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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

 
Villagers have no clothes

by digby

Many of us shrill, filthy hippie bloggers have been pointing this out for years, but I must say that it's a thrill to finally see it explored in the world of legitimate journalism:

An essential and successful element of the Peterson strategy is to create an environment where it is widely if not universally believed that there is no alternative to his vision. In this view, it’s “not realistic” to believe the country can afford the same programs it once did. Those who are prepared to be “adults” will look at these “hard truths” without flinching and recognize that it is time to take citizens-have-to-do-with-less medicine.

The conceit is that those with “courage” will see past narrow, partisan concerns and embrace an ideal: a bipartisan consensus that has the strength to demand “shared sacrifice” from a childish and selfish populace.

A review of the proceedings of the Fiscal Summits of the last three years makes agonizingly clear that most of the journalists who conducted interviews or moderated panel discussions both reflected and amplified the Peterson worldview — entirely unselfconsciously, it would seem.

So, for example, Lesley Stahl, the CBS “60 Minutes” reporter, was fully a part of the Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson deficit-cutting team during her interview with both men: “You are going to have to raise taxes and cut things, big things, put restrictions on Social Security. Everybody knows that.”

Virtually none of the reporters thought to ask about or suggest an alternative path, such as preserving Social Security benefits and bolstering the system’s reserve by raising the cap of wages subject to Social Security taxes (currently annual wages above approximately $110,000 are not subject to any Social Security tax).

JOURNALISTS WORKING AT PETERSON

FISCAL SUMMITS, 2010-2012

Maria Bartiromo, 2011 (host, CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo”)

Tom Brokaw, 2012 (former anchor and managing editor, NBC Nightly News)

Erin Burnett, 2012 (host of CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront”)

John F. Harris, 2012 (editor-in-chief of Politico)

Gwen Ifill, 2011, 2010 (senior correspondent of “PBS NewsHour”)

Ezra Klein, 2011 (columnist, Washington Post)

Jon Meacham, 2010 (former editor-in-chief, Newsweek)

Bob Schieffer, 2010 (host, CBS “Face the Nation”)

Lesley Stahl, 2010 (reporter, CBS “60 Minutes”)

George Stephanopoulos, 2012 (host, ABC’s “This Week”)

David Wessel, 2012, 2011 (economics editor, Wall Street Journal)

George Will, 2011 (columnist, Washington Post)

Judy Woodruff, 2012, 2011 (host, “PBS NewsHour”)

And most questioning proceeded either on the false assumption that deficits were derived from excessive spending on entitlements or as though they had mysteriously, but inevitably, come to pass.

Many journalists fairly shouted their personal desire to see greater cooperation and “compromise,” with groups realizing the importance of submerging their interests to the greater good. Who should do the submerging? In 2012, Tom Brokaw had a suggestion in the form of a question to former President Bill Clinton: after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pushed through a bill undermining the right of union members to collectively bargain, shouldn’t those workers have just sat down and negotiated with Walker as, Brokaw said, “has been traditionally done in this country” instead of “gather[ing] outside the capitol”?

Uhm, yes. This is what we call the "Village mentality" in which all the members of the political establishment not only buy into the elite consensus, but then take their attitudes to the airwaves and the page of newspapers and magazines a presume to speak for Real Americans, for whom they insist they are the designated representatives in these elevated conclaves.

There were a couple of exceptions to the rule. In a session moderated by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post in 2011, Klein posed a number of questions that reflected an unwillingness to operate from within the Peterson framework. For example, Klein asked New York Times columnist David Brooks whether, instead of blaming Americans for simply wanting benefits without paying for them, the causes of the debt should be located in the Bush tax cuts, two unfunded wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), and the federal government’s emergency response to the financial crisis.

Judy Woodruff, of the PBS NewsHour, generally asked questions from within the Peterson frame, but, at one point in 2012, posed a question that perhaps all the journalists should have been thinking about as well. She asked Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, Jr. (D-Md.) if “Democrats like you, by participating in forums like this one that is all focused on austerity, on cutting the deficit and the debt…really become also window dressing for a conservative agenda that is anti-jobs and anti-recovery and wrongheaded economics?”

Note that Ezra is still connected to a group of scruffy hippies who pose such rude questions like that all the time. (And I don't know where Judy Woodruff got that one, but more power to her.)Other than that, pretty much across the board this article exposes the sheer Villagosity of every single one of these people. And there's not the tiniest bit of self-awareness among any of them. The bubble in which these rich celebrities swell is completely opaque.

Read the whole thing. It includes some lovely examples of the kind those of us see every day on the cable news channels (at which point I take to twitter with despair.) Here's one good one:

John F. Harris

Moderating a discussion on “Finding the Political Will to Act,” between and among Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.); Kathleen Hall Jamieson, public policy professor, University of Pennsylvania; and Patricia Murphy, political journalist, Daily Beast (2012):

To Kathleen Hall Jamieson:
“Is there an answer — is it a pox on both your houses – or is one component of this more responsible for the 2011 failure to get a grand bargain? Democratic intransigence over spending or Republican intransigence over taxation — both equally to blame or would you say in the current political dynamic one of those components is more?”

To Patricia Murphy:
“We heard President Clinton here say, you know what I think that the — I’m paraphrasing here, but I think fairly — that the stars might be aligned after [the] election, perhaps in a lame duck session after the election or early in 2013, and you hear this line a lot, the argument being that enough factors are converging – the debt limit runs out, the tax cuts expire, the sequestration measures go into effect, in particularly at the Department of Defense in a big way – what is your guess? Is there a grand bargain to be had late in 2012 or early in 2013 that eluded Washington in 2011?”

Note that by taking for granted the desirability of a Grand Bargain, Harris is actually pushing the approved Democratic version of Peterson's scheme.

Hopefully, since these Village celebs are all namechecked in an approved , they'll read this article. And perhaps one or two of them might even stop to ponder if they aren't being used as Court Jesters rather than the hardnosed journalists they all perceive themselves to be.

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