It’s been 90 days since I first heard Rush Limbaugh come out of my radio where once Dave Ramsey had been.
Pre-2014, I’d been doing here and there 15-minute Dave Ramsey listenings as a part of my morning twa-let, and can quite unequivocally state that, even though I often disagreed with Dave, especially when he banged his one size fits all debt-is-bad drum, I’m the better for it. Dave has a charm to him most of the time, and he knows how to give good radio. He’s a skilled pro.
Come 2014, though, the very moment I turned on the radio for that first work-a-day day of the new year twa-let, I thus did come to find myself abruptly thrust deep into EIB-land.
When you listen to Rush, you hear much mention of EIB. It’s all the EIB Network this, and the EIB Network that.
EIB stands for Excellence in Broadcasting — a labelI always took to be the name of Rush’s distributor or syndicator or something or other, but which, after a couple of minutes of online research just now, looks to be a rather mysterious thing — more like a simple dba sort of branding term . . . or something or other. It’s not clear what it is. But he sure does say it a lot.
My initial impression back then was that the Excellence in Broadcasting phrase was terrifically ironic. Broadcasting? Yes, for sure this was that. But excellence in broadcasting? This was not that. Rush, as far as I could first discern, did not give good radio. I heard sloppy transitions and aimless monologues aplenty, and missed cues and “where’s the sound clip?”s fairly often. Plus, for the life of me, it seemed like the only thing I could hear during any of the fifteen-minute chunks I caught was a swarm of commercials (a good many of which had an unintelligible hyper-fast-talk CYA legalese boilerplate blast at the end, part of which usually indicated that the advertised product or service might not be available in all states . . . ). Why, Dave didn’t have this many commercials! And Dave, he also spoke in paragraphs! And he — Dave — always seemed to have a plan for where he wanted the show to go during the rest of the hour, let alone during the next five minutes!
Thus did it come to be that the switch over at the new year, from Dave to Rush, was quite jarring. Dave was all tight language and tight radio. Rush was all blah blah blah blah and slop slop slop slop.
And so it doth came to be that, one month into 2014, after many an attempt to cozy up to El Rushbo in all his EIB’ness, I hadn’t caught much Rush content at all. Just empty calories.
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But I stuck with it and, since then, I’ve picked up on Rush’s cadence and style. It took the better part of 90 days. Now I hear him. The blah blah blah blah has diminished (if you want an instant example of the blah blah blah blah just take a look at the front page of his site — an over the top cacophony of visual ADHD — and aurally conjure up for yourself the radio equivalent).
I am the better for having listened to all those fifteen-minute chunks of Rush. I disagree with
just about everything he says, and find a great deal of it to be simply made up and ignoring of reality (darn that darn-reality, darn that darn-thing). And sometimes it seems pretty adolescent as well, in a very strange way that I can’t quite put into words other than to remind you of what Rush had to say about Sandra Fluke (which, on top of juvenile, is also anatomically incorrect) and to note that Rush uses a lot of playground-like vocal intonations to make fun of people. Nonetheless, I recommend that everyone try it sometime because exposure to many different viewpoints is good nourishment for your heart and soul and brain (and Rush’s viewpoint is surely different from those to which many readers of this blog expose themselves) and because doing so can help you hone your skills of critical analysis . . . and steel your nerves for the 2014 and 2016 campaigns.
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During his tenure here in San Francisco on AM960 in the mornings, I wrote about Dave in this blog fairly often. It was a good and happy fit. Dave is probably the most widely followed financial advisor in America, and his show is mostly call-in and response, so his topics are smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse (though Dave’s callers tilt geographically towards the Southern U.S., while those who listen to me tilt geographically towards the Left Coast). Listening to Dave, I played along at home, so to speak, figuring out what I would say to the caller before Dave had a chance to fully flesh out his answer. That helped me up my financial health advisory chops and gave me plenty to write about.
I likely will not write about Rush in here after today because he is almost entirely about politics (and this blog is only occasionally directly about politics, with one of those occassions winding its way towards you, big time, as you continue reading on down the page . . . ) and because I don’t find what he talks about, or the thought balloons that bubble up from me when from listening to him (this is, after all, a family show . . . ), to be worthy of sharing with others.
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Rush and Dave are both proud conservatives. As best I can tell, they both think that government is a total clutz, a keystone cop, a hapless buffoon, a barrel of unintended-consequence monkeys, and a moocher enabler and moochee robber. So for them the free market rocks (and, indeed, for Dave and Rush, presumably extraordinarily rich fellows, the market has rocked and rolled all around the clock). I think it’s fair to say that both believe that, every single time government so much as lifts a pinky in the direction of the economy, we all lose.
As best I can tell, Rush is far more adamant than Dave in this context. Indeed, it’s fair to say, I believe, that Rush is downright rabid in his view that government, and particularly the government of Barack Obama, is really, really bad for America and is driving us toward another Great Depression.
I think he’s precisely wrong; the folks I find most credible in predicting economic trends — credible because their previous predictions have been correct a lot — think that the Republican agenda was largely responsible for starting The Great Recession and has, through forced austerity and unfounded inflation paranoia and the like, worsened and extended it a lot, and, literally, hurt millions of families in the process.
My hunch is that Rush and Dave both also view national defense as the one thing the federal government should spend a lot of money on, though I can’t be positive because I can’t recall hearing either of them talk about defense (this is my hunch because defense is usually the one asterisk on the “let’s make government small enough to drown in a bathtub” mantra that conservatives can happily abide).
Krugman calls the federal government an insurance company with an army. Rush and Dave would like to skip the insurance part because insurance involves all of us pooling our interests together, and that pooling of interests runs contrary to the you’re-on-your-own world they’d like to see. Now it’s true that Dave does like it, a whole heckuva lot, when people pool their interests together within the context of Christianity or to attend Financial Peace University (so as to provide economics of scale to his business), but with these and a few other exceptions, as best I can tell Rush and Davie just about always view pooled interests as being contrary to free markets and/or bad and/or socialist.
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In the world we know today, there is no such thing as a totally free market. There are just too many of us involved for it to be structure-free. So every market is structured, in some way, by how we, as a society, choose, actively or passively, to structure it.
That structure comes from government, starting with the army — yup, that army, the one conservatives and many others tend to see as the most righteous part of government power — to keep out warring invaders, and continues on down to the cops who make sure that shoplifters fear the wrath of the law and the risk of time in the pokey, and down even further to the coins and paper in your pocket, and even further down still, to the digital dollar system (by the way, thank you Michael Lewis for writing a book on high frequency trading — a topic I’ll write about soon).
And then there are the structures necessitated by the ability of people, especially when banded together in large mostly anonymous groupings, to do the wrong thing to others when the facts of those others’ existences are attenuated enough — far enough removed — to be easily ignored. Not having to look those who are affected in the eye leads these groupings of people to do unto others that which they never in a million years would do unto their mothers or unto their children. And so it happens that we have a history of asbestos companies knowingly causing fatal cancers in their employees, of extractors leaving their messes behind for someone else to have to clean up (kinda like the cable guys outside my window the other day who left a bunch of garbage at the bottom of the telephone pole for me to clean up . . . thanks a bunch guys!) and, yes, a history of large swaths of the Financial Services Industrial Complex screwing people over if it can make even a few pennies by doing so, etc., etc,. etc. So we need government to counter the wrong that some people, when left to their own devices, will sometimes visit upon some other folks in the name of free markets.
And that’s just the relatively easy-to-comprehend stuff. How about situations in which what we, as a society, need to do is, to many folks, an a-intuitive approach? The classic in this regard is needing to increase federal government spending during a recession, but instead all we hear is, When a family falls on tough times, it curtails spending, and so too must the federal government. Another classic is when giving something to those less fortunate — yes, an outright gift — is not only the caring thing to do, but is also the economically smart thing to do because it, quite literally, makes us all, in a dollars and cents kind of way, better off (not to mention better off in a quality of life way), e.g. helping children of less fortunate means get a head start on their schooling or providing medical coverage to those who cannot afford it.
Leave these things to the market and, I believe, we’ll inch our way closer and closer to a Dickensian dystopia, as in, retreat back to from whence we came. And, gee, d’ya wanna go forward or d’ya wanna go backward?
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Now please allow me to clear my throat, and, loud and clear, freak flag flying, up the ante by stating this: I believe government in America is one of the most beautiful, one of the most beneficial, and, yes, even one of the most caring human creations ever. Yes, it could be much better. Much. And parts are every bit as evil as what I described above about asbestos companies and the FSIC. But taken as a whole? It’s a marvelous creation of us all, a stupendous enabler and magnifier of all our potential. It’s humankind, warts and all, writ large against a backdrop of we’re all in this together. It’s theThe Big Us just as surely as is the Manhattan skyline.
Now how about we start measuring happiness with the same sort of energy and reverence with which we measure and revere GDP, shall we?
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I’ll continue listening to Rush until AM960 takes him off the radio, or until I can’t take it anymore. I think I could listen another year or two easy.
But, please, Rush, stop talking about that kids book of yours — Must you shill so much? Have you no shame? — and focus on telling us more about how all the conservative politicians are real role models, doing great jobs for all their constituents, making it look easy.
And, while you’re at it, please give us the sources for your facts so we can corroborate them and hold you accountable for what you say, OK? Accountability is key, right? You want that, right? You want to be held accountable for the truth of what you say, no?
And, oh yea, one other thing: why don’t you do substantive call-in? Whenever I hear you do call-in, it’s either an eight year old gushing about how great Rush Revere is, or it’s someone who sounds more like a plant than a thinking person. It would be good to hear your converse with a thinking person.