Paul Krugman on How the Media is Distorting the Budget Debate

The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether — have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

From “The Centrist Cop-Out”, posted in The New York Times, by Paul Krugman

A lot has changed about America in the past dozen or so years, but I think it’s still safe to say most Americans like to play fair.  And the notion that both sides are to blame, or the notion the truth lies somewhere in the middle,  appeals to our sense of fairness.

Unfortunately, that sense of fairness is no longer of much use in sorting out the facts.  Today, most of the problem is being caused by one side, the Republicans, who have turned into extremists on nearly every issue under the sun.  To portray both sides as equally responsible for the mess we’re in is unfair to those who are opposing the dominance of Republican Extremism.

10 thoughts on “Paul Krugman on How the Media is Distorting the Budget Debate

  1. It’s utterly maddening. We cannot get a single shred of truth from the so-called “news” medica in this nation.

    • I reject using the term “media” in connection with the news business. Part of the reason is that a “medium” is something that by its nature enables something to happen. Journalism, the process of gathering information and creating a narrative that explains it, is not a passive process. Movable type printing is a medium, but MSNBC is not.

      Unfortunately, these days it does seem as the the news has become a medium. It doesn’t want to interpret, to say what is true and what isn’t. It’s a deliberate choice oftentimes. “Real” “Serious” journalists now see it as their job to merely note down what politicians tell them accurately, and then repeat it, being careful to find an opposing viewpoint for “balance”. That one, or the other, or as sometimes happens, neither of those points of view is consistent with reality is, for them, utterly beside the point.

      Of course, the fact that nearly all of the major news outlets are owned or controlled by large corporations, which almost inevitably have a conservative point of view when it comes to economics and government regulation, doesn’t help matters. But this attitude about journalism as a passive process would be there regardless of whether they ran the business or someone else did, and that’s really discouraging.

  2. I read this article this morning and what struck me about it was that Krugman blames the Republicans because they aren’t going along with what he wants. It would be just as easy for someone who votes Republican to blame the Democrats because they aren’t going along with what he wants.

    Someday, the lesson that will be learned is that it is absolutely impossible to the point of being light years beyond ludicrous for 535 people to represent the wishes of 300 million people.

    • I certainly agree with you about the representation, Alan. I’m afraid I can’t agree with you about Krugman. As he points out, Obama bent over backwards to accommodate the Republicans but the Republicans were having none of it.

  3. Paul just a short note to let you know that I have really been enjoying your political posts. I’ve been working a lot of overtime on my job and just keeping up my own blog on the side takes away a lot of time for reading and commenting on other blogs. But I’m still here, reading and enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work!

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