Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching our politicians struggle to deal with the US debt crisis, something that – although we have record debt right now – is not a new problem for the US. In the past we’ve handled this issue relatively quickly and quietly, with the notable exception of the Republican debacle led by Newt Gingrich in the mid-90’s. Our leaders in Washington handled this current incarnation of a debt crisis with world-class ineptitude.
As was the case in the 1990’s, political motivations were used to hold our nation’s federal budget, our economy and by extension the global economy, and the welfare of citizens hostage. I watched with shock and awe as individual agendas took precedent over what was right for our nation. I watched gamesmanship put us all in danger.
On Thursday, August 4 and Monday, August 8, US stock markets crashed. The Thursday crash was on fears of what would happen if the US credit rating were dropped from AAA (a rating it has ALWAYS enjoyed). Monday’s crash was a result of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of US sovereign debt from AAA to AA+.
On Thursday, I made the following post to my Facebook:
“The stalwart ‘buy and hold, when it drops buy more’ investor in me is nervous to buy more today. Thanks teabaggers for destroying wealth. You suck.”
My post was wrong.
It was wrong because I continued my investment strategy. I bought more stock today when the market was low. And if it keeps getting lower, I’ll keep buying.
Where I was really wrong, though, was in blaming the Tea Party a.k.a. teabaggers.
I do believe that the immediate fault for this crisis lies on our leaders, and mostly on the Republicans and most of that blame lies on the tea party. For the record, I’ll not let Obama and the Democrats escape without blame here either. It doesn’t really matter what x, y, and z are in terms of blame: x% Republicans, x+y% teabaggers, and z% Democrats + Obama., where x > z.
What really matters here is to follow the chain of fault back to the source. How did we get to the point where our leaders are so incapable of leading; care so much about their own personal agenda’s that they would risk the entire world economy; and are so poorly informed and educated that a subset of them are routinely mocked and satirized in the media?
Ultimately, the blame lies on us, Americans. An easy out here would be to say it’s because we’re uninformed, or we don’t care, or are a nation of single-issue or party-line voters rather than balanced, well-informed constituents who make wise choices at the polls. I could stop right there, and I think I’d be correct. But what I pondered was: why is that? How did we get to be like this?
If you ask me – which you did not, but you’ve voluntarily read my blog to the point where I think I can infer your curiosity in hearing my answer – it’s because as a whole, we no longer care about news and facts as much as we care about entertainment.
Go watch 30 minutes on Fox News or MSNBC. As you do that, think back to the lessons taught by your third grade teacher, when you were taught the difference between a fact and an opinion. Now record how how much of what they state is a fact versus an opinion.
I know what you’re thinking. Opinion has always been part of the news. Perhaps, but news today is no longer a relatively fair representation of fact with a smidgen of opinion. It’s now mostly opinion, analysis, argument, and sensationalism with the occasional – sometimes unverified – fact thrown in.
It is from our own ignorance and lack of independent thought that the current crisis stems. I doubt most Americans could explain very many of the facts behind the current situation. What is even more sad is that I doubt many people could explain the position they are affiliated with, what the opposing parties’ positions are, and what the pros and cons of each position are. Instead, most Americans would be likely be able to spit back one-sided rhetorical soundbites they heard from their favorite “news” source. That does not make for a free democracy.
Shame on us for not holding our media to a higher standard. Shame on us for choosing entertainment over news. And gods help us for letting others think on our behalf.