In thinking about the exchange below with Sandefur, it occured to me that there is a great example going on right now of how the press interacts with the two major parties – the new budget. In this case, both parties are trying to sell the same line, that the President’s proposed budget contains “deep spending cuts”, and the press is blissfully passing that lie along. The President’s proposed budget is 10% larger than last year, yet they announced it with a flurry of press releases talking up the strong focus on fiscal discipline and the deep cuts in many programs found in it. The White House wants to play up that angle because A) it appeals to their base and B) it appeals to the markets, both at home and abroad, that have been very concerned about mounting US debt. The Democrats, on the other hand, also want to play up this angle because it allows them to scare the public about a loss of services, and it allows them to pose as the defenders of the little guy against the cruel Republicans who want to cut their funding.
Where is the media on this one? Dutifully reporting the spin from both sides, which happens to agree, without reporting the reality that this budget is anything but fiscally responsible and that it will only increase our debt even further. The Democrats at least have never pretended to be for smaller government. Sure, they talk sometimes about “more efficent” or “leaner” government, but they generally support a large and active government. The Republicans, on the other hand, love to talk about the need for “smaller government”, yet here they are with total control of the White House and both houses of Congress and the government is growing faster than ever. Their idea of fiscal responsibility, in reality not in rhetoric, is a 2% cut in a few programs here and there with an overall increase.
The problem with the press isn’t the bias toward one side or the other of this false battle, it’s the bias toward portraying this as the full range of possibility among a wealth of other choices. The full range of mainstream opinion found in the press on the budget is whether it should be 10% bigger, with a few token cuts here and there portrayed as “drastic decreases in spending”, or whether it should be 12% larger with no cuts at all. Where are the voices for real fiscal discipline? Where are the tough questions being asked to both parties on how the continuous and ongoing debt accumulation is hurting the value of the dollar and passing on trillions of dollars in debt service to our children? Where is the follow up question from a reporter when any politician talks about how we must control the debt, yet continually votes for more and more spending? Where is the reporter who will stand up and ask those who advocate a tax cut while also increasing outlays why he thinks our kids should pay for it instead of us? They don’t exist. Because if they actually did their job of holding the government’s feet to the fire, they might lose their precious access to everyone in Congress except for maybe Ron Paul, who is a lone voice in the federal government for reducing its size and scope.