Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Open Letter to CNN Host Ali Velshi

Dear Ali Velshi,

On a recent episode of your weekend show on CNN, Your Money, Stephen Moore proclaimed, "I think we've had this kind of giant Keynesian experiment over the last two years where we've flooded the U.S. economy with money, we've flooded the U.S. economy with government spending, and the economy is still really flimsy." I would like to know why you chose NOT to challenge this blatant misrepresentation?

First off, Keynesian economic theory does not advocate flooding our economy with money or government spending and I am willing to bet good money you knew that when he said it. Keynes did advocate carrying budget deficits during times of economic contractions, but the relevant corollary to that is that budget surpluses were maintained during times of economic expansions. And as you well know, President Obama inherited a growing budget deficit from a Republican administration who inherited budget surpluses from a Democratic administration. The Bush Administration doubled our deficit almost completely unchallenged by the mainstream media. (9/11 threw a big wrench into things and some of that spending that led to our bloated deficit was necessary, though a war tax would not have been unreasonable under the circumstances.)

To this day nobody in the press holds the right accountable for their blatant hypocrisy. It was Vice-President Dick Cheney who declared that the patron saint of modern conservatism, Ronald Reagan himself, proved "deficits don't matter." Suddenly the deficit becomes the Democrat's problem to solve and, boy, deficits matter a whole lot, and the Republicans just get a pass on a decade of profligate spending and mind-numbing hypocrisy and demagoguery. (To be sure, the Democrats do their fair share of hypocrisy and demagoguery, but nothing as recent or as critical to America's future economic security as it's deficit. It's not an insignificant point.)

Secondly, a flimsy economy does NOT necessarily equate to failed fiscal policies, as implied by Mr. Moore. There are any number of reasons why the current recovery is anemic--structural changes in the underlying labor market, globalization, a growing and disturbing income disparity, etc. Almost every single economist agrees that the stimulus did stymie the economic free fall President Obama inherited and reversed the trend in the job market from job losses to job growth, albeit painfully slowly.

The right seems to consistently get a pass on the absurd economics it advocates. The notion that tax cuts create jobs and increase revenues is demonstrably false. If that were true, why was job growth so anemic during Bush's Administration after two large tax cuts? The notion that government spending crowds out private sector investment similarly belies statistics: the growing income disparity suggests the only thing government spending (and increased taxes--bye, bye, Laffer Curve) was crowding out was massive greed. Back in the early sixties when President Kennedy cut the top tax rate from ninety percent to seventy percent, there was a stimulative effect, but the nominal tax increases and cuts we are arguing over these days can't compare. It's a silly argument and somebody should call them on it.

This crowding out theory and the Laffer Curve (at the tax rates discussed today) is nothing more than regurgitated trickle-down, which everyone now agrees is a truly failed economic theory. All three suggest some variant on cutting taxes (primarily for the rich) and cutting government spending as a way to stimulate the economy and benefit even those on the lower end of the pay scale. But we have seen enough of these policies over the last 30+ years to now render a judgment about their efficacy: the net result is a growing income disparity, because, not surprisingly, those who benefited from these policies chose to pocket the extra money rather than spend it. Making the rich richer isn't particularly stimulative.

Let's review the facts real quick: You invite a guest onto your show who promptly misrepresents the facts and you say nothing. If fidelity to facts isn't the goal of good journalism, what is Mr. Velshi. My own theory is that you and most other legitimate journalists are scared. Your network is scared. You are all so scared of being accused of a liberal bias. The word "liberal" has become a political epithet and a particularly effective one when hurled at journalists. It's just this side of a four-letter curse word in modern politics. The above incident in which you fail as a journalist to halt the flow of misinformation is an example of your fear manifest. Let me give you an example of how I believe that same fear is manifest at your network.

Dana Loesch, a protege of conservative muckraker Andrew Breitbart, was recently hired as an analyst at CNN. Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and editor of Redstate.com joined CNN as a political contributor last year. Please tell me who the liberals are at CNN? Have you hired anyone from DailyKos.com lately or Huffington Post? Can you point to comparable hires on the left at all at CNN? From my perspective, the most trusted name in news has sacraficed it's journalistic integrity on the alter of partisan hackery. CNN has become the Jerry Springer Show of cable news networks--ratings at all costs. The modern right-wing is certainly the political equivelent of a three-ring circus--a real ratings grabber. But it's bad for journalism. Too bad it's me saying that instead of Edward R. Murrow. I bet he would, though.

What really bothers me the most is this notion that we have to dig ourselves out of this hole on the backs of the poor and the unemployed. As a card-carrying member of the working poor for more than 25 years AND an Army Infantry and Desert Storm veteran AND a recent college grad (BS in Economics) who can't find a job to save my life AND someone who doesn't qualify for any government assistance because my wife and I lost our only child, I'm offended by the notion that massive spending cuts is the only way out of this hole. This country has more than ample wealth to get itself out of the situation we ALL contributed to. The tax payers bailed out big business--it's their turn to return the favor. And maybe--I don't know for sure, I'm just spitballing here--but maybe if the modern media of which you, sir, are a part did a better job--not a great job, not a fantastic job, just a better job--then maybe we wouldn't be in this shit hole to begin with.

So, Mr. Velshi, would you please explain to me your rationale for not holding Mr. Moore to task for perpetuating misinformation on your show? Perhaps next time you can remind Mr. Moore of what should be a steadfast axiom for journalists, pundits and politicians: You are entiled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

Respectfully submitted,

Jack

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