Monday, September 22, 2008

Mainstream Media & the Bailout: Getting the story wrong

One of journalism's biggest problems is a tendency to get the facts right, and the story wrong. Such is the case of the coverage of the whopper of a bailout now under debate. One of the story lines being promoted by journalists is that the bailout will hamstring the next president.

McClatchy Newspapers on Friday:
The next president will take office in January with little hope of getting his pet programs enacted quickly, if at all, because of already-massive budget deficits likely to balloon even further from the hundreds of billions expected to be used to bail out Wall Street.
Time magazine today:
For at least the next year, and perhaps for years after, Treasury's spending authority will make it harder for the next President to fulfill campaign promises and pump money into new priorities.
I added the italics.

The problem with both of these passages is that they turn this into a story about the problems of a politician. The idea that it's only this poor soul's "pet programs" and his ability to "fulfill campaign promises" that is hurt is complete and utter garbage.

While it is factually true that the new president will face problems, his tussles will be tiny compared to what's going to happen to the rest of us.

This bailout -- no matter how necessary -- means that you and I won't get universal health care, at least not anytime soon. Crumbling bridges may well not be fixed because the U.S. government won't have the money. (Can anyone say "Minneapolis?") FEMA may be even less effective than it is now. Financial aid for college students could well shrink. Medical research and other scientific research could be hampered because the U.S. Treasury is strapped for cash. The list goes on and on.

There will be much less money available to provide the kind of services citizens need and should expect from their government.

By framing the story as being about presidential problems, journalists make it appear as if this is a mere political hassle for one guy who lives in the White House. Who cares if a politician has to wrestle with campaign promises?

From my vantage point, the Bailout looks a tad too much like highway robbery. It could hurt all of us for decades to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would it make any difference to point to the following from the front page of today's Investor's Business Daily:
This wasn't an accident. Though some key Republicans deserve blame as well, it was a concerted Democratic effort that made reform of Fannie and Freddie impossible.

The reason for this is simple: Fannie and Freddie became massive providers both of reliable votes among grateful low-income homeowners, and of massive giving to the Democratic Party by grateful investment bankers, both at the two government-sponsored enterprises and on Wall Street.

The result: A huge taxpayer rescue that at last estimate is approaching $700 billion but may go even higher.

It all started, innocently enough, in 1994 with President Clinton's rewrite of the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act.

Ostensibly intended to help deserving minority families afford homes — a noble idea — it instead led to a reckless surge in mortgage lending that has pushed our financial system to the brink of chaos.

Didn't think so.
But the whole thing lives here: