On the Corner

“Tis the season to be jolly” FA-LA-LA

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –

No it’s not Christmas yet. It’s summer.

Light is fading! The days gradually grow shorter.

Fading light—let’s hope that’s not a metaphor for intelligent discernment in this “jolly” season.

The “season” I’m talking about is political. Just like the summer weather, the political season is heating up. This season hasn’t begun to boil yet—still kind of tepid. Just wait.

Media sound bites
Exploration of issues and opinions of candidates guarantees considerable media coverage.

The candidates get a lot, but not as much as the commentators, spinners, prognosticators, critics and salesmen.

This makes some people cynical.

That’s a mistake.

We need to pay attention to material other than “sound bites.” Most of such candidate utterances aren’t even written by the candidate. They grow out of “talking points.” These are ideas the candidate is supposed to articulate with brief descriptive terms people can remember. They are generated simply because the people who run the campaigns think we’re all stupid.


The discernment of the population is clear, steady and dependable. Because intelligence is randomly distributed within the population, it’s fair to say that we’re as bright as the “sound bite” wordsmiths. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, their little gems do stick. It’s typical propaganda, similar to any other product slogan used by advertisers.

My personal “turn-offs”
There are a couple of sound bites that really turn me off. One political party seems to believe that the expression “no new taxes” makes us believe the cost of government will go down and we will have more money available to us, personally.

They don’t explain that “no new taxes” only means much heavier fees for government services once completely free.

Examples: When I went to UCLA there was no tuition charge for classes. The entire state believed that free higher education would produce a thriving economy. It did for a hundred years or so. Then it changed. They started with a non-shocking number, abandoned the term “tuition” and called it an enrollment “fee.” The non-shocking number elevated annually. Now, tuition is out of sight and the poor are stuck in poverty.

Here’s another one. My wife had to take an ambulance ride to a hospital in a public, fire department ambulance. The cost my health plan paid as a fee for service came to more than $1,000 dollars for the ambulance alone. It used to be free.

What’s wrong with increasing taxes in order to generate funds for essential government services? I’d be willing to pay more as long as the imposed fee structure on every public service was reduced. The poor take the biggest hit.

In California, “no new taxes” means a $15 billion dollar deficit—a “fee” to be paid by my grandchildren, but a debt incurred by the current generation in support of necessary services like fires, floods, drinking water, etc. No new taxes simply postponed the payment on the debt while the interest on the loan continued to increase.

Do you remember when trash pick-up was free?

This kind of thinking—the kind that believes everyone should pay their own way if they need a service, ignores the reality that the total debt for all of us would be less if we all combined a slightly larger portion of our resources together in a fair taxation arrangement. Such a plan might even make inroads on poverty.

Here’s another sound bite example. One candidate during the recent primaries trumpeted one word: “Change.” It’s a great word to which people resonate. The word appeared on every podium and was part of every speech. He never provided any information about the details. That’s where the devil lives—in the details. We never heard anything about the direction of that change. Everyone simply believed that the change he advocated would parallel the direction they wanted to go.

Making a choice
Whatever you do as this season winds down—vote! Avoid making a choice on the basis of party loyalty or habit. Pick a candidate whom you believe will best meet the challenges of the office—who talks in specifics, not sound bites, and who will be good for the country.

In order to choose wisely, establish criteria you believe are essential for the good of whatever jurisdiction the election involves. Different offices require different criteria.

Once you’ve measured all candidates against those criteria, discuss your choice with those around you.

Avoid criteria such as appearance, age, or voice quality. Examine the candidate’s ideas.

Don’t use television coverage or commercials as a true source of information. Read dependable sources who write without bias towards a particular candidate. Don’t lean too heavily on endorsements by others—including groups.

Make up your own mind. Do not feel obligated to share your decision with others, but, if you are genuinely convinced of the appropriateness of your criteria and your choice, speak out for your candidate without attaching your choice to any organizational membership you may have.

Yes—‘tis the season to be jolly.
Personally, I enjoy this “season” thoroughly, and I’m going to vote. I always do and hope you will, too.

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