I was recently out at a happy hour talking to friends when one of them started talking about the news. As he sipped his beer, one of my friends laughed and said, "I feel like I've been reading The Onion for the past few weeks."
This struck me for a few reasons: one, because mainstream news has been covering stories that, before this election cycle, would have seemed completely unreasonable and hilariously far-fetched. Two, because it seems The Onion's method of fact checking is catching on.
By which I mean there is no fact checking.
At this point, everyone is familiar with Akingate. Todd Akin said ridiculously untrue things about the powers of the female body over rape sperm, Steve King defended Akin with the "if I haven't heard about it, it's not true" defense, and Paul Ryan went so far as to call rape a "method of conception" on local news -- by ignoring simple reproductive facts and doubling down on pseudoscience, they made themselves look foolish and started a dangerous reproductive myth in the wake of the scandal.
While this blatant disregard for science is troubling and offensive, it's not the most dangerous lie the party is telling this election cycle. Yes, the lack of regard the party is showing for women and their reproductive rights is frightening, and if GOP leadership is voted in, this stupidity will most likely be signed into law.
From the public outcry, it's obvious that the vast majority of people reading about the rape-conception saga know it's nonsense. Of course you can get pregnant from rape. People know that. What people generally do not know -- or don't care to learn about -- is economics, and that's why Romney's welfare lie is more dangerous.
In his campaign ads, Romney has been peddling a crock of welfare drivel accusing Obama of "gutting" the welfare system:
On July 12th, Obama quietly ended work requirements for welfare. You wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job.
To steal a phrase from Mr. Romney, this is "poppycock." President Obama did support the right of states to seek waivers for parts of welfare, but in return they had to provide ideas and projects to increase employment for those receiving TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. No work or training requirements were cut.
The welfare lie is similar to Romney and Ryan's fib on Obama's cuts to Medicare -- yes, those cuts would be made, but they supported the same policy. The welfare ad failed to mention that Romney put forward a similar plan with even more extensive waivers with his fellow Republican governors in 2005, and endorsed a program that quite literally gave out "free rides" to welfare recipients -- the Romney Car Ownership Program.
The "rape without conception" fairytale is more shocking and naturally got more attention than the welfare lie because it pulls sex, religion, and morality all into the same fight. Economics don't usually do that. But I argue that the welfare lie is far more dangerous because of how quiet it is.
Romney has made it a point to run on his business record, which he is sometimes very proud of. And in a country with a slow-to-recover economy, a good chunk of voters are basing the entirety of their vote on who they think will best bring this country back to economic superiority. The ideas of working hard and pulling up by bootstraps have almost been fetishized by the GOP in their consistent misuse of "You Didn't Build That," and the idea of people getting a "free ride" is unthinkable and abhorrent.
But to lie about welfare and imply that recipients are not working and not attempting to work is irresponsible and unfair, and demeans the people receiving welfare as they get back on their feet. And to imply that the Obama administration is discouraging Americans from working is untrue.
What I find most deplorable is the commitment to these lies -- the repetition and conviction behind the repetition, as if repeating the lies will make them true. And what I find most disturbing is how being unremorseful in being wrong has become not just publicly accepted, but praised.