When a town near the city where I work as a reporter began considering a vote to authorize civic improvements, I was pretty sure how the public debate would be conducted, though I wouldn’t have been so sure two decades ago.
The improvement involved a modest increase in taxes, very modest. The increase would end in 20 years, when the bond was paid.
You could make a good argument for either side, based on everything from economic development, to increased traffic, increased revenue and the dislike of new tax increases. Facts were readily available.
In general, the pro-improvement side tried to paint the new project as something town residents would enjoy as well as something that would draw in visitors who would spend money in the town.
The anti-improvement side relied on the idea that the increase would be another example of “the government stealing our money to support a bloated bureaucracy and yield to the demands of union thugs.” I believe the union thugs were town police officers who would be working paid details at the construction site.
Right now, in America, there is a large and growing percentage of the population that believes that ANY money the governments obtains is “stolen and wasted.” Everything is government waste. Everything is corrupt. “Lining their pockets” is a phrase that crops up often.
It’s a good viewpoint to have if you don’t know much, but you want to sound smart anyway.
“That’s what they WANT you to think,” you coo when presented with a news story. “It’ll all be covered up,” you say when presented with any malfeasance.
Unfortunately, if you don’t believe anything, you can’t do anything. Endless disbelief, like irony, is the high school student’s way of seeming to know what’s going on in the world.
I’ve been a reporter for 33 years, and I’ve seen plenty of waste and corruption, but I’ve seen plenty of things in government that are neither wasteful nor corrupt.
It’s not so much that you need to believe everything is a lie as it is that you have to be able to separate the lies from the truth. Believing that everything is a lie isn’t one of the ways to make that separation.
We live in the land of always and never. Guns are always good. Guns are always bad. Police are murderers. Police are always innocent. All blacks are criminals. All blacks are innocent. My party does no wrong. Your party does no right. I’m a patriot. You’re a traitor.
I don’t know how we got to be this kind of country, but it is perilously close to being a country that cannot be governed.
They say we’re winding up to an election in America, but we’re not. What we’re doing is holding a wake for rational thought, a funeral for compromise and a burial for civility. They will not rise again.