Credit where credit is due: Conservative activists, business groups and politicians such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have successfully sold the idea that public pensions are unsustainable.
In their mythology, greedy government workers are bankrupting states and pension-slashing politicians are saving the day. But there’s a big problem with this: It is inaccurate.
States do confront a $757 billion pension funding gap. But this gap was created mostly by losses associated with the 2008 Wall Street collapse, not by unsustainable benefits.
Dissecting media bias is now a lucrative cottage industry in American politics. From Media Matters to the Media Research Center, there are multimillion-dollar think tanks whose entire mission is to prove that the media serves one of the political parties, and unduly persecutes the other.
Let’s just state up front that it is certainly true that Democratic and Republican party biases exist in the corners of the mediascape that are explicitly partisan—places like talk radio and party-aligned cable television, to name a couple. It is also true that polls suggest this niche media’s effort to recast every political issue as a purely red-versus-blue affair has unfortunately helped convince more Americans to base their own positions purely on party affiliation rather than on principle. And it is true that because of its affinity for shock, spectacle and sensationalism, hyper-partisan media outlets get lots of residual media attention, which ends up depicting these outlets as far more significant cultural forces than they actually are.
Back in 1982, the Violent Femmes urged a generation not to get so distressed about something being put on our permanent records. To the band’s young followers, it was a comforting reminder that for all the vice principal’s rage and all of the demerits in our file, most of our elementary school antics, tween outbursts, and adolescent trouble-making probably wouldn’t condemn us to an adulthood of suffering and punishment.
But, then, that was before the rise of Big Data—before the era when “permanent” went from a somewhat figurative to a truly literal description of our personal information. Yes, today because they are electronic, our records are truly permanent. They live in perpetuity and in a forever searchable state. And with data storage costs continuing to drop, the marginal price of indefinitely keeping them is no longer prohibitive. That brings up a big moral question: Is it OK to subject even young children to this brave new world by creating permanent records of their behavior that can electronically follow them for their entire lives?
Becoming a guinea pig is the unspoken consequence of living in this, the second Industrial Revolution. Whereas the human guinea pigs in the first Industrial Revolution were indiscriminately subjected to new chemical compounds and air pollutants from recently built factories, we are immersed in new light wavelengths, electromagnetic clouds, radiation, and pathogens.
Those previous guinea pigs were calmed by cheery slogans like “Better Living Through Chemistry” while we are pacified by the existence of alphabet-soup agencies like the FCC, FDA and USDA. But while regulators are certainly more reassuring than empty corporate slogans, it doesn’t change the fact that the long-term impacts of new technologies can only be determined over time. And that means whole populations become test subjects—whether they choose to participate or not.
San Francisco Chronicle
Since the taxpayer-supported “Wings” won the first Academy Award in 1927, the U.S. government has worked closely with Hollywood to promote, glorify and celebrate the armed forces. In the 1980s, this partnership became a highly political Military-Entertainment Complex, which today grants and denies filmmakers access to military hardware on the basis of filmmakers’ ideology and message.
The result is that many pro-war films are supported by huge public subsidies that underwrite studios’ use of military planes, boats and hardware – as long as those studios promise to produce a film that Pentagon spinmeisters approve of. Antimilitarist filmmakers, by contrast, are often barred by the government from even photographing the same hardware.
I’m guessing that my fellow first-time dads have a lot of epiphanies about kids in the weeks right after their children are born. And I’m guessing that veteran dads who have already experienced the fog of fatherhood find most of these “epiphanies” more akin to tired cliches. Yes, yes, the old-timers sigh, infants love being rocked, they hate being cold, and they occasionally make a diaper-changing session into an exercise in projectile urine. The vets know all this, despite us first-timers and our safari-like wonderment during the early child-rearing experience.
Even in as chaotic and random a world as we live in now, Americans have come to rely on a few rock-solid inevitabilities during the Christmas/New Years season. We know jingle-bell muzak will fill our department stores. We know Fox News will provide breathless dispatches from the frontlines of the War on Christmas. We can bank on Dick Clark (with an assist from Ryan Seacrest) counting down the seconds as the ball drops in Times Square. And, even more so than at any other time of year, we can count on the cable rerun-o-sphere teleporting us back to the child-focused Spielberg-Lucas productions of our youth.
New York Times Magazine
Nearly two decades ago, Republicans won the West by linking Democrats to environmentalists, who supposedly cared more for the spotted owl and other favored species than they did for the jobs of loggers or miners. But now, as a boom in natural-gas drilling reshapes the region, Western Democrats have found success recasting environmentalism as a defense of threatened water supplies, fishing spots and hunting grounds. As a result, the party may hold the advantage this fall in the region’s key Congressional races. The simultaneous rise of Western energy production and the Western Democrat is no coincidence.
- Paradise Papers: Your Retirement Cash May Be In The Caymans. Can You Get It Back? November 20, 2017The release of the so-called “Paradise Papers” touched off new scrutiny of how moguls, celebrities and politicians stash their cash in offshore tax havens. The practice, though, is hardly limited to the global elite. In fact, government documents show that state and local officials have sent hundreds of billions of dollars of public sector workers’ […]
- Paradise Papers: Your Retirement Cash May Be In The Caymans. Can You Get It Back? November 20, 2017
- Should Companies Have to Pay Taxes? for 09/25/2015 September 25, 2015Reading companies' annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission is a reliable cure for insomnia. Every so often, though, there is a significant revelation in the paperwork. Last year, one of the most important revelations came from Microsoft's filings, which spotlighted how the tax code allows corporations to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship […]
- Should Companies Have to Pay Taxes? for 09/25/2015 September 25, 2015