The Willful Blindness of Progressives

In a prepared remarks delivered at the White House on November 23 2021 President Biden made the following statement.

“We’ve made historic progress over the last 10 months.  Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent two years faster than everyone expected.  When we started at this job, it was over 14 percent.”

Except, as the graph below illustrates, the unemployment rate was 6.7% the month that Biden was elected. It was 6.3% when he took the oath of office, and it was already headed rapidly downward. And somehow or other the fact checkers were amazingly quiet about the President of the United States falsely claiming that the unemployment rate was more than double what it actually was. In prepared remarks on White House stationary no less. 

It’s not like this episode is an anomaly. The White House and its progressive allies, including those in the press, routinely mischaracterize events—when they are not simply inventing them. Consider Afghanistan. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Biden insisted that his military advisors had not counseled him to keep a residual force of 2,500 soldiers in the country. But Joint Chiefs Chair General Milley and General Frank McKenzie, in testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee said that they had advised the President to keep a small troop presence there. Who do you suppose is telling the truth? And who is prevaricating?

In the event the United States did not simply withdraw its forces; the United States surrendered to the Taliban. And now tens of millions of Afghanis are facing starvation as the country collapses. Some are now reportedly selling their daughters as child brides so they can buy enough food to survive. 

The Biden Administration, actually Biden himself, has called his surrender (they call it evacuation) a success. As MSNBC reports it, “One day after the final U.S. planes roared out of an Afghanistan lost to the Taliban, the embattled president said the exit marked an “extraordinary success.” And he framed his polarizing decision to leave as not merely strategically prudent, but part of a vital philosophical shift in American foreign policy.”

And what exactly is that “vital philosophical shift” in American foreign policy? Well, he’ll have to get back to you on that. In the meantime though, there are still about 1,000 Americans stranded in Afghanistan looking to get out. Not to mention about 14,000 Green Card holders. And Russia is amassing forces on Ukraine’s border and the Chinese Air Force is violating Taiwan’s air space. This apparently counts as foreign policy success in Biden world.  

And then there is the inflation problem. At first Biden & Co denied it. Then they said it would be temporary. Then they decided that it was a priority and that they “take action”. And what would that action be?

Well, surprisingly enough it’s the usual progressive grab bag of economic illiteracy. For instance, Biden ordered the federal bureaucracy to investigate price manipulation by the oil companies. Then the Biden Administration decided to address supply chain problems—problems that are partly due to the demands of progressive ideology. 

The main ports in the U.S. (and the only ones capable of handling the largest container ships) do not operate 24/ 7 as they do in Asia. Why? Because of union work rules designed to protect what Biden insists on calling “good union jobs”. U.S. ports are so outclassed in world competitive terms that in the 2020 “Container Port Performance Index” not one ranked in the top 50. A recent review ranked Long Beach and LA near the bottom of 351 ports, and below the ports in Tanzania and Kenya. 

And what has the Biden Administration done about that? Well, they asked the FTC to investigate supply chain problems and they threw more subsidies at the unions. 

The same type of policy disaster has beset the public school system, which seems more intent on keeping schools closed at the behest of the teacher’s unions than it is interested in actually teaching kids something. Or allowing parents to have a say in what their kids are learning. On the other hand, plenty of parochial schools stayed open during the pandemic without significant incident. And they appear to be picking up enrollment. (See this article).

The above is but a small portion of a very long list of spectacular progressive policy failures; in fact it is difficult to think of measurable progressive policy successes. Which raises the question, why is it that progressives who constantly invoke  science are apparently immune to its findings? Over time, top quality social science policy research studies by leading scholars have demolished the most cherished myths of progressive policy makers. These scholars include Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, James Q Wilson, Gary Becker, Fredrick Hayek, Patrick Moynihan, Thomas Sowell, Charles Murray and Glenn Loury to name a few.  

And what has the response of progressives been? There have been three. Response # 1 is willful blindness. Response #2 is the ritual recital of the sacred phrase “But Trump…”as if that solves everything, or anything. Response #3 is Cancelation. Like good little McCarthyites, they have simply sought to silence those who disagree or whose prior writings are suspect. In this they are very much like…Trump. 

But it’s all to preserve democracy, of course.


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