Friday, July 23, 2021

Stupid Economist Tricks: Sex, Lies, and Deficit Terror

Tom Toles did not cite a source for that 97% figure. Then again, unlike Michael Strain, he is paid to be a cartoonist.

Actually, no, no sex, just Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, warning readers of The New York Times that

Biden Is Asking for $4 Trillion. Congress Shouldn’t Give It to Him.

He seems to like this headline format. Last time I had reason to deal with him, in 2015, it was with reference to a WaPo piece recommending the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay.

Spoiler: my commentary concluded that it was not okay. And the GOP Congress, failing to end Obamacare, sort of agreed! I mean not exactly, but we won.

Anyway, the reason Strain would like Congress to refuse Biden the money, or at least the $3.5 trillion of it to be appropriated through the budget reconciliation process without requiring any Republican votes, is ostensibly the raging inflation he (Michael Strain) sees and expects to see continuing through next year even without this extra spending, and which would surely be aggravated by the increased demand for stuff (where "demand" means, as it usually does in this style of economics, "ability to pay for things you really need that you couldn't afford before") that the spending on the expanded child tax credit in particular will bring on by yanking people out of their God-appointed poverty, while the Biden administration makes no plans for increasing the supply of stuff, other than by PROVIDING THE UNIVERSAL FREE PRE-K EDUCATION that recipients of the child tax credit are most likely to be spending it on, but you can't expect Strain to make that connection.

So in the course of his argument he gives a lot of attention to an analysis of the Biden program by Moody's, in which for some reason he doesn't offer a link to it:

The $3.5 trillion plan [as opposed to the half-trillion or so designated for bridges and tunnels and roads] is another story. Though the details of this package are still being debated, Moody’s Analytics calculates that the plan would contain more than $500 billion in tax credits from 2022 to 2026 for low- and middle-income households. Such payments would increase consumer demand for goods and services, pushing up their prices.

For that five-year period, Moody’s also expects more than $400 billion of spending on social programs like nutrition and housing assistance, child care and education. Much of this would add to inflationary pressures.

Overall, even though taxes would go up under the Democrats’ plan, it would add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit over the five years beginning in 2022, according to Moody’s. Given the composition of much of this deficit spending, this would be another big boost to the demand side of the economy.

Again, he fails or refuses to notice that the spending on nutrition (subsidies to agriculture), housing (subsidies to builders and landlords) and child care and education (subsidies to providers) are designed to increase supply. He also fails or refuses to notice the effect $2.5 trillion or so devoted to other things, particularly healthcare and combating global warming, will have on increasing supply of health services and things like renewable energy and electric vehicles, but let that pass. He also pulls a fast one by talking in five-year terms to make "$1 trillion" added to the deficit sound like a lot when it's in fact $200 billion a year and a drop in the bucket by today's standards. But the thing that gets to me most is the way he glosses over the tax increase for personal incomes over $400,000 and corporations as "taxes would go up" with no numbers attached.

And why didn't he link to a source for Moody's analysis? I just happen to have Moody's right here with me, via CNN, and:

In Which Jim Banks Accidentally Has an Almost Good Idea

The other day Kevin Kruse gave Greg Sargent the perfect analogy for appointing Jordan and Banks to the January 6 committee: it was like “appointing Strom Thurmond to the Kerner Commission.” Kruse expanded on this point on Twitter: It seems like an obvious point (too obvious for people like Chris Cillizza, apparently), but it has to be made: you don't appoint people to a project who oppose the project itself.

Banks signaled his opposition to the January 6 investigation with a statement to the effect that the committee should join OJ on a hunt for the real killers:
If Democrats were serious about investigating political violence, this committee would be studying not only the January 6 riot at the Capitol, but also the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked.
This has become a standard talking point for Republicans opposed to any January 6 investigation, and part of a broader campaign to bothsides January 6. (See also today's Washington Examiner, reporting on a Rasmussen poll sponsored by a pro-cop organization.)

The crazy thing about this is that on its own merits, a committee to investigate last year's unrest--entirely separate from the January 6 investigation--isn't a bad idea. In an ideal world, a Kerner Commission style inquiry into the George Floyd protests (with, one hopes, better follow-through) would be a valuable exercise.

Let's look into the underlying causes--not just the precipitating events but the longstanding systemic abuses that got people into the streets.

Let's look at the overall record, and hear testimony from witnesses at the peaceful marches--the overwhelming majority--to provide context for the sensationalized depictions in right-wing media.

Let's look at the violence that did occur, and examine who committed it and why. Provide a full accounting of every single case of bodily harm, regardless of the responsible parties.

Let's look at the police response to these protests. Investigate the instances where police overreaction turned peaceful demonstrations violent, or where police inaction may have abetted the actions of provocateurs.

And let's not stop at the end of the summer. Let's look at how officials reacted. Let's examine legislation that criminalizes the right to peaceable assembly, or encourages violence against people exercising that right.

None of this is going to happen, of course, because this isn't an ideal world. It isn't even the less-than-ideal '60s, for that matter.

But as long as the right insists on its distorted narrative of burning cities and leftist mayhem, it would be worthwhile for our leaders to try to get at the real story--with whatever tools and whatever processes are possible--and push back against the lies.

[Updated to add link I had missed]

Snowflake Syndrome

I don't have the stomach to respond to the latest idiotic be-nice-to-Trump-voters horseshit, but happily Greg Sargent has more intestinal fortitude than I do. Intro:
To hear some pundits and Republicans tell it, millions of people across the country who voted for Donald Trump are suffering from an affliction that you might call “Snowflake Syndrome.”

On numerous fronts in our politics — from voting rights to covid-19 to the legacy of Jan. 6 — we’re being told these voters are afflicted with a deeply fragile belief system that must be carefully ministered to and humored to an extraordinary degree.

We must pass voting restrictions everywhere to assuage these voters’ “belief” that the 2020 election was highly dubious or fraudulent. We must not argue too aggressively for coronavirus vaccines, lest they feel shamed and retreat into their anti-vax epistemological shells.

And we must allow Republicans to appoint some of the most deranged promoters of the stolen election myth to a committee examining the insurrection so they’ll feel like its findings are credible.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

For the Record: Debt Ceiling

The original debt ceiling crisis of 2011, as captured by cartoonist Jen Sorensen.

Did you all realize that the US debt ceiling actually doesn't exist, and hasn't existed for the past eight years? Though it will return, like a zombie, at the end of the month if Congress doesn't manage to stop it.

I did know, without realizing I did until our friend Dr. Volts asked:

But I think the coin idea is too gimmicky, and misleading to the public, which will always think it ought to be spent, which is the one thing that absolutely shouldn't be done with it. For raising money, as I've been saying, taxation is the thing, especially when there's $68 trillion out there in the hands of people with so much money that they are literally unable to spend it.

You may wonder how I, a notorious non-economist, found out about all this stuff, so I'll tell you something about it, briefly—it goes back to my crazed crusade against Modern Monetary Theory of last spring, when one particularly astute commenter told me I wasn't doing economics at all, but accounting, and I realized it was true. Accounting is actually better than economics, in my view. It's much more in touch with human social reality, and can't get snaggled by high-class metaphysical witticisms like MMT. Anyway, since then, when I get annoyed by something like the debt ceiling, I read about it in the understanding that it's not economics, merely accounting, and that makes it totally comprehensible.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names



James Gillray, 1791, "The Hopes of the Party Before July 14", showing the Whig leader Charles James Fox as ready to chop off the head of George III, while Queen Charlotte and the Tory leader William Pitt the Younger, upper right, have already been executed. That's what I call partisanship! British Museum, via Nynorsk Wikiwand (they had the best resolution). 

Nice piece wondering about the way we fetishize "bipartisanship", by the historian Nicole Hemmer at CNN's website, localizes the moment we're nostalgic for, when bipartisanship was apparently good in its own right:

For much of US history, bipartisanship was not lionized. It was only in the mid-20th century that bipartisan compromise began to confer a golden sheen on legislation. That's in part because it was more attainable, and because at times, the results were profoundly beneficial. The two major parties had become a mishmash of ideologies: there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and on the major issues of the day, bipartisanship made life-changing legislation possible. The Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights ActMedicare, Medicaid — all bipartisan.
    In the 1940s and 1950s, with the threat of totalitarianism looming large in the American imagination, there was something particularly beneficial to politicians about championing bipartisanship. It showed voters (along with foreign leaders and allies abroad) that American lawmakers followed a standard higher than simple party interests. Compromise elevated them to the ranks of technocratic statesmen (they were nearly all men) who were unencumbered by devotion to party, who were instead dedicated to higher ideals and first principles.

    I think that may be understating how weird that time was historically, and not quite healthy, and how much the very tenuousness of some of those accomplishments is related to the peculiarity of the situation.

    I've written a lot in the past about the evolution of the Democratic party from the end of the Civil War to the New Deal Coalition, which took place on two tracks, basically: on the one hand dominating the South as Jim Crow restricted the electorate to white people, as a conservative party looking back longingly on the power they wielded in the era of Jackson and Calhoun, and yet representing a rural and underdeveloped population in constant need of economic aid; and on the other hand thriving in the urban Northeast among the newer immigrant communities, a party above all of labor, and ready to be radical in alliance with radical intellectuals. 

    The Republicans, as the victors in the war, followed a kind of mirror image evolution into a similar incoherence: in the Northeast, abandoning their radicalism with the end of Reconstruction, leaving the business establishment as the main ideological engine, while in the rural Midwest, homesteading veterans of the war struggling to make a living found themselves susceptible to a different kind of radicalism, the prairie populist type, and for a short time a progressive coalition bringing them together with a certain type of elite represented by Theodore Roosevelt in opposition to business monopolies; but in the far West and Southwest, a different kind of rural existence—a landowner class dominating workers who mostly had no political rights, and fighting to control the water supply, developed a different kind of conservatism, a rejection of the concept of the commons. 

    Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    If Chris Ran the Circus


    The Spotted Atrocious.

    The Most Chris Cillizza Thing Ever:

    If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

    The reason? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision Wednesday to reject two of the five nominees -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana -- put forward by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the panel.

    Absolutely! How could we possibly come to understand what happened in the lead-up to January 6 without Gym Jordan flapping his arms, barking like a dog, and running back and forth on the tabletops? We completely depend on Gym Jordan and Jim Banks for our ability to understand virtually anything!

    Wait, who is Jim Banks? He's somebody who's gone from backing the Mueller investigation during his first term

    “I don’t work for the president,” Banks told [Molly Ball/Atlantic in June 2017]. “Where were we, Paul, last week, when I was lambasted on that subject of whether or not I was going to blindly follow the president?”

    to joining Mo Brooks and 18 other democracy haters this year in demanding congressional hearings on election fraud to further the claim that state legislatures are constitutionally allowed to overturn elections

    In a tweet on Friday, Banks said he signed the letter because "the Constitution says state legislatures set the time, place and manner of the elections. There are countless examples of state legislatures being circumvented in the 2020 election."

    At the invitation of Donald Trump, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks recently led a small group of House Republicans to the former president’s New Jersey golf club, where they dined on beef tenderloin, posed for photos and briefed him on strategy for the 2022 midterm elections.

    In four short years, in other words, from humble Indiana conservative to Gym Jordan wannabe, another Spotted Atrocious, with no feigned outrage too foolish to adopt under the fear of being primaried at his back. 

    And an aspiring attack dog who has responded to the rejection by explaining, inadvertently, what a terrible member of the committee he was hoping to be, refusing to deal with the matters the committee is tasked with investigating and badgering witnesses with irrelevant questions about imaginary burning cities and the "real insurrectionists". Unlike that obedient lapdog Rep. Cheney:

    As Cillizza knows perfectly well, and he even says so:

    And it's beyond debate that McCarthy's choices -- especially Banks and Jordan -- were aimed at turning the committee into something of a circus. Both men would have, at every turn, sought to turn the tables on Democrats -- using the platform provided by the committee to push debunked claims about Antifa's involvement in the Capitol riot, questioning Democratic leadership's readiness for just such an attack and trying to broaden the committee's mandate to cover the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.

    But the other way (Minority Leader McCarthy has responded by withdrawing all of his nominations, and vowing that if he can't have Gym gish-galloping all the witnesses he'd rather have nobody at all) won't be "bipartisan", and that, to Cillizza, means it really won't be anything at all, just a waste of everybody's time, because once upon a time you could get decent members from both parties (let's just forget that leadership could, and did, weed out all the conservative time-wasters then too).

    Honestly, it's going to be a good thing in some respects, as Quinta Jurecic points out at Lawfare:

    the fact that the select committee is a second-best option supported almost entirely by Democrats may actually be a point in its favor. Cheney and the Democratic majority on the committee won’t necessarily need to soft-pedal their investigation or negotiate compromises in order to appeal to pro-Trump Republicans. They can—if they want—aggressively pursue, with far fewer political constraints, the truth of what happened on Jan. 6. 

    And they will have a great deal more time to do so than the independent commission, as outlined in the House-passed bill, would have enjoyed.

    (because the independent commission proposal had an end date, and the House select committee won't). And, dirty little secret, the people who won't learn anything because they're put off by the absence of Gym and Jim weren't going to learn anything anyway.

    Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names. And don't miss Tom's terrific piece posted while I was writing this.

    Active Evil, Passive Press

    So, to recap: yesterday McCarthy named Jim Jordan and Jim Banks to the Select Committee on the January 6 insurrection, along with three less offensive GOP apparatchiks; Jordan and Banks both promptly signaled their intent to sabotage the investigation; this morning Speaker Pelosi accepted the three less offensive guys, and vetoed Jordan and Banks; and McCarthy threw a carefully staged hissy fit in which he withdrew all five and condemned the comittee as a partisan "sham process".

    Cue the shitty beltway journalist takes. Among the first of the worst was, unsurprisingly, someone from Politico: It's "definitely going to look partisan and political". Extraordinary how this perception materializes with no involvement or culpability on the part of the people whose job it is to inform us about politics.

    Also unsurprisingly, along comes Chris Cillizza and asks Rachel Bade to hold his beer, delivering a piece headlined Nancy Pelosi just doomed the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering:
    If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

    The reason? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision Wednesday to reject two of the five nominees -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana -- put forward by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the panel.
    The amount of nonsense in these two short passages is staggering, from the bizarre claim that an investigation without Jordan & Banks can't possibly arrive at the truth to the laughable notion that Nancy Pelosi is to blame for it. What's worse is that Cillizza knows this latter is bullshit:
    [I]t's beyond debate that McCarthy's choices -- especially Banks and Jordan -- were aimed at turning the committee into something of a circus. Both men would have, at every turn, sought to turn the tables on Democrats -- using the platform provided by the committee to push debunked claims about Antifa's involvement in the Capitol riot, questioning Democratic leadership's readiness for just such an attack and trying to broaden the committee's mandate to cover the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020....

    You can be sure every Republican will use Pelosi's rejection of their nominees as evidence that she doesn't want the, uh, truth to come out.

    This isn't true, of course. There's zero evidence that suggests Pelosi or Democrats did anything wrong in advance of or during the January 6 riot, which was incited by former President Donald Trump. [emphasis added]
    And yet despite the transparent falsehood of the Republican line,
    Pelosi has handed Republicans a golden issue to rev up their base in advance of the 2022 midterms -- and you can bet they will use it.
    So, to sum up: Jordan and Banks signaled their intent to sabotage the investigation. (Jordan is also a potential witness, which should be disqualifying in itself.) Pelosi's rejection of the two is substantively correct. She accepted 3 of the 5 nominees; it's indisputably McCarthy who decided that, as a result, no Republicans would serve on the committee.

    But whatever the substantive results the committee will come to naught because of some perception of partisanship, which is all Nancy Pelosi's fault. And this perception, once again, simply materializes. It is utterly beyond the power of someone like Chris Cillizza to counter this perception, which he knows to be entirely false.

    There's so much that's maddening in both of these--the obsession with optics and surface narratives, the slavish devotion to a bipartisanship they know cannot exist--but the most maddening may be the self-enforced faux passivity. Passivity in their unquestioning transmission of Republican talking points; faux in the pretense of their inability to do otherwise. In a nation where one party is waging war against democracy, it's the Chris Cillizzas and Rachel Bades who may well doom[] the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering.

    ETA: Rachael Bade's name didn't ring any bells for me. Fortunately there are people out there who know more than I do, or at least different things than I do. A little googling got me to a Townhall story called Gowdy Names Reporters Who Helped Peddle Schiff Leaks During Russia Investigation. Talking about reporters he thinks were unfair, Gowdy says
    “Let’s just start with Politico and anyone not named Rachael Bade,” Gowdy said. “She was the only reporter that I dealt with that was fair.” [emphasis added]
    Well, there you are.

    Monday, July 19, 2021

    Class War Comix

    Class War Comix 1, by Skip Williamson, ca. 1970

    Eric Levitz at New York informs us:

    In a 2019 report, the consulting firm Cerulli Associates projected that, over the next quarter century, roughly 45 million U.S. households will collectively bequeath $68.4 trillion to their heirs. This transfer will constitute the largest redistribution of wealth in human history. Generation X stands to inherit 57 percent of that $68.4 trillion; millennials will collect the bulk of the rest.

    Millennials, in other words, are one day going to be a lot richer (or at least, some millennials are). In the coming years, that reality is likely to heighten the generation’s class contradictions – and just might redraw the dividing lines in American politics.

    How many millennials, exactly? Not too many, apparently. Levitz calls it about 10% who will be getting all that money, while the other 90% will continue being "one of the the poorest generations ever", crippled by debt and largely unable to build wealth, unstable in employment, often deprived by employers (in the gig economy) of benefits, and delayed in starting families. The typical Millennial holds 41% less wealth than an adult of similar age did in 1989, according to one report in 2019, and these meager holdings are very unequally distributed, especially on ethnic-racial lines:

    The most recent wealth data from the Federal Reserve shows that the average wealth holdings of the typical Black Millennial are approximately $5,700, compared to $26,100 for White Millennials, while the typical Hispanic Millennial had a net worth of $14,690. And while there are disparities in the distribution of both income and wealth according to race and ethnicity, the wealth gap is wider. Among Black and White Millennials, wealth inequality was 2.6 times greater than income inequality, according to the most recent data; among Hispanic and White Millennials it was 1.5 times greater. 
    And it's going to be much more unequal as that tenth of the cohort who are inheriting the $30 trillion, overwhelmingly white, start collecting it. Because although a lot of estates will go to relatively less wealthy young households, those will be smaller than the ones who go to the richer ones; the gap in estate size is also getting a lot bigger, as represented by the chart below (where the green line represents the typical, median inheritance, and the purple one the mean, illustrating how much higher the higher ones are getting):
    Via Capital One Investing.

    Then it's going to be harder for most of them to prosper by working, as wages remain stagnant and capital holds on to productivity gains from automation, and as climate change exacerbates inequality by displacing people when more places become less habitable (Levitz adds that wealthy Millennials will profit off water shortages, as their mutual funds continue become more heavily invested in water shortage products).

    It's enough to turn a whole generation socialist, it is, and guess what: Millennials are certainly a lot more Democratic than the over-40s, and the Democrats among them a lot more "left" in orientation, toward Senator Sanders and Representative Ocasio-Cortez, than their seniors like your correspondent here. Levitz points out that Millennials without college degrees were more likely to vote Republican than those with, but it's worth nothing that his source is from the 2016 election, and the 2020 results suggest that the young blue collar worker has been getting a lot more Democrat-curious, according to—wait for it—Eric Levitz, in a New York piece from last month:

    Sunday, July 18, 2021

    Vaccine Skeptics


    Pyrrho of Elis, founder of the Skeptical School, holds rigorously to principle. Existential Comics.

    Predictably, it turns out that liberals are to blame for vaccine hesitancy—Murc's Law again—because we're "condescending" and that hurts the feelings of people who might otherwise go for it. We're treating them as mulish when they're in fact skeptical, Michael Brendan Dougherty opines at National Review:

    Proponents of the vaccine are unwilling or unable to understand the thinking of vaccine skeptics — or even admit that skeptics may be thinking at all. Their attempts to answer skepticism or understand it end up poisoned by condescension, and end up reinforcing it.

    Skeptics! So we should be persuading them with sweet reason, not treating them as idiots, as, according to Michael Brendan Doughterty, we are all doing, as when Senator Cornyn says the doubts are "based on conspiracy theories" or Senator Romney calls it "moronic":

    Saturday, July 17, 2021


    I'm on vacation starting today. I'll be gone a week or so, but I'm leaving you in the capable hands of the relief crew, so stop by. See you on the 26th.

    Friday, July 16, 2021


    Is it possible for our side to persuade right-wing resisters that they should get the coronavirus vaccine? Probably not -- but maybe this would work:

    President Biden announces that because we appear to have vaccinated everyone in America who's willing to get the shot, in the next 72 hours he's recalling every dose of vaccine in America. They're all being redirected to other countries in order to fight the global COVID crisis. Specifically, the doses will go to:
    * Latin America, with a special emphasis on distribution to Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela
    * sub-Saharan Africa
    * the Palestinian territories
    The president should announce that all doses of the vaccine made in America or scheduled to be delivered to America in the future will also be redirected to these locations. Starting three days hence, no coronavrus vaccine will be available to any American citizen.

    Democratic politicians and important liberal figures should express support for the president's decision. They should say that Americans have had their chance to be vaccinated, and now it's the developing world's turn.

    Many rank-and-file right-wingers will say, "Good -- let those filthy bastards die from the incredibly dangerous vaccines." Some Republican politicians will say this, too. But other Republican politcians -- particularly governors who know that vaccination is necessary -- will say, "How dare the president give away these vaccines! They're ours! He's giving them away to these countries because he hates America and loves our enemies and Third World nations! He wants them to thrive while America declines! We can't allow him to do this!"

    Maybe some Republican states will sue. Maybe some will even send National Guard troops to prevent the jackbooted thug in the Oval Office from taking their jabs by force.

    And maybe, just maybe, some True Patriot American right-wing heartlanders will decide that they're not going to let some swarthy foreigner from a shithole country take their vaccines -- they're going to get those shots before the foreigners can ... to own the libs.

    Maybe a few will even run vaccine drives in non-white American neighborhoods, places where many people work multiple jobs and have transportation difficulties, and thus might not have been vaccinated despite their best intentions. Maybe they'll commandeer doses labeled for overseas shipments and distribute them in these neighborhoods just to prove that liberals are the real racists.

    If all that happens? Mission accomplished.

    The president should then go on national television and say that he's heard the voices of angry Americans, and he understands what they're saying. But he won't abandon the original plan -- he's just suspending it for a month. In a month's time, he'll revisit the plan, and it's quite possible he'll do what he proposed to do originally.

    And maybe, just maybe, there'll be another uproar in a month -- and the president can postpone the redistribution again, because angry conservatives have defiantly seized the jabs and gotten themselves and others vaccinated in order to own the libs once again.

    Repeat until herd immunity.

    I don't know if it would work, but I can't imagine anything else that would.


    Amanda Marcotte thinks it's no surprise that Republicans appear to be encouraging the spread of COVID-19, which is now generally worse in their own states. She reminds us that Republicans have long opposed public health measures involving sex.
    For decades, Republicans have done everything they can to discourage preventive sexual health care, including cutting off access to birth control and condoms and lying about the usefulness of various methods. The claim was that this was all justified to promote "abstinence," but the result, time and again, was just more disease and unwanted child-bearing.

    Megan Carpentier at Dame Magazine took a deep dive on Wednesday on the Republican war on a vaccine for HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that causes many kinds of cancer, most notably cervical cancer....

    It's the same story with all other sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV, which conservatives have long exploited to stigmatize LGBTQ people. And the same story with unwanted pregnancy and childbirth, which is useful to conservatives who want to demagogue about how girls today are a bunch of sluts and feminism is the reason.
    Marcotte is right about conservatives' cold-bloodedness when human suffering can advance their cause. But when what they consider immoral behavior leads to unwanted pregnancies or possibly lethal STDs, they portray the suffers as morally deficient people who brought their problems on themselves. With COVID, it's different. They're not blaming the victims. They're not saying that people who test positive brought it on themselves through sinful conduct. (What could they say? That the infected should have worn masks? They can't say that. They hate masks.)

    Instead, they simply disappear the infected. Last year, when the COVID death toll in the U.S. was more than 150,000, they pushed a distorted reading of CDC data to claim that the real death toll form the disease was less than 10,000. Recently, Tucker Carlson expressed opposition to a Biden administration vaccination campaign by arguing that COVID deaths effectively don't count, because in many places the average age of coronavirus dead exceeds local life expectancy.

    They can get away with this because although the death toll from COVID is very high, it's still only 0.2% of the population in America. As long as most of the target audience for this propaganda is mostly either uninfected or recovered -- and especially because COVID clusters have often centered on urban areas, particularly in the early days of the pandemic -- they can dismiss COVID as the "Wu Flu" and treat reports of the suffering as disinformation. (Remember when they were passing around highly misleading videos supposedly showing empty hospitals in hot zones?)

    They're fine with suffering if the suffering helps the Cause. But in this case, they've made the sufferers all but invisible.