Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Coastal Journal, Gina Hamilton, and Language Abuse

A casual glance at the Coastal Journal quickly reveals it to be largely the play toy of Gina Hamilton, the Editor.  She writes the editorials, a column describing her personal life, and the majority of the “analysis” and news items.  You might call it The Gina Journal most of the time.

The editorial stance is on the far left side, viewing government as one huge social agency and redistribution authority.  Private sector activities are tolerated as the means to fund government goodness.

Lately I’ve come to believe that Gina must be a blood relative to a former prominent congressman, Democrat Lee Hamilton of Indiana.  A number of columns by him have run in the CJ, and I’m not ready to believe that he just randomly selected the little paper from Bath that has an editor with the same last name.

On to the point of this post.  Gina is an archetypical liberal journalist when it comes to shading and abuse of plain English to serve her ideological purposes.  She tweaked me enough to write this item in her “analysis” of last week titled ‘The proposed budget and you.’

In it, she referenced a telephone press conference informing the press of “budget items that would affect the working and middle class.”  She then added that “since most people in Maine are either working OR middle class……”  Do you sense the disdain?

It’s said that “working people” is code for union members, and that seems to be the case here.  If nothing else, Gina owes it to readers to explain the difference between “working” people and “middle class” people if she plans to segregate us in discussions of policy. 

Her inference, of course, is that “middle class” folks don’t work.  My guess is she’s including most Other Side readers in the non-working class.  Which leads me to wonder if she works.

But let me digress. In an opinion piece in late December that I’ve had in the stack for some time, Gina asserted that state “Funding cuts hit the most vulnerable….again.”

The passage that really got to me is this one:

In short, the people who are being hurt are children, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled, and the mentally ill – those who can’t or don’t vote and therefore have very little voice in government.

I take exception to this notion for several reasons.  First, everyone seems to think that if you aren’t in the italicized groups, things are peachy keen for you, and you aren’t being “hit.”  You know, so what if you’ve lost one or more of your jobs, or your income is way down. That shouldn’t affect you, and you ought to be able to make up the state’s revenue difference with no problem.

Memo to Gina: the fundamental reason that the state is having such fiscal problems is because those who pay the bills aren’t earning as much as they did in prior years, and there are probably fewer of them as well.  Taken as a group, they’re making a lot less money.  Which means they’re spending a lot less money.

Which is why the income tax and sales tax receipts, the two primary indicators of economic well being in the populace, are way, way down.  So before you go any further, recognize that the “income cuts” are hitting those most vulnerable; those who fuel the economic engine and pay the bills so the needs of others can be addressed by a generous government.

Stop making it sound as if the shortfalls are the result of some impersonal and distant breakdown in the cosmic economic order.  They are, instead, the result of very personal realities on our main street and yours, and the hardships they create are real before you begin to consider the “most vulnerable.”

Second is the implication that those who ‘serve’ the italicized groups are seen as having sacred positions and their interests must be prioritized above all others.  Every time I hear someone argue that not giving teachers, for example, pre-programmed raises will “hurt the children,” my mind aches.  And when we talk about the others, we’ve got to remember there’s a huge overhead structure that consumes the lion’s share of funding before ‘clients’ get what they need.

As to the “very little voice” assertion, that’s an all to common demagogue’s tactic.  Anyone who understands the huge web of organizations that make up the non-profit industrial complex in this state, and that employs hundreds of professional staff and statehouse lobbyists, realizes that the “vulnerable” have an influential army making their living providing them a well orchestrated “voice in government.”

In fact, it’s safe to say that the folks without a “voice in government,” by comparison, are those who pay the bills for themselves and the cited identity groups.

If Gina doesn’t get this, a little time on the internet will confirm it.

But perhaps that would be inconvenient for her.  Journalism is about making the world a better place, not about understanding and reporting.  Advocating for the vulnerable is so much more rewarding when you ignore the messy details that challenge the prevailing story line. 

Even if it’s “unsustainable.”

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