One book continually stays atop the stack piling up on the desk.
“Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” helps unravel political head-scratchers. Take the week so far in Kansas.
“There’s a great, workmanlike attitude,” Gov. Sam Brownback remarked, praising legislators for accomplishing nothing. Brownback sounded a bit like a parent doling out ribbons to every child who showed up for soccer practice.
The governor did not acknowledge that each day the legislators meet, taxpayers are dunned an additional $43,000. Nor was it emphasized that the reason for the extra days in session — the projected $406 million deficit — is a fiscal mess largely of his bidding, caused by the tax cuts that have left the gap in revenues.
These ignored points are factual and relevant. Refusing to take them into account is a choice. It’s a tactic people use when facing cognitive dissonance. And good people, Democrats, Republicans and those who stay off the political grid completely, do it all of the time.
“Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts,” is the full title by social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.
The book details how humans sidestep logical thought processes, especially when convenient. If new information disrupts how we wish to see ourselves or the world, then discount the information or otherwise go to lengths to undercut it. It’s doubling down.
In worst case scenarios, ethical lapses, compromises and rationalizations can build over time within government or corporations until eventually a Watergate, Enron or some other scandal occurs.
A good bet is that this type of fractured thinking is behind the effort to dissolve the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The authority has a record of spurring startups and growth, exactly what the governor wishes the tax cuts would do but haven’t accomplished. Maybe it’s somehow easier to attack a successful program begun by another governor in an effort to shore up the treasury of this administration.
You’ll also hear the theory (or maybe not) in Brownback’s thoughts on using a private cellphone for state business. He said the practice saves the state money and is less complicated. True. But that view ignores that the practice also skirts open records. It makes it far less likely that any shenanigans by elected officials will be found out by, say, snoopy reporters or public interest groups.