Two examples of good media gone bad…real bad.
First, while out running yesterday (I saw this in person!), I heard one of those segments on NPR where they simply play a few minutes of a candidate’s stump speech, with no commentary. OK—a little lazy, but I get it—unvarnished campaign-speak. And, full disclosure, I’m generally a fan of NPR and a contributor.
But this one featured Gov Rick Perry and it ended with the Gov asserting the Social Security was a Ponzi scheme…not just asserting but using language like “everyone knows it’s a Ponzi scheme.” (I can’t find the link—just as well…)
That absolutely deserves…requires!…some commentary. To leave that blatantly false claim hanging out there isn’t “balanced” or “fair” journalism. It’s irresponsible journalism. Suppose the Gov had said something blatantly racist, asserting “everyone knows” it to be true? What if he had asserted a known falsehood, like the birthers did for so long? Would NPR let that stand in the interest of impartiality?
Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme is simply no different…it’s equally false. It’s calling a window a sofa, and if journalists lets such statements stand, then why do we need journalism?
Second, this article from the morning’s WaPo makes some good points, but is also misleadingly incomplete.
It talks about our challenging deficit and debt forecasts and our failure to do anything much to lower their trajectory in 2011, despite the pledge of tea partiers to drastically cut spending.
But how can you write an article about deficits in 2011 and never mention the words “recession,” “unemployment,” or “jobs?” Many of us have argued that if anything, our short-term deficit is too small (and it’s falling) to temporarily offset the ongoing contraction in private sector demand. That contraction is loosening, for sure, but it’s not over by a longshot. The economy still needs fiscal support, and the failure to recognize this has been our most serious policy mistake, consigning millions to unnecessary, avoidable economic pain.
The article cited every budget hawk circling the Capitol, but somehow managed not to talk to one person with an opposing viewpoint—nowhere is the truth about this issue: we absolutely need an elevated budget deficit right now; we also need a credible plan to reduce it once the economy recovers. (BTW, the President has proposed one that stabilizes the debt in the near term. This somehow didn’t show up either in the Post piece.)
Like I said, the piece makes some good, important points, like this one from Rep Steny Hoyer on gridlock:
Hoyer acknowledged, however, that Obama and the Democrats are not likely to risk campaigning on a return to the higher middle-class tax rates of the 1990s. Instead, Obama has been implying that the debt problem can be solved by raising taxes on the tiny fraction of people earning more than $1 million a year. Republican presidential contenders, meanwhile, are proposing to tame the debt by spending cuts alone, perhaps by eliminating a few federal agencies.
But it was terribly one-sided and missed an opportunity to present the real story about a critical issue. The WaPo editorial page has a long tradition of getting this wrong. But the journalists usually do better.