Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Notable Economist Blasts Media Bias

Economists of all political and ideological persuasions have fiercely been debating their macroeconomic theories in their blogs for years --- and sometimes call each other out by name (Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Brad DeLong, etc.) You can sometimes follow their discussions at websites such as the Economist's Views.

Usually in those debates (that can range from intellectual bantering to serious criticism) their arguments can be too "wonkish" for average readers to fully understand; nevertheless, they can sometimes make for some interesting reading.

But recently something really stood out...when one renown economist bashed the mainstream media for falsely reporting the facts and misleading the American public --- and calling out the major media for not correcting the Republican's lies.

Yesterday, in an op-ed piece for the Guardian, Dean Baker (co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research) blasted the media for misreporting the facts on deficits and government spending --- as though the mainstream media were attempting to appear to be neutral, unbiased and nonpartisan in their reporting. But just by not reporting the plain facts, the media has been giving the Republicans a pass on their blatant lies.

Dean Baker: "Polls show that [Americans] overwhelmingly oppose [the Republicans] tactic of shutting down the government and risking default over Obamacare. As a result, the Republicans are now claiming that the dispute is actually over spending. Given the national media's concept of impartiality, they now feel an obligation to accept that the Republicans' claim that this is a dispute over spending levels.

But that is only the beginning of the reason that people should detest budget reporters. The more important reason is that they have spread incredible nonsense about the deficit and spending problems facing the country, causing most of the public to be completely confused on these issues. If budget reporters were held to the same standards as school teachers, with the expectation that they would be able to convey information, they would all be fired in a minute.

Contrary to the widely repeated stories of out-of-control deficits and spending, deficits have plunged in the last four years falling from 10.1% of GDP in 2009 to just 4% of GDP in 2013. The Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit to be just 3.4% of GDP in 2014. The latest projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio falling for the rest of the decade.

In other words, the story of out-of-control debts and deficits is just plain wrong. Less polite people would call it a lie, but it stands at the center of the public debate because the media consider it rude to point out a truth that would embarrass so many important politicians.

There is no explanation except the bias of the media. Obviously they identify much more with rich doctors and the people who profit from the bloated prices charged in the United States by drug companies and medical equipment providers than with the seniors who are dependent on Social Security and Medicare."

Over the years we have learned that one could expect Fox News to be very biased, as their reputation for misreporting the facts to favor the GOP and Tea Party has been well documented:

Since 1985 the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) has been a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of news and entertainment media. Last May in a press release they reported on a new study at George Mason University. "The study finds that PolitiFact has rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims during President Obama's second term. Republicans continue to get worse marks in recent weeks, despite controversies over Obama administration statements on Benghazi, the IRS and the AP."

Two years ago it was similarly reported: "A Smart Politics analysis of more than 500 PolitiFact stories over the last year finds that statements made by Republican politicians have been rated as false at more than three times the rate of those made by their Democratic counterparts." According to the study, 32 percent of GOP claims were rated as "false" or "pants on fire" by PolitiFact, compared with 11 percent of claims by Democrats.

Earlier this year The Atlantic posted an article titled Why Fact Checkers find more GOP Lies: "This month, 60 percent of Republican claims have been rated as lies, while 29 percent of Democratic claims have been." (More on this here and here and here)

Over two years ago the left-leaning Media Matters had reported that a Fox News insider claimed in an interview: "Its [Fox News] MO to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats. They're a propaganda outfit, but they call themselves news."

And just recently Fox News was AGAIN spreading misinformation about the Social Security disability program. Fox News also spins their ratings the same way they spin their news. While Fox News likes to brag that they are the #1 watched "cable TV news show" (which they are), but what they don't tell you is, when compared to "all TV news shows" (CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, etc.), collectively speaking, most people get their news from other news sources --- meaning, OTHER than Fox News --- who has about a 34% market share of all TV news sources. Which, coincidentally, is about the same number of people who identify themselves as Republicans (33%) according to a 2012 (right-leaning) Gallop poll. According to another more recent poll (an NBC News/Esquire poll) that number is much lower now at 25%, while most Americans are now in the political "center". Also read:

Meanwhile, on the other side of the media spectrum, most people also realize that MSNBC (as a counter-balance to Fox News) has been too cozy with the Obama administration and the corporate Democrats. No one will forget Chris Matthews when he said, "I felt this thrill going up my leg when Obama spoke." And everyone knows that Ed Schultz also praises Obama too much; but yet, Ed can criticize the President too (such as Obama signing on to the TPP trade agreement).

Also, not long ago, after the White House correspondent Chuck Todd was on MSNBC's Morning Joe, he was blasted for not correcting GOP lies about Obamacare. (Here's a petition against Chuck Todd. Also, see this post: MSNBC Lies Like a Fox News Rug)

Every year at the White House Correspondents Dinner members of Congress, fashion models, musicians and Hollywood celebrities gather with the mainstream media pundits to party like it's 1999 --- and this might have something to do with the problem of media bias. The "mainstream" journalists have become too chummy with those that they're supposed to be watching, and who now fears correcting or criticizing the politicians who lie. But if one party or another is to be blamed for something, it's supposed to be the media's job to tell us --- not to take sides or trying to remain neutral to avoid the appearance of taking sides. Instead, they should just be reporting the facts. If the Democrats lie, let us know. If the GOP lies, let us know. A "lie" is "news" and should be "reported" by the "mainstream" media.

This was recently posted by Paul Krugman. He doesn't call out the mainstream media for misreporting facts, but he does get his point across in a very amusing and truthful way:

"So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family — but only for a week, after which the threats will resume. Not much of an offer, is it? But here’s the kicker: Your neighbor’s relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn’t also demand that you kill your dog. And now you understand the current state of budget negotiations."

And as far as the government shutdown: There was no way in hell John Boehner and Eric Cantor were ever going to allow a clean continuing resolution (CR) to reach the House floor the night before the government shutdown. They knew that there were plenty of Republicans who would vote for a clean CR and that it would pass. So they (Boehner and Cantor) used an unprecedented parliamentary procedure to block any chance that the clean CR sent to them by the Senate would every reach the House floor for a full vote --- and they did so by changing standing House rules.

Why didn't Fox News or MSNBC or CNN report this? This makes the GOP 100% to blame for the shutdown, but the media thinks they have to play nice with lying politicians, rather than just report the facts and let those who deserve the blame, receive the blame.

Another thing that really ranks many of us is when the media keeps parroting the GOP's argument for "entitlement reforms", which the mainstream media (do you hear us CNN?) knows very well that the GOP's meaning of "reform" really means "cuts" to Social Security and Medicare, and not some kind of imaginary "fix" to these programs that the vast majority of Americans will eventually come to rely on when they get older. So why doesn't the media just come right out and say this, instead of always sugar-coating the GOP's position, rather than questioning the Republican's usual talking points?

Here is EXACTLY what the media pundits at Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should all say to a GOP politician being interviewed whenever they claim we need entitlement reform:

"We have been hearing for many years from the Republicans that we need entitlement reform. Tell us just exactly what it is you mean by entitlement reform, because, you must have a very detailed plan by now --- as the Republicans have been saying this for a very long time. Please, give us some precise details, and not the usual talking points or generalities. Please tell us what YOU would do, and exactly what legislation you've put forward on this specific issue. We already have one proposal by Senator Harkin called The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013. What is the name of the Republican's bill for reforming Social Security? Oh, and while you're at it...what is the name of the GOP's healthcare bill that would 'fix and replace' Obamacare? I'm sure that the American people would like to know that as well."


1 comment:


    House Republicans Changed The Rules So A Majority Vote Couldn't Stop The Government Shutdown