Ron Fournier seems confused – about a lot of things. Here’s the title of his latest column: Clueless, Heartless, and Gutless: Today’s GOP – Republican brand at risk over food stamps, unemployment benefits, economic inequality, and trust. According to Fournier:
The most charitable thing you can say about the Republican Party is that it has an image problem. Even if you support its policies, no clear-eyed observer can deny that on any given day the GOP looks clueless, heartless, and gutless… it takes just four stories to see how much worse things are for the GOP.
So, Fournier has four stories, which he picked to highlight his theory that republicans are “clueless, heartless and gutless.” Leaving aside the maxim that the plural of anecdote is not data, Fournier has a bit of a problem – with the (possible) exception of his fourth story, none of his examples prove his point. Fournier simply cites a story and then, with no factual basis or connection, simply declares Republicans to be whatever pejorative term he has chosen. If we were in court, an objection would be sustained on the grounds that he has laid no foundation for his assertion.
Story #1 is a long quote from “Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life“, which is a profile in the New York Times about homelessness and children. Here is the entirety of Fournier’s commentary:
Written by Andrea Elliott and illustrated by photographer Ruth Fremson, Dasani’s story is an indictment of a political system that is aiding and abetting America’s division by class, where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class gets squeezed into oblivion. Both major parties are complicit, but Republicans, more than Democrats, seem especially eager to widen and exploit American inequality.
So, using an article in the Times which profiles homelessness in Manhattan as a springboard, Fournier attributes the failings of the system to both parties, but finds the Republicans particularly at fault because, according to Fournier, Republicans exploit class divides more than Democrats. This in interesting for two reasons. First, the mayor of New York is an Independent (and back when he was a Republican, Bloomberg was a decidedly liberal Republican) and the city legislature (as well as the state) is dominated by Democrats. Therefore linking New York’s problems to Republican actions is highly suspect. Second it is on the left that you see the the 99%/1% rhetoric. It’s the Democrats who run the candidates who play the divided nation card (John Edwards, De Blasio) and it is Democrats who like to talk about income inequality being a wedge issue. Just standing up and saying, as Fournier is essentially doing, “it’s the Republicans’ fault!” is not much of an argument.
Store #2 is about a quote from Rand Paul and a link to a Huffington Post piece titled “Rand Paul: Unemployment Benefits Extension Would Be a ‘Disservice’ to Workers.” Here Fournier, once again, simply declares facts, without actually offering up any evidence in support of his statements. For example, here is Fournier’s response to Paul citing a study saying that if you extend unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks it is a disservice to workers:
He’s wrong, and he’s making the GOP look clueless. Studies typically cited by the GOP are old and irrelevant to the current economy, which is in the midst of a once-a-century economic shift that makes it extraordinarily difficult for some workers to adjust.
Let’s look at what Fournier has done here. Paul has made an assertion and based it upon a study. Fournier has, once again, simply stated Paul is wrong. Here’s his exact statement: “He’s wrong, and he’s making the GOP look clueless. Studies typically cited by the GOP are old and irrelevant to the current economy, which is in the midst of a once-a-century economic shift that makes it extraordinarily difficult for some workers to adjust.”
Look at his last sentence. He simply declares that we are in a once-a-century moment and, therefore, studies which contradict his thesis (i.e., the thesis of liberal think tanks and economists) are therefore incorrect. However, it is Fournier who is wrong. Far from the matter being settled, there is active debate as to the effects of long-term unemployment insurance, including under today’s conditions, (see here, here and (most damningly) here, for examples). This is another place where Fournier is lucky he isn’t an attorney. An attorney has a duty to the court to present all precedent relevant to a case, including that which might be unfavorable, in the interests of truth. I guess journalists aren’t held to such a high standard. Fournier may be correct, but to simply flat-out state Paul is incorrect and his studies are out-of-date represents careless journalism or worse on Fournier’s part.
Story #3 is an op-ed n The Washington Post by Robert Rubin, Roger Altman, and Melissa Kearney titled “Making the Poor Poorer.” Their argument is “that GOP-led plans to reduce food stamps would be ‘economically and morally unsound.’” Fournier’s entire analysis of this (again, hand-picked) example is:
Republicans argue that the food-stamp program is growing, which they blame on Democrats rather than a global economic revolution and the lingering effects of a recession rooted in Clinton- and Bush-era policies. It most cases, poverty isn’t the fault of the poor. Trust us, the GOP says. And yet …
Who can even tell what Fournier is saying here? Is he saying the GOP is clueless because the politics look bad? If so, why not cite some evidence that the GOP is getting slammed in the polls for perceived heartlessness? Is his point that the GOP is clueless about food stamp operations? If so, he offers no evidence to that effect. All he does is cite the opinion of some economists that cutting food stamps is bad. Whether it is true or not, and whether it is having an impact on the GOP’s image or not is left entirely unanswered.
Clueless. Heartless. Gutless. Those are the charges that Fournier levels. Perhaps he is right. However, if this is the best he can muster in support of his thesis then the Republican party has nothing to worry about.