Why do we even have congressional hearings? It’s obvious from watching them that some of our elected representatives already (think they) know everything and aren’t listening to the answers they receive. Even when they try really really hard to “nudge” the person testifying before them into saying what they already believe. On C-SPAN yesterday, for example, there was a hearing of the House Budget Committee with Ben Bernanke (the text of his testimony is here), towards the end of which (scroll to 2:03:51), Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA) asked Bernanke the following:
The stimulus that was passed by this Congress last year: was it necessary and did it work?
Easy enough, right? We all know that it didn’t work, except for Connolly apparently, but many people have sort of believed that it was necessary to save the economy. Many people, but apparently not Ben Bernanke, who replied (after donning his Sidestep shoes):
I think it was helpful, I think it added, I think it did create some jobs . . . . it was helpful.
Connolly didn’t hear what he wanted and expected to hear, so he badgers Bernanke:
Yes, but let’s go back to the stimulus when it was passed. Was it useful or necessary to the US economy, or could we have just gotten by without it?
So Bernanke tells him it was useful, having been thrown what he thought was a bone. Only to discover it wasn’t a bone after all. Connolly presses:
Useful? Was the stimulus necessary or naw-ot a little over a year ago? [Bernanke gazes into space] You’ll be one of the few economists I know of who thinks otherwise if the answer isn’t “yes.” [Bernanke gazes into space. Again.]
Bernanke knows what’s happening, and he tries really hard to give Connolly what he wants without giving him what he wants. Connolly, predictably, responds by falling to the floor and pounding his chubby little fists and flailing his stumpy little legs then threatens to hold his breath until Bernanke says “yes.” Okay, I made that part up. But he was clearly put out by Bernanke’s stubborn refusal to lie.
Then there’s a comical (and hugely ironic) exchange about how “everyone should keep an open mind” . . . everyone, apparently, but Connolly who continues to (attempt to) coerce Bernanke into validating his bizarre leftist notion about taxes (the more the better, woohoo!). Connolly essentially says that those stoooopid Republicans want to cut spending and not raise taxes, isn’t that stoooopid? (Bernanke is noncommittal) Then Connolly asks,
Is there enough spending to be cut?
Yes, he really asked that. Of a massive, irresponsible, bloated $3.83 trillion budget. Seriously. To which Bernanke responds,
Yes, of course. [Bernanke kind of snort-laughs]
D’oh! But wait, it gets better. Connolly has decided that the Bush tax cuts are the reason that the economy nearly collapsed. So Bernanke tells him (probably for the 3.83 trillionth time):
The financial crisis, I think, was a somewhat separate set of factors.
Yeah, like that pesky little problem with Fannie and Freddy and the government forcing lenders to loan money to people who–oh, I don’t know–didn’t have jobs and/or couldn’t possibly pay their mortgage. Poor delusional Connolly. The Bush tax cuts were in place, so all irresponsible ideas should have been supported by those tax cuts, and because they weren’t, the tax cuts obviously didn’t work. Uh-huh. Just like when I bought that closet bar thing to help with the near-nonexistent storage in my closets: I loaded it up (or down?) with too many clothes and amazingly, the whole thing crashed down to the floor. The only conclusion to draw is that the closet bar thing is a piece of poo, right? It couldn’t possibly be that I piled too much stuff on it for it to hold.
Bernanke has to explain to Connolly that his (Connolly’s) “read” of the tax revenue numbers (they’re down) is incorrect: the “tax burden” is not down because of tax cuts and insufficient tax levels but because of a recession in which there is nearly 10% unemployment (people without jobs do not pay income tax, go figure) and those who are lucky enough to be employed are earning less (and therefore paying fewer taxes). However, nothing is related to anything else for these leftists, and that’s why they think, and honestly seem to believe, that “taxing the rich” will solve all our economic woes, that and throwing money at ridiculous non-jobs (hiring, firing, and rehiring Census workers, for instance, or paying for work that was never done). It won’t. Not even close. They don’t consider, even for a minute, that the rich pass those increases on by raising the price of goods and services and/or by cutting benefits and salaries. The rich also have a multitude of ways to avoid paying taxes (many of those written by the same members of Congress who either take advantage of these tax shelters they’ve set up or simply don’t bother to pay their taxes at all) . . . or maybe they do consider it and don’t care that the tax burden is always shifted to the middle and lower middle classes.
One thing is clear, though, these congressional hearings are a bit of a joke. Connolly didn’t learn a thing, he obviously ignored what Bernanke said because it didn’t fit his bizarre “understanding” of what went wrong and why or of how to fix it. If these “leaders” listen only to what they want to hear, what they already believe, how can we ever expect them to solve the problems? They just keep doing the same thing, expecting different results.