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When it comes to issues in U.S., loud trumps smart

September 11, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

It's a cotton pickin' shame that state Senate candidates Donald F. Munson and Christopher B. Shank spent so much time last week debating illegal immigration. It drew attention away from more pressing Western Maryland concerns, such as whether we should introduce polar bears into the lake at City Park.

Not to go all conspiracy theory on you, but here is how I expect the immigration issue to play out: In a couple of years, the powers that actually run this country are going to tell the politicians and the radio and TV talkers to stop beating the immigration drum.

The reason, like everything else, will be economics. If you do not want to have to pay an extra $1,500 for a new roof or an extra $75 every time you visit the grocery store, you will be forced to look the other way on immigration, legal or otherwise.

Worse, without these so-called anchor babies who eventually will join the work force, our native population will not grow fast enough to keep Social Security solvent.

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To put it bluntly, some of the very people who are most irritated about Latino citizenship will have to do an about face - if, that is, they want a meaningful Social Security check to cash in their retirement, or if they wish to retire before the age of 75.

Maybe it will be easier for them to take if they look at it this way: They might be illegal, but at least they're paying for us to sit around all day listening to Glenn Beck.

But meantime, we get treated to an entire immigration buffet - even in rural Western Maryland - because that's what we've been told to be angry about at the moment.

It seems to part of a national trend, which says if it doesn't make someone angry, it's not news. A policy discussion cannot exist outside the crucible of froth, whether this is informed froth or not.

It helps if the issue is simple, such as the burning of books or someone's place of birth. But it's by no means mandatory, as we saw during the health care debate.

Unfortunately, the coverage focused not on the policy itself, but on the people who showed up at town hall meetings loaded for bear - who generally were unable to articulate what parts of the policy they were angry about beyond the buzzwords they had been robotically spoon-fed by talk radio, such as "socialized medicine" and "government takeover."

It got to the weeping point when protesters, in all earnestness, shouted down the idea of a government-controlled Medicare program.

This highlights the truism that - as far as press coverage is concerned - it doesn't matter how smart you are, just how mad you are. There were plenty of smart people who had problems with health care reform, but we never got to hear them because the only ones who got coverage were the stark raving loons who earned themselves a verbal beatdown from Barney Frank.

Consequently, we got a law that isn't as good as it should have been, all because in this country, loud trumps smart. (The first irony will come when parts of this bill don't live up to expectations and the ones who gummed it up in the first place will be front and center saying, "See, I told you so." The second irony will come when they find that they are not covered, based on a part of the law that they themselves shouted down.)

Curiously, in the one place where an angry mob could have done some good - against the reptilian Wall Street financial community - it was a no-show. Go figure.

But here's what we ought to be talking about at the moment: Housing inventories. Government pensions. Overseas job losses. Energy policy. Infrastructure.

Here's what we are talking about. A (one) mosque. An unstable, book-burning preacher. Gutting the Constitution. Lindsay Lohan.

The former group of issues has constituencies on all sides of smart, serious adults willing to sit down and solve problems.

The latter group is populated by people who like to hear themselves yak.

So who can you expect to see the most of when you turn on the nightly news?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com">opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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