February 20th, 2009 09:46 EST
Media failed to Give Us the Big Picture when it Comes to the Economic Meltdown
What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?
A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.
"Paul Krugman, columnist, New York Times,
February 8, 2009
Trying to understand the events of the day is like looking at a picture that keeps slip-sliding out of shape. It`s a surreal experience. This is why non-fiction books about major events acquire readerships "people thirst for the big picture.
Let me give you an example. The value of our real estate, stocks and bonds has tanked and most of us are having trouble making ends meet. So here we have deflating assets while at the same time we have inflating medical and education costs, among other soaring costs.
How to understand this without going to the Wharton School of Business? Does anybody understand it? Or are we tripping over theories in the dark?
This isn`t just an issue for the rank and file, it`s an issue for world leaders, because the less the rank and file understand about this the angrier they get, and pretty soon you have civil disorder.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the bailout maneuvering in Washington is how out of tune it has been with the public`s mood. The public wants help, but its leaders want political gain, and a tweedledee-tweedledum press has merely orchestrated the elevator music instead of bringing clarity and context to the debate. The press`s concept of its own role is as out of sync with our needs as the politicians`. The press failed to ask the hard questions as we sunk into this morass and now that we`re in it, it`s determined to entertain us to death with irrelevancies.
When Thomas E. Ricks, the Washington Post Pentagon reporter who wrote Fiasco, The American Military Adventure in Iraq, tells us something about a high-profile issue he performs an incontestably valuable public service. But the rants of Rush Limbaugh (or Djelloul Marbrook) help only if they inspire us to think another way. Preaching to the choir merely ingrains ignorance.
Rants, screeds and sound bites harden lines, embitter discourse and impede policy-making. Witness the bailout debacle in Congress. The numbskull recital of hardened political lines on the right and the left have done us no good and have intensified public despair. The public believes politicians care only about votes, and hence their own pockets. And the politicians are determined to prove the public right.
Democracies depend on public belief that politicians are putting the public interest first. No ideologue can make that claim, and the public is beginning to understand this. Democratic government means coming together, not polarizing. We ought to watch some of those Nazi rallies on the Military Channel; they will sound eerily familiar.
Not even our encouragingly articulate president has been able to explain to us why everything we have struggled to own is losing value while it is becoming impossible for us to stay healthy and educate ourselves because it costs too much. Maybe the economists, bankers and politicians think they know the answer. They act as if they do. But unless the public is given some framework for grasping this bitter anomaly, our decision-making is likely to crash around our heads.