Most of us were not yet born to know the Great Stock Market Crash in 1929. The final day of panic at the New York Stock Exchange was on what is called “Black Tuesday,” Oct. 29, 1929. Investors that day traded away millions of shares and the New York Stock Market collapsed. These divestments and losses started an international chain reaction and thus the Great Depression began.
The tragedies of this economic collapse, and even our recent Great Recession, were preventable. The conditions leading to both of these financial failures were government permitting falsehoods, a lack of monitoring and oversight, and allowing the greedy to feast on the hard-earned wealth of the public.
We also face our own Black Tuesday. But now we call it Election Day.
We today are bombarded with lies, false allegations and misrepresentations, built layer upon layer on unsubstantiated claims. This most recent election, as was every recent election cycle I can recall, is characterized by lies that lead the public to drink the poison concocted by the powerful and those willing to deceive in order to succeed.
And yet it is our representative government that not only permits this conduct, but also in fact condones this behavior as they are the direct beneficiaries.
I am so tired of ads depicting candidates for school races talking to children in classrooms or pointing to pages in a book as though this means learning is taking place. I am disappointed by the myriad of preposterous claims of what someone’s political rival is for or is against. I searched eagerly but rarely heard an actual policy offered as a viable solution.
It is clear the voting public still makes election decisions based on negative campaigning instead of who can move us ahead and how. And this haze of information is exactly where our representatives and those with money to spend want to keep us.
Black Friday meant that on the shopping day after Thanksgiving retailers finally may see some profit and move from red ink to black. Black Friday now has morphed into a code word for deep retail discounts and gigantic sales. But to me Black Friday is also a code word for deception.
Some retailers have promoted Black Friday week, Black Friday month, and even Black Friday summer. Consumers, just like the electorate, are fed lies and false hype. Many Black Friday “sales” and “deep discounts” in fact represent fairly typical prices. Just like some vote for a candidate because he or she is “against taxes” without saying how, we are bombarded with the same waves of misrepresentations and fabrications for Black Friday sales when in fact there is virtually no discount.
Americans have become immune to the truth and seem to prefer to buy in to what we want to hear. We are so simplistic that we vote for anyone who “is for veterans and teachers.” We support measures when ads falsely claim something is going to stop us from losing our guns, health care, roads, fresh water, or dialysis treatments, rarely questioning the authenticity of the message.
I can understand why much of the world wonders about our national sanity. Americans have been conditioned to follow whatever money promotes, and not the facts.
Our collapse of truth began when the Supreme Court ruled that political lies, misrepresentation, that ability of corporations and political action committees to spend unlimited funds on elections, are protected by the freedom of speech. I guess these freedoms also apply to retailers.
I am all for freedom of speech as long as the person communicating has reasons to believe that it is true. The Supreme Court, with protecting our rights in mind, has also doomed us to big money that buys big lies.
I only need to point to the thousands of lies told by our current president as proof that lies matter but lying doesn’t.
I have always considered Harry Truman our greatest president. Our 33rd president, in his humble style, took full responsibility when he made mistakes and told it the way it was. Harry took ownership of any decision he made and never blamed others for failures, even when it was clearly on them.
Harry Truman could not get elected to any high office in the political climate we have today. The ongoing success of political smear tactics and infantile sales gimmicks signal our inability to think clearly and beyond false messages.
Still, there is hope that the new generation of voters will guide us back to sanity and a fact-driven, data-centric, less scapegoating mindset.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations firm, is the CFO of a private security firm, is the COO of at an acting conservatory, is a published author and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.