It seems oddly fitting that on the day that President Barack Obama is set to sign his economic stimulus package into law, that the press is mainly obsessed with the fact that he's doing so in Denver, Colorado. What does It All Mean? What statement does it make about Magical, Wonderful Bipartisanship? What can be divined by Obama's decision to Avoid Washington? Pure window-treatment stuff. But what can you expect? The media have come to the end of a month of politicking over the economic stimulus and, from what I gather, have managed to mostly unlearn as much as they could about the principles upon which the proposed plan is based.
If you were a member of the public who wanted cogent answers to questions such as, "How will infrastructure stimulate the economy?" or "Can targeted tax cuts add value to the package?" or "What type of spending translates into the fastest job growth?" -- you know, the nuts and bolts of a set of ideas that voters are asked to take on faith -- you were basically out-of-luck. Instead, the press was filled with daily news of the soap opera over bipartisanship. Can any idea really be a good idea if eighty people won't vote for it? If the overall package gets less effective on the road to consensus, will the economy hand out extra credit points, because of the fantastic procedural accomplishment? These were the inane obsessions of the professional political media.
And here is a nice litany of their accomplishments:
In a debate over the economy, the media pointedly eschewed the insight of actual economists.
Media Matters crunched the numbers and found that actual economists got 5% of the newshole share. Instead, we got plenty of airtime given to inept and ignorant people like Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who doesn't know the difference between education policy and school construction. Oh, and political strategists! Yeah, I wonder what the fourteenth GOP strategist is going to say about the stimulus package! Surely it will be different from the other thirteen!
Non-existent reports took center stage
In the third week of January, the media became transfixed with a CBO report that warned that the stimulus package wasn't going to spend out fast enough to be stimulative, "showing that the vast majority of the money in the stimulus package won't be spent until after 2010." Terrible, I know! Only that CBO report DID NOT EXIST. I mean, think about this: a whole lot of people reported on something -- claimed to have read something -- that they could not have possibly seen with their own eyes! Would you like to know what grades I got in college when I turned in work based on a bunch of sources I had made up? Well, I wouldn't know, actually, because I am not a complete fraud, but I imagine I would have gotten F's!
A forest of New Deal debunkery
Oh, so the New Deal didn't work? Could've fooled me! Could've fooled math! Could've fooled reality!
Fearmongering on health care IT
Here, the press did an okay job -- but Betsy McCaughey, author of a debunked, derided, and disowned piece of balderdash on the Clinton health care plan, should never have been able to get near a newsroom without anyone noticing the fetid stench of incompetence and flimflammery.
These are just a few of the lowlights I'd hold out for a little added dose of contempt. MediaMatters has put together a video that takes an even deeper dive into the dark heart of the press' pathetic display -- I had forgotten about how so many people fell all over themselves reporting on a $2-4 billion dollar windfall for ACORN that was non-existent. Watch and heed, because I don't expect the coverage of the bank bailout or the housing plan to be any better!