Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daily Dose of Depression -- Giving Empathy a Bad Name

The Empathy Trap
What happens when Obama, like all presidents, tries to show Americans that he feels their pain.
By John Dickerson Posted Slate Thursday, May 12, 2011, at 12:01 PM ET

. . . So he [President Obama] emphasizes that he understands the plight of regular Americans. The problem with empathy, however, is not just that there's never enough of it to go around. It's that by offering it, presidents raise unrealistic expectations of a different sort. . . .

. . . Obama needs voters to think he's on the case. The challenge is vast, though. Whether at the gas pump, in the grocery aisles, or on their mortgage statements, people are constantly seeing scary numbers. To keep up with all that anxiety, the president-as-therapist would have to hold office hours every day.

“Empathy trap”!?! 

Since when has UNDERSTANDING the situation and plight of others become a “trap”?  Oh, right, since the pundits, polls and publicists of the world have taken control of the vocabulary and behavior of anyone in government, right or left.  These experts now slice and dice normal words into grains of carborundum and grind out pronouncements which sound solid and important but are as soft as crapola.
All this is admittedly much easier then, say, actually examining economic data on cuts in public services, corporate profits and their non-hiring practices, the cost of wars based on arrogance and the current rage-of-the-day, budget deficits and debt. So OK, play around with the “empathy trap.”  But how about a column or two or three on the “indifference trap”?
For starters, we might read and hear more of this:

The Chart That Should Accompany Every Discussion of Deficits
By James Fallows
May 11 2011, Atlantic Online  9:39 PM EST


And if you can’t follow the econ-speak in Fallows’ report, just study this chart carefully.  Decide for yourself who and which policies exceed the bounds of human empathy.


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