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Pop 'pablum' puts thinking at risk

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
Ah, the first column of the New Year. What kind of tone should I set for 2011? How about "Wake the heck up, people!"
Nobody likes pop culture more than me, but my inner paranoid can't help but fear the bread and circuses the media conglomerates give us obscures what is really going on.
Many of us complain about the flight of manufacturing to other countries and how American corporations are legally moving their headquarters to other nations, but what is happening on the federal level to address those issues?
When was the last time someone had a discussion with you about the trade deficit? Did NAFTA really create jobs? Would tariffs on foreign-made products really level the playing field for American manufacturers?
How do you define the role of big business in terms of patriotism or support of the nation? What should come first in your mind: unfettered business operations to maximize short-term profit or what is best for the nation? Are the biggest profits possible more important than creating jobs that propel a consumer-driver economy?
If you put people out of work by sending their jobs overseas, will they be able to buy the products you produce there?
Those questions don't seem to get too much play these days.
Of course, you know who's on "The Biggest Loser." You might fret over Kourtney and Kim. You're on top of sports scores and the challenges of your favorite teams.
All of this is fun, but none of it means much and isn't it about time we actually got down to the business of saving this country?
The people who put their business interests in front of everything aren't really good capitalists. After all, isn't the goal of a good business to remain competitive over the long haul?
Ever since I was a kid, I heard that "Silent Cal" — President Calvin Coolidge — had made a famously pro-business speech that included the line, "The business of America is business." There are those who have used this statement as an illustration of the attitudes of the Roaring Twenties that brought on the Great Depression.
There are also those who point to it as if it was, indeed, the secret truth of this country — that making money was the height of the American experience.
Both are wrong, as Coolidge never said it.
On Jan. 17, 1925, Coolidge addressed the Society of American Newspaper Editors and said, "After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life."
He added, "Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it ... But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness. In every worthy profession, of course, there will always be a minority who will appeal to the baser instinct. There always have been, probably always will be, some who will feel that their own temporary interest may be furthered by betraying the interest of others."
Wow — this sort of puts Coolidge in a different light.
Greed wasn't good in 1925 and greed isn't good now. Harmful business practices and a lack of government concern brought about the Great Depression. The same two factors ushered in the almost great Depression of 2008.
The least any one of us can do to buy goods and services from local businesses or from companies that have remained in this country. Keep our money here.
We also need to question where the talking points spewed over the media come from and whom they ultimately benefit. And paying attention every now and then to something other than the pop pablum we're fed would also be a good New Year's resolution.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. And as always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.


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