Pundits are worth little

As the new year dawns, our favorite rightwing pundits are making their arduous trip down from Mount Sinai loaded with heaps of advice for making the nation a better place for themselves and their financially endowed supporters. Meanwhile, they are continuing their war against those low-income Americans who actually bear the burden of trying to stay afloat in these times of economic distress.

Some, like columnist Thomas Sowell, have engaged in a futile “search for meaning.” In his Jan. 3 piece in The Times, “Old year, new problems,” Sowell said that “sometimes we are content to try to change ourselves with New Year’s resolutions to do better in some respect.” In the next sentence, he scraps that noble idea in favor of resuming his ongoing, fear-mongering against the “evils” of “Obamacare”! On Jan. 8, Cal Thomas reiterated his long-standing view that liberals want to “punish success.” What is his definition of “success”? Is it the 2008 tanking of the national economy that rendered many Americans jobless and others homeless? Is he unaware that private-enterprise, whatever its nature, owes a debt to those who keep the roads repaired, keep the planes flying, or carry the mail whereby their commerce is conducted? Is he unaware that commerce likewise owes a debt to public school teachers who teach job-applicants and workers to read, write, and count? Is the evangelical-minded Thomas not aware that the word “responsibility” applies not just to workers and unemployed persons, but to those who reap vast profits via the efforts of those workers? Is he not aware by now that the “trickle-down” economics thesis was a dismal failure that falsely presumed that “prosperity for all” would result from the success of those whose only religion is greed? Do any of these folks realize that their repetitious, un-factual, ideological blather conforms to Einstein’s definition of “insanity” – repeating the same actions over and over again but expecting a different outcome? Do they realize that – regardless of how they turn a phrase – it is their overall message that is irretrievably flawed?

Once upon a time, syndicated columnist George Will was regarded as a foremost advocate of “mainstream” conservative thought, and a logical inheritor of the mantle of the late William F. Buckley (a gentleman I admired and once encountered at a Marshall University forum back in 1970). Now, it seems, he is just another tea party hack who automatically genuflects at the altar of the Koch Brothers and Jim DeMint’s “Heritage Action” group. In a recent column, “What political ignorance delivers,” Times, Jan. 2, Will pondered the fact (which few on either side of the political divide will dispute) that many American voters are woefully uninformed about the issues-of-the-day, and even about the basics of how the American government works (or doesn’t). Will’s suggested remedy for this problem is to make government “smaller” so that voters will have less information to absorb! Citing George Mason Law Professor Ilya Somin “Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter,” he says that we can “reduce the risks of ignorance by reducing government’s consequences.” This is like saying that there is no need to know about the causes of the Civil War, World War II, the civil rights struggle, foreign policy – all we really need to know is that Rufus Putnam led a band of settlers to the banks of the Muskingum in 1788. Who needs to know about “complicated” stuff like Darwin, Newton, or Affordable Healthcare as long as one knows the names of all the “cast” members of “Duck Dynasty”? According to Will, ignorance – like greed – is “good” and “unwholesome democratic sentimentality” is “bad”!

George Will is a self-proclaimed Constitutional “expert” who likes to cite James Madison’s alleged views about “free markets” and “small government,” but forgets that the fourth president also said, “There would be no need for government if all men were angels!” It also might be added that there would be fewer over-paid newspaper pundits if such persons were paid on the basis of their worth to society!

Fred O’Neill lives in Marietta.