The Irrelevancy of the Sunday News ShowsPosted: December 9, 2012
It’s rather amazing to me when a professed news junkie like me starts turning off a number shows that used to be the sole reason I kept cable TV and a TV around the house. CNN used to be on in the background during my at-home office hours. I used to luxuriate in bed on a Sunday Morning with a paper and some good interviews. But, that was before these stations have become permeated with panels of people who don’t do math, science, reality, facts or anything but knee-jerk memes. The panel handlers–supposed journalists–don’t appear to have any motivation to provide news or information. It seems to be all about accessing the same stale old politicians. This Sunday seemed to perfectly reinforce the narratives of the recent fact checking lows of journalists’ coverage of the 2012 elections. This is the situation where–in fairness to differing view points–we have to listen endlessly to Republicans tell us that the sky is green and grass is blue simply because they want it that way.
Political journalists had no doubt heard similar arguments many times before, mostly from left wing bloggers. But this time the charge was coming from two of the most consistent purveyors of conventional wisdom in town, bipartisan to a fault.
And they were pretty harsh in their critique of the media. “Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views,” they wrote in the Post. “Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?”
Initially, at least, Mann and Ornstein weren’t completely ignored. “We had really good reporters call us and say: ‘You’re absolutely right’,” Mann said. “They told us they used this as the basis for conversations in the newsroom.”
But those conversations went nowhere, Mann said.
“Their editors and producers, who felt they were looking out for the economic wellbeing of their news organizations, were also concerned about their professional standing and vulnerability to charges of partisan bias,” Mann said.
So most reporters just kept on with business as usual.
“They’re so timid,” Mann said.
Some reporters did better than others, Ornstein said, particularly crediting Jackie Calmes of the New York Times and David Rogers of Politico among a few others. “They grew a little bit more straightforward in what they do, and showed you can be a good, diligent unbiased reporter, report the facts, put it in context, and yet show what’s really going on,” he said.
Most reporters, however — including many widely admired for their intelligence and aggressive reporting — simply refused to blame one side more than the other.
Consider, Paul Krugman. He’s the only economist in the room frequently. What’s his reward? His credentials get questioned and his motivation simply because he speaks from the data, facts and theories that drive our shared discipline. WTF do George Will or Mary Matalin know about even basic economics or math for that matter? Do they actually have the chops to analyze Paul Ryan’s budget plan?
After Krugman called House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget a “fake document” and the columnist said he was “amazed that people haven’t gotten that,” Will unsheathed his verbal sword and went at Krugman.
“I have yet to encounter someone who disagrees with you who you don’t think is a knave, or corrupt, or a corrupt knave,” Will said, borrowing a phrase founding father Alexander Hamilton used to rail against those unwilling to respect the good faith of their political opponents.
“No, I’ve got some people,” Krugman said, suggesting that some conservatives are indeed intellectually honest.
“Specifics have indeed been offered,” Will insisted, referring to Republican budget plans.
That face-off followed a couple of prickly interactions between Matalin and Krugman earlier in the program.
“The Republicans are unable to actually make concrete proposals” about resolving the fiscal cliff, Krugman said, claiming they’ve failed to offer “any specifics” about how they would rein in the deficit.
Matalin called Krugman’s remark “completely mendacious.”
“Are you an economist or a polemicist?” she asked with an expression suggesting she found the Princeton professor and winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics to be insufferable. “Do you want to talk about economy or do you want to talk about polemics?” she said.
Matalin and Krugman also sparred over Medicare cuts, with the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney insisting that any cut in payments to providers would impact beneficiaries and the Times columnist insisting that was not always the case.
As if Matalin were not peeved enough, Krugman chimed in later to correct her when she said John Maynard Keynes had said: “Ideas drive history. Ideas drive progress.”
“The actual Keynes quote is….’ideas which are dangerous for good or evil,’” Krugman said.
Perhaps Matalin shouldn’t have tried to quote Keynes (whom she sarcastically called “our hero”) to a Keynesian. Unsurprisingly, Krugman has written on the specific quote.
How can we get any serious discussions about policy when journalists appear unwilling and unable to take a role in actually fact checking and providing a framework for what’s real and what’s imagined narratives on simple things like data? Why do they allow politic pundits with no real basic knowledge of policy issues to name call, misquote, and basically lie? Matalin couldn’t even get a simple quote right in front of person who’d actually done a lot of research and writing on that simple quote.
As rumors swirl that Democrats may consider raising the Medicare eligibility age to reach a deal before the looming “fiscal cliff,” a top Senate Democrat expressed opposition to that option Sunday. Speaking on Meet the Press, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said raising the age at which seniors can receive Medicare from 65 to 67 would leave retired seniors with a dangerous gap in their health coverage:
DAVID GREGORY (HOST): Senator, one point about Medicare. You say you want to put off this discussion until later. But bottom line, should the Medicare eligibility age go up? Should there be means testing to get at the benefits side, if you want to shore this program up, because 12 years as you say before it runs out of money?
DURBIN: I do believe there should be means testing. and those of us with higher income in retirement should pay more. That could be part of the solution. But when you talk about raising the eligibility age, there’s one key question. what happens to the early retiree? What about that gap in coverage between workplace and Medicare? How will they be covered? I listened to Republicans say we can’t wait to repeal Obamacare, and the insurance exchanges. well, where does a person turn if they are 65 years of age and the medicare eligibility age is 67? They have two years there where they may not have the best of health. They need accessible, affordable medical insurance during that period.
Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also rejected raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of a year-end deal on spending cuts and tax increases, saying, “I am very much against it, and I think most of my members are.” President Obama was reportedly willing to support raising the Medicare eligibility age during 2011 debt negotiations, but has not said where he stands on the issue as part of the current deal.
A Congressional Budget Office study of the proposal to raise the Medicare age to 67 found it would have “little effect on the trajectory of Medicare’s long-term spending” because the youngest Medicare beneficiaries are the healthiest and least costly to the program. The costs, meanwhile, would include an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket health insurance costs for beneficiaries who would have been otherwise covered by Medicare, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. Seniors in Medicare Part B would also face a 3 percent premium increase, the study found, since younger and healthier enrollees would be routed out of Medicare and into private insurance. Beneficiaries in health care reform’s exchanges would see a similar spike in premiums with the addition of the older population.
At some point, some one outside of a Democratic partisan has to point out that the Republicans keep coming up with the same old tired things that only protect their rich benefactors. None of their policies provide fiscal discipline. None of their policies achieve jobs and economic growth. None of their policies or their asserted outcomes have shown to be remotely close to reality when exposed to rigorous analysis. When will the press stop supporting lies in the name of balanced coverage?
Also, why is Rupert Murdoch being allowed to purchase more newspapers and media outlets in this country when the ones he’s got his nasty old claws into now are nothing short of gossip and propaganda rags? There is an absolute conspiracy in this country among the plutocrats to dumb down our nations most important social institutions–our free press and our public education institutions–and to destroy the ones that create economic equality and justice. Those, of course, are labor laws, progressive taxation, public infrastructure, and safety net programs. They are currently trying to rewrite the message of the election to match what they wanted to be the outcome. Our only recourse is to continue to tell our elected officials that our votes should mean something. We need a person in office—like Al Gore’s VPship–that will go through all those agencies and start throwing out the Dubya left overs. Democrats need to start fighting for every Federal appointment and every attempt at any more grand bargains. You cannot bargain with liars nor should you take any of their policy suggestions seriously. Now is the time to hold the Democrats to account.