Thursday, September 22, 2011

REPORT: Economists Shut Out Of Debt-Ceiling Debate

From Media Matters for America courtesy of Eschaton:

During the 2011 debt-ceiling debate, hundreds of non-economists appeared on cable news. Some suggested that fiscal austerity would somehow create jobs and spur economic growth. While criticizing Speaker of the House John Boehner on the July 12 edition of MSNBC Live, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said: "I'd like to see him do the job that the American people actually put him in that office to do -- cut spending, cut taxes, stimulate the economy. Get us out of the Obama depression." On the July 14 episode of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Republican Representative Paul Ryan proposed to "cut more than a dollar's worth of spending" for "every dollar you want to raise the debt limit." Ryan added, "The debt is hurting the economy today. It's hurting job creation today."

This misdirection apparently had consequences. An August Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 49 percent of respondents supported cutting government spending as a means to stimulate the economy -- far more than those who supported actual stimulative policies like extending unemployment benefits and extending the payroll tax cut.

On the rare occasions when the media gave credible economists a voice in the debate, the public heard a very different analysis. Asked about the effects of spending cuts on the U.S. economy, PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian (who holds a Ph. D. in economics) said on the July 31 broadcast of ABC's This Week, "We have a very weak economy, so withdrawing more spending at this stage will make it even weaker." Two days later on CNN, El-Erian provided a grim assessment of the final debt deal: "We're worse off in terms of economic outlook. Growth will be lower. Unemployment will be higher. And ironically, we're worse off in terms of medium term fiscal solvency because we haven't done much to the debt but we're undermining our ability to grow out of the debt."

More here.

This explains why the overall debate was so fucking retarded.

I could go in a lot of directions with this one. I could point out how television news is simply an organ of the big businesses which together comprise what we call the mass media, and therefore necessarily replicate the big business point of view, which just loves the notion of tax and spending cuts because big business stands to benefit from that more than any other sector of the economy. I could point out how conservatives have so incessantly "worked the refs," that is, complained chronically and usually incorrectly that the news media have a liberal bias, for so many years, that anything that might even seem to favor liberal positions, like facts or science, is simply ignored for fear of the right-wing flak machine. I could point out how television, as a medium, which includes news programming as well as shows like American Idol, tends to gravitate toward brutish confrontation and spectacle, rather than cooperation and intellectual contemplation, simply because opposition is more entertaining, and therefore attracts more viewers, which generates higher profits by way of advertising.

I could write about all those notions, for pages and pages. But for fear of losing the forest for the trees, I think I'll just make one simple statement: if I had the power to make one single change to our society for the purpose strengthening and expanding our fragile democracy, I would utterly eradicate television from the face of the earth.

Seriously, the founding fathers never in their wildest dreams imagined how the institution of television would warp and demean the public discourse, and therefore the republic itself. The US Constitution has absolutely no provision for television and its mind-numbing power. I'm really starting to believe that television is destroying everything we hold dear.