Friday, November 27, 2009

Facts, Please!

Our leaders and the media must believe we are fools. They feed us pap and we take it for filet mignon. The lack of facts in the information we're given is embarrassing, but we don't protest. The lack of substance in the recommendations they make is also embarrassing, but we don't hold our leaders or the media to a higher standard. Maybe we really are fools.

Here in New York, we have real problem with the state budget. It's short about $4 billion and the politicians have been wrangling for a month, unsuccessfully, to agree on a solution. So, last week a local state senator went on the radio to discuss the matter. He talked with the interviewer for an entire hour without saying anything about what state spending he would cut. But, he achieved his objective: he said a lot about "solving the problem" and "working together", but he didn't offend even one special interest. He just offended me by providing no pertinent facts and no solid recommendations.

NPR this week broadcast a series on traffic fatalities. It highlighted the trucking industry and elderly drivers as problems to consider, but only after saying that traffic fatalities have decreased about 12%, to about 35,000 each year, since the year 2000. It took a caller to the program to point out that 30% of the fatalities are alcohol-related, and nobody said what percent of fatalities were single-vehicle crashes caused by driver errors such as pushing motorcycles too hard. NPR presented a lot of babble with few facts, plenty of opinion, and no simple recommendations as to which new laws would produce the greatest drop in fatalities while being accepted by the motoring public. I expect more from NPR.

Debates on the two current national issues, Afghanistan and health care reform, have also been light on information and recommendations. President Obama will attempt to sell his Afghanistan strategy this coming week, and I expect an excellent presentation; many lives may be lost pursuing his decision. Regarding health care, conversely, the result will be the work of congress - disfunctionality personified. It will be a hash, probably far less positive than what is needed. The fact that discussion of of the health care bill centers far more on the political push and pull than what's in the bill is telling; if we knew what was in that stew, we probably wouldn't eat it.

I'm tired of being treated like a child by government and the media. As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, "The facts, ma'am, just the facts!" These agencies need to put out hard information, so that we have a fair chance to form our own conclusions and assess their decisions. Then again, maybe that's why we know so little about the important things.

3 comments:

thimscool said...

It took a caller to the program to point out that 30% of the fatalities are alcohol-related, and nobody said what percent of fatalities were single-vehicle crashes caused by driver errors such as pushing motorcycles too hard.

You instinctively reach for certain of your Republican Roots.

Yes, I know you aren't for prohibition, per se. Pffft.

I'd have voted for Nixon in the last election... he'd be left of O'bamarama. What do we get instead?

Paging Mr. NcNamera! Your war is back, and it's even better this time. You get to control the press.

Lifehiker said...

I know. We're all a mass of contradictions. Catholics who accept abortion, pacifists who love war novels, liberals who believe in personal responsibility. We all just try to make sense of a confusing world.

But one thing I stick to resolutely: leaders must tell the truth and make clear decisions. Ours are far too wishy-washy, and they are leading us down the road to destruction. Perhaps we need a real crisis to bring us together in common cause - if anything can yet do that.

Mike Capron said...

Yeah, given the high cost, high complication and low results generated by our health care system, I would have thought it impossible to come up with a bill that wasn't an improvement. But our legislators may have actually succeeded in doing just that. I'm sitting on the fence, wary of all the poop covering the ground on both sides.