Does the U.S. Need an Intervention?

Well, it seems the damnfools are not going to blink, and Boehner is not going to allow a vote on a clean CR. House baggers and other Republicans are downplaying the risk, and Senator Coburn actually said that the U.S. would not default on debt if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. Seriously, he said that.

So the question is, are these people just talking like this for the benefit of the rubes, or do they really believe it? It’s hard to know, but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that they are really that stupid.

Krugman today argues that what we’re really looking at is incompetence more than stupidity, and cites something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s when you’re so incompetent you don’t recognize you are competent incompetent.

From Psychology Today:

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias in which people perform poorly on a task, but lack the meta-cognitive capacity to properly evaluate their performance. … To be clear, the main reason for the Dunning Kruger effect should not be viewed as lying in a person’s general IQ. Much rather the Dunning Kruger effect seems to arise from the general top-down approach in which people estimate their own performances: In evaluating ourselves, we tend to start with preconceived notions about our general skill and then we integrate these notions into how well we think we are doing on a task.

The top-down effect means that people assume themselves to be competent — or knowledgeable, or smart — and then judge their own competence or expertise based on that assumption. For example,

“The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.”

It’s not clear to me how the situation described in the paragraph above is substantially different from just being stupid, but let’s go on …

Krugman writes that it should have been obvious there was no way President Obama would be blackmailed into abandoning the Affordable Care Act. That so many Republicans could not understand this, and apparently still can’t, certainly speaks to a profound mental incompetence of some sort.

Krugman continues,

It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.

They actually can’t create policy any more. They don’t seem to grasp that there’s a difference between ideological talking points and actual policy (example).

For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too.

In other words, there was a time that those who spoke for the Republican Party recognized that their bullshit was bullshit. But those days are gone.

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