Media attention moves at crazy speeds in today’s world. One moment, the focus is on Ebola scares around the world; the next, a new Nicki Minaj video.
However, America’s policies don’t move that fast, and many issues are becoming yesterday’s news before they’ve reached anything approaching a resolution, according to Stephen Farnsworth, professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington.
“You end up with a situation where lots of really big issues — in terms of what America focuses on and spends money on — don’t get discussed very much,” he said.
One issue Farnsworth highlighted was America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.
“We aren’t getting nearly enough discussion on what’s going on in Iraq and Iran with ISIS,” he said. “We could be looking at a movement that is more dangerous and more violent than al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined.”
When issues of foreign policy get short-changed in the national spotlight, Farnsworth suggested, it can lead to disastrous results.
“We didn’t know much about Iraq before the U.S. invaded, and it turned out to be quite a bit different than the Bush administration said it would be,” he said.
Data released by Pew in July showed that 55 percent of Americans say the U.S. has no responsibility to do something about violence in Iraq, while 39 percent say the U.S. does have a responsibility.
It’s not just foreign policy that Americans lose interest in after a while.
Jake Haselswerdt, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan, pointed to the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as something that has slipped from the public eye.
“It might actually be a good thing,” he said. “Having the law be the primary ideological and partisan battleground for years doesn’t seem to have been very productive for health policy.”
It’s important to keep the public aware of the issue, Haselswerdt said, because some states still oppose the law.
“In order for the more stubborn states to move forward with implementation and expanding care, there may need to be some continued pressure,” he said. “That’s going to require the media to pay attention to the big disparities that are emerging between states that tried to implement the law and those that resisted.”
Finally, Farnsworth pointed to the federal deficit as the biggest domestic issue America needs to focus on.
“We really have not had a serious conversation in this country about the level of government we want to pay for,” he said. He also critiqued news organizations for shaping national conversation in a way that focuses on visuals and drama.
"We really have not had a serious conversation in this country about the level of government we want to pay for."Stephen Farnsworth, professor at the University of Mary Washington
“As time goes on, the attention span shrinks,” he added. “It used to be, we had at least 90 seconds to talk about a policy issue. Now, we have 140 characters. As trivial as television was, compared to Twitter it’s Tolstoy.”
Haselswerdt disagreed, however, pointing out that increased media attention does not necessarily result in better policies.
“I don’t think the deficit needs any additional attention, particularly if attention means more shutdowns or debt ceiling crises,” he said. “If there was some kind of basis for bipartisan compromise on improving the long-term fiscal picture, great — but there isn’t.”
He also argued that focusing attention on the deficit can lead to reactionary policies.
“There’s been some modest progress on this front in the last few years, buoyed by a slowly improving economy,” he said. “In any case, it’s not clear to me that deficits are an urgent policy problem that needs to be solved in the near term. The consequences of government by crisis appear much more dire than the consequences of deficits.”
A Pew report in January showed that reducing the federal deficit had declined on the public’s list of priorities for the first time since President Obama was elected in 2008.
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Good because the ACA is working,we need to stay out of Iraq and President Obama has shrunk the deft he inherited faster than any President,ever. Have a good day!:)
One has to be able to see before one can read..one has to be able to hear before one can act, to see and hear is a gift grated before one can think. Since God gave most of us the ability to see, hear and think only a fool could not act Upon it.
Hm. Television is Tolstoy compared to Twitter? Sheesh. Infotainment has conquered all.
Oh well, the two-party system will muddle along as usual. When something hits crisis status it may respond. Or not.
We live in a world of sound-bites, immediate gratification, and "crisis de jour" . Long-term issues that require long-term solutions invade on the mind space that is needed for "what's on TV tonight".Priorities?
Iraq and ISIL Democrat fail promises made to pull out if elected causing more death and destruction.
Not deficit National Debt every man woman and child in America owes over 60 thousand dollars near half of which belongs to this administration. Which leads to Obamacare.
In a time where our economy was spiralling out of control Obama signs a law that the majority of Americans were opposed to creating yet another huge entitlement program throwing millions of people out of there coverage into substandard coverage all in the name of insuring poor people instead of teaching them to find a job that offers insurance. Welfare and food stamp rolls explode and Obama is preparing to forgive a trillion dollars in tuition loans all in an attempt to secure the democrat vote in the future. Sickening.
I beg to differ. That is very much reality and people best get their heads out of the sand, or wherever they have put it. You will not find the truth from bloggers, commentators or the government. Money is the global language... money doesn't vanish, it moves from one hand to another. The truth is found by who has the money, where they're putting it and why.
Well, FOX generally doesn't so we can dispense with that. I think the public is also learning about the ACA through being able to keep children on for longer, and not being denied coverage simply for pre-existing conditions. Across the board wage increases are desirable, yes-nonetheless the people in greatest need of better pay are those at the very bottom and MW has fallen well behind the cost of living over the years
Very true. There is a lack of actual information in the media and there is almost no accountability for incorrect information. It's just the stories that get the best ratings that they put on air.
Bomb Syrian haven for ISIS ,and put boots on the ground to root them out wherever they are in Syria, Iraq etc!!!..
Well, the ACA is a dead horse, it is pointless to keep talking about repealing it (and going back to third world medical care). Deficits are kind of a non-issue. However, Iraq is being swept under the rug for a reason. Personally, I'd like to see the war tax be reinstated so that the citizens of this country are less likely to support pointless wars we never should have started in the first place. Having all our wars be "away games" and not asking people to pay for them is why so many Americans don't mind being in a perpetual state of war, which is costly, and leads to those deficits.
Overtaken by higher rated soundbites designed to draw attention away from the fact that they (Congress) is the least productive in history going into the midterms.
All of the issues remain unsolved!! Affordable care still isn't affordable. Iraq is still a mess. The deficit is fictitious. What about JOBS AND WAGES, INFRASTRUCTURE, CLIMATE, POLLUTION, POVERTY, EDUCATION. The list of unfinished business is endless.
There are bad regulations and good regulations, the ones I have the biggest issue with are EPA, and regulations that try and govern states.. so many you have to grow government to regulate the regulations, it's out of control and the liberals are the biggest taxpayers enemy, that's why people can't afford to start a business, business's can't hire, more part time workers, unaffordable health care, immigration gone a muck, corporations turning to inversion because of the highest tax rate in the world, printing and borrowing money to spend on broke and useless projects, the list goes on the retards need to be voted out, time for a fiscal conservative, defense hawk to lead..my vote is going to Dr Ben Carson if he runs..and straight ticket elephants in Nov.
That could be a good thing... do we really need more laws and regulations? The estimate is 40,000 but no one knows for certain.
Cuba is. We are still playing politics (all parties but mostly republicans) and meanwhile the world is working with them and Russia is working on new inroads with them.
I've heard that yes but in layman's terms most people don't get that, so I like to split them up so people can understand it a little better.. of course most here are more than likely know that, sometimes I think I'm talking to peeps that doesn't even know what the bill of rights are.. :)
Sorry to disappoint you. Stated by an author who spent years studying, researching history, interviewing WWII survivors and immigrants from various nations. "The Art of Dying" will be available soon. But if FOX has it right.... good for them.
What are you talking about? Iraq is brought up all the time... I only say this because I am one of the ones there, maybe I just pay more attention.
The radar is set by the media, which is no longer dominated by hard hitting watchdog journalists. When Malaysia MH370 went missing CNN suspended all other news and reported for several days about speculation and no facts, there weren't any. The incident in Ferguson received the same non factual media frenzy. The issues effecting everyday Americans are not being addressed by the Administration or Congress, and the best the public receives from most media outlets are poll numbers and commentators debating opposing views. The public is learning about Obamacare first hand by increasing premiums, higher deductibles, longer wait times to see a new doctor and worse of all, no longer being able to afford adding their spouse and children to their policy due to cost. The number of uninsured, which was the sales pitch, hasn't changed and is predicted to actually increase as prices increase. The economy is still slow, people are making less income and face higher prices on daily necessities. There is much talk of increasing the minimum wage but no talk about the wages of existing workers receiving an increase in wages. Wouldn't an across the board cost of living percentage increase be more logical? The government is out of control with power, especially government agencies. The fraud, lack of accountability, inability to fire employees, the power of agencies to impose regulations and outrageous fines on private land and businesses is tyrannic. Small businesses and their workers are becoming powerless in speech and lack confidence in any public servant. The media fails to report the truth and who has time to watch C-span, let alone stomach the manner in which congress conducts business. The country is in crisis in every aspect of the American way of life. Without truth the nation will soon collapse from within. Americans rely far too much on sound bites, bloggers and tweets thinking they are informed. People don't learn from history, they never have. The internet has put history at our fingertips. The path America is on is not a new one, the division of the people is not new nor is the gathering of information and of late, asking the public to spy on their neighbors. There is nothing new under the sun.
I thought there was more than three issues, seems that all issues are that way and nothing ever gets accomplished
here is an issue that slipped off the public radar.... like the judges that Harry Reid had to do" the nuclear option" for, since the Republicans were standing in the way of filling all the openings, about 80 of them.... we have a lot of ambassadorships that are open as well, some for years. we have no ambassador to Sierra Leone, where the Ebola outbreak has been coming from..... we have no ambassador to Guatemala, where the children that have been coming to our border have been coming from..... and with everything going on in the Ukraine right now, we have no ambassador to Russia. and just like the judgeships, the Republicans have chosen to do nothing about this.... they figured their vacation was far more important. if you want something bloody important that has slipped off the radar, this qualifies.
Don't forget immigration, I look for obumer to make a power grab while congress is still out on the stump..idiots all of them and it's not just congress, it's the Senate too, sitting on over 300 bills and they won't vote on them, don't tell me congress isn't doing anything..senate is not voting on bills passed by cogress.. the liberals are blaming congress for not doing what they want, bills have been passed by Congress according to their constituents vote ... liberal senate refuses to vote on them, I'm sick of media blaming congress, when are we going to hold the Senate accountable. Congress is doing their job, senate on the other hand sit twiddling their thumbs.
They are slipping off the national radar because there is no major policy difference on any issue. The both want government intervention and global programs for all problems real and self-created.
@DougGoodman Amen Doug. Our Politicians think about next year and other Countries project issues and agendas for the next twenty five years! Governing by Crises does nothing but lessen our faith in the Legislative body of this Country. Hopefully, one day we will all Unite and in one Loud Voice say, " Enough"!
Great comments. IMO, our two-party system (the federal government included) does in fact govern to a significant extent by responding to crises. IMO, that costs us hundreds of billions/year, maybe a trillion or two or three. Key questions include (i) why govern that way and (ii) how much does it cost compared to the benefits.
Why do politicians think short term? There are multiple reasons, but one is that for the House/state representatives, they face re-election or extinction every 2 years. Its 6 years in the U.S. Senate/state senate and 4 for a 1st term U.S. president and usually 4 years for governors. Those are the external election time frames that exert a non-trivial degree of control over the timing of governance.
So what? Well, at the federal level, that limits much activity to action of politically difficult issues to odd years when all House incumbent members face re-election. Politically difficult issues are one that could cost a politician re-election. Re-election schedules in congress is why both the House of representatives and president Obama delayed action on immigration reform; the House wants to see if the democrats lose the Senate in November and Obama wants to protect vulerable democratic senators in tight re-election races. Its not rocket science, assuming one accepts the argument that the two-party system usually (>90% of the time?) protects itself before serving the public interest. That reflects the almost complete self-focus the two-party system has on itself. Those election timing effects are probably not nearly as potent for the public in state-levels elections, but they are very potent for state-level special interests who do care and vote. That contributes to the two-party focus on special interests over the public interest at both the state and federal levels.
And, there are other factors. For example, it is much easier for a focused, intransigent minority, especially one with money for campaign contributions, to block what a less focused majority might want. On top of that, when one layers on the possibility to manipulate politicians by appeal to their ideology, regardless of whether what a clever special interest wants compared to how it is sold to the politician ideologue*, there is a solid basis to see why we typically do crisis management.
* Lobbyists working for a particular issue often (usually?) argue why it serves liberal ideals to liberal politicians and argue conservative ideals to conservatives. The tactic, even when it doesn't on balance really serve liberal or conservative ideology is fairly common and it sometimes (usually?) works. Many (most?) lobbyists will speak out of as many sides of their mouths as needed because that is their job and why they get paid. That's not a criticism. Based on what I know it is a statement of fact.
@Joe Cucchiara @DougGoodman Joe, This is why I think lawyers make lousy lawmakers. Lawyers focus on the immediate case. There is no need to focus on long-term solutions. Business or other professions require use of problem solving techniques so a problem does not recur with all its associated costs. I wonder how many members of Congress or state legislatures know the meaning of the term "root cause"?
@guestx4x @Joe Cucchiara @DougGoodman You had me up to the last paragraph man. The reality is, the lobbyists don't waste time saying anything but "I got 50 grand for your campaign but I need this or that to happen, can you make this happen", here's the check. It's hard enough to keep these guys focused on the current issues and the day after election, they start campaigning for the next election. If you remember, last October, after they closed the Country for 16 days to have a pissing contest over ACA. These guys told America that they were only going to work 111 days in 2014. Not a bad job that pays base pay of close to $ 300,000 a year and all the bennies. They start out worth 100 grand and 6 years later their worth 10 million, hell of a 401k.Think we need to repair this election system?
@DougGoodman @Joe Cucchiara I agree with you 100%, Lawyers are lousy lawmakers. Just see how many Legislators are Lawyers and the mess we're in because of them. Even the laws the Legislation passes are written in legaleez so nobody can figure out what the law really states. That's why in most cases the Courts have to interpret the real meaning of the law, however remember the courts are made up of Lawyers. Are we in deep dodo or what? Lawyers make a living on other peoples crises', it's in their DNA. Maybe, if you subtract all the lawyers out of Congress and State Legislatures, a few of the remainder might know the meaning of "root cause".
Yes, the election system needs repairs.
My comments were based on admittedly limited but direct personal experience with Washington lobbyists and media accounts of others about how lobbyists sometimes (usually?) get things they want. It makes sense to pander to a politician's beliefs when asking favors. It seems to be fairly easy to spin many (most?) things in different ways to appeal to differing beliefs. For example, arguing "the ACA is a smashing success because millions more people now have insurance and it lowers health care costs for millions" appeals to liberal politicians, while arguing "the ACA is a dismal failure because it is socialized medicine (everything socialized is evil) and it makes health care much more expensive while forcing employers to convert workers to part-time status" appeals to conservatives. Even though no one knows how the ACA will turn out in the long run (good, bad or ambiguous), lobbyists can then neatly bootstrap what they want into health care related legislation based on appeal to those bogus arguments. That's how I would do business if I were a lobbyist. It is tidy and leaves little or no evidence of anything amiss.
My guess is that the dance is sophisticated and subtle. Lobbyists do not have to say anything about donations. Doing that is actually dangerous and few or none of the people involved are stupid. Politicians know who their donors have been and maybe will be. People representing donors simply get 'access' or other favors if the donations are sufficient. That seems to be how pay-to play generally, but not always*, works in politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_to_play#In_politics).
* Lobbyists for Planned Parenthood, assuming there are any, or the NRA probably cannot hide or distort some or most of their goals by spin. Their means and ends seem to be usually pretty clear and not very spinnable, but maybe that is a false impression.