Which Lie Do You Buy?

July 21, 2011

Politicians are all liars.

If there’s a bigger cop-out for political apathy, I can’t think of one off the top of my head. It brushes with a broad stroke and enables those pronouncing such a trite sentiment to walk away with an unearned sense of superiority. I would deign to participate in the proceedings if those involved weren’t so contemptibly untruthful.

More insidiously, it gives cover to vote for those we know are determined to act on our worst, self-interested instincts. When they do once being elected, we look shocked, throw up our hands and exclaim, what are you gonna do? Who knew they were going to cut [fill in the blank] and ban [fill in the blank]? They’re all liars.

It all comes full circle as opportunistic politicians then do only what an easily cynical electorate expects them to do: lie. Tell us what we want to hear with a wink and a nod and then unfurl an unspoken agenda, much to our satisfaction and mock dismay. What are you gonna do? They’re all liars.

So we had a recent federal election that, to hear tell it, nobody really wanted and had nothing to do with a minority government in contempt of parliament. There’s an upcoming provincial election in the fall that looks as if it’s going to be fought on the flimsiest of grounds. A tax mad incumbent who’s buried the province under a sea of red tape, making it uncompetitive and on the road to ruin. Never mind that indications point to a more upbeat outlook. A slow if unsteady climb from the biggest economic downturn in over 80 years. The Taxman Cometh! Oogly-boogly!

And of course, there was last year’s municipal election in Toronto, chock full of pithy phrases, sleights of hand and misdirection. “Stop The Gravy Train.” “Respect For Taxpayers.” “City Hall Does Not Have A Revenue Problem. It Has A Spending Problem.”

Less than a year later, turns out much of that was — how to phrase it gently? – complete and utter shit. Most of then Councillor Rob Ford’s opponents for mayor said exactly that on the campaign trail. His numbers didn’t add up. His anecdotal evidence of waste and profligacy was nothing more than that, anecdotal. There was no way possible for him to cut taxes without cutting services.

But the soon-to-be next mayor of Toronto and his self-proclaimed Nation plugged their ears and yelled la-la-la-la-la-la, unconvinced. Waste would be found. Easy. Taxes could be cut. Easy. No services would be cut. Guaranteed.

Quickly however, ‘no services’ became no major services’ and now, as we head into the budget battles in the fall Everything. Is. On. The. Table. Exactly like many of those Ford defeated last October said it would be. As Edward Keenan pointed out in his Grid article last week, the KPMG core services review report ultimately showed what the previous mayor, David Miller, and his supporters had said all along. There wasn’t a whole lot of gravy at City Hall. Toronto was being run pretty darn efficiently and the major cuts that were available to Mayor Ford weren’t going to amount to a hill of beans money wise.

In short, the entire campaign platform that propelled Rob Ford into the mayor’s office was predicated on one whoppingly big faulty premise, let’s call it. All the waste he promised to find easy, well, wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, it’d be a stretch to call most of it waste at all. No matter how much the generously paid consultants at KPMG tired to frame it otherwise, the fact of the matter is candidate Rob Ford was wrong.

A more humble or intellectually accommodating person would stand back, admit the error of his ways and proceed to re-evaluate his thinking. New information. Recalibrate. That’s generally how a species successfully adapts.

That is not our mayor’s style, choosing instead to just bull on, spouting even more nonsense and claptrap. As Mr. Keenan noted Tuesday in The Grid, the mayor’s on something of a ‘truthiness’ whistle stop tour, telling AM radio talk show listeners that labour make up 80% of the city’s costs. Ummm, actually no, Mr. Mayor. It’s more like 48%. Maybe if he’d said 84%, we might think he had a brain fart and mistakenly flipped digits.

Not to outdone on the nosestretcher scale, the mayor’s brother and apparent stunt double in mendacity, Councillor Doug Ford, blurted out that his neighbourhood had more libraries than Tim Hortons. As if that would be a bad thing. As if that was an indication that we were spending too much money on libraries. As if…

It doesn’t matter because it turns out not to be the case. Not even close. “We have more libraries per person than any other city in the world,” Councillor Ford blustered on. Wrong again, Doug. We don’t. You’re just spouting out sound bytes that have no basis in reality. Infecting discourse with a contagion of half-truths and not even close to half-truths.

What kind of politician, a public servant, would do that?

One whose arguments can’t be won on facts and reason. On equal footing, they’re dead to rights, as is often the case when you watch them at work during debates at council. Make shit up because it can’t be contested since it’s not based on anything real or actual. Like punching the wind.

Moreover, a constant misstating of facts fills the whole space with an air of deceit and dishonesty. Sure, I may be lying but so is everyone else. That’s what politicians do.

All politicians lie.

A lie built on lies.

And we let them get away with it because it lets us off the hook. Why bother if nobody’s telling the truth? A pox on all your houses.

If we’re lied to by our elected officials, it’s because we let them lie to us. We encourage them to lie so that we don’t have to do the heavy lifting of governing. We’re lying to ourselves if we think otherwise.

honest as the day is longingly submitted by Cityslikr