Tag Archives: shutdown

How the Media Caused the Government Shutdown

Conspicuously absent from the media discussion of the government shutdown and debt-ceiling fiasco has been, unsurprisingly, the media’s responsibility for the whole sordid affair. By sacrificing truth on the altar of “objectivity,” creating narratives and bowing to any “authority” with a suit, the media has become a slave to the elite and done a disservice to the nation’s people.

Part of the media’s problem is its blind adherence to “objectivity.” When I interned at a news organization my boss would proudly announce, “we know we did the story right, because we got both the left and right wing crazies angry at us.” That’s right comrades, accuracy is not determined by objective facts, but whether the subjective reaction of various demagogues are equally feverish.

That’s why a government shutdown brought on and explicitly desired by one party finally occurred, both parties are “responsible.” When Paul Ryan puts together an absurd and radically right-wing list of Democratic concessions and calls it “bipartisan,” our slavish news parrots declare it to be “bipartisan.” If Ted Yoho claims breaching the debt ceiling wouldn’t be so bad but Jack Lew (and logic and lots of economists) say it would be awful, it’s time to sit down and have a “debate.”

There is no denying that the media creates and then perpetrates absurd narratives that serve to narrow the field to two corporate friendly establishment candidates. Any candidates that don’t fit within this narrative (say, a Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren) will be quickly written off as unelectable.

Don’t believe me? Here is how you end a politician’s Presidential ambitious without discussing his merits:

Howard Dean, off a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, let loose with a primal scream Monday night that seems to have inspired a generation.

None of these articles even mention a single policy proposal from Dean.

We live in a sad Orwellian world in which, “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

As Gore Vidal noted shortly before his death:

Our only political party has two right wings, one called Republican, the other Democratic.  But Henry Adams figured all that out back in the 1890s.  ‘We have a single system,’ he wrote, and ‘in that system the only question is the price at which the proletariat is to be bought and sold, the bread and circuses.’

The government shutdown should be seen as a “bread and circuses” affair, one which the media is cynically drawing in viewers while exploiting the suffering of millions of Americans.

Anyone who has been paying attention should note how coverage of sports and politics have converged, each borrowing strategies and tactics from each other. Veteran football stars graduate to ESPN where they pontificate and debate. Veteran politicians graduate to Fox News and CNN to do the same. Having watched a debate on ESPN about Tony Romo’s performance and a Crossfire debate about the government shutdown I can say, without irony that the ESPN debate contained more statistics, fewer soundbytes and less cynically fallacious thinking. Pundits can lie when they talk about healthcare, but dare not bullshit when discussing football.

Investigative journalism is a dead art. Studios realized long ago that it’s far cheaper to sit four overweight and undereducated “pundits” around the table and have them don tin-foil hats and spew vile bullshit then send a journalist overseas to “investigate” about the “truth.” Journalists who do leave the country to go to a warzone tour through Potemkin villages fabricated to obscure any sense of reality. Journalists, who are certainly educated enough to know what is going on simply prance around like trained seals waiting for whatever scraps of fish their trainers toss them.

After years of voraciously gobbling up any press release flung to them, they have lost all power of critical thinking. They can’t discern facts or truths or evaluate logic or arguments. They see only Ph.Ds, fancy resumes and billfolds (being British doesn’t hurt). This may explain why Niall Ferguson is still taken seriously even though he’s entirely full of shit. As it happens, they could save money by just letting Niall Ferguson debate himself.

Journalists have treated the possibility of default the way Puritanical housewives treat an illegitimate pregnancy – a horror certainly, and one that should be discussed frequently but without any positive action. How long would Cruz & Company hold out if they knew the press would actually do its job and report on the families that are suffering while Republicans play politics. The press has abrogated every sense of duty or morality it ever possessed.

It may be hard to remember (I certainly don’t) but I’ve been told on good authority that anchors used to actually call out politicians on their bullshit. The debt ceiling debate could be over tomorrow if a news anchor had the balls to stand up to Ted Cruz the way Edward R. Murrow stood up to Joe McCarthy. I’ve even written up a script, based on the Murrow reporting (okay, I just replaced McCarthy with Cruz, easy as pie):

This is no time for men who oppose Senator Cruz’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Texas have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.

The Republicans are Winning

Seriously. I realize that most polls indicate that Americans are putting the blame on Republicans for the government shutdown (the fact that a single voter blames the Democrats or Obama already means the Republicans are winning). But in terms of actual politics, the Republicans are definitely winning – in fact, they have been for the last five years.

Obama has lost Waxman-Markey (climate change), Manchin-Toomey (gun control and the Gang of Eight (Immigration). Dodd-Frank (finance reform) has been dismantled and hasn’t even begun to correct the damage wrecked by Gramm-Leach-Bliley (which repealed Glass-Stegeall) and the Commodities Modernization Act (deregulating derivatives).

Remember that his healthcare reform was supposed to include a public option, universal Medicaid expansion and exclude the Cadillac tax. Ideally, of course, we would move to single-payer or socialized medicine, but this is America! We’re exceptional! Guess who said this in 2008: “ I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.” Yeah, that’s right. Obama. His agenda has been so decimated that he’s literally having to pass of old moderate Republican ideas as genuine leftism, and he’s still being called a commie!

Obama has been negotiating with sociopaths for the last five years. He came in ready to bargain, but has instead met a party immune to compromise. Obama has gained literally nil in revenue, while spending has been cut drastically (and foolishly). Now, he’s being asked to give up his major (only?) legislative victory for absolutely nothing in return. In fact, the Democrats position right now is to beg for a “clean-CR” that would cut spending below Paul Ryan’s first budget and basically to the level he proposed for 2014. That’s right, the current Democratic position is to cut funding roughly to the level of what the psychotic Rand Acolyte/Republican “idea” man is asking for. Dear readers, let me restate this one more time. The Democratic position right now is to keep in place a law based around a Republican idea and cut spending below what Republicans wanted in 2010.

Not only that, but Republicans are holding the government hostage to reduce the deficit while the deficit is already falling. So why are they still fighting? Here’s one possible reason. But more likely it’s because, wait for it: Republicans aren’t really worried about debt. If they were, they wouldn’t be holding the debt ceiling hostage, since all of the negative effects that would come from high levels of debt (possible default, higher interest rates) are guaranteed if the U.S. defaults. Rather, the Republicans, in the words of Grover Norquist, “want to make government so small you can drown it in a bathtub.” Republicans aren’t really that concerned about spending, as long as it’s for rich farmers or connected defense contractors. They don’t want to pass legislation; they want to obstruct it, following Limbaugh’s advice: make him fail.

So how are they doing? Well, if the clean CR passes, spending in FY 2014 will be $217 billion below what President Obama requested and $19 billion more than what Paul Ryan requested. That sounds like a victory to me. Worse, here’s how many bills have been passed during the last 13 congresses. Republicans have essentially stopped Congress from doing it’s most basic jobs: passing bills and appropriating funds.

The Republican quest to cut spending and taxes while not actually doing anything hasn’t been stalled by the fact that they lost the presidency, the senate and got fewer votes in the House than the Democrats. They’ve so dramatically shifted the conversation that they are still winning.

The truth is, Republicans have been winning since the 80s and haven’t stopped. The Clinton/Obama domestic agenda is right of Nixon/Eisenhower. There is no left in America. Democrats would qualify as center-right in any other country, while the Republicans would constitute a fringe right-wing nationalist party that generally takes in 10% of unemployed alcoholic racists with free time to come up with crazy conspiracy theories. The Tea Party patriots would be bunkered underground prepping for a coming apocalypse. In America, they are a major national party, holding the government hostage for even more draconian spending cuts (and maybe some tax giveaways for their rich friends). As long as they keep gerrymandering districts, make sure blacks don’t get to vote and take a never-compromise position, Republicans will keep winning. I just wish they could stop whining.