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I wrote the article below several years ago when the debt ceiling debate was all the rage in Washington. D. C. Then I got to thinking about technology-the net, smart phones, social media etc so recently added a bit of information at the end beyond the issue of the debt ceiling. At a later date I may revisit this issue and focus less on the debt ceiling and expand but view this as a starting point. I truly believe we are suffering from information overload and it is troubling to me on many levels.

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Pundits recently offered varying opinions about whom they thought benefited from the debt ceiling debate and debacle and came up with diverse responses including the Democrats, Republicans-Tea Partiers, Lobbyists, Wall Street fat cats, and even gasp, the people.

I’m not quite certain yet exactly who won the debate but I think social media, transparency and public participation definitely emerged as winners. That’s great news for the democratic process. But, are we better off because of it?

Transparency, social media and public participation won and while certainly welcome and refreshing will likely vex the lawmaking, deal making process forever by compromising it-intruding if you will, in a process long conducted somewhat behind closed doors and off the radar screen of many.

The lobbying process has been around for a long time but most of the work has been conducted behind the scenes as elected officials responded to various opinions, interests and political pressures to work the kinks out of an issue or legislation for better or worse depending on your perspective.

We all know there are countless “lobbyists” and recognize that the process that takes place will eventually end up benefiting some at the expense of the rest.  Lobbying isn’t a bad word and just about anyone can “lobby” on a given issue that they are passionate about and believe in it’s simply a very competitive, often frustrating, lengthy process.

Regardless, most of the time the process of lobbying is a long, complex one that involves passion, research, compromise, horse-trading, face-saving, reputation enhancing or whatever it takes to get the job done. A process that like it or not is by its very nature prone to being influenced by money, power, perceptions among other things.

Typically, public involvement has been in the form of meetings, phone calls to talk shows, letter writing, emailing, group visits to Congress, state level legislators, municipal officials. This was/is an often very slow vetting process prone to abuse, delays, unpredictable issues, ideological differences, complications, “politics” or even the whims of an elected officials’ staff as to whom to schedule and when.

Now, thanks to the growing influence and use of social media and the mandates for greater  transparency everyone- The Prez, Congressmen, the media, inmates, illegal immigrants, kids, housewives, students, foreigners,  terrorists, whack jobs, indeed everyone and anyone may be potentially be openly involved in the day to day process.

We’re constantly face booking, tweeting things about the process, legislation, who said what to whom every second. This hands on citizen process and involvement truncates the lawmaking, vetting, deal making, compromising process. While this is a great step towards a truly democratic, open process the potential for slowing it down and clogging up the system is great.

At the same time our form of government was created to allow us to elect others, to represent us in DC, at the State House in City Hall so we can go about the business of living our lives.

Today, the process of governing is becoming so transparent and immediate and in our faces that some of our leaders are afraid to take action, make decisions without being quoted, tweeted, castigated, and praised and it is making the lawmaking process even slower than the norm.

The increased transparency, social media and citizen involvement are positive of course because it puts our leaders on notice and in theory the “people” may/should benefit by knowing what is going on and who benefits from legislation. I fear the process may grind to a halt as individuals get more involved in the day to day details of legislating and politics and horse trading we know little about.

For instance, before the emergence of the debt ceiling crisis how many of us knew or even cared what it is, what is involved, and so on.  After all many of us are too busy looking for jobs, housing, affordable health care, food stamps to focus. Otto von Bismarck supposedly said we should never see sausages or laws being made and perhaps he was right on the money with that sentiment.

Can you imagine what the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention who gathered to sign off on our Constitution might have said, written, agreed upon if the public-the world had been involved? Back then 55 men signed off on the Constitution but the debt ceiling issue may have involved as many as 55 million trying to influence it, who knows? Do we really need to be involved in every decision that happens in Washington D.C, state and local government or do we have other things that we should be more concerned about?

In the 1770s’ news, political changes, presumably everything took forever to travel from the East to the West Coast and who knows how long to reach say Asia so there were far less implications, reactions good, bad or indifferent. Even back in my early days news reports about early space travel, election results, casualties in Viet Nam, and natural disasters a world away were transmitted to us if at all through grainy B & W TVs or transistor radios.

Communications tools and technology including computers, smart phones, the internet and social media among others have brought us closer together and helped us to stay in touch and make positive contributions to society. For instance we can now stay in touch with long lost family and friends even though we may never see them in person preferring instead to communicate from our homes, offices or even bathrooms.

Last year’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which found people from around the world dousing themselves with ice and challenging one another to do the same raked in millions to help battle the devastating ALS disease. In another instance a woman in desperate need of a bone marrow match for a family member used social media to find one presumably saving her spouse from death.

However, along with the good that technology has brought I believe we are inadvertently (and I daresay at times intentionally) stressing one another out, angrily taunting and insulting one another from afar because the net and social media have enabled us to do so seemingly without retribution. If someone posts a story or picture about anything good or bad, there is going to be a guaranteed response regardless and sometimes it is nasty, biased or include language and imagery that should never be shared.

This does not even take into consideration the fact that terrorists, serial killers, animal and child abusers, ISIS whack jobs, crazed world leaders and others can establish facebook and twitter accounts. These individuals can then gain privileged information about trade secrets, security measures, develop bombs and easily assimilate with others thanks to information available and earn their 15 minutes of fame or infamy- AND WE ARE ALL HELPING THEM TO DO SO AND PERPETUATE THEIR MADNESS.

We have become a world of individuals who are too dependent and obsessed with information that may or may not have any bearing on our day to day lives and while it may be useful, informative and life enhancing it is making us crazy. There is much more that can be said about this issue and I am hopeful that I have sparked debate and caused you to think a bit more about it.

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