There's not much to be added to the mountain of commentary that has followed Bob Costas' fundamentally common sense comments about the Kansas City tragedy that he offered during a NBC Sunday Night Football telecast. IMHO, the fact that the Costas comments became deemed so newsworthy is the most newsworthy aspect of this matter. The true big picture context, of this controversy, however, has been provided by the always estimable Charles Pierce.
In one powerful paragraph, Pierce put the Costas comments in the context of 3 decades of steady rightward shift:
Ever since the Powell memo set out the template for the rise of the modern infrastructure of the organized Right, one of that infrastructure's great triumphs has been to channel what is perceived to be the acceptable national political dialogue ever to starboard, and to truncate severely the notion of what is an acceptable political idea — even going so far as to eliminate those ideas that already had been deemed acceptable for years, or even decades, as being too "left-wing" for this modern world in which we live in, to quote Sir Paul McCartney in one of his weaker moments. Hence, we end up with what we have today. We have an argument over whether or not to raise the top marginal tax rate into the low 30's, and any proposal to raise it higher — to eliminate the Reagan tax cuts, let alone the Bush tax cuts — is considered fantastical. The debate is over how much to cut entitlements, not truly how to strengthen them. The debate was over how to fashion a health-care plan that kept the insurance companies profitable and in the game, despite the fact the rest of the industrialized world thinks we're insane for doing so at all. There is no serious proposal out there to deal with the Environmental Cliff, which happens to be located in Antarctica, is made of ice, and is cracking off and falling into the sea as we speak. Like gun control, climate change didn't come up in the debates much, either.We live in an age where a 39% top marginal rate is derided as "socialistic." A top marginal rate of 91% existed through the Eisenhower years, and a top rate of 70% existed through the JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, and Carter years. Hearing our current president being derided as a socialist begs the question as to what 6 of his predecessors were.
The same analysis applies to "entitlements" (I prefer the term "earned benefits"). Neither SS nor Medicare add a dime to the deficit. SS, in fact has (intentionally) run a large surplus since the early 80's. For reasons that utterly defy logic, however, cutting SS and/or Medicare has been twinned w/ restoring the top marginal rate to Clinton-era levels. Doing so has become an article of faith in an era in which the defined benefit pension has become obsolete, housing values took a serious hit, and 401K's have often struggled.
Addressing our political system's fundamental disinterest in global climate change would take a diary of its own. I will note that a friend in Chicago e-mailed that is was 60 there on Sunday and 72 degrees yesterday. I grew up in Chicagoland, and I went to college 90 mi due east, and I don't ever recall a single December day when the mercury hit 60, much less 70. A 72 degree day in Chicago in December is as anamolous as tropical fish in Lake Michigan.
W/ all due respect to Wall Street, the fact that we're slowly but surely killing our home planet is a far graver crisis than the looming (artifically created) "fiscal cliff." Climate change (which was addressed in 2008 debates) didn't crack the top 10 issues this time. It was treated far less seriously than the (admittedly serious) Benghazi attack.
The main problem w/ our contemporary political debates is not what's discussed. The main problem is what's not discussed. Pierce performed a major public service by highlighting that point.