The Corporate States of America
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and subsequent legislation which has served to further that law’s cause, the consolidation of ownership of our nation’s media outlets, has so drastically changed our country and our society that it’s hard to quantify. As our media outlets have become just another investment vehicle for Wall Street, they have correspondingly become less a source of unbiased information critical to the democratic process. Newspapers, television stations, and radio stations which are owned by large corporations have to serve the profit motive of those very corporations or be eliminated due to lack of adequate return on investment. Never mind any public service that may be served by such media outlets, it has become profit first, public service second and a distant second at that. This at a time when it has become increasingly difficult for traditional information sources to turn a profit in the face of exploding competition from the internet and cable television.
I love this quote from the May issue of the Texas Observer lamenting the shrinking size of some of America’s most notable newspapers: “What has grown is the heckling class. Opinion journalism is easy and cheap, and today pundits predominate. They populate cable television and fill the blogosphere. While the Internet has delivered a modicum of grassroots, citizen journalism, blogs don’t - with a few notable exceptions - engage in major investigative reporting.” Investigative journalism and political reporting are expensive and time consuming and quite often don’t serve the wants of the large mega-diversified-multinational corporation or the politicians whose pockets they line with political contributions in return for favorable legislation.
Combine the environment described above with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine back in the 80’s and you have a media environment where the one-sided self-serving punditry of the heckling class poses as journalism. It’s become hard to distinguish a true news show with journalistic integrity from today’s opinion journalism. The latter are being packaged and marketed to have the same look and feel as the prior.
The corporatization of American doesn’t stop there, however. Privatization is the buzz-word among neo-con politicians who see the selling off of the providing of government services to the highest bidder, or should I say the highest political contributor, as an opportunity to claim they are helping the taxpayer by reducing the size of government. In reality it is just a shift of government services from a non-profit publicly controlled body to a profit-driven self-serving corporation owned by its shareholders who are beholden to the politicians who enabled it all. The end result typically means higher costs for those who use those services. We have even privatized the war in Iraq. There are more private contractors there than there are good ole’ U.S. soldiers.
What’s next, our police departments? Our fire departments? I for one do not want to entrust the public safety to a group of people who have to consider their financial goals before doing anything. It is for that reason that health insurance should not be in the hands of profit-driven corporations. The quality of health care in this country is among the best in the world in almost all areas. The delivery of that care to the average citizen is a chaotic, unfair mess. Health insurance companies show frequently that their shareholders are more important than their customers. I believe we should have a Medicare-like system available to all those who need it. For those who like the current system, let them have it. I don’t want the government running my life any more than I want corporations running it but some things are best done by the government. Heed the words of someone who should know.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini