I watched a lot of TV when I was growing up. Consequently, as a child of the 90’s, I’ve learned far too many dumb things from the likes of Zack Morris and Corey Matthews, as well as life lessons from the likes of George Feeny and Richard Belding. One thing that has always stuck out in my head was that episode of Boy Meets World when Corey learns that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Why? I have no idea, but I suppose it’s because I learned about the printing press a little later in life when I studied Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. What Gutenberg’s printing press did was revolutionize publishing – shit, it created publishing. After Gutenberg, anybody could publish and disseminate a manuscript or a book (like, say, The Ninety-Five Theses?) easily. By the time the Renaissance came around, books were a full-blown thing. The printing press revolutionized intellectual thought. It paved the way for the creation of newspapers and periodicals, and, of course, books; it changed the way everyday people were educated.
It’s also because of 90’s TV that I learned about the electoral process – maybe not necessarily the American electoral process, but how candidates are able to garner mass popularity on a sort of microcosmic level. There was an episode of Saved by the Bell years ago where Zack ran for Bayside’s student body president against Jessie because the winner was rewarded with a trip to Washington. While Jessie basically ran to help the school because her mom “was active in the 60’s,” – wanting healthier foods and such – Zack basically ran a campaign that said the opposite of Jessie’s: You want healthy food? I want more pizza! And according to Screech’s polling data, it was working: Zack was beating Jessie by nearly forty points. Eventually Jessie – on the sage advice of her advisors, Lisa, Kelly and Slater – realized her only chance at winning was to do the same thing as Zack. So the next day she went to the debate dressed like a Valley girl, promising MTV during study halls, field trips to the mall and that they wouldn’t study, but rather they would party. She realized that winning an election wasn’t about substance, but that it was about popularity, and the only way to win a popularity contest was by telling the people things that they wanted to hear, no matter how implausible they may seem.
We’ve been hearing a lot of promises from the two campaigns this year, and while they’ve each stretched truths on occasion, one of the candidates, in particular, has taken certain liberties with basic arithmetic that have misinformed our electorate. Mitt Romney has been running a campaign based on his business background, claiming that he’s a man who is uniquely qualified to bring the US out of its current economic situation because of his history in the private sector, and that’s totally fine – if bank statements are the ultimate sign of success, Mitt Romney was ridiculously successful. As a result, however, he believes he can help create more jobs and cut the federal deficit.* His economic platform calls for a twenty percent reduction in tax rates across the board and gets rid of the estate tax (among many, many others). Romney’s plan also calls for an additional $2 trillion dollars in defense spending. That sounds pretty nice, right? I mean, who wouldn’t like a tax cut and to keep the country safe?
* This, despite the fact that he, himself, stated during the second debate: “Government doesn’t create jobs.”