New TV, same old news
I bought a new TV this week. It wasn’t necessary, but a whole spiral of things came together that made the upgrade reasonable. My satellite TV bill had gradually been creeping up, and I finally called to see how to cut it down to a reasonable size. I changed programming bundles, and in the process, they said my receiver was ancient and should be upgraded. In the end, both TVs in the house are connected to the same receiver, and I can watch the same shows on the TVs in the bedroom and the living room. I never understood why I had one set of channels downstairs and another upstairs, and the explanation didn’t clear any of that up.
But when it came time to plug the new receiver into the old TV, I discovered that it didn’t have the right connections. It’s like taking some appliance traveling and discovering that the plug won’t fit the socket. The old TV wasn’t all that old (OK, 12 years), but it couldn’t connect to the new stuff. So I bought a new one, and was shocked at how cheap they have become.
Part of the willingness to buy the new TV was the obviously ridiculous hope that the news coming out of a new TV would be different and better than the old news. Somehow, I thought that the news originates inside the TV itself, and that by disposing of the appliance, I could dispose of the toxic news. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.
So even on the new TV, Trump is still winning, Clinton is still calculating, Bernie Sanders is still Berning, and Scalia is still dead. "Swamp People" is still in re-runs, but there is a new show called "The Outsiders," that is about a bunch of semi-crazy hillbillies taking up arms to defend their mountain from the evils of progress. Or maybe that was coverage of the Utah Legislature. Hard to tell.
Things are so toxic right now that there is a semi-accepted conspiracy theory floating around that says that Obama murdered Scalia so he could appoint an abortionist to the Supreme Court who would rule that Ted Cruz is a Canadian who cannot be elected President. Trump seems down with the theory, and others have raised an official eyebrow at the family’s decision not to call for an autopsy.
People are angry. It’s an unfocused and poorly defined anger that is producing Trump on one side and Bernie Sanders on the other. They are polar opposites, but are united in the spirit of "let’s burn it to the ground and start over again." I think I figured it out when I turned on the new TV. The new TV was made somewhere else. In this case, in Mexico, by a Korean company that figured out that labor was even cheaper in Mexico than in Korea.
When I was a kid and my parents bought our first color TV (yes, I’m that old), it was an RCA, made in the U.S. It cost a fortune, weighed as much as a piano, and required constant adjustment to keep Walter Cronkite from turning pea green as he read the news about Vietnam. We had 4 channels and had to tweak the rabbit ears to get one of them. But somebody in the U.S. made a pretty good living assembling that monstrosity in a factory that supported a whole town. The factory workers’ kids went to school, which hired teachers, and they all shopped at the grocery store, which hired cashiers, who bought Fords, and on and on.
Somewhere along the way, really a generation ago, our leaders made a deliberate decision that it was better to be able to buy a huge TV for $200 than to have a factory that made TVs somewhere in Ohio. So we deliberately swapped the middle class for cheap stuff. My house is full of it — TVs from Mexico, clothes from Vietnam, electronic stuff from China, power tools from every corner of the globe. Everywhere except the U.S. I’m not sure I can identify anything that cost more than $500 in my house that was actually made here. Even my old Ford pickup, that quintessentially American vehicle, was assembled in Mexico.
The Trump/Sanders anger isn’t new. It’s been building for 30 years and is now coming to a boil. The sad part is that it is all focused on the White House. The idiots in Congress will all be re-elected, even if we have a President Sanders. So nothing will change. I’ll certainly enjoy watching my cheap TV with 300 channels of HD reality programming. But I can’t help wondering if it might have been better if it had cost $50 more and was made in Ohio.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.