Politics & Other Mistakes: Watered-down logic

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Here’s a little fable to brighten your day:

Once upon a time, there was a guy named Eric, who had one great fear. Eric was constantly worried that his possessions – furniture, rugs, art – would get wet and be ruined. So, Eric spent hours checking the plumbing in his house to see if there was anything that might clog it up. When it rained, he rushed to close every window. He had his roof inspected monthly to detect leaks. He even built a dike around his property to fend off floods.

Eric was very proud of his efforts to prevent water damage. “I don’t need the government’s help to keep my possessions dry,” he said.

Then one day, Eric’s house caught fire. The local firefighters showed up, aimed their hoses and prepared to douse the blaze. But before that could happen, Eric ran in front of them shouting, “Stop! My precious possessions must not be damaged by water! Go away, you agents of oppressive government intervention!”

The firefighters were puzzled by this attitude, but they shrugged, packed up their gear and drove off. Eric’s house burned to the ground. His possessions were reduced to ashes.

The moral: Sometimes it’s better to be all wet than a little drip.

There’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions. But it’s important to recognize that while those beliefs may work under normal circumstances, they might not be as effective when things go sideways. You may be convinced herbal remedies will cure your ills. But if the diagnosis is cancer, you really ought to try more mainstream treatments. Your Tom Brady G.O.A.T. tattoo is going to itch like crazy every time you hear the words “Tampa Bay.” Your lucky socks might have kept you out of trouble, right up until you were caught in bed with a 14-year-old. 

The real-life inspiration for the protagonist in the above fable is Eric Brakey, a Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Brakey is a fanatic libertarian, who believes virtually everything the government does is wrong. That might not be a completely irrational assessment if we were in less dire circumstances.

As you may have noticed, there’s an excess of dire around. The coronavirus is wrecking our economy and our health-care system. Congress and the president have attempted to deal with the pandemic by passing a $2.2 trillion relief measure. Brakey, rigid in his adherence to his principles, opposed that legislation, telling the Lewiston Sun Journal it was “a rotten deal for the American people.”

Brakey has lots of reasons for thinking that. Some of them are even halfway reasonable, such as the new law’s loopholes for special interests and bailouts for large corporations. But most of his complaints are nonsensical. In a fundraising email, he equates the relief package with “bans on firearm sales” and claims it will lead to “socialist control of our health care.” Neither is based in fact.

Brakey has offered an alternative plan to deal with the crisis. He wants to bring all U.S. troops home from overseas, a process that would take months to accomplish and years to free up significant cash. He wants to suspend all payroll taxes, a move that won’t help people who’ve been thrown out of work.

Most of all, Brakey thinks we need to refocus our concerns on the real problem, which is not some annoying virus that’s killing thousands of people. In a fundraising letter, he wrote, “Vigilance against the growth of the state is most needed in times like these.”

That ought to play well with medical staff in need of protective gear, patients desperate for ventilators and the average person worried about their health, finances and sanity.

That last one has never been a big concern of Brakey’s.

In case you’re wondering what became of Eric in the fable, rest easy. Left destitute by the house fire, he finally got a job selling flood insurance. But he only lasted a few weeks until he discovered the government required that coverage for many homeowners. So, he quit and starved to death.

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