The Salem (Oregon) Statesman Journal editorial board positions have gotten increasingly nonsensical and right-wing -- a redundancy of adjectives, I realize.
My suspected causes are the arrival of a publisher who used to be an editor at the Orange County Register, and the newspaper's increasing need to suck up to the Chamber of Commerce in order to maintain its advertising revenues.
Last Sunday, a commentary by executive editor Bill Church reached new levels of editorializing meaninglessness. Though titled "Obama, please give us reasons to stay hopeful," it didn't contain any reasoned arguments for being unhopeful.
Download Bill Church Obama commentary
Instead, Church talked about a conversation he had with two unnamed men who live in the Salem area and wanted to explain why, in the words of one, "I fear for our democracy."
Apparently they never got around to this topic, because there was nothing in Church's piece that would make me -- or anyone rational -- fear for the health of our democratic institutions in the United States.
No mention of voting fraud, unconstitutional power grabs, or scary stuff like that. No, the men simply didn't like how Obama was handling some issues, such as the Gulf oil spill and health care reform.
Wow. Two Tea Party types are upset with Obama.
How this is the basis for a prominently displayed opinion piece in the Sunday paper is beyond me. I assume Church will be as open to writing about our generally favorable views about the Obama administration if my wife and I request a similar meeting with him.
This line in the commentary caught my eye: "They talked about cap and trade, and whether it affects homeowners."
OK, so what?
I bet the Obama-bashers didn't mention that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cost of taking action to prevent a global environmental and economic climate catastrophe is only $15 a month per U.S. household, or 50 cents a day.
Plus, the CBO estimates that the cap and trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution will reduce federal budget deficits by about $24 billion over ten years. So it looks like a no-brainer to go ahead with cap and trade, though stronger legislation would be even better.
Problem is, Tea Party critics of Obama don't use their brains the way they should. This was analyzed by philosopher J.M. Bernstein in "The Very Angry Tea Party" -- the best description of the Tea Party movement that I've ever read.
The seething anger that seems to be an indigenous aspect of the Tea Party movement arises, I think, at the very place where politics and metaphysics meet, where metaphysical sentiment becomes political belief.
...When it comes to the Tea Party’s concrete policy proposals, things get fuzzier and more contradictory: keep the government out of health care, but leave Medicare alone; balance the budget, but don’t raise taxes; let individuals take care of themselves, but leave Social Security alone; and, of course, the paradoxical demand not to support Wall Street, to let the hard-working producers of wealth get on with it without regulation and government stimulus, but also to make sure the banks can lend to small businesses and responsible homeowners in a stable but growing economy.
...What Lilla cannot account for, and what no other commentator I have read can explain, is the passionate anger of the Tea Party movement, or, the flip-side of that anger, the ease with which it succumbs to the most egregious of fear-mongering falsehoods. What has gripped everyone’s attention is the exorbitant character of the anger Tea Party members express. Where do such anger and such passionate attachment to wildly fantastic beliefs come from?
My hypothesis is that what all the events precipitating the Tea Party movement share is that they demonstrated, emphatically and unconditionally, the depths of the absolute dependence of us all on government action, and in so doing they undermined the deeply held fiction of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency that are intrinsic parts of Americans’ collective self-understanding.
Unfortunately, Bill Church fed these "wildly fantastic beliefs" by uncritically giving the two Tea Party guys a forum to express their feelings. Feelings can't be the foundation of national policies. Facts should be.
In Newsweek, Sharon Begley expressed this imperative nicely in "Don't Just 'Do Something' -- we must put science first in the gulf." She discusses how Bobby Jindal's proposal to build sand berms along the coastline to keep oil out likely would harm the Gulf Coast, not help it.
Yet on right-wing talk radio we hear a lot of criticism that the Obama administration failed to approve this ill-considered plan immediately. Well, that's because the government is committed to doing things that make sense, not just feel right.
As Begley says, utterly correctly:
When a politician is faced with an economic or social mess, the “just try something” mentality can be justified. Policies on these fronts cannot be accurately predicted for the simple reason that human behavior is involved. No amount of science can reliably forecast the effects of, say, financial or health-care reform, so a reasonable case can be made for “do something.” Not so when we’re talking about the laws of physics and chemistry rather than human behavior. In these cases, ignoring the science makes politicians seem like petulant children.
Tea Party types also.