You would guess that most senior citizens and those approaching retirement will have heard of Wisconsin Republican Congressional Representative Paul Ryan. After all, he is the architect of the budget that proposes to radically gut Medicare and Social Security.
And wouldn’t you think that most single mothers would have heard of Ryan, who after all has been an architect or loud supporter of every recent proposal to cut food stamps and medical aid to children.
And employees who currently get tax-free health care benefits from their employer—surely most of them have heard of Ryan, who has advocated ending that tax exemption on income and benefits.
And I imagine that among those 98% of Catholic women who defy the Catholic Church and use artificial birth control, there are still many who listened when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that Ryan’s budget plans would disproportionately cut programs that serve the poor and vulnerable.
I’m guessing that the majority of people in the United States should have a reason to dislike Ryan, who currently serves as leading spokesperson for the right-wing’s low-tax, no-government social philosophy.
That’s why I am so completely floored by the results of yesterday’s poll by Yahoo! on its home page asking if Paul Ryan will boost or hurt Mitt Romney’s chances of unseating President Obama.
As of 3:30 pm yesterday afternoon, more than 100,000 had voted. Here’s what they said:
- Yes, he’ll boost Romney’s chances: 24%
- No, he’ll hurt Romney’s chances: 22%
- I don’t know who he is: 53%
That’s right, a majority of the people who voted in the survey had never heard of Paul Ryan. The news is depressing, even if we assume that people who respond to Yahoo! home page surveys are dramatically different in their reading of the news from the general electorate. But I’m guessing that people reading the Yahoo! home page get more news than the average person, because Yahoo! puts news on its home page. In fact, it has plastered photos of Ryan on its rotating box and put his name in many news headlines over the past two years.
And yet, more people have never heard of him than have formed an opinion about him, negative or positive.
And therein lies the biggest problem facing American society: the complete ignorance and apathy of a large number of voters and potential voters.
We can complain about the way that real news gets drowned out by non-news such as celebrity news and gossip, political bloopers, features about stuff and services to buy, sports and reductions of issues to personality spats. After all, a Google search reveals only 3.7 million hits for “Paul Ryan budget” and 400 million hits for Lady Gaga, who is only one of many celebrities fueling celebrity mania. Or take Delmon Young, a semi-decent baseball player who got crocked and issued some anti-Semitic slurs, thereby producing 5.7 million hits in a Google search.
But we can’t just blame the news media. There are still many stories about Ryan and most of them make the top of the news. We have only to blame ourselves for becoming so distracted by earning bread and watching circuses that we don’t even realize how much into the muck of ignorance we have slipped.