From Reagan to Trump, Denying Facts

To the Editor:

Re “When Did Republicans Start Hating Facts?” (column, Dec. 15):

The line from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump and our current situation may be even straighter and darker than Paul Krugman paints it. Consider the following core Reagan messages: Government is your enemy. White people are the real victims of racism. Taxes are theft. Unions are bad. Environmental protection will destroy the economy.

The consequences of the triumph of their belief system include our world-class inequality, hollowed-out government in a hollowed-out democracy, intense racial animus and enormous environmental challenges.

These realities, along with the profound erosion of trust that Mr. Krugman cites, mean that sustaining the system that Republicans have built requires lying on a massive scale. And the willingness of vast numbers of Americans to believe the lies they want to believe. Or, as George Costanza of “Seinfeld” said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

The belief in American exceptionalism, “the shining city,” tells us that we will find the pathway out of our multiple crises. History tells us that there have always been self-deluded nations that felt the same way until it was too late.

Frank Schneiger
New York

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman nails it. He points to Reagan’s denial of science and objective facts, but he doesn’t mention the analog epidemic plaguing Americans during his tenure, AIDS. Reagan never mentioned the word AIDS publicly until four years after the first reported cases.

James Gilday
San Bernardino, Calif.

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman writes that the Republican rejection of facts “is almost surely irreversible.” That may be true of climate change but not of our minds.

In the years before the 1970s the poorest people in the United States experienced higher rates of increase in their incomes than the richest.

Then, a handful of people began pouring billions into multimedia campaigns, loaded with distortions, designed to increase their wealth. They have infiltrated textbooks and universities and set up think tanks and lobbyists, effectively promoting a distorted form of capitalism called “the free market.”

As a result, the rules governing our markets today are rigged and unfair. Most of us are eager for a change. The good news is that it’s possible. We can create fair economy rules by denouncing false claims, removing money from politics and electing people who believe in democracy. We do not need to give up on truth.

Richard R. Rowe
Belmont, Mass.
The writer is chair of the Open Learning Exchange.

To the Editor:

The problem of rejecting facts received the full Mark Twain treatment in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Huck’s adventures hinged on the recurrent swindling of Mississippi River town citizens by two reprobates known as the Duke and the King, who talked fast and loud and exploited universal human vulnerabilities.

When a beloved doctor attempted to expose their obvious duplicity, the townspeople rejected the doctor and embraced the charlatans. Their story was just too good, just what the townspeople wanted. Only Huck and Jim recognized the “humbugs” for what they were.

Our most recent political episodes just continue an American tradition and give Mark Twain the opportunity to say “I told you so.”

Debra Michlewitz
Bayside, Queens
The writer is a retired high school English teacher.

To the Editor:

When did the mistrust of facts begin? How about when the Reagan administration proclaimed ketchup a vegetable?

James P. Finnegan
Chappaqua, N.Y.