Risch Lies, Who Cares?

Outrage fatigue sets in….  Editor and Publisher is going out of business. Investigative reporting is a thing of the past. Media Matters doggedly soldiers on. Fortunately, here in Idaho, we have at least one reporter, Dan Popkey, who is willing to follow up on political hackery and spin with stories like this:

The Idaho Legislature’s budget office said Friday that state Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, has his facts right in a dispute with U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

Rusche on Thursday critiqued Risch’s claim made Monday that the Senate Democrats’ health care reform bill would mean “massive” tax hikes or “massive” education spending cuts in the states.

Rusche based his argument on the bill’s provision that the federal government would pay 95 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to 160,000 Idahoans beginning in 2017, after picking up the entire cost between 2014 and 2016.

Rusche said the reform would save Idaho at least $13 million a year and not force cuts or tax increases in the state.

Risch countered that the federal match for Idaho would be only 90 percent, saying the bill would cost Idaho another $10 million annually.

Legislative budget analyst Amy Johnson, citing an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Rusche was correct about the 95 percent match for Idaho in the current bill.

Risch spokesman Brad Hoaglun said that Rusche “could well be right” about Idaho. But Hoaglun noted that Risch’s original comments in Senate debate were focused on the burden reform would put on states overall. The average matching rate for all 50 states will be 90 percent.

Hoaglun also said the bill is a moving target and could be substantially amended. “There may be winners and losers and Idaho could be a winner. But that could all change tomorrow.”

Everywhere else there is silence. There will be no outrage from politicians or the media. Risch is just one more Republican party hack who knows he can lie with impunity. After all, his lies and hypocrisy pale when compared to the constant barrage coming from faux news and the leaders of the party of “no”.  Al Frankin may be right, “We are entitled to our own opinions. We’re not entitled to our own facts.” but, without a mainstream media willing to inform the public, participatory democracy is doomed.

It seems obvious to me that Obama, is a pragmatist. A pragmatist is willing to set aside ideology to find solutions to problems. That position, of course, is guaranteed to generate critics from any and all ideological camps.  John Dewey, Pragmatist and, arguably, America’s greatest philosopher claimed that the enemy of effective problem solving is “either-or” thinking; thinking that allows ideology to blind one from working towards creative solutions. Effective problem solving, according to Dewey, necessitates an understanding of the distinction between terminal ends and “ends-in-view”.

As long as we are wedded to the purity of our solutions, we will never accept meaningful change. Global warming and health care are the two latest examples of the dangers in confusing final “ends” with “ends-in-view”. I am very disappointed with the current health care legislation. I prefer a single payer system like those in most of the enlightened democracies in the world. I cringe to watch slimy politicians like Nelson and Lieberman subvert the public will. But, the irrationality of adopting an “either-or” position is obvious. A less-than-perfect health care plan is better than our current situation. It is an “end-in-view,” something achievable now and open to further change as its strengths and weaknesses become more apparent.

There needs to be authentic public dialogue for pragmatic solutions to have a chance of success. This is not happening in the main stream media where real dialogue is confused with demagoguery; where ideologues from both extremes are invited to invent their own facts without check.

In one of his greatest works, The Public and Its Problems, Dewey explored the ways in which “special interests, powerful corporate capital, numbing and distracting entertainment, general selfishness, and the vagaries of public communication” subvert the possibilities for a true public dialogue that might lead to a clarification of the common interest and a willingness to work towards an identifiable “end-in-view”. The subversion has extended far beyond what Dewey anticipated in 1927. It used to be said that Pragmatism was America’s philosophy. I am afraid those days are gone.

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