During the “New Rules” segment of his latest HBO show, Bill Maher talks about the human tendency to keep believing in something we’ve invested in despite evidence that it’s not working. This is a generalization of the “sunk cost” fallacy in economics that too often stops people from cutting their losses.
This, he suggests, is why a lot of people on the far right cling to a belief that Obama had done all manner of horrible things to the country despite the fact that the predicted catastrophes simply didn’t materialize. He catalogs a number of examples starting about 4 minutes into the video.
A caution: This is Bill Maher, so the language and subject matter do get a mite risqué.
Here are some of the failed predictions Maher cites (with some additional comments from me):
Donald Trump (in a Tweet from September 2011): “… when Obama Care takes effect in 2014 expect it [the unemployment rate] to go even higher.”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky (July 2013): Obamacare “will lead to bankruptcy in the states …”
Speaker John Boehner (January 2011): Obamacare “will bankrupt our nation …”
Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina (March 2010): “The legacy for Medicare is going to be devastating.”
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma (October 2010): “There will be no insurance industry left in three years.”
Sarah Palin (August 2009): “… my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s death panel …” (Strictly speaking, of course, this wasn’t a failed prediction; it was a lie.)
And on subjects other than the Affordable Care Act:
Mitt Romney (November 2008): If the Obama administration bails out the car companies (which it did most notably for GM, which was about to go out of business), “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”
Newt Gingrich (February 2012): “If you want $10 a gallon gasoline … Barack Obama should be your candidate.”
NRA president Wayne LaPierre (February 2012): If reelected, Obama will “erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.”
Rick Santorum (November 2011): If gay marriage becomes the law of the land “our country will fall.”
Mitt Romney (December 2011): “If President Obama is reelected, you won’t be able to get a job.”
That last remark reminds me that in May 2012 Romney promised, “I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we’d put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, and perhaps a little lower.” Of course, the Congressional Budget Office predicted in 2012 that based on the economic trends at the time, the headline unemployment rate would fall to 5.3 percent by the end of 2016, so Romney may have had in mind being able to take credit for something expected to happen anyway.
As it turned out, of course, the rate fell as much in two years under Obama as Romney had promised in four. (And no, the books haven’t been cooked; there’s too much independent verification to make that claim credible.) It’s true that workforce participation (the number of people working or actively looking for work) is lower than we’d like to see it, but that’s improving as well, and it would be improving even faster if Congress hadn’t made the mistake of embracing Austerity Lite despite its failure in Europe.