Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Apathy? Who Cares?

This is great news for rightwing demagogues; bad news for everyone else. Only 52% of Americans are even aware that Obama’s health care reform law is still in effect. 22% thought the law had already been repealed or overturned, and 26% basically didn’t know.

This is pretty discouraging when you combine it with other recent news stories. Most Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice. A sizeable minority wasn’t aware that the United States was once a British colony.

About two years ago, there was a startling (to me anyway) report about the millions of Americans who don’t health insurance. Most of them not only didn’t vote — they weren’t even registered to vote.

What are they putting in our water?

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Anonymous Carlos said...

It's pretty discouraging how stupid we are as a country. It's bad enough to be stupid; it's even worse when you don't even try.

February 25, 2011 at 2:30 AM  
Blogger BadTux said...

Some decades ago, when I was in school, the Iranians had just taken over the U.S. embassy and I made the mistake of mentioning it to a typical girl in our school.

"So? It doesn't affect my daily life, why should I care?"
"Err, because it's driving up our gas prices and we could see shortages if it closes the straits of Hormuz?"
"And what am I supposed to do about that? It doesn't matter to me."

Teh Stoopid's been in the water a looooooong time. If this dumb bint had bothered to register to vote, she probably woulda voted for RayGun, 'cause RayGun was, like, American and waved flags a lot and looked like a friendly Grampa and stuff. And we all know what a disaster Reaganomics has been -- hollowed-out deindustrialized economy, economic decline for the lower 95% with astounding wealth accumulation for the upper 95%, and so forth... but hey, he looked like a friendly Grampa, so gosh darn it, there ya go again.

We are so, so, f***ked...

- Badtux the Ancient Waddling Penguin

February 25, 2011 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger jadedj said...

Bad Tux that is a good assessment, which I had experienced as well. But I think it has fed on itself, to the point that non-thinking is the norm, not the oddity. We are indeed hosed.

It ain't the water, Tom. That at least would make some sense.

February 25, 2011 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger MRMacrum said...

As out of touch with issues as Americans are, just imagine the rest of the World and th eknowledge say, a citizen of Zambia might have of current events. Apathy and ignorance is a human failing. Granted, Americans have no excuse other than laziness, but I gotta give us some credit here, at least a majority polled knew the Health Care bill had not been repealed.

February 25, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Carlos: Yup, very discouraging. Stupid, and not trying -- bad combination.

BT: I've had, and heard about, jillions of conversations just like the one you're describing. I don't know if things have gotten worse since 1979, or if it's just more obvious now, since there's so much more information available at the click of a mouse.

jadedj: Good description -- it's feeding on itself and becoming the norm. Now it's almost like you're a nerd if you keep up with current events.

MRM: True, you could always see the glass as being half full and instead of half empty.

February 25, 2011 at 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By Coincidence(?) Here is John Carmans Column in today's Chronicle


Over the years, various reputable polling companies have asked Americans questions about their government. The answers are always disheartening. A majority of Americans cannot name both of their U.S. senators; an even greater number can't name their U.S. representative. Shortly after Elena Kagan was named to the U.S. Supreme Court, a large majority (over 60 percent) could not identify her.

When people are read the Bill of Rights, a large minority says that it does not sound like a good law. A majority doesn't even know it's the Bill of Rights. A recent poll showed that 55 percent of Americans believed that the Constitution established a Christian nation, and about the same number said that freedom of religion should not apply to faiths they considered radical.

As for knowledge about the rest of the world ... it's like the old joke, "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." (Although, according to the latest poll I was able to find, a majority of Americans couldn't point out Afghanistan on a blank map of the world.)

Ah, well. Throughout the ages, most people have been ignorant about the power structures that control their lives. The fascination that journalists and other courtiers have with politics does not translate into the general population. Only when there's not enough money or enough food or too darn much violence do humans become citizens. Now, of course, we're having this little economic thing, so the ears of the populace have perked up.


February 26, 2011 at 12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part 2

A democracy does not assume that its citizens will be knowledgeable. Freedom of speech is granted to the ignorant as well as the learned; anyone can run for president and, if his or her message is compelling enough, attract supporters. There is one assumption that isn't actually in the Constitution but might as well be: Citizens will act in their own self-interest.

Doesn't always work that way.

Let us talk in general terms about the American labor movement. Its origins are many, but let's pick an obvious benchmark, the railroad strikes of 1885. At the time, six-day workweeks were common, hours worked per day were entirely at the discretion of the owners, child labor was common, workplace conditions were appalling and job security was nonexistent. The labor situation was the dark side of the Industrial Revolution.

You knew that, yes? The solution was pretty obvious: The only power that the impoverished millions had against the powerful few was collective action. If the railroads don't run, no one makes money. Eventually the people who ran the railroads, having tried union-busting tactics of sundry kinds, realized that labor peace meant that everybody made money, even if they themselves got a little less.

Still too elementary? You'd think so. On this blank map of the United States, point to where the workers live. Doesn't matter where your finger went: You win! Workers are everywhere. Most of them are not in unions anymore. And guess what: The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Let's postulate that there's a correlation between these two things. Hold that thought.

Now various Republican governors in Tunisia and Egypt and ... my error: too damn many populist uprisings. Various Republican governors in Wisconsin and Michigan and Ohio are attempting to blame unions for the fiscal shortfalls their states are facing.

It is true that we're in a terrible fix and that we all must make sacrifices to get us out, slowly, oh so slowly. But, as you'll recall, it was not a labor union that tried to sell you a subprime mortgage back in the day. It was not a labor union that thought credit default swaps were just a wonderful investment instrument. It was not the labor unions that had to be bailed out because they were "too big to fail." If only.

So how exactly are they to blame for the current crisis? Why must unions be busted now? Oh, there's the pension thing, but the unions are willing to talk about that. No, union busting is what this is all about, friends, not fiscal responsibility. We passed fiscal responsibility a long time ago. Remember George Bush, the don't-tax-and-spend-anyway president? Never mind.

What amazes me is that people are supporting this union busting. They've bought the lie. I saw someone holding a sign in one of those states that said, "I don't have medical insurance in my job - why should you?" One does not know where to begin.

In a recent poll, over half the people agreed with the statement "The government should keep its hands off Medicare." Well, see, the government is already running Medicare. It's a government program. It's, shh, a kind of socialism. Don't let that get out or we've had it.

Quick, sir, where is the Capitol of California? Why, sir, it is in the capital! Such fine old jokes.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/24

February 26, 2011 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Apathy and ignorance are now officially the American Dream, and rapidly becoming the American Nighmare.

February 26, 2011 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Thanks for posting that. Excellent column by John Carman. I always thought of him as just the TV columnist (unless I'm thinking of somebody else).

"Most of them are not in unions anymore. And guess what: The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Let's postulate that there's a correlation between these two things."

"it was not a labor union that tried to sell you a subprime mortgage back in the day. It was not a labor union that thought credit default swaps were just a wonderful investment instrument. It was not the labor unions that had to be bailed out because they were 'too big to fail.'"

Spot on. He's got it dialed.

Dave: Apathy and ignorance -- what would we do without them?

February 26, 2011 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger jadedj said...

TH..."Apathy and ignorance -- what would we do without them?"

Move forward?

February 26, 2011 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

jadedj: "Move forward"? You must be one of them librul eleetists.

February 26, 2011 at 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops it was John Carroll


February 26, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

That explains it. I'm glad to see he's still in top form. He was always my favorite Chronicle columnist.

February 26, 2011 at 7:14 PM  

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