What If You Couldn’t Read?

What would happen if you couldn’t read? What adventures would you miss? What worlds would have gone undiscovered? If you couldn’t read you would never know the real joy of Tolkien, the adventures of Harry Potter, or even the simple beauty of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry.

But you can read. But what if you never read a newspaper? No Wall Street Journal. No New York Times. No Plain Dealer. Where would you get the news? In Cleveland we have local and national television news and opinion shows, talk radio, the internet, and, as of yesterday evening, the telephone.

My home phone rang just a few moments before 7 PM. The only reason I have a land line is for clients to find me during an emergency. Those calls come once or twice a year. Otherwise, if the phone is ringing it is someone violating the Do Not Call laws or a politician looking for cash and sympathy. This call was from my Congresswoman’s office.

The recording invited me to a telephone town hall meeting. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge was going to address health care issues, specifically Medicare. All I had to do was stay on the line. I was already agitated from a long day at the office. What the Hell, I figured. Let’s see what Ms. Fudge had to say.

I have no idea how many constituents were participating in this meeting. A press aide came on the give us the ground rules. The Congresswoman would deliver a brief introduction. We would have the opportunity to ask questions. A few minutes later we heard the familiar voice of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.

Ms. Fudge thanked us for participating and assured the audience that health care in general, and Medicare in particular, were her top priorities. She then asserted that Medicare didn’t cost money, it saved money. She then stated as fact that Medicare had been far more successful at controlling medical expenses than the private sector. Next she quickly dismissed Senator Lieberman’s recent proposal to move Medicare eligibility to age 67.

WOW. Déjà vu. It was spooky. This was all so familiar. I was silently trying to solve this mystery when my phone went dead. It was as if the Congresswoman’s office had realized that they had dialed a wrong number. Disconnected. I put the phone back on its charger, turned on the Indian’s game, and picked up the Plain Dealer. The paper was open to page A7, the Opinion page. The main article:

Medicare Saves Money by Paul Krugman

Point by point Paul Krugman regurgitated all of the arguments, many roundly rejected, that he had put forth during last year’s health care debate. And Ms. Fudge’s intro was nothing more than an attempt to paraphrase this column! Now in fairness, the call was prematurely disconnected. I may have missed a whole section of original thoughts from my Congresswoman. I may have also missed Beetle Bailey and Judge Parker.

We don’t need to read the paper. Congresswoman Fudge will now be calling us to deliver her favorite column of the day. But I like to read. And more importantly, I read both the writers who support my positions and the ones who don’t.

So until Ms. Fudge can help us do the Sudoku over the phone, I’ll keep my subscription to the Plain Dealer and skip the next invite for one of her telephone town hall meetings.