In the right column on this page, toward the bottom and under the heading "Helpful Links" there is a couple of links to "logical fallacies". It is my opinion that every person should be at least familiar enough with these fallacies to realize when someone is using one.
Of interest to me today is an all too common fallacy called the "You Too" fallacy. 1 The meme above is a great example of this. Here are several points to consider when encountering this sort of thing:
1. "You do it too" is not an argument. It doesn't discuss the issue. In this meme the issue would appear to be deficits, but it's not. Notice that there is no position being taken. Neither are there any explanations as to why or if deficits are good or bad or what to do to fix them. It is simply a veiled accusation of hypocrisy to anyone who decries them.
2. This fallacy has a tinge of another fallacy called the "Red Herring Fallacy", because it introduces non-pertinent information.
3. Using this meme as an example, consider that this "You Too" argument cuts both ways by raising two questions:
- Does the person who created this meme approve of massive deficits?
- If he does, should we assume therefore that he approved of Bush because of his deficits?
4. This fallacy is designed to put the person who argues against something in the awkward position of having to defend the very thing that he is now against. No matter the issue, this will generally be the case. In this respect, this tactic is normally successful only in obscuring the real issue... which is its purpose. As noted in "3" however, the one using this tactic has his own explaining to do. Keep that in mind if you employ it yourself.
Now, to respond to this meme. First, I was very worried about the deficits when Bush was president, that was Bush 1 and of course 2.
Second, the president is not king. Every president, if he honors the constitution, is either asked to exercise fiscal restraint or cast it off by congress. If the deficits were tracked by who holds both houses of congress it reveals a totally different picture than is commonly painted.
Third, deficits are not in their own right bad. To borrow money to build, say a bridge, that will help future generations to be more productive, then that generation should have to share in the cost. Nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, to strap future generations with the cost of lavish pensions for government workers is not ethical, moral or fiscally wise. And, when there develops an alliance between those who enjoy the pensions and those who give them because the former keeps the latter's campaign coffers full, corruption is now in full bloom.
Forth, the very nature of politics imposes compromise on all . In representative governments the governments reflect a collective position, not my position. Therefore, if I hated America and wanted it destroyed, no deficit would be large enough. I would have to settle for deficits that were palatable for 51% of the people. Therefore, when Bush was elected I had a choice in degree. I recognized this has a harsh fact.. I could vote for the big spender, or I could vote for the run-America-off-the-fiscal-cliff-so-it-could-then-be-fundamentally-transformed spender. In that respect John Kerry was no different than Barak Obama.
Fifth, the wars that Bush entered into did not come from nothing. We were attacked. The attack itself brought on its own economic turmoil that effected government revenues.
Sixth, tax cuts don't necessarily amount to reduced revenues, rather, they can increase revenues. How can the government taxing and spending money in so called "stimulus programs" help the economy more than just letting the people who earned that same money spend it themselves? It can't. What it does do is give politicians credit, and therefore votes, for giving away other people's money. In other words, how much would the government take in if it levied 100% tax? The answer is zero.
And finally, there simply is no comparison between Obama's deficits and any previous administration's deficits, and if Obama has his way, he is just getting started.
1. Fallacies are known by Latin names. The "You Too" fallacy is called tu quoque.