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Reality isn't what it used to be

Given the Internet age and mass media in general, you'd think facts would be easier to sort from fiction. A letter to The Hays Daily News Reader Forum on Feb. 6 titled "Speaking of reality" demonstrates otherwise. I invite you to revisit it.

Opening with, "Unfortunately, there's liberal reality in today's liberal government," the writer then offers his own illiberal version of "real" reality.

His first tiresome specific condemns former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement (inexactly quoted by the Forum writer) as the Affordable Care Act was being debated by legislators. Pelosi told a National Association of Counties legislative conference, "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy." She was correct.

With proposed amendments being argued, the language totaled more than 2,000 pages, and criticism was hot. The opposition was claiming this, claiming that. A frustrated Pelosi further explained, "The fact is, until you have a bill, you can't really, we can't really debunk what they're saying." That was March 9, 2010.

As passed 12 days later, March 21, signed into law March 23 -- with surviving amendments, the legislation printed by the government printing office had 906 pages. (There are no death panels.)

Next, the forum writer promotes a newer right wing half-truth by claiming, "We have 92 million Americans out of work." Fox channel's Mike Huckabee told the Republican National Committee last month, "A lot of people are discouraged in America today, and you can understand why; 92 million Americans don't even have jobs. They're not in the job market anymore." Wow?

The Bureau of Labor sheds some light: "Persons who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force. This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching." That category amounts to the 91.8 million people. The BLS cites an additional 65.5 million Americans 16 or younger who are not counted in the labor force of approximately 155 million.

Last week, BLS found 10.2 million unemployed, not including 2.6 million discouraged individuals, not actively seeking work. Together, that's 8.3 percent of the actual labor force -- higher than the current 6.6 percent advertised but nowhere near the 92 million baloney.

Next, the writer pronounces the present national debt to be $17 trillion. OK. But then he wildly decrees President Barack Obama "has added more to that debt all by his lonesome ... than all other presidents combined." Uh, no.

After inheriting a debt of $5.8 trillion from Bill Clinton (having himself inherited a $4.4 trillion debt from George H.W. Bush) George W. Bush then added $5.85 trillion, leaving Obama with a $11.7 trillion debt. Through 2013, Obama added an additional $5.08 trillion. (Most of which to pay for GWB policies, principally two unfunded wars and tax cuts for the wealthy.)

Dividing 5.08 by 17 equals approximately 30 percent -- the percentage of total debt added in Obama's time in office through 2013. Estimating another $2.1 trillion (or less) added 2014 through 2017 (using latest CBO figures), the total still doesn't add up to more than that of "all other presidents combined."

In kindness, we'll skip the writer's rant suggesting Clinton "forced" lending institutions to loan money to black people for houses they couldn't afford. For now, we'll not remind him "fair distribution" of wealth explains the goal better than the loaded word "redistribution." We'll proceed to his notion human-influenced global warming is a myth, one which "many liberals actually believe."

He writes, "The earth's surface was warmer in periods of time before the industrial revolution," by which he probably means the Medieval Warm Period, 800-1400 A.D.

Before responding to such claims by denialists and doubt-mongers, readers first should visit skepticalscience.com, which covers a long list. Of this one, skepticalscience sums up their findings: " a) Globally temperatures are warmer than they have been during the last 2,000 years; and b) the causes of Medieval warming are not the same as those causing late 20th century warming."

Both NASA and NOAA agree nine of the last 10 warmest years globally in recorded history have been in the 21st century, the hottest being 2010. Second is 2005. As for last year, there's some disagreement. NASA says 2013 was the seventh warmest year on record globally. NOAA ranked it fourth -- a tie with 2003. The disagreement, scientists said, is based on differences in hundredths of a degree (Associated Press, Jan. 24)

Speaking of degrees, the fact-ignoring, illiberal forum writer allegedly has a master's in something or other. Personally, I'd have to see the original.

Bob Hooper is a fourth-generation western Kansan who writes from his home in Bogue.

theceltic@ruraltel.net