Deficits, Debt, and Depressions

Imagine that you or your family were going through hard times. Perhaps someone in the family is unemployed and looking for work. You have some limited resources that you want to put to best use. What do you do?

Do you put those funds into your mortgage, lowering your long-term debt, and perhaps reducing your loan term? Or do you invest in something that will help you find a job, perhaps take some classes, gain certification or skills, perhaps buy a new suit, hire a career coach, while at the same time looking to see where you can cut back on expenses?

Most likely you would do the second. Doing the first would reduce your debt, but would have no effect on your improving your current financial circumstances. The same is true for the national economy. Most legitimate economists recommend paying down debt in good times, and investing in and stimulating the economy in hard times.

And yet there are those who constantly push for reducing the debt at the expense of middle class programs and stimulus. Why? Just as in the example above, where the only one who will immediately benefit is the mortgage company, national debt reduction improves credit ratings and returns on financial instruments, generally benefitting the wealthy the most immediately at the expense of others. 

Focusing on the debt for the benefit of the 1% instead of the welfare of the other 99% is what plunged the US into the first Republican Great Depression. Let’s not make the same mistake again.

Who Truly Reports the News?

Many people scoff at the notion that political comedians such as John Stewart and Stephen Colbert represent the only truly accurate news sources. Is it possible, however, that there is truth to that notion?

Some of us can remember a time when there were editorials on broadcast news. Media was far more comfortable then with taking a stand on important societal and political issues. This could have been seen as the dominance of journalism over commercial or profit considerations in the broadcast news industry, or at least as a nod to journalistic tradition. But editorials slowly became less pointed, moving toward the bland and insipid, eventually disappearing altogether from the broadcast media landscape. Here was perhaps a sign of the triumph of commercialism over journalism, the first phase of the profit incentive and its focus on attracting and keeping viewership becoming media’s primary goal.

We have since moved on to what might be considered the second phase of mass media’s self-emasculation as a democracy-ensuring institution in the name of commercial expediency: a condition and an allegiance to what I call “forced, arbitrary balance.”

Equating it without justification to “accuracy” and “good journalism”, but in effect bowing to the commercial necessity of pandering to and not offending the greatest number of news consumers, the media now aims for what it considers “balance”. But that begs several questions.

Is balance the same as accuracy, or has media simply presumed as much? If they are not the same, is media balance closer to inaccuracy? And if balance results in inaccurate reportage, is this balanced reportage not only misleading, but distorting our democratic process?

To begin to answer these questions, first consider if there is a discernible truth in a political situation. Of two political positions being reported on, does one represent more honest democracy and honorable representation? If so, can that position be determined, and should it be reported as such? And what of the opposing side?

Imagine a tree falls in the forest. If this is a non-political event, it will be reported that a tree fell in the forest. If, however, falling trees have political implications, it will be covered from two opposing perspectives, with representative quotes from each side. After many column inches, megabytes, and air time devoted to the two positions, the news consumer will feel saturated with information, surely informed, yet somehow still unsure as to what actually happened. The news consumer throws up his or her hands and says, “Why can’t they all just get along,” not just in frustration, but also in ignorance. (This too will be reported as something akin to the suffering citizen just wanting compromise and civility in government, and not as a lack of being adequately informed.)

The truth is never in the exact middle, so by requiring that political reporting aim for that middle forced, arbitrary balance must always be a distortion of the news and a misinforming of the public. The public is lead to believe that the two sides are roughly equally valid, creating false equivalencies when there likely are none. The side closer to the truth, or integrity of position vis a vis representing the best interests of the American people, is frustrated by the lack of validation. The other side, seeing its actions and positions elevated to an equal level of acceptability, or at least plausibility, is enabled and emboldened to push for and assume increasingly dishonest and corrupt positions.

The feeling of not being informed has led many people to seek accuracy elsewhere. But the more weak-minded are easily led into mistaking clarity for accuracy. A world of clarity and apparent certainty can be very appealing, and far easier than taking personal responsibility for a deliberate consideration of reality. Fox News reports with clarity, but little accuracy. It’s ascendence could be considered a consequence of forced balance in legitimate media.

So what’s left? Does humor and political satire disqualify or alter the fundamental accuracy of the message? I think not. Some would pre-judge comedy as lightweight, casual, or insignificant as political commentary. Fortunately, we’ve had the legacies of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl as powerful models of the legitimacy of political humor. Now we have the next stage, defined less by message humor and more by direct political commentary with an eye for illuminating the absurd and the hypocritical. The humor becomes part of the commentary, adding an additional layer to what is essentially news coverage. Balance becomes irrelevant when the goal is illumination. Through a combination of satire, farce, and often simply assembling politicians’ own words, accuracy, if not a type of truth, emerges far more valid than the deliberate equivocating of mainstream media.

New Amendment #8

All media which is licensed by any government agency to utilized a portion of broadcast spectrum or offered to the public via electronic means must provide equal and equivalent time or space for sufficient response to commercial content which is substantially of a political, life-style, industry-supportive, or societal nature, and not of a specific product-based quality.

Ten New Amendments to the Constitution #7

To preserve the integrity of the electoral system at all levels, be it involving candidates, amendments, issues, propositions or the like, all such elections will be financed by a public fund, contributions to which shall not be of a form or effect which would preclude otherwise qualified candidates or proponents of any of the above electoral categories from so running or proposing. No private funds or other equivalent resources may be utilized in such electoral categories. This shall not be considered a limitation on freedom of speech, but more accurately, a prohibition on the rationing of speech through undemocratic, wealth and influenced based means.

Ten New Amendments to the Constitution #6

#6. All the rights and liberties contained within this Constitution or so implied or interpreted in law shall apply equally to all citizens and legal residents of the United States, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle or gender, and all opportunities be made reasonably and equally available to all said citizens and legal residents, providing the practice of such rights and liberties does not substantially infringe on the welfare of the People or their free practice of same said rights and liberties.

Ten New Amendments to the Constitution #5

#5 All the rights and liberties contained within this Constitution or so implied or interpreted in law shall apply in and on all commercial and public places, settings, properties, holdings and situations within these United States of America, unless a compelling, substantial, and particular conflict with the exercise of a private property right can be actively demonstrated. 

Ten New Amendments to the Constitution #4

#4.    All items, products, services, commodities, or utilities offered for public consumption, including preparatory and subsequent activities and operations related to said products, services, commodities or utilities, shall be shown to be substantially safe for human and environmental health and welfare prior to commencement of such activities and offerings, within the current limits of analysis and reasonable knowledge, with any doubt resolved in favor of the People’s and environmental health and welfare. Responsibility for substantiating said safety of products and services shall rest with the producers and providers of said products and services, and not with the People, or any government level, division, or agency. 

Ten New Amendments to the Constitution #3

#3. The personal, familial, professional, financial, and commercial information of citizens and legal residents shall be secure and considered personal private property, and any conversion, sale, use, or distribution not specifically and positively authorized shall be prohibited. Waiver or restriction of this right is prohibited and shall not be a condition of commerce. 

A New Bill of Rights for the Constitution

Why not? It’s been awhile since we’ve made some adjustments to the US Constitution. We’ve seen where things are going with predatory capitalism and the corrupting influence of money on our politicians and institutions. Let’s at least discuss some changes that might make our society a bit more democratic, as was intended. So I’m going to put forward my ten amendments, a new Bill of Rights for our times, one at a time over the coming weeks. They are probably not worded in a constitutionally tight way, but what the heck. Let me know what you think.

#1: No exercise of money or wealth, or qualities related to these, shall be construed to be equivalent or positively related to speech, free speech, or the exercise thereof. Political speech shall not be garnered or rationed on the basis of money or wealth or qualities related to money or wealth.