In his State of the Union Address, the president discussed the fact that the changing economy has made American workers’ long-term quality-of-life more precarious of late. Then he dished this zinger to the assembled Congress:
“Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber.”
This elicited the most spontaneous bipartisan response of the night. On both sides of the aisle you could hear our elected representatives groan. I’ve never witnessed this before. Maybe they felt unexpectedly, and justifiably, ashamed. Maybe it was a groan of moral pain, the kind that slaps a person up-side-the-head when he is discovered violating a solemn vow. But, apparently, if one’s skin is thick enough, a torpedo like the president’s observation doesn’t hurt too long or badly, even if it’s launched from point-blank range. As the unanimous groaning faded, the president spread his hands wide, shrugged his shoulders, and shook his head in disappointment as the entire chamber erupted into a deafening silence.
What disappointed me further was the ensuing and complimentary silence of America’s major media outlets. I checked NPR, Fox, CNN, the networks, the newspapers … all the usual suspects … and there was virtually no mention of this most inconvenient truth. One would think “The Media” might consider a rare moment of congressional unanimity a worthwhile story. Why didn’t they report it? Perhaps because they’re in on the deal. Perhaps because their jobs depend on repeating the received knowledge of the incumbent political and economic classes. Russians have a word for this, coined during the Communist era: Apparatchik. It translates as ‘member of the apparatus’ and pertains to a press corps that is a willing part of the machinery of the state. In America, a telling example of this can be seen in the ad nauseam repetition of Punch-and-Judy/Trump-and-Teddy political puppet shows that usurp time that might otherwise be used in conversations concerning actual bread-and-butter issues.
The Constitution provides the press special protections in hopes that some semblance of “The Truth” will counterbalance the expected venal manifestations of human nature. It is perhaps a naive expectation that this could mitigate the various forms of corruption with which demagogues infect the Body Politic. Unfortunately, the media’s attachment to secure livelihoods now seems to outweigh its dedication to its Revolutionary duties. (They know what happens to whistleblowers!) So, sadly, the gerrymandered safe-seats and bipartisan shamelessness of our elected representatives remain sufficient to protect them from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that affect the rest of us on a daily basis.