Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine

Radio used to bore me. Politicians would argue back and forth when I just wanted my music. There was alway a second opinion.

Being almost 70 years of age what some consider history seems like current events to me. By 1978 uncontrolled "stagflation" combined with the humiliation of having let Islamic fundamentalists bully us in Iran made Americans angry. It was also becoming obvious we lost the war in Vietnam. Before then we saw America as strong, benevolent and wise old Uncle Sam who no one messed with. America was experiencing what I believe can be defined as "angst."

Ronald Reagan to the rescue.

The "Great Communicator" had been a conservative talk radio host and actor and knew how to project a strong positive image. He made us feel powerful with his "America has the strongest militarily in the world" message. His message emerged from Hollywood as "greed is good."

Business owners worked with lobbyists to alter the tax code to favor speculation and make the wealthy wealthier. Companies quickly switched from "defined benefit" retirement plans that cost them money to "401k plans" that let them keep part of each employee's salary. Relocating an American business to a tax haven like the Cayman Islands became a "good business decision."

Government became a tool for change. "Deficits don't matter" allowed President Reagan to commission a 600 ship navy and strengthen the air force and ground forces. Deregulation of the airlines, union-busting and deregulation of Savings and Loans Banks quickly happened. It seemed everyone was making money. Americans were once again proud.

Collapse of the Savings and Loan bubble in 1987 made it obvious that the apparent new prosperity was an illusion. Invasion of Grenada and Panama went well but a similar invasion of Lebanon ended in disaster. Moving manufacturing to developing nations and out-sourcing jobs made it easy to reduce the American business expense of wages paid to workers. Closing thousands of factories destroyed communities and eliminated highly paid manufacturing jobs. The "rust belt" rusted from disuse as unemployment soared.

President Reagan may have considered unfavorable reporting responsible for the 1987 recession. Whether or not that was his inspiration he used an Executive Order to "temporarily" rescind the "Fairness Doctrine." Before 1987 the Fairness Doctrine guaranteed that each political talk show host would immediately have his opinions rebutted by a spokesperson from the opposing political party. Knowing one's opinions would be rebutted made talk show hosts careful and respectful.

We are experiencing the logical consequence of
President Reagan's suspension of the Fairness Doctrine.

Republican dominated hate-filled talk radio has a huge angry audience. Middle income Americans have a legitimate grievance. Anyone not sharing in the financial economy generated wealth may be reassured by hearing that they're not being rich is the fault of "Democrats."

The brutal truth is that this nation now has a huge income gap. As recently as the mid-seventies America had a few poor people, a few rich people and a huge middle class. America has become bipolar with many poor people, many double-income wealthy households and a declining middle class. According to CNN Money our wealthiest Americans have seen their income grow more than twice as fast as middle-class Americans for almost 30 years. According to David Cay Johnston Americans with annual incomes near $350,000 are now receiving the largest share of national income since 1928.

Many people use talk radio as background noise while driving alone or at work. Thousands of "target market message" radio stations now make it easy to only hear opinions that reinforce what one already believes. Some of the people who support this nation's economic bipolarity may do so because they constantly hear that if congress will simply cut taxes on the wealthy, end social welfare programs that transfer "their" tax dollars to the poor, and let Wall Street Bankers invest their 401k retirement fund and the taxes they pay into Social Security into the stock market that they will become rich too.

One outcome of repeal of the Fairness Doctrine is polarization of the Democrat and Republican parties in ways that make cooperation impossible. No Senate Republicans voted for the recent Stimulus Package -- an attempt to restart an economy in large part stalled by Republican Party promoted policies. In fact Republicans demanded and got huge tax breaks that may prevent the stimulus program from working.

Bankers that accepted "Bailouts" to keep from going bankrupt are paying back those funds as fast as possible because keeping taxpayer money means they can not make more than a "paltry" $500,000 per year.

But repeal of the Fairness Doctrine has had an even more dangerous consequence.

  • Radical Republican talk show host Glenn Beck is calling President Obama a fascist and calling for "revolution."
  • Rush Limbaugh is denouncing "the statist tyranny crowd in Washington" and has said he wants the current administration to fail.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has published a report warning that the current economic situation may attract radicals into terrorist organizations or to commit terrorist acts on their own.
  • Large numbers of people are participating in commemorative "Boston Tea Parties" as a way to demonstrate against actions being taken to restore the economy.

There being no "Fairness Doctrine" makes it easy for right-wing radicals to ignore the brutal truth. It is the brutal truth that the "Greed is good" doctrine has driven the world into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It is the brutal truth that using our military to launch a "Preemptive invasion" has bankrupted this nation.

My wiser than me wife says "Let them talk."

Restoration of the Fairness Doctrine needs to happen now. Knowing half truths and lies would immediately be rebutted might prevent reactionary talk show hosts from spewing irresponsible half truths and hate. Hearing both sides of each political argument might just make this nation more like the one of my youth.