How many times do we have to get hit upside the head? After a few whacks with a two-by-four, the average critter will begin to get the idea. Not us.
On last week's "Bill Moyers Journal," Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that ex-presidential candidate John Edwards' basic premise, income inequality, has simply not sunk in with the public.
Wise man Bill Maher put it better long ago: Americans don't do nuance. Princeton economist Paul Krugman noted in his New York Times column last week that Edwards had done a great service to the country. Because of him, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were forced to take concrete positions on Edwards' populist issues such as national health care. Alas and alack, the handsome southerner was unable to capture the "new thing" media buzz of the potential "first woman" or "first black" to win the oval office.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose proposals were even better than those of Edwards, had no chance. The little guy with the big heart just didn't look right for the leading role in our perpetual Hollywood movie.
All that matters are short sound bytes, little viruses that can exploit the body politick's chronically depressed immunity to the simple or sensational.
Income inequality isn't sexy. Neither is how the oilogopoly fixes retail gasoline prices, something I've documented for more than a decade to no avail. Anything longer than seven seconds is too boring for our frail psyches.
The simplest idea of all has yet to catch fire: cut the military budget and it will solve all of our problems. As economist Pierre Rinfret first put it in 1966, "peace is bullish."
Think of it in terms of two pieces of serious hardware: a tank and a tractor.
A tank is a one-shot deal. A private company purchases materials, often from foreign suppliers, builds the thing and sells it to the government. At that point, the tank is economically dead, a parasite at best — we pay for gas and maintenance — a destroyer at worst. Using the tank destroys and disrupts lives and economies, foreign and domestic.
A tractor will keep producing positive things for decades to come. Too much emphasis on tanks will tank your economy.
As Rinfret noted, spending money on war is like throwing dollars into the ocean. Such a financial bath fuels inflation, the only counterweight to which has been the export of U.S. jobs to fourth-world countries, a byproduct of neo-fascism.
The disease becomes epidemic: Adding insult to injury, NASA, acting like good Bushies, recently outsourced construction of its upgraded Web site to a Canadian firm.
Germany and Japan have prospered because they stopped spending on war, while we've done the reverse at our peril.
The "economic stimulus package" now before Congress is both a cruel joke and crude attempt to buy votes. The cure for a failing economy is huge government deficits to prime the pump. But we've had eight years of huge deficit spending. The bottle of medicine that has always cured what ails us is now dry.
The corporate propaganda machine spends a conservatively estimated $100 million per year, making us turn on each other. Blame brown people. Blame Muslims. Blame uppity feminist wenches. Blame flag burners if you ever find one. Blame hippies who spit on returning veterans — you'll never find one, it's a 40-year-old urban legend.
The Austin Lounge Lizards even put the blame game into song: "Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs."
But our ears turn to stone after seven seconds and Kucinich and Edwards go down in flames, like their country. The Trojans never did respect Princess Cassandra's aversion to wooden horses.
So get ready for President McCain, a man of only one principal: Hisself and his wonderfulness.
Republican talking points fabricator Frank Luntz told Bill Maher last week that he knows how to beat Hillary, but has no idea how to beat Barack. That's because Obama is the new new thing who can win on sizzle even as he barbecues some serious steak.
Will the Democrats be that smart? Probably not. Hillary Clinton did nothing for workers in all her years as a lapdog on the Wal-Mart board (references in the expanded Web edition of this column at Barbwire.US). Her presidency, based on her previous one, promises more of the same.
So Sparks and Reno will continue their mutual path toward corporate welfare bankruptcy as Sen. Bill Raggio and Gov. Jim the Dim conspire to vacuum city coffers to benefit a broke state government. Washington will continue Ronald Reagan's New Federalism, spinning off needed programs to the states while starving them for money.
As corporate propaganda dictates, the great unwashed will continue to savage each other rather than looking upward at all those billionaires at the top who laugh us to scorn all the way to the bank and country club.
Is there a cure? Yes, to borrow Dennis Kucinich's campaign slogan: strength through peace.
Is there a doctor to prescribe it?
Please stay tuned for more than seven seconds.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail email@example.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.