Monday, August 11, 2003

In the World of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is Under Arrest

We Americans have a right to mess up our own affairs, which is why I get more exercised by the foreign policy of the Bush administration than by its domestic program. The two are related, however; and the regime pursues its aims at home and abroad with the same characteristic combination of good conscience and studied dishonesty. While the State and Defense Departments, the CIA, and the FBI cheerfully jigger intelligence to support the Conquest of Iraq and other international adventures, the independence of the government’s various scientific advisory boards has been compromised by political intervention through the stocking of boards with ideologues and operatives and the censoring of supposedly objective reports as in the recent instance of the excision of inconvenient conclusions about global warming from an important EPA document. Apparently, the administration is also doctoring the economic information issued by various agencies. For example, for the last couple of years the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis has stopped reporting the distributional effects of tax changes. This outfit previously issued formal reports addressing the question of who benefits and who pays for various policy changes. Since the last two tax bills were obviously crafted to benefit the wealthy, objective analysis could not be permitted. Unfortunately, the muzzling of the Office of Tax Analysis is hardly an aberration. Under the prevailing circumstances, government data on the budget, unemployment, and the balance of trade are probably all suspect.

One has to be both na├»ve and ignorant of the moral history of the last thirty years to think that significant numbers of contemporary bureaucrats, scientists, and economists are going to be willing to risk their incomes to blow the whistle on the politicization of technical information. Ranked by its bad effects, the great vice of the age is not a fondness for child pornography, after all, but plain old careerism. These guys agree with Tim Russert that integrity is for paupers. Meanwhile, it’s easy to understand why the rightists think that they can get away with corrupting the sources of information even though they blind themselves in the process. The administration is a faith-based institution; prophecy doesn’t require eyes.