“H.L. Mencken Was Right”
by Jim Quinn
by Jim Quinn
"H.L. Mencken was a renowned newspaper columnist for the Baltimore Sun from 1906 until 1948. His biting sarcasm seems to fit perfectly in today’s world. His acerbic satirical writings on government, democracy, politicians and the ignorant masses are as true today as they were then. I believe the reason his words hit home is because he was writing during the last Unraveling and Crisis periods in America. The similarities cannot be denied. There are no journalists of his stature working in the mainstream media today. His acerbic wit is nowhere to be found among the lightweight shills that parrot their corporate masters’ propaganda on a daily basis and unquestioningly report the fabrications spewed by our government. Mencken’s skepticism of all institutions is an unknown quality in the vapid world of present day journalism.
The Roaring Twenties of decadence, financial crisis caused by loose Fed monetary policies, stock market crash, Depression, colossal government redistribution of wealth, and ultimately a World War, all occurred during his prime writing years. I know people want to believe that the world only progresses, but they are wrong. The cycles of history reveal that people do not change, just the circumstances change. How Americans react to the undulations of history depends upon their age and generational position. We are currently in a Crisis period when practical, truth telling realists like Mencken are most useful and necessary.
Mencken captured the essence of American politics and a disconnected populace 80 years ago. Even though many people today feel the average American is less intelligent, more materialistic, and less informed than ever before, it was just as true in 1930 based on Mencken’s assessment: “The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
You can make your own judgment on the accuracy of his statement considering the last two gentlemen to occupy the White House. His appraisal of U.S. Senators and citizens in our so-called Democracy captures the spirit of the travesty that passes for leadership and civic responsibility in this country today. “Democracy gives the beatification of mediocrity a certain appearance of objective and demonstrable truth. The mob man, functioning as citizen, gets a feeling that he is really important to the world—that he is genuinely running things. Out of his maudlin herding after rogues and mountebacks there comes to him a sense of vast and mysterious power—which is what makes archbishops, police sergeants, the grand goblins of the Ku Klux and other such magnificoes happy. And out of it there comes, too, a conviction that he is somehow wise, that his views are taken seriously by his betters — which is what makes United States Senators, fortune tellers and Young Intellectuals happy. Finally, there comes out of it a glowing consciousness of a high duty triumphantly done which is what makes hangmen and husbands happy.”
People still read newspapers in the 1930s to acquire credible information about the economy, politics and economy. Today’s corporate owned rags aren’t fit to line a bird cage. The mainstream media is a platform for the lies of their corporate sponsors. Each TV network or newspaper spouts propaganda that supports the financial interests and ideology they are beholden to. Does anyone think they are obtaining the truth from Paul Krugman, Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh? Evidently the answer is yes. The upcoming presidential campaign will be a nightmare of endless negative advertisements created by Madison Avenue maggots and paid for by rich powerful men attempting to herd the mindless sheeple towards their ultimate slaughter. Whichever corporate controlled party can more successfully scare the masses into pulling their lever in the voting booth on November 6th will get the opportunity push the country closer to its ultimate collapse. This collapse was destined from the time of Mencken when the Federal Reserve was created by a small group of powerful bankers and their cronies in Congress. Fear has worked for 100 years in controlling the masses, as Mencken noted during his time: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
In the 1930s you needed to count on newspapers for the truth. The purpose of those who wield power is to keep the masses dumbed down and paranoid regarding terrorist threats and artificial enemies. By convincing the dense public that acquiring material goods on credit was a smart thing to do, they have trapped them in a web of debt. By making life an inexhaustible bureaucratic nightmare or rules, regulations, forms, ID cards, registrations, and red tape, those in power maintain control and accumulate power. H.L. Mencken would be proud: “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
The corporate/government/banking oligarchy started the fire. The world is burning to the ground and politicians have thrown gasoline onto the fire with passage of debt financed stimulus programs, Obamacare, bank bailouts, the Patriot Act, NDAA, and a myriad of other government “solutions”. To anyone willing to think for just a few minutes, the picture is unambiguous. This requires the ability to think critically – a missing gene among the majority of Americans.
Critical thinking is the careful, deliberate determination of whether one should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim and the degree of confidence with which one accepts or rejects it. Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance and fairness. Critical thinking requires extensive experience in identifying the extent of one’s own ignorance in a wide variety of subjects (“I thought I knew, but I merely believed.”)
One becomes less biased and more broad-minded when one becomes more intellectually empathetic and intellectually humble. I have observed little or no critical thinking skills in the pompous asses that write daily columns in today’s newspapers and zero critical thinking skills among the vacuous pundits and big breasted brainless fashion models that yap all day long on CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox and the Big 3 dying networks.
Any thinking would be a shocking change of pace from the corrupt corporate owned politicians in Washington DC. Other than Ron Paul and a few other truth tellers, critical thinking from a politician or a government bureaucrat is about as likely as Obama not using a teleprompter. Everything being spewed at the public from the MSM, Wall Street, and Washington DC is intellectually dishonest, manipulated and packaged by pollsters and PR firms. I’ve come to the conclusion that those in power desire that public school systems of the United States churn out ignorant, non-questioning morons. A populace that is incapable or uninterested in critically thinking about the important issues of the day is a politician’s best friend. Half the population doesn’t vote and the other half unquestioningly obeys what they are told by their parties.
Ignorance is the state of being uninformed about issues and unaware about the implications of those issues. It is not about intelligence. A huge swath of America is ignorant due to lack of education and a low class upbringing. But, I know many college educated people who haven’t read a book in 20 years or could care less about economic issues. They made a choice to be ignorant. They prefer being distracted by their latest technological toy to dealing with reality.
Most Americans are incapable of looking beyond a 2 to 3 year time horizon. That is why the median 401k balance in the US is $13,000. That is why the average credit card debt per household is $16,000. That is why 25% of all homeowners are underwater on their mortgage. Politicians, banks, and marketers take advantage of this witlessness to enslave the average American. We’ve come to love our slavery. Appearing successful because you drive the right car, wear the right clothes or live in the right house is more important than actually doing the hard work to actually become successful, like spending less than you make and saving the difference.
An informed, interested, questioning public would be a danger to the government as described by H.L. Mencken: “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out … without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.”
There were already two fiscal hurricanes of unfunded liabilities and current deficits churning towards our shores before Obama and his non-critical thinking Democratic minions launched a third storm called Obamacare. No matter how many intellectually deceitful mouthpieces like Paul Krugman and Rush Limbaugh misrepresent the facts, the fiscal foundation of the country is crumbling under the weight of unfunded entitlement promises, out of control government spending and far flung military misadventures. Only someone who is intellectually bankrupt, like Krugman, would declare the National Debt at $8 trillion as a looming disaster when George Bush was President, but declare that a $15.6 trillion National Debt headed towards $20 trillion by 2015 isn’t a danger now that Barack Obama is President. The intellectual and moral credentials required to write for a major newspaper have fallen markedly since the days of Mencken.
The combination of educationally uninformed, ignorant by choice, and intellectually dishonest will be fatal for the country. Total US credit market debt as a percentage of GDP is just below an all-time high, exceeding 350% of GDP. It is 25% higher than it was at the depths of the Great Depression. Consumer debt fell in 2010 – 2011 because banks wrote off about a trillion dollars of bad debt, while government debt has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels. Now consumers are back racking up more debt, with government encouragement and subsidies responsible for the surge in student loan and auto debt. With GDP stalling out, government debt accumulating at $1.4 trillion per year and consumers back to their delusional selves again, this ratio will pass 400% by 2014.
The financial crisis was caused by excessive utilization of debt. In order to correct these imbalances, the country needed to undergo a deleveraging and reversion back to a country of savers. Savings equals investment. Instead, our “leaders” have reduced interest rates to 0% and have gone on an unprecedented government borrowing and spending spree. Savers and senior citizens are punished, while gamblers and speculators are rewarded. Anyone who thinks about this strategy for a few minutes will realize it is asinine and hopeless. It enriches the few and impoverishes the many.
Based upon a realistic assessment of our current spending trajectory, The National Debt of the U.S. will exceed $25 trillion by 2019. That is more than double the figure when Bush left office. George Bush almost doubled the National Debt from $5.6 trillion to $11 trillion during his reign of error. It seems one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on is that spending money they don’t have will have no negative consequences (“deficits don’t matter” – Cheney). When you have a Federal Reserve willing to print to infinity there is no limit to how much you can spend. Only a fool would believe there won’t be consequences. That fool writes an opinion column for the NYT and has a Nobel Prize on his bookshelf.
We add $3.8 billion of debt to this figure each and every day. We add $158 million to this figure each and every hour. The interest on the National Debt reached an all-time high of $454 billion in 2011 with an effective interest rate of about 3%. Much of this interest is paid to foreign governments like China, Japan and OPEC nations. This is $1.2 billion per day of interest paid mostly to foreigners. With just the slightest bit of critical thinking one could easily perceive that with a National Debt of $25 trillion and a likely increase in interest rates to at least 6%, our annual interest costs would increase to $1.5 trillion per year. The United States needed to implement a long-term plan ten years ago to address the impossible to fulfill promises made by its corrupt, mentally bankrupt politicians. Americans’ inability to deal with reality and fondness for not thinking beyond tomorrow has shown them to be an inferior species, as Mencken noted: “The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear – fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.”
The entire revenue of the US government totaled $2.3 trillion in 2011, with $800 billion of those funds earmarked for Social Security outlays in the future. Does this appear sustainable? President Obama submits budgets of never ending trillion dollar deficits and then gives stump speeches declaring that we must get our deficits under control. He appears on the MSM declaring his dedication to fiscal responsibility and what passes for a journalist these days nods their head like a lapdog and lobs the next softball to the President. You have to be delusional to believe this claptrap. Luckily for the politicians, most Americans are delusional and apathetic. They just got another text message from their BFF. They are consumed by who will get booted this week from American Idol or Dancing With the Stars. The NFL draft is tonight and did your hear that Kim Kardashian is doing Kanye West?
H.L. Mencken understood the false promises of democracy 80 years ago: “Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. It is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." We deserve to get it good and hard, and we will.”