Every year, the Society of Professional Journalists’ prestigious Sigma Delta Chi awards honor excellence in journalism across all news media platforms. The awards showcase the best work in the field of journalism, and this year Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer will be among those honored during the awards ceremony in Washington on Friday. Scheer took top honors in the Online Column Writing (Independent) category.
Scheer will receive the award for a series of columns he did in 2011 on the Great Recession. Below, a summary and some snippets from his must-read—and now award-winning—columns.
The Peasants Need Pitchforks
Summary: The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy.
That is the harsh reality obscured by the media’s focus on celebrity gossip, sports rivalries and lotteries, situations in which the average person can pretend that he or she is plugged into the winning side. The illusion of personal power substitutes consumer sovereignty—which smartphone to purchase—for real power over the decisions that affect our lives. Even though most Americans accept that the political game is rigged, we have long assumed that the choices we make in the economic sphere as to career and home are matters that respond to our wisdom and will. But the banking tsunami that wiped out so many jobs and so much homeownership has demonstrated that most Americans have no real control over any of that, and while they suffer, the corporate rich reward themselves in direct proportion to the amount of suffering they have caused.
Summary: Of course it will be argued that multinational corporations have the right to arrange their businesses as they see fit in order to maximize profit. But if that is the case, do beleaguered American taxpayers have to foot the bill?
There is a bitter irony in that statement given that consumer purchasing power is down in the U.S. thanks to the devastating collapse of a housing bubble GE Capital fed with suspect mortgage financing that provided the company with well over half of its profits before the crash. The loss of well-paying jobs at multinationals like GE to other nations—54 percent of the GE workforce is foreign—exacerbates the plight of U.S. consumers while making the foreign customers even more attractive.
Of course it will be argued that multinational corporations have the right to arrange their business as they see fit in order to maximize profit. But if that is the case, do beleaguered American taxpayers have to foot the bill? When those corporations run into trouble overseas because of financial hustles or hostile locals and need the diplomatic and military might of the U.S. government to protect their interests abroad, it is again the U.S. taxpayer who must pay to maintain this new world order.
Summary: If a Republican were president, there would be millions of properly coiffed middle-class Democrats and independents at those Occupy Wall Street marches, and no questions asked as to what they really want.
Leaving aside assertions regarding God’s intentions, it is disturbing that the much discredited platform of the Project for a New American Century, which helped bankrupt this country, will once again become U.S. policy if the Republicans gain control of the White House.
No doubt many reasonable Americans will view Obama as the lesser evil come election time, and for some that will prove convincing. But I take the dreary choices to be one akin to a form of slow torture. Better to support the Occupy Wall Street protests as an inspiring alternative.
Summary: On this Thanksgiving we have been cheated of the bounty of the harvest as one in three Americans descends into poverty.
No more. On this Thanksgiving we have been cheated of the bounty of that harvest as the stakes have been pulled up on 50 million Americans who have lost or soon will lose their homes. The housing crisis haunts a majority of Americans, even those who own their homes outright but have lost their jobs and must now sell in a downward-swirling housing market.
Good public education on every level, from preschool through college, is now a matter of inherited privilege reserved for those who can pick and choose affluent neighborhood settings for their children’s schools. And the prospect of affording one of those settings is dim for most parents in a country where securing a good job is beyond the reach of so many highly motivated people.
Summary: What’s alarming is the ease with which an otherwise deadlocked Congress that can’t manage minimal funding for job creation passes a bill that threatens the foundations of our republican form of government.
The defense authorization bill that Congress passed and President Obama had threatened to veto will soon become law, a fact that should be met with public outrage. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth, responding to Obama’s craven collapse on the bill’s most controversial provision, said, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.” On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed “the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.”
What rubbish, coming from a president who taught constitutional law. The point is not to hock our civil liberty to the discretion of the president, but rather to guarantee our freedoms even if a Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich should attain the highest office.