Monday, October 1, 2012

All kinds of dumb

By Bill Kraus

The rocky road to political civility has many detours, potholes, and even switchbacks. It may end up being inaccessible. But the voters, who told us that they disliked no fault recalls more than they disliked the governor, may find an unexpected, creative route to civility as well.

The first obstacle is deafness. The Supreme Court which opened the floodgates to third-party campaigners and their money have not noticed the collateral damage to the integrity of campaigns and campaigners and the unfairness of the playing field which their decisions have tilted toward unregulated, undisclosed attack advertising.

The second obstacle is incumbents whose lives are made miserable and expensive by the presence of those third parties and by the unfulfillable need to raise enough money to counter the damage done to them and their campaigns but not miserable enough for them to take advantage of the one remaining weapon they have to defend themselves: full disclosure of who these third parties are and where they get their money to do the awful things they do to the trade and its participants.

No one talks about the fact that the information technology (IT)revolution which creates jobs also destroys them, maybe faster than it creates them. This is true even in the service economy, which our country is increasingly reliant on. Gas station attendants were the first to go. The restaurant employees who took phone reservations are disappearing too as are many low tech jobs in between.

When you ask candidates who are promising that they, if elected, will create more jobs than their opponent, phrase the question this way: “What jobs, for whom, making what?” They flinch.

My experience is that those who don’t dodge the questions altogether spout nonsense like “We need 400,000 welders” as one candidate told me. To replace the oncoming generation of robots? Another questionable response is, “Manufacturing is coming back.” To where? Certainly not to a place that is not on the cutting edge of the IT revolution.

Not being or having access to an historical economist I can only wonder whether the victims of and witnesses to the industrial revolution of a couple of centuries ago were as shellshocked and clueless as we seem to be today about what tomorrow will bring.

Campaigns are no place for pedantry. But they can be about something more enlightening and less vituperative than the campaigns of 2012 seem to be.

Who is going to tell the campaign advisors that?

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