A friend sent me a New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress which expressed in that magazine’s typically wry manner a frequent thought I have . In the cartoon a man and woman are walking down a street and the caption has her saying to him: “My desire to be well informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.”
You may have similar thoughts when thinking about our politics, economy and media. Recently, I have dwelt on the issue of “post-truth politics” (*1) because our politics are so polluted with misinformation that it is hard to find our bearings in relation to truth. The creation of a cottage industry of fact checkers helps, but who besides an old bachelor with a limited social life or a younger, obsessive policy wonk is willing to do that? Most people have lives.
On the bright side, you may have heard there is a new smart phone ap that reveals the sponsors of Super PAC ads and their orientation, but at this stage it still depends on also checking with the fact checkers, which puts you smart-phoners back into my old boat. However, in four years (Two? Next month?), I bet they have the truth ap down, so one gets an instant truth reading and people like me won’t feel a need to synthesize fact checkers as I did in my previous post. The only down side I see is that it will compel me to buy a smart phone.
But all of that does not quite get at a lingering anxiety that I have felt while writing most of what I have written lately. When I dwell on the nuances of truth, I may seem to be missing the big picture, which is not who will be elected, but what will the retained or new President and another likely gridlocked Congress be able to accomplish once they are elected. I just want you to know that I’m not missing the main point, I’m just not discussing it right now because there is no rush. Nothing will be done about the “big picture” until this election is over.
Now that the NFL is back in season, I sometimes watch their pundits analyze likely outcomes and feel it no different then watching the political pundits analyze the win potential of the candidates. There is a difference, however. In football they are analyzing the real game about to be played. In politics they are analyzing the potential of candidates to make the team that will play the real game after Nov 6. Another difference is it will take longer for us to see whether we picked a losing team or not.
When the real political game begins, the first question will be: How are we going to navigate through what is often called the “fiscal cliff” which in line with my Titanic theme I envision as a field of icebergs. Many economists believe that poor navigation could send our economy in reverse early next year, something I did not see brought up at either convention. (It’s complicated and doesn’t make for a simple sound bite likely to prompt cheers).
If you don’t know about the fiscal cliff…..you might as well remain blissfully unawares for another football weekend or two. I’ll get to it soon enough in a post, but until then you might as well stay unawares, especially since our politicians won’t get around to it until some time after Nov 6.
Today I just wanted to make you aware that assessing who is lying more about whom is actually not my central interest, despite being closely tied. My primary interest lies in how the new captain and crew will direct our ship of state. Will we come to feel more or less like passengers on our own Titanic? I particularly wanted to make one reader/friend aware of this, as he may have gotten impatient with my trying to parse the truthfulness of Bill Clinton’s speech in my previous post.
As he wrote to me privately:
“Exactly NOBODY addresses the problems. They all throw out meaningless phrases – “Family values”, “Return the Country to Prosperity”, “Create jobs for everyone”, “live the American Dream”. They never provide specific programs or how programs are to be funded. Has anybody once said we have to fix SS and them make specific proposals to achieve that goal.
None of them have any integrity or courage to tell the voters that they can’t have everything, they have to pay more in taxes, and entitlements will be cut.
That is why I have not watched one single minute of either convention. It is all how to manipulate voters to vote for someone and nothing else.”
I hear you brother. I hear you….
(*1) In an earlier post I suggested that Paul Krugman may have come up with the term “post-truth politics” which is now commonly used. David Roberts, who writes a blog on “energy, politics and more” claims credit for coining the term and then Krugman popularizing it in this piece.