{Empty title} | The Nation

Everybody is aware of the gloom and doom surrounding the print press. As a compulsive seven-day newspaper reader, I worry too. On the other hand, I can't help noting some of the strategic failures of the print press nationwide, including such stalwarts as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Forget the build-up to the Iraq War for the moment. Speaking of the biggest failure, I wonder what would happen if the Post or Times--or The Nation--challenged three or four editors and perhaps a dozen reporters to take a hint from the muckrakers of 100 years ago. Take on the government drive to radically and pitilessly increase economic inequality since 1980, and especially since 1992.

What I'm talking about are the political policies of all three branches of government, mostly at the hands of radical Republicans, but also by the plutocratic-leaning Clinton Democrats. These policies deliberately and successfully aimed to exponentially increase economic and wealth inequality under cover of promoting "freedom" and "personal responsibility" and letting people "handle their own money." Under cover of these slogans and the "free market" and "free" trade, these policies actually gave much more money to the financially nimble and already very rich by tax cuts inimical to the general social welfare, while removing almost all financial and business regulation from those turbocharged with a virulent form of selfish rather than socially productive individualism. At the same time, equally deliberately, these policies aimed to increase the poverty and insecurity of the unemployed poor (by shredding welfare), the working poor (by freezing the minimum wage and increasing regressive forms of taxation) and formerly unionized blue-collar workers (by giving business the green light to destroy unions). The cover here was that these policies actively promoting inequality were good for these groups by protecting their "moral fiber," saving them from a "culture of dependency" and keeping away that arch-bogeyman, "socialism," ignoring the reality that with government-run veterans benefits, Medicare and, to a degree, Social Security, we already are and have been for decades a significantly socialist country.

Think of a seesaw in which one side is deliberately lifted up, while the other side is relentlessly pushed down. An appalling number of people--indeed most of the country, including almost the entire print press--swallowed this crafty and clever tale hook, line and sinker. Now from time to time over the years excellent columns on this radical restructuring of our society, and some very good books about it, have been written and reviewed in the print press, mostly to be read and clucked-clucked over by a few thousand people, and then respectfully retired to the shelf--I have a number of them myself. But what if a major paper broke from the docile nationwide flock of sheep and took on this core issue of unfair or loaded-dice inequality with its ferocious, shameless, arrogantly unapologetic winner-take-all entitlement mentality, and wrote about it four or five days a week for a month or so. A major sub-theme might be the stunning irony that we attacked the entitlement mentality of the poor while doing everything possible to embed that mentality in the consciousness of the lucky, the privileged and the talented. Could this be the ultimate reason for the plight most of us are either now in, or realistically fear? Think of this suggestion as the awakened good-guy counterpart to the decades-long bullying of the right-wing radio and TV "howling wolves" who successfully intimidated or brainwashed much of the public and almost all of the conventional press for so long. Which they are still doing, despite the global crash brought on by their propaganda and ideological warfare.

It's hard to believe such an effort to explore the inequality consciously and deliberately created over the last thirty years wouldn't capture the country's attention. And perhaps even put a burr under Obama's saddle, just when this promising young president appears to be making the colossal blunder of propping up and reinstating the plutocratic structure that made this crash inevitable, rather than crafting a genuine New Deal for the twenty-first century in the world's most important country. What do you think would happen to the circulation of a mjor paper or magazine if such a bold effort were made (as opposed to the cover story of Time that peddled the idea that "we" are all--presumably equally--responsible)? And what might happen to the circulation of the print press around the country if, reacting to this unprecedented initiative, copycat and catch-up efforts followed? Do you think we might have a robust, focused populist anger, rather than the opaque and inarticulate anger that the elite press seems to be so worried about? I say you'd have a print press worth saving, rather than the lazy, bloated, plutocracy-defending institution that's been asleep for over fifteen years on an issue even bigger and more fundamental than the pre-war story it botched in 2002-03. Worth a try?