Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Banana Republic

There are times when I think our republic has always been this dysfunctional, but I'm just more aware of it today thanks to technological innovation. When I was growing up we had 3 nightly news stations and 2 local newspapers. Cable News, USA Today, and the internet did not yet exist. Of course, I was also a kid and then a teenager. Didn't have time for politics all that much, though I thought Ronald Reagan was the greatest president ever. What did I know?

Then cable news took off. I watched the first Gulf War on CNN. I studied government and history in college. Economics was my favorite subject though I ended up focusing my career in a much different area. The internet slowly grew into my preferred news source. I didn't have to rely on a single source or a few sources. I could search around for "the truth".

Today the internet and cable news provides alternative news positions everywhere you look. This has been a blessing and a curse. Information is at our fingertips like never before. And disinformation is also available in quantities previously unimaginable. News seekers no longer need to see news from a perspective that does not agree with their preconceived biases. Conservatives can run to the Drudge Report, or Breitbart's cadre of websites, or Glenn Beck's page, or Fox News. Liberals can turn to the Daily Kos, ThinkProgress, Crooks & Liars, MSNBC. There is no need for truly fair and balanced reporting anymore. Fair and balance doesn't sell advertising. Fair and balanced doesn't meet the warped demand for profitability from the free press.

But that's not the point of today's post. The point of today's post is that we've entered an era of idiocy. I suspect, though I lack evidence, that the cause of this idiocy is this fractured news environment. We no longer sit down as a country and listen to Edward Morrow explain things we need to know as citizens. There is little demand for unbiased reporting and as such our citizens have their biases confirmed and a wedge is driven further between those who lean left and those who lean right.

Gone are the days when we stood as a nation and understood that we should be rightly judged for how we treated the least among us. Now we have politicians clamoring over each other to eviscerate the safety programs that protect our poor and vulnerable.

Gone are the days when we understood that the strength of our economy was based on our working citizens making a livable wage that allowed them to purchase more goods and services and continue to grow the economy. Now globalization has made U.S. wages much less important to multinational corporations.

Gone are the days when unions were accepted as a necessary protection against the over-reach of the moneyed elite. The unions, grown fat with power, alienated all but union members and have become popular targets for opportunistic corporatist politicians.

Gone are the days when education of our children was the single most important thing we could do to assure our future competitiveness as a country. Now we slash education budgets by billions of dollars while giving billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy.

The absurdity is overwhelming, yet a substantial proportion of our population is never exposed to these ideas, because they seek their news from places that defend these policies as rational or even just.

We're witnessing the Fall of Rome. The conversion of the great United States of America into a Banana Republic in which power and influence are bought and sold and the working people are an afterthought in the greed driven policies of the elite.

Thank your Congressperson.

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