The Contrarian: For The People, By The People

Child’s Play

If there is one positive thing to come from all the hullabaloo surrounding the debt ceiling talks, it is that the American people realize that their relationship with Washington is not merely reactionary, despite the nonsensical comfort the general citizenry has often taken in the habit of exercising retroactive discontent rather than real-time engagement. Nothing short of “in your face,” the debt ceiling debate has engaged public opinion in a manner often unseen—with media coverage, hype and fear, cited as causes for this ostensible concern.

According to the PEJ (Project for Excellence in Journalism) News Index for the week of July 25 through 31, the week preceding the supposed deadline for the debt compromise, National media coverage of the debt ceiling battle surpassed the national media attention devoted to the 2008 stock market debacle at 52 percent economy coverage, almost all of which was primarily focused on the spotlight of the debt debate, partisan tensions a highlight of this coverage.

Assuming that public opinion is influenced by the media, and media by public opinion, this degree of media coverage is indicative of an increasingly concerned public that is in need of an increased transparency regarding governmental incentives and goings-on. Furthermore, the media coverage acting as follow-up to the supposed deadline for a debt ceiling compromise indicates that the public might now have that much more to say.

Or not. In a new poll by Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted in the days preceding the August deadline, polltakers were asked to describe the budget negotiations by party leaders in one word. Nearly three-quarters of Americans had a negative response, which included “ridiculous” (the most frequently mentioned word among Democrats), “disgusting” and “stupid,“ “frustrating,” “poor,” “terrible,” “disappointing,“ “childish,” “messy,” and “joke.”

This may sound trite, but it’s not that bad because it’s true: If our leaders are doing such a terrible job, I’d like to see some of these people sit down at one of those mahogany desks and try their hand at attempting to cut trillions of dollars out of the deficit.

The reputations of party leaders have both suffered and been otherwise altered as a result of an incensed PR campaign that painted the debt ceiling debate as nothing more than a bunch of children fighting over the rights to the biggest toys. In this case, the toys are units of political clout moving forward in this mess of concessions and negotiations; for whatever reason, the American people are faulting them for that.

Is it not in the nature of politics that the interests of the respective parties primarily lie in their purported ideological agendas? One side thinks one thing, the other side thinks another, and the public is going to step back and call them all idiots because they can’t agree with one another. Where do these people think that the differences in the American political system came from in the first place? A disagreement over a game of Jack’s?

“The Land of the Free” seems to have a pattern of habit feigning ignorance or powerlessness in grand situations such as these so that we can claim irresponsibility on the part of our leaders and cleanly get pissed off when things go badly.

For example: How many wars/invasions have we seen coming as per the goings-on domestically and internationally, yet allowed our leaders to take full reign on making the decisions regarding these conflicts? And at how many of these government responses have we gotten engaged due to subsequently negative impacts on global opinion, financial losses, civil losses and the idea that the government engaged in the endeavor sans sufficient backing from a public that was looking to the government to make a decision in the first place?


This time, however, we are at war with a seemingly inevitable descent into a future marked by debt and constant fiscal maintenance, and the degree of “transparency” afforded to the public has created a climate of genuine concern that has resulted in an outspoken, alarmed citizenry. The constant news coverage and discussions spurred by social media in the weeks leading up to the awaited 11th hour deal have instilled a degree of awareness in the public that has deemed mere pooh-poohing and naysaying in lieu of unsatisfactory legislative action a stand made too late.

But just because the public is paying attention, it by no means is an indicator of how truly versed the American people have become in the matters surrounding the debt ceiling debate, which has become more of a tennis match between the Republicans and the Democrats played with flaming balls covered in excrement in the eyes of the public than a joint effort toward remedying the economic ills that only grow more and more malignant as time goes on.

Media coverage does not equal cognizance, and an incensed public does not equal concern.

If there is one positive thing to come from all the noise surrounding the debt ceiling talks, it would be that the American public direct their attention not to the game, but the high stakes that are being played with.

Because who is really acting “childish” here?