In November 2017, there was the Flat Earth Conference, where a small (yet surprisingly large) number of people convened to share and reveal in their belief that the world is indeed flat. To say that everyone in the world knows the earth to be round would be a false statement. I think we can agree that a vast majority of people do know and/or believe and trust the earth to be round… or spherical to be more precise. Who would go around quoting the dissent as a way to disprove the majority? Unless you, too, believe the world to be flat, accepting a fallacy.
Why then is this different when it comes to economics?
Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, my home state, said in an interview that she does not agree that the tax bill would increase the deficit.
She cited an economist, Glenn, the Dean of the Columbia School of Business. I get that. She found one. Maybe a handful. But she went so far to say that economists don’t all agree. True. However, at what point do you conclude there is enough consensus? How many experts — scientific or otherwise — need to form a consensus before it is enough?
When asked “what evidence do you have that this works in this way?” She provided an unresponsive answer. She did not cite evidence, but rather espoused the work of a minority of economists who agree with her position. This means one of a few things: a) Senator Collins does not understand the assumptions and requirements of the economic model she speaks of in a meaningful way as to address the question, b) Senator Collins does not require evidence in making her decision, c) the evidence provided by countless other economists was found unconvincing, d) Senator Collins has reason to believe this tax plan, unlike any other before it, will in fact spur the economy in a meaningful way, and e) Senator Collins does not see past tax cuts as being evidence counter to her point.
What politicians like Susan Collins have done is to change the debate. They have reduced these important conversations down to whether or not you have a single expert willing to go to bat for your viewpoint. We may never have 100% agreement on anything as a nation, and that’s okay. Leveraging that as a way to justify a position is weak and lazy. Our democracy deserves better.
That is to say that we deserve real debate in a format allowing popular or unpopular ideas to be presented and supported by evidence to create understanding. I suppose there are even times when the minority is correct, when a single voice can speak up and change our course. This does not give us permission to ignore facts, place causation where there is none, and set aside our own history.
So what is actually going on here? What are Senators — Republicans — trying to do here? One comment made on The Daily, a podcast from the New York Times, is that the tax plan will largely impact high-tax states, which also are the more left-leaning, in an attempt to get them to reduce spending by cutting services. Is that really the philosophy at work? What is the true motivation and intention by these elected officials? What forces are at play here and how is it that the press has not been able to push them on these points to get us one step closer to actual debate?