Why don’t they ask? Candidates and the Media

The major Presidential candidates are grinding through the various TV and radio press interviews and the town meetings with their three minute daily, redundant speeches and highly predictable replies to mostly predictable questions. That is what their advance people are supposed to accomplish.

But what is remarkable is that both the national and the local T.V. questioners give them this predictability without the candidates even asking. Every four years, campaigns revolve around half dozen issues that are drably questioned and drearily answered. This year, some of the main issues are education taxes, social security medicare, and health insurance.
Under education–the sub issues are class size, teacher salaries, computer linkups and vouchers. Notice the gap that envelopes what kind of education the children deserve. Wouldn’t a question about the need for civic education to develop both the civic skills and motivation to participate in a democratic civil society advance the election year enlightenment? Never asked.

Under taxes–the sub issues are reducing tax rates and returning alleged surpluses back to the taxpayers. Wouldn’t questions about a different kind of tax system, such as a wealth tax or a pollution tax be useful? And how about asking about the candidates’ take on taxpayer assets–such as the public lands, government giveaways to big drug companies of taxpayer funded and developed medicines, or the massive bonanzas known as corporate welfare?

Then there are the questions that could lead to some action. For example, the leaders of both Parties in Congress have declined to place the voting records of each member of the House and the Senate on the Internet in clearly retrievable fashion. Asking whether the candidates favor this important voter access to their representatives actual performance in Congress, in contrast to their propaganda and sugary slogans, might quickly get these votes on line to invigorate and make concrete election year evaluations. Never asked.

Even the questions from the town meetings, apart from those that are planted, often reflect the narrow covey of “issues” that the candidates and the ditto media trumpet. There is some reluctance among citizens not to stray from the familiar subjects in the news, when they stand to ask.

Yet there are numerous polls that show people want all kinds of changes from the existing status quo–for example, they want much stronger enforcement against environmental, consumer and workplace crimes and frauds by corporations. In a phrase, people want the fairness that comes from basic corporate reform.

The media is supposed to be able to ask these fundamental questions about the concentration of power and wealth and its effect on peoples’ everyday lives. But these “power questions” are never asked. Nor are questions offered about ways to give people more leverage in their roles as voters, workers, taxpayers, consumers and small saver-investors.

Too much power in the hands of the few has further weakened our democracy in the past twenty years. People need stronger civic tools to band together, learn together and act together to make the Big Boys behave.

One group, the Florence Fund, is trying to do something about raising fundamental issues about corporate power. It is placing notices in the New York Times and other newspapers that replace myths with facts and pose actual questions for the candidates.

One set of questions came from prize-winning, veteran reporter, Morton Mintz who spent many years at the Washington Post. Mr. Mintz’s sample questions and compelling observations by others about this year’s campaigns and candidates can be accessed on the Internet at TomPaine.com: Money and Politics, Environment, Media Criticism, History.

At the least, the Florence Fund’s efforts should make this election year more interesting and keep fewer citizens from sending the message “Wake Us Up When It’s Over.”

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