Truth as a virtue

Walker County Messenger - - News -

in count­less in­stances, from cli­mate change to im­mi­gra­tion, he is fail­ing to learn from their mis­takes -- push­ing poli­cies that are mo­ti­vated by pol­i­tics and prej­u­dices, not real­ity. Here are just three par­tic­u­larly egre­gious ex­am­ples:

-- Voter fraud. Trump keeps ar­gu­ing that he would have won the pop­u­lar vote if not for mil­lions of il­le­gal votes cast for Hil­lary Clin­ton. He’s even ap­pointed a com­mis­sion to val­i­date his delu­sion of mas­sive voter fraud, which has been thor­oughly de­bunked by elec­tion an­a­lysts from both par­ties.

Prof. Justin Le­vitt of the Loy­ola Law School tracked ev­ery “spe­cific cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tion” of voter fraud since 2000 and found 31 cases -- out of more than 1 bil­lion votes cast.

That and many sim­i­lar stud­ies led The Wash­ing­ton Post to ed­i­to­ri­al­ize: “Pres­i­dent Trump’s claim that 3 mil­lion to 5 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants voted il­le­gally in last fall’s elec­tions is as ev­i­dence-based as the as­ser­tion that space aliens are bom­bard­ing the planet Earth with marsh­mal­lows.” Even Wy­oming’s Sec­re­tary of State, Repub­li­can Ed Mur­ray, told the Post: “I have not ex­pe­ri­enced any sec­re­tary of state who has ex­pressed any con­cerns or worry about fraud.”

-- Health care “choice.” The White House is back­ing a pro­posal by Sen. Ted Cruz that would end Oba­macare re­quire­ments that in­di­vid­u­als buy in­sur­ance or pay a penalty, and that insurers of­fer poli­cies with cer­tain stan­dard ben­e­fits. This is “what free­dom looks like,” Vice Pres­i­dent Pence told Rush Lim­baugh.

But ev­ery health care econ­o­mist, con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral alike, comes to the same con­clu­sion: “Con­sumer choice” might make a good po­lit­i­cal slo­gan, but would be “in­her­ently desta­bi­liz­ing” as ac­tual pol­icy, Larry Le­vitt of the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion told Politico.

Un­der Cruz’ pro­posal, healthy peo­ple would buy cheap poli­cies or none at all, while sick peo­ple would pur­chase more ex­ten­sive cov­er­age. As a re­sult, pre­mi­ums would sky­rocket, es­pe­cially for pol­i­cy­hold­ers with ex­pen­sive pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. “I think that re­ally would be the def­i­ni­tion of a death spi­ral,” said Tara O’Neill Hayes of the con­ser­va­tive think tank Amer­i­can Ac­tion Fo­rum.

-- Steel tar­iffs. Trump is con­tem­plat­ing in­creased du­ties on im­ported steel as a way, he says, of pre­serv­ing Amer­i­can jobs and pro­tect­ing na­tional se­cu­rity. Ex­perts strongly agree that such a move would ac­com­plish nei­ther ob­jec­tive.

Trump’s ar­gu­ment about na­tional se­cu­rity is “in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­hon­est,” says the Post, be­cause the coun­try’s se­cu­rity is not jeop­ar­dized by im­port­ing steel; most of our lead­ing sup­pli­ers, from Canada to South Korea, are strong al­lies. More se­ri­ously, pro­tect­ing steel jobs would raise the price of goods that use steel, like cars, and trigger a back­lash against Amer­i­can-made prod­ucts and ser­vices.

“If he ac­tu­ally pulls the trigger, it could be highly dis­rup­tive to world trade,” Stephen Moore, a con­ser­va­tive econ­o­mist who has ad­vised Trump, said in The New York Times. “It’s not even go­ing to re­ally work in terms of help­ing Amer­i­can work­ers.”

Ex­perts are far from per­fect, but an ad­min­is­tra­tion that re­jects their ad­vice and re­gards fact-fin­ders as “in­her­ently alien” is mak­ing a huge mis­take.

“In­formed anal­y­sis will some­times be wrong,” Dou­glas El­men­dorf, the for­mer head of the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice, told the Wall Street Jour­nal, “but I’d rather bet on in­formed anal­y­sis than ig­no­rant guesses.”

In Trump’s White House, im­petu­ous ig­no­rance is “win­ning,” to use the pres­i­dent’s fa­vorite word. In­formed anal­y­sis and the pub­lic in­ter­est are the losers.

Steve and Cokie Roberts can be con­tacted by email at steve­[email protected] com.

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