Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cognitive Dissonance of Americans

In earlier blogs I made reference to the corporate media and the extent of their brainwashing, propagandizing power. Often, the degree to which this is manifested reflects in polls, surveys that show a fundamental cognitive dissonance in the responses. The classic one emerged sometime over the summer, ironically at a tea party meeting, when one of the tee-pees yelled out: “I don’t want government in health care, and KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY MEDICARE!”

Clearly, showing a mammoth disconnect, since Medicare is one of the biggest government run programs, and yet this person didn’t want to lose his! Well, why not? We know that before Medicare passed in 1966, 67% of seniors were below the poverty line, most often because their medical costs bankrupted them or left them impecunious. No one denies Medicare is a worthwhile program except the most rabid libertarians, who insist the elderly ought to sink or swim on their savings.

More recent polls (from CBS-New York Times) disclose an ongoing cognitive dissonance among the tee-pee crowd who keep uttering the mantra for “less government” but of whom two-thirds don’t want to have anyone touch their Medicare or Social Security. Question: How do you get to “less government” without going after the two biggest “entitlements” around? The tee-pees won’t say, only that they don’t want anyone touching theirs.

This brings up the possibility that the TPs’ opinions actually reflects a more nuanced position than portrayed by the media mavens and blow-dried himbos and bimbos: that is, Less government is fine, but not for THEM – rather for those parasites who don’t like working or collect food stamps, or welfare.

In other words, the “I got mine and to Hell with you” rubric and ethic.

In a way, this doesn’t surprise me, since the (cowboy) capitalist nature of the country, enforcing a relentless “dog eat dog” competition- with only winners and losers- ensures everyone will fight over ever diminishing scraps of the pie. Thus, those who fear their portion will be cut will go after those who they fear will benefit from the cuts. As Charles Reich observed ('Opposing the System', p. 103):
"Community is destroyed because we are no longer 'in this together' because everyone is a threat to everyone else. "
In effect, it is for THOSE miscreants and layabouts that the TPs want less government, since they are the primary threats to the TPs' future economic security. But this is too complicated for them or abrasive for others they prefer not to alienate, so they stick with the simplistic "less government" spiel.

Now, a new PEW Survey and poll shows even more cognitive dissonance. According to this poll (see WSJ, 4/22, p. A21 top) only 40% of Americans say the government should exert more control over the economy today, compared with 54% a year ago. What happened here? Have Americans THAT short a collective memory, or have they simply been drumbeaten into stupidity and gullibility the past eight months?

Most intelligent people a year ago, at least those who also studied any macro-economics, knew that the credit and housing crisis caused a massive meltdown in the demand side of the U.S. economy. That is, the side governing consumer purchases, company hiring, and bank lending.

Effectively, the toxic waste (known as credit default swaps) buried in securities and especially collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) caused a massive shutdown of the productive, income generating and lending sector- threatening to bring about a seizure in economic activity every bit as immense as the bank closures in the 1930s.

Every sane economist and student of economics realized (based on knowledge of past history) that we were headed for a second Great Depression unless a flood of money was poured into the demand side. Banks weren’t providing it, private companies weren’t (including not hiring) and consumers all but shut down their purse strings- incepting even more firings and layoffs since companies whose goods weren’t bought couldn’t afford to retain staff to sell it. Inventories across the nation piled up in the wake.

Predictably, we reached 10% unemployment by the middle of 2009. Fortunately, however, the worst was averted because of the infusion of demand side money as a result of the $787 billion stimulus package. However, rather than do the follow-up PR job they needed to, to inform the public of the benefits, the Dems cowered behind closed doors as critics appeared in every conceivable venue yakking about “bank bailouts”. Before you could say ‘Obama’, every manjack and yahoo had an opinion of the stimulus and it wasn’t favorable.

Add to that the government taking over GM, Chrysler, etc, and the word was out the “government was on a rampage” (never mind that because of the bankruptcy required by government, GM and Chrysler are now both beginning to pay back what they were lent, GM a hefty $5.8 billion, and Chrysler $1.8 billion).

But, if it weren’t for GM’s CEO going on the air and broadcasting that success, I’d never have known about it. So WHERE THE HELL ARE THE DEMOCRATS? Why aren’t they capable of defending the actions, policies of government when they are beneficial? I submit that this failure of nerve, of explicatory capacity is a major factor in why the Tea Party movement arose in the first place, and shy so many Americans now think government exerts “too much control”.

Again, the Democrats passed and facilitated these things, but failed to make the PR sale later.

Last night, on the Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) show, we also learned for the first time of the massive rallies FOR government involvement occurring across our country. Some of these have 400,000 people on the streets in one day. So WHY have we not heard about them, and only about the pouty, sulky and whiny teepee crowd? (Who only managed a stunning 1500-odd people in their DC tax day rally, according to Reuters reports).

Gov. Ed Rendell of PA put it to Rachel’s audience that the reason is two fold: 1) the corporate media has focused almost exclusively on the Teepees, mainly because they get wet dreams over the “fight” meme and the teepees represent some kind of fighting opposition to Obama. And (2) the Democrats have “cowered behind shower curtains” (Rendell’s words) rather than go out and defend their votes, policies and actions for government doing the RIGHT thing.

Why are the Dems so consistently ball-less? I go back to what was said in an earlier blog about their incapacity to fight or vigorously defend their positions: since starting to take –accept campaign contributions from the Avatars of the Neo-liberal (less security for citizens, more freedom for markets) Hegemony, the Dems have ceased to be partisan fighters for the cause- which includes defending government when appropriate. Calling out the idiots, like those who conflate the stimulus to a “bailout” and knocking them hard and often.

The Democrats, if they want to be a viable party in the future, have to cease being pusillanimous because their novel assertiveness might offend the corporate, neo-liberal "hands that feed them". (Better yet, stop being “fed” by them, and get money the old-fashioned way by massive fund raising efforts from the PEOPLE, or better, changing the laws so NO one goes to the corporate trough for campaign cash, and setting up a publicly funded election pool).

And on that note, may I also suggest to Obama – before he has the SEC take Goldman Sachs to court- that he return the $1 million 2008 campaign donation they gave him?

No comments: