — you guessed it — a climate-change denier.

At a 2009 hearing, Shimkus said not to worry about a fatally dyspeptic planet: the biblical signs have yet to properly align. “The earth will end only when God declares it to be over,” he said, and then he went on to quote Genesis at some length. It’s worth repeating: This guy is the chairman.

On the same committee is an oil-company tool and 27-year veteran of Congress, Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas. You may remember Barton as the politician who apologized to the head of BP in 2010 after the government dared to insist that the company pay for those whose livelihoods were ruined by the gulf oil spill.

Barton cited the Almighty in questioning energy from wind turbines. Careful, he warned, “wind is God’s way of balancing heat.” Clean energy, he said, “would slow the winds down” and thus could make it hotter. You never know.

“You can’t regulate God!” Barton barked at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the midst of discussion on measures to curb global warming.

The Catholic Church long ago made its peace with evolution, but the same cannot be said of House Republicans. Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House, is an evolution denier, apparently because he can’t see the indent where his ancestors’ monkey tail used to be. “Where’s the missing link?” he said in 2011. “I just want to know what it is.” He serves on a committee that oversees education.

In his party, Kingston is in the mainstream. A Gallup poll in June found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years — a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary.

Another Georgia congressman, Paul Broun, introduced the so-called personhood legislation in the House — backed by Akin and Representative Paul Ryan — that would have given a fertilized egg the same constitutional protections as a fully developed human being.

Broun is on the same science, space and technology committee that Akin is. Yes, science is part of their purview.

Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing.

Remember the crazy statement that helped to kill the presidential aspirations of Michele Bachmann? A vaccine, designed to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer, could cause mental retardation, she proclaimed. Bachmann knew this, she insisted, because some random lady told her so at a campaign event. Fearful of the genuine damage Bachmann’s assertion could do to public health, the American Academy of Pediatrics promptly rushed out a notice, saying, “there is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”

Nor is there is reputable scientific validity to those who deny that the globe’s climate is changing for the worst. But Bachmann calls that authoritative consensus a hoax, and faces no censure from her party.

It’s encouraging that Republican heavyweights have since told Akin that uttering scientific nonsense about sex and rape is not good for the party’s image. But where are these fact-enforcers on the other idiocies professed by elected representatives of their party?

Akin, if he stays in the race, may still win the Senate seat in Missouri. Bachmann, who makes things up on a regular basis, is a leader of the Tea Party caucus in Congress and, in an unintended joke, a member of the Committee on Intelligence. None of these folks are without power; they govern, and have significant followings.

A handful of Republicans have tried to fight the know-nothings. “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” said Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, during his ill-fated run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Call me crazy.”

And in an on-air plea for sanity, Joe Scarborough, the former G.O.P. congressman and MSNBC host, said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the stupid party.” I feel for him. But don’t expect the reality chorus to grow. For if intelligence were contagious, his party would be giving out vaccines for it.


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