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Pundits, Politics, and Plutocracy

The Death of Reality and the Origins of Cynicism

There’s a new axis of evil in town consisting of: 1) the uber rich and powerful; 2) the massive lobbying/think tank/media establishment they fund; and 3) the politicians they’ve bought – from both parties.

We the people are the casualties.

This axis uses fear, distraction and wedge issues to change the national discussion from what people care most about, and what will affect us most, to ancillary issues.  For example, the Koch brothers-funded ALEC is spewing out venomous anti-abortion legislation, just when the Fourth Amendment is being trashed, our pockets picked and our future destroyed.  

Let’s look at some of the distorted discussions going on right now, and the reality behind them.

Exhibit A has to be global warming.  Despite the fact that there is an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists and the lay public alike that it is a serious threat, the “debate” still goes on in the media and among politicians.  Or it would if you could find a politician willing to take on the fossil fuel interests. 

Even in supposed bastions of the liberal media, there is still too much of the “on the one hand this; on the other that” kind of “balanced” reporting.   On one side of the balance, are faux think tanks established and funded by plutocrats who benefit from selling death in the form of carbon-based fuels, politicians who have been bought and paid for, and occasional whack jobs like Lord Monckton with no scientific training who wander into the studio. On the other side are scientific experts who have studied the issue for decades. 

In most instances, the media doesn’t disclose the funding source for their reporting, or the funding sources for the professional PR mouthpieces they try to pass off as contrarian “experts.”  And they still report claims about it being too expensive to tackle climate change, even as the costs from climate-related disasters threaten to break the bank.

Meanwhile, the public watches the climate deteriorate before their eyes.  They watch as forest fires increase in number and severity; as the ice cap shrinks; and storms and tornadoes run rampant across the TV -- or their front yard.  

Small wonder they view the whole enterprise of government with a jaundiced eye.

Or, take budget discussions, which are an exercise in hypocrisy that is unrivalled for sheer gall.  Faced with popular support for government programs like Social Security, Medicare, affordable student loans etc, etc, conservatives launched a brilliant campaign.  First, beginning with Reagan, they cut taxes and increased expenditures, creating an enormous deficit.  Little mention was made of the deficit while Republicans were in power, and Clinton had the temerity to actually reduce it, but George W. jacked it up to obscene levels, prompting Cheney to say, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”  Of course, once Obama got in and deficits continued to grow as a result of Bush’s recession, the deficit became a cause to cut and gut these popular social programs. Austerity, we were told, was our only hope.

It was a brilliant strategy, particularly because the Democrats mostly refused to refute this obviously false narrative.  It’s not like they didn’t have ammunition.  Besides the fact that Republican administrations consistently run higher deficits than Democrats, there was the obvious example of Europe, where austerity budgets were wreaking havoc on the economy, and creating record unemployment.

But now the deficit is shrinking faster than an ice cube in August.  Undaunted, Republicans continue to call for drastic cuts to social programs to solve the “deficit problem.” 

The Democrats won’t confront this obvious hypocrisy, and so the false narrative still dominates discussion in the corridors of government, in the airwaves of the media, and in the well-paid think tanks and lobbying outfits across the nation.

Everyday people understand there’s a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis.  They can see the human tragedy that austerity budgets created in Europe, and they know that government has to be the spender of last resort, when all the money is going to the richest 1%.  

It should be no surprise that government in general and Congress in particular has its lowest approval ratings ever.

Which is exactly what the fat cats and plutocrats want, and exactly what Republican obstructionism is designed to achieve. 

Pick an issue – any issue – and the reality gap is growing.  Terrorists who want to compromise our freedoms and a government who compromises our freedoms with illegal invasions of our privacy so they can’t?  Sure, why not. Take away our freedoms so the bad guys can’t.

Or the idea that we must cut Social Security and Medicare now … right now … because if we don’t, we might have to cut them 20-30 years down the road.  Huh?  Cut them so we don’t have to cut them? Never mind there are relatively simple fixes that eliminate the need for the “fix” -- this is sheer idiocy.

Pretend the Second Amendment – which was clearly meant to enable a well-regulated militia and is therefore an archaic anachronism  -- is actually a carte blanche for every ignorant fear monger to own a gun without meaningful restraints, while pretending that the Fourth Amendment  -- which requires the government to issue “no warrants … but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized" allows a vague dragnet aimed at everyone for anything. Really?

This is perhaps the greatest insult to democracy and freedom – the high-jacking of plain statements by paid sophists for their own purposes. 

As a result, reality is being discarded on the scrap heap of history, and our freedoms are going with it.