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Home Publications Op-Eds & Columns Bewitching Hour for Campaign Craziness?

Bewitching Hour for Campaign Craziness?

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Dean Baker
Politico (The Arena), November 2, 2010

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There is a serious problem with our political culture, and it is centered on the news media. The media take no responsibility for informing the public on the issues that will affect their lives. 

Rather they focus almost exclusively on trivia and quirks. Of course the candidates respond to this, knowing that any effort at dealing with issues in a substantive way will be ignored. Instead of talking about real issues, they jump full-force and go along with the focus on nonsense. 

How many people know that Social Security will be fully solvent for decades into the future according to all projections? How many people know that the per-person cost of health care in the United States is close to twice as much as in countries like England and France, both of which enjoy much longer life expectancies? How many people know that the projections of huge long-term deficits are entirely the result of our broken health care system? If our health-care costs were like those in any country with a longer life expectancy than the U.S. the projections would show huge surpluses.

It is the media's job to give this information to the public. They don't have time to do the research on their own. If we evaluated the media by the same standard as we evaluate teachers (i.e. are the students learning?) we would have to fire almost every last reporter in the United States, because the public is not learning. 

The effort by rich business interests to buy campaigns would also be considerably less effective if the media reported on what was taking place. For example, BP, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs may consider big contributions to a candidate to be a much worse investment if they knew that their contributions would lead to a major article that explained that BP, Citigroup or Goldman was giving money to candidate Smith because they know that Smith will let them wreck the Gulf without paying compensation and will take everyone's money and give it to the Wall Street banks. 

Unfortunately, we don't get much real news. We get stories about witchcraft and Aqua Buddha. Until we get better media we will not get better politics.


Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

 

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