The Annals of Selective Quoting
Republicans love to characterize Democrats as “Tax and Spenders.” They love to paint themselves as frugal. The problem is, they spend just as much as the Democrats, only with an emphasis on different things—and since they despise taxes, that makes them the party of “Tax and Borrow,” the party of “Tax and Debt.” Republicans are the chief architects of this nation’s debt; there is no question at all of that. And yet, fantastically, they try to blame it all on the Democrats.
Currently, Republicans are fighting a daily battle to blame Obama for all the debt, as if Republicans had not been handed a surplus by a Democrat, as if they had not obliterated that surplus in the name of tax cuts for the wealthy and massively costly wars and porkbarrel spending, as if they had not characterized the paying off of debts as a hideous injustice against taxpayers, as if $10 trillion in debt did not exist before Obama was elected, as if that debt was not chiefly created by Republicans, as if Obama had not been handed stupendous debts in a tail-spinning economy, and as if Obama had not been successful at lowering those deficits despite Republicans’ best efforts to make Obama fail.
In the latest round, John Boehner sent a memo to House Republicans, in which he cited Lincoln—a favorite pastime for conservatives vainly desperate to score on Lincoln’s gravitas. Boehner wrote,
The book Congressman Lincoln by Chris DeRose, which I recently read, includes a chapter focused on Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to help craft a new national agenda. At one point in the book, young Lincoln warns that government debt is “growing with a rapidity fearful to contemplate.”
“[Government debt] is a system not only ruinous while it lasts, but one that must soon fail and leave us destitute,” Lincoln warns his countrymen in Congressman Lincoln. “An individual who undertakes to live by borrowing, soon finds his original means devoured by interest, and next no one left to borrow from –- so must it be with a government.”
Well, it turns out that if you go to the source material for that quote, a campaign circular for the people of Illinois from March 4, 1843, you find that the quote is indeed authentic, and indeed Lincoln laments debt.
But here’s the thing: the very next words after that quote are,
We repeat, then, that a tariff sufficient for revenue, or a direct tax, must soon be resorted to; and, indeed, we believe this alternative is now denied by no one.
In other words, the very next words in Lincoln’s missive are a conclusion that revenues be raised—the precise solution Boehner and House Republicans have been fighting relentlessly to defeat! Not only that, but Boehner even quotes around Lincoln’s argument for taxation; Boehner cherry-picks the part about debt “growing with a rapidity fearful to contemplate,” but conveniently leaves out the very next sentence; the whole quote is,
By this means a new National debt, has been created, and is still growing on us with a rapidity fearful to contemplate—a rapidity only reasonably to be expected in time of war. This state of things has been produced by a prevailing unwillingness, either to increase the tariff, or resort to direct taxation.
Not just that, but Lincoln himself advocates tariffs over direct taxation not because he dislikes taxes, but because tariffs target the rich:
In short, by this system, the burthen of revenue falls almost entirely on the wealthy and luxurious few, while the substantial and laboring many who live at home, and upon home products, go entirely free.
But wait, it gets even better. Lincoln, as it turns out, was on Obama’s side, as pointed out by Greg Sargent:
Lincoln was also a firm believer in spending public money on infrastructure and boosting the economy.
As an Illinois state legislator, Lincoln was a leading proponent of using the proceeds from sales of public lands to pay for the digging of canals and building of railroads. As a member of Congress, Lincoln defended the idea of federal subsidies for internal improvements. Indeed, Lincoln was an ardent believer in Henry Clay’s “American System,” which was heavily predicated on government sponsored internal improvements and was one of the most significant instances of government intervention in the economy in the country’s history.
“Lincoln was a tremendous advocate of government spending on infrastructure and economic development,” leading Lincoln historian Eric Foner told me. “As president Lincoln presided over a tremendous increase in government spending, not just because of the war but also on the Homestead land grant system and aid to construction of the transcontinental railroad.”
Huh. How about that. Lincoln wanted to raise revenues on the backs of the wealthy and use the money to pay off debts and invest in infrastructure improvements.
Well, Boehner? Any comments about how Abraham Lincoln was a Commie Socialist Fascist?
Unfortunately, the fact that a Republican, whose party has left us in financial ruin, attempts to heap blame on another man after repeatedly sabotaging that man’s efforts to alleviate that ruin, should selectively quote Lincoln in an effort to defeat Lincoln’s principles… well, let’s just call it “par for the course.”
Republicans, as if it is not obvious, and as if I have not said this repeatedly, are the most egregiously asinine lying hypocritical dirtbags you can imagine.