Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dumb Enough Yet?

Bill Mahler has been working the theme that this is a dumb country. This obscure blog can hardly disagree.
And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we're presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and "listen to their constituents." An urge they should resist because their constituents don't know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.
I'm the bad guy for saying it's a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don't know what's in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don't know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive.
Against this kind of evidence, I'm one of those odd people who thinks that humans are naturally smart, not dumb, and naturally goo - well not good exactly but not naturally evil. I have 20 years of students to prove limited and localized non-dumbness - smartness is possible!

But my optimism is being sorely tested by the United States of America as a whole. Of course this isn't the first time, but I was thinking that during the first summer that we have Obama rather than Bush, that the big picture might start being a little less dumb. No such luck. We're back at the level where US politics consists of Republicans making up some really dumb shit, and the media broadcasting it everywhere as a real story. Like Sarah Palin's claim that Obama health reform will mean a "death panel" that might have killed her Downs' Syndrome baby. Say anything - the dumber the better.

None of the bloviating against socialism etc was ever smart enough to defend ideas that actually worked. Floyd Norris produced some data last Friday showing that the private sector added virtually no new jobs between 1999 and 2009. The growth areas? Lawyers, accountants, and managers, who worked tirelessly to make the economy good for them. You can see how it worked out for the other 90%.

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