A friend told me that although she and her husband had prepared for many years, they will probably not be able to send their daughters to college because their budget just can't handle it.
When I asked if she was following the state's growing budget problems and particularly the impact the prison system is having on the state, she admitted she didn't know anything about the issue.
My friend is not unique. If you're reading this, it probably comes as no surprise to learn that the average American is just not informed about the issues that impact their pockets. Mainstream corporate media carries a large share of the blame for this but not all of it. However, regardless of who's to blame, we all pay the price. Just like my friend, there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands who are getting blindsided by the direct impact the state's budget crisis is having on them.
LA Progressive contributing writer Tom Hall takes a look at the cost of not having media that serves and informs the people in his piece, "Corporate Media: All the News that Suits the Suits." Tom asserts that even a city as large as Los Angeles no longer has a daily newspaper. How in the world are people able to stay in the know? How do they know how to vote?
Here is an example of a decision made by the voters that may have seemed perfectly reasonable at the time but is now costing us millions and in return we get very little.
In the late 80s, California voters approved an initiative that changed California law. It granted the governor the authority to overturn decisions made by the state parole board. The governor of California can now overrule the parole board if the board determines that someone serving life with the possibility of parole has demonstrated that they are no longer a threat to society. Only two other states in the nation have similar laws; Maryland and Oklahoma.
As a result, since 1988, the year California granted the governor this power, the lifer population in California's prison system has jumped from 4,800 to 31,000. According to a report on NPR's "This American Life", the annual cost to the state of maintaining the parole board is $100 million dollars. Yet, Governor Gray Davis overturned 99% of the board's rulings and Governor Swartzeneggar has overruled 75%. If the average Californian was aware of this, they'd probably want to reconsider this policy. But you won't find this kind of coverage on the local news. This is just one tiny morsel of information that people like my friend are completely unaware of yet are directly affected by.
We know politicians don't want to be seen as being "soft on crime". So, even though the tax payer foots the bill that covers a thorough investigation of the potential parolee, the investigation itself has little impact -- if any -- on the governor's decision.
In a book entitled, Just How Stupid Are We?, author Rick Shenkman asks, "Are America's voters prepared to shoulder the responsibility of running the most powerful nation on earth? Do a majority know enough?" These questions are not new but the current economic crisis brings to the fore the urgency of an answer.
As a citizen journalist and the publisher of the LA Progressive, I can attest to the inordinate amount of time it takes to stay current. It's no wonder there are so many who can't name the politicians who represent them much less know about the legislation being put forward supposedly on their behalf.
The corporate mainstream media just doesn't provide the kind of news we need to make informed decisions. As a result, for those of us who insist on having the information needed to make informed decisions, we're forced to hunt for it. This is where the time problem comes in.
But the Internet has made the search for information much more doable. And social networks, such as Digg and Facebook arm us with the ability to disseminate information far and wide.
If you like what you read here at the LA Progressive or on any of the many e-Magazines on the Internet, please Digg them. Forwarding stories by email is another way to get information out. This not only helps to spread information, it helps to keep the publication alive and maybe fill the void mainstream media has created.