The Politics of Distraction in an Age of Gotcha Capitalism
In this year’s presidential campaign, the major media want you to focus on the candidates’ gaffes, their tactics toward one another’s gaffes, the flows of political gossip and four second sound bytes.
Over and over again this is the humdrum pattern. Is Obama an elitist because of what he said about small towns in Pennsylvania? Why do Hillary and Bill exaggerate? Will Bill’s mouth drag Hillary down? Will Barack’s pastor drag him down? What about the gender factor? The race factor? Will they figure?
Who has more experience on Day One? What is McCain’s wizardry over the reporters on the campaign trail? Can McCain project any human warmth? Which state must Hillary win and by what margin to continue in the race?
On the Sunday talk shows, it is the same couple dozen members of the opinion oligopoly. There is Bill Kristol bringing home the neocon bacon with dreary frequency. There is the James Carville/Mary Matalin spouse show featuring their squabbling over ideology.
Meanwhile the daily struggle of the American people, absorbing the results of the power abuses by the rich, powerful and corporate, continues outside this inbred force field of insipid coverage and commentary.
The people hear nothing regarding what McCain, Obama and Clinton will do about runaway drug, gasoline, and heating oil prices, not to mention what these Senators have already not done in these areas of public outcry.
Disintegration is everywhere. Public works are crumbling-schools, clinics, public transit, libraries, drinking water and sewage-treatment plants. Tax dollars are being used to destroy more of Iraq and to subsidize or bail out companies recklessly run by obscenely overpaid CEOs. Public deficits are soaring.
Corporate criminals laugh all the way to the bank and back. Eighty percent of the workers have been falling behind while the growth of the economy, until last October, made the rich richer and the hyper-rich go off the charts.
One of three workers lives on Wal-Mart wage levels. Nearly fifty million Americans are without health insurance. Eighteen thousand of these Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care, according to the Institute of Medicine. The recession deepens.
The corporate giants are abandoning millions of American workers as they move whole industries to dictatorial regimes abroad where political elites dictate wages, ban independent trade unions, and given sufficient grease, reduce other costs for these companies. Only American CEOs are not outsourced in this mad dash for greed and profits.
All our democratic institutions-courts, agencies, legislatures-are bypassed by "pull-down" autocratic trade treaties like the secretive World Trade Organization and NAFTA.
Wall Street operators seethe with reckless risks and then expect Washington to bail them out. Sure, why not? Washington is run by Wall Street executives on temporary job assignment in high government positions. The big corporations are big government.
Consumers are facing rapidly rising food prices, more home foreclosures, and rising rents. They have lost control over their money, as shown by the daily gouging by credit card companies, cell phone operators and the thousands of imposed fees, penalties, and charges, so well described in the new book Gotcha Capitalism by MSNBC reporter Bob Sullivan. Poverty increases.
Each year, about 58,000 Americans die from air pollution (EPA figures), and 100,000 patients lose their lives from medical negligence in hospitals and many more from hospital-induced infections. Have you heard any of the major campaigns pay any attention to these grim casualty levels?
Anxious workers feel shut out–they are disrespected, denied claims, arbitrarily laid off and just plain helpless on the shifting sands and seas of corporate globalization.
Fully 81 percent believe the country is going in the wrong directions. Almost as many believe corporations have too much control over their lives. And 61 percent polled say the major parties are failing.
Now turn on the television and radio coverage of the presidential campaign. How much of the above is reflected in the incessant distractions about tactics, gaffes and the fervid money-raising race?
Can the press and pundits ever be serious if the people do not grab hold of politics and make them become serious about their pleas, their plight and their revulsions? If voters want a concise mission statement, read the preamble to the Constitution, which starts "We the People" not "We the Corporations."
There is a responsibility attached to those words.
RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions