My morning newspaper Feb. 17 provided several depressing reports. Readers learned more about the spread of horsemeat in Europe's human food supply. We read also about austerity measures in the United States that hurt the young, old, and those in between.
The downward developments are worth noting, especially because they contrast so much with the uplifting images of the president's recent second-term Inaugural and State of the Union speeches.
Our normal topic in this space — injustice — is gloomy in its own way. Legal rights will seem increasingly like a luxury in hard times ahead, subject to new limits on freedom. Few will recall that they are not a luxurious benefit of the nation's success, but were a precondition.
As for Europe, we now know that unwitting consumers there have been eating horsemeat because it's cheap for the food processors and because under-funded regulators have not been careful about eliminating mystery meat from processed foods.
So how far is the United States from that type of situation? Perhaps a good way since horsemeat eating has never been popular here, and so it is hard to insinuate into the human food chain.
But don't count on avoiding other setbacks since we are much less worried about health, war costs, and privacy intrusions than we should be. In addition, our leaders and media focus us far more than is healthy on religion-inspired witch-hunts and sex obsessions. Those do nothing to help the economy.
We do have a rich history of films and books portraying harsh economic conditions. As a reminder, the government-enforced poverty and other oppression of Orwell's1984 was once regarded as so horrible that the public would resist it.
Instead, we in America have authoritative expert evidence that the government is collecting virtually all of our emails and phone calls. Yet no federal official dares call a hearing to invite testimony on these illegal searches. Instead, officials stand by as the whistleblowers are imprisoned under Bush and Obama administrations alike. On the economy, we endure a long-term propaganda campaign as if FDR, the Depression and the New Deal never succeeded, and as if taxes were low during the Eisenhower administration and as if trickle-down economics during the Bush administration did not destroy the economy in 2007-2008.
In 1973, the science fiction movie Soylent Green predicted that the main food supply by 2022 would be marketed under the brand name “Soylent.” The film starred Charlton Heston, shown above right. The film suggested that poverty and austerity lead to harsh options in food supply and other living conditions. Although fantasy, the concept was relatively logical compared to economic nostrums being peddled in Washington these days, especially in the so-called “think tanks” are often glorified shills for their donors.
Movies get our attention, just like the stories in my Washington Post today. We can protect ourselves at least somewhat if we know both headlines and the history.
Listed below are today's headlines. Regarding austerity, check out: State of the millennial union: Underemployed an overloaded and Future retirees at greater risk; Majority may be worse off than parents. Another angle is: Cash-strapped Job Corps won't take new recruits. It shows the federal government curtailing jobs at the program designed to employ idealistic and under-employed young people.