I may be dating myself, but when I was a young reporter more than 35 years ago, I saw through the tricks of government – even at the city council level.
When local officials wanted to do something they knew would be unpopular with the people, they had some tricks.
Let’s say they wanted to raise taxes. This would be a tough sell – especially for those officials who were seeking re-election.
So here’s what they would do: They would tell voters they had to raise taxes or cut back on police manpower, the fire department and the library services.
Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.
When it didn’t, they would seek to do whatever it was they wanted to do by floating bond measures. This was the closest thing local and state officials could do to borrowing endlessly like the federal government has done. It places the debt on the backs of taxpayers – some of them not even born yet.
But they generally always came back to the idea of cutting the most popular services government offered.
What astonishes me now is that the most highly paid reporters, editors and TV producers in the country – those covering politics and government in Washington – refuse to see through the same tired, old tricks of government at the national level.
When Barack Obama says he may not be able to send out Social Security checks if the debt limit isn’t raised, they report it dutifully as if he has no choice.
When Barack Obama closes national, open-air monuments built by taxpayers during the limited government shutdown, they report it dutifully as if he has no choice.
When Barack Obama says those who simply want to cut one, unpopular, unworkable and thoroughly unconstitutional new boondoggle of a program are threatening a national default on money already borrowed, they report it dutifully as if he has no choice.
What’s wrong with these people?
Did they start covering government yesterday?
Do they not understand that the central role of a free press in a free society is to serve as a watchdog on government and other powerful institutions?
Why have they abdicated the traditional American journalism ideal of being a watchdog press, not a lapdog press?
I’m asking rhetorical questions here.
I do know the answer.
The answer is that most journalists in America today, especially those working for establishment, corporate media organizations, are indeed very fond of government. They are statists to the core. They actually believe government that governs most governs best, even after observing the habitual failure of government at every level.
It’s all in the worldview.
There are only a handful of journalists in the country who see things the way Thomas Jefferson did – fewer still who understand why the American Founding Fathers uniquely in the history of the world enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution protections for the free press. Why did they do it? Because they recognized that government needed oversight and that only an informed public would be capable of governing themselves.
That was what the founders believed. They believed in self-government, not rule by elected officials, judges or appointed bureaucrats who seek to regulate every aspect of our lives. They actually thought a free press would blow the whistle on the encroachments of Big Government.
I guess they couldn’t see into the future.
I guess they could predict how far astray the press would go.
I guess they couldn’t believe the media would be seduced by an adoration of government.
I couldn’t see it either – not even 35 years ago.
But that’s where we are today. You can blame Barack Obama. You can blame Harry Reid. You can blame any power hungry official you like. But you need to recognize who has given these authoritarians license to lie, steal, cheat their way to absolute, unchallenged, unbridled, unchecked power.