A day with talk radio

I had quite a bit of driving to do yesterday, and so wandered the dial on local radio. There seem but a couple of venues left in Denver beyond Christian and music – right-wing talk, and financial talk.

Right-wing talk radio is merely a “look here not there” distraction vehicle. Hosts I listened to are chanting in unison that Obama made a huge blunder in negotiation an arms deal with Iran.  We don’t even know the specifics of that deal, but so what. The radio hosts are merely chumming the waters for sake of political agitation. It keeps listeners married to the two-party system.

If there is a left-wing talk radio circuit around (not in Denver), it serves the same purpose, keeping people focused on bad old Republicans, ignoring really bad old Democrats. Radio is the ideal agitprop forum, and beyond advertising, serves no other purpose.

Please don’t misunderstand – not everyone is wrong about everything on those outlets – it just doesn’t matter. Limbaugh, for instance, talks about how too-easy-to-get student loans are driving up tuition costs. He’s right about that, as I see it, and probably about a lot of stuff. All of these hosts have good points here and there, whether I think they are right or wrong. (I don’t understand everything either.) But their purpose is not to inform, but rather to agitate the audience, to keep them focused on message. Nothing more.

Financial talk is about people with money problems receiving good advice from the various hosts, Clark Howard probably the best. What is most interesting is the low level of financial savvy among callers, how easily they are picked off by hucksters of all stripes. Then, because they don’t read what they sign, they find themselves trapped by a contract.

One caller, for instance, had racked up $45,000 in credit card debt, and wants to get a better deal from the credit card companies. The host rightly informed her that since the companies have her right where they want her, they are not about to negotiate a better deal for her. She walked into her situation with eyes wide shut.

There are several schools of thought on why the American public is both politically and financially illiterate. One is that the schools don’t teach critical thinking skills or basic financial math (as in “annuities,” the beating heart of all finance).

I don’t know about that. I assume that if they do teach it, the kids ain’t learning it. The purpose of Prussian-style mandatory public education is to produce soldiers for the military, workers for the factories, and bureaucrats for the government. Thinking skills are not required for any of that.

Another school of thought was expressed by Alexis de Tocqueville as he toured America in the early 1800s:

When a workman is unceasingly and exclusively engaged in the fabrication of one thing, he ultimately does his work with singular dexterity; but at the same time he loses the general faculty of applying his mind to the direction of the work. He every day becomes more adroit and less industrious; so that it may be said of him, that in proportion as the workman improves the man is degraded. (Democracy in America, 1835)

In other words, we work too hard at our jobs, and not enough on our minds.
PS: Obviously, if kid were taught about annuities in high school, the student loan program would dry up.

5 thoughts on “A day with talk radio

  1. Leonard Cohen was a brilliant song writer, all around smart guy but like most artists unfamiliar with finances and the ethics of bookkeepers and managers.

    The latter stole his retirement and trusts forcing him to continually preform well into his 80’s.

    Maybe he should have listened to his own words, or was this a statement on our overall stupidity?


    1. There’s an interesting study done by the Dept of Education, 2003 I think, on the American public. I’ve mentioned it before. It is about functional illiteracy. The numbers are disturbing, to say the least. Most interesting, as bad as they are, they take a huge jump as people age. I saw it with my folks. My Mom was sharp all of her life until she stayed home, flipped on TV news, and began to vegetate.

      The study says that only 13% do adults are “proficient,” that is, can perform complex and challenging literacy activities, as in reading a long article with intricate reasoning and draw logical conclusions.

      The question is, does the business community want a literate public? Does the military? The political class?



    2. Swede, your inability to relate reality in any real sense is striking. It’s true that Leonard Cohen was ripped off by his long time friend and business manager.

      However, it’s also true that many many artists and musicians paint and perform until they die. Not through need of a paycheck, but for love. Just like when they started out being artists and musicians.

      For a guy who has sold hundreds of millions in records. tapes, CD’s and DVDs, 5 million isn’t chicken feed nor is it the end of the world. The personal treachery was far worse than the money being gone.

      But for a guy like you to understand that is probably impossible. You see it completely and only through the lens of the dollar sign.

      Everybody knows that, except for you.


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