… when we are warned in advance, the chances of our being misled are reduced significantly
Eric LaMont Gregory
An information disconnect describes a lack of connection, a discrepancy as it were between what is thought about something or someone, a subject, and the facts about that subject, which can be derivedfrom observation, study and experience.
An example might prove instructive:
We are in a Congressional and for one-third of the nation a Senatorial election cycle as well as a myriad of other state and local elections, elections in which the vast majority of incumbents will be returned to office. This is a statistical fact that remains true no matter who is reviewing or reporting the data upon which this fact rests.
It is also true that the US Senate is dysfunctional and the American public’s respect for the US Congress is at a historically low ebb, below 20%. Stated otherwise, more than four out of five American voters believe that the US Congress is not doing a very good job.
And yet, listening to congressional candidates, one might conclude reasonably that they reside on a throne of honor while riding the very height of popularity and esteem.
Information disconnects are not always apparent and discrepancies between perception and reality are often shrouded in shades of morally attractive idiom and clever phraseology. In a word they are marketed.
A lack of connection exists between the fear of crime in America, the perception that crime is increasing and the fact that crime has actually decreased steadily over the last two decades.
Why is there such a disconnect vis-à-visthe fact that crime is in fact decreasing and the public perception to the contrary?
The Chapman University Survey on American Fears suggests that selling fear is big business and the media peddles fear highly profitably.
One might ask, in the Information Age, is it possible to safeguard ourselves against being misled when we are exposed to so much of it.
The answer to that question is an unqualified, yes.
Those who study cognition, to wit, the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding, have shown conclusively that those who are warned in advance of the possibility that they might be exposed to misleading information listened more carefully than those who were not warned.
Few congressional candidates from the House majority have foregone the opportunity to tell us how much they have done to make sure that our veterans get the health care that they need.
A laudable notion, but it does not fit the facts. The memories of Americans are not so short that they have forgotten the scandalous reports of the condition of Walter Reed Hospital in particular, and Veterans' hospitals across the United States, when a flood of casualties from the second Iraq War began to overwhelm an already crumbling Veteran’s health care system. Walter Reed had not been the shining light on the hill hospital that Reagan stood in the window of and waved to reporters from for two decades, nearly.
And yet, current incumbent congressional candidates claim responsibility for improvements in a system that they have starved for funds, obstructed legislation that would better conditions and the accountability of care providers, while female veterans in their own districts are homeless and mental health facilities for returning veterans are non-existent.
The last Congress before the advent of the current one, hastily passed a financial institution bailout, while conveniently leaving out any provision for the Department of Justice to investigate misuse of those funds. And yet again we watched in horror as lavish bonuses were heaped upon those whose reckless behavior brought Wall Street to the Congress on humbled knee to bailout a carefully crafted selection of those who lost heavily in the process.
And Congress, stated in terms with malice towards none, bailed out capital and in the process bailed on the American worker. Seemingly oblivious to the wisdom of a William McKinley, who suggested that it is the interest of the American worker with which this nation, we, should be concerned, because when we work we save, and when we save we invest and when we work, save and invest, America prospers.
Capital, McKinley exhorted, can take care of itself.
Now the Federal Reserve, surprise and surprise again, acknowledges ever so reluctantly that untold billions of the TARP funds have simply gone missing off their registers. A Federal Reserve that came into existence in 1913 through the use of a rare Senate recession rules fluke to solve an agriculture-based boom and bust cycle problem that unlike the Federal Reserve no longer exists today.
At a time of unprecedented crisis in America the current Speaker led the now majority members of the House of Representatives to a retreat to discuss ostensibly their plans to deal with the crisis in employment, foreclosures, our health care system and the general dismay in our consumer-driven economy. What came out of that retreat was a policy whose main feature was to obstruct anything and everything the President and the party opposite proposed.
And in the Senate, Paul and Cruz, have led an across-the-board obstruction of not only presidential nominees, but a host of legislation which emanated in the House of Representatives. Legislation which House majority members claim is blocked by the current administration. And yet, as they campaign they are the epitome of bi-partisan politics.
It is perhaps reasonable to ask, if the current policy of obstruction by the majority party in the House and the minority party of the Senate could be understood by reference to another period in American history.
There is just such a precedent, and it is fitting to describe current circumstances, Secession. And, none dare call it treason.
The good people of Virginia sought to draw back from the abyss and unseated Cantor and although the challenge was substantial, the citizens of Ohio failed to.
Information disconnects are not limited to the campaigns of federal candidates. Gubernatorial incumbents boast of unemployment rates in their states that are below the national average and their job creation prowess, while in reality taxpayers are paying for many of those jobs.
In one of the North Central states alone in the troughs of a gubernatorial campaign, taxpayer-subsidized tax credits, grants and low-cost loans to businesses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Between 2008 and 2012 over a billion dollars were handed out to business by just one of these job-creating governors.
These same governors run on their cost-cutting credentials. When in reality township budgets have been cut to fund cities, and the budget of cities to finance counties, and their funds now reside in state bank accounts.
State bank accounts are not without substantial costs. Only one state, North Dakota, exhibits the wisdom to maintain its own state bank, and uses the savings to lower state taxes.
The often uttered phrase that we should run government like any other business is a mantra, not a well-thought-out plan for running governments efficiently. And, may be one of the most unexamined frequently repeated statements on the current political landscape.
The idea that government should be run like a business, begs the question, which business model.
Perhaps the suggestion is that government should be run like an automotive manufacturer whose engineers tell management there is a problem with an ignition switch, which they ignore until parents start burying their children. Or the company that makes the guard rails meant to protect us when accidents propel our cars to the brim of the road, who just happened not to report the fact that in their tests the guard rails were actually lethal.
Surely, the mantra is not meant to suggest that the AIG or Lehman Brothers model might be an improvement over Social Security, or a company that states that they just manufacture Agent Orange, but we do not use it. The drug companies might be what the mantra is meant to describe. Companies that manufacture several times the number of additive pain killers each year than the hospital and prescription health care markets demand.
In April, nearly six months before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa became the subject of American mass media exposure, international experts were reporting that the situation in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone was getting out of hand. Thousands were already dying and quickly buried, and the true extent of the problem was deliberately kept from those who dish out taxpayer money to their aid delivery private charity partners.
By getting out of hand, it was meant that the millions being given to US and British charities (NGO's) who traditionally work in the effected countries as the partner agencies of USAID, British and their European counterparts, was wholly inadequate. But the American and British charities who exist only due to the largess of the American taxpayer did not raise the alarm, because doing so would bring them under increased scrutiny. The kinds of scrutiny that asks questions, such as, what are the qualifications of those hired by these charities in terms of the skills needed to contain a highly contagious epidemic disease. The simple possession of a degree in medicine or nursing does not give one these skills.
Congress will never ask these questions, because most of those who work for these charities and paid fabulous amounts of money, salaries they could never earn in any merit-based employment system, which the charities that hire them are not, with the meagre qualifications they possess.
The returning nurse who complained about her confinement is representative of the friends of friends system that employed her with taxpayer money to represent the goodwill of the people of the United States, which she does not represent. In a feature investigative report of private charities working in disaster relief efforts, the Guardian of London used the term blood-money to describe the disconnect between what the public thinks is being done with their money, and reality.
The charities are never inadequate to the task they use taxpayer money to address and have a catchphrase - Africa always wins, when in reality it is there lack of expertise that fails not Africa. And, the taxpaying public wonders why we spend billions on aid and make so few friends. When in reality, we spend billions on US-based charities to carry out projects in other countries, while most of the funds, taxpayer money, are consumed in administrative costs and the actual services delivered are not worth billions of dollars.
Congress will never investigate these private charity partners of USAID, because so many of their children and other relatives work for them, in a city where if you want to find a lobbyist, ask your congressman or senator which of their relatives is for hire.
Those who are warned in advance that they might be exposed to misleading information listen more carefully than those who are not. And, that just might make all the diffference.
It is part of our conventional wisdom that a word to the wise is sufficient.