Those of you who are my age or older will be distressed to learn that Politico thinks you’re going batty.
For the last three years, much of the US media has treated the condition of the US economy, and the fate of millions of people suffering from the effects of the worst crash since the Great Depression, as a mindless game of he said/she said politics. Or worse, it was just a silly food fight that you could get people to watch. With little attempt to explain what was really happening, the media gave us, unexamined, preposterous economic claims that were equivalent to “views about the shape of the earth differ.” There are lots of flat-earthers out there anxious to be quoted, and the media obliged them.
A perfect example is the media’s mindless, juvenile coverage of Bill Clinton’s remarks about the economy and whether the “Bush tax cuts” should be extended to avoid making the economy worse. The coverage was not about what we should be doing about the economy but rather whether Mr. Clinton’s remarks undercut President Obama’s position on these issues. Predictably, the unprincipled opportunists in the GOP quickly and gleefully exploited Clinton’s suggestion we are in a “recession” and so should move quickly to extend all of the tax cuts. Isn’t that the GOP position? and so hasn’t Clinton undercut Obama?
Politico was conceived as an on-line medium to extract, trade on and exploit this kind of irrelevant nonsense by reporting whatever silliness they could get politicians to utter. But Politico’s John F. Harris, writing with Alexander Burns, pushes the boundaries by highlighting anonymous statements that suggest that the reason Mr. Clinton “screwed up” is because he’s almost senile:
The genuine explanation, say people close to Clinton, is the same one that usually is the case: He was simply saying what he really thought, but in fuzzy, free-associating language almost guaranteed to produce controversy.
This was a habit that Clinton usually learned to control as president. But the circumstances now are much different.
Clinton, say associates, while mentally sharp, is older and a step off his political game, less attuned to the need for clarity and message-discipline during interviews.
“He’s 65 years old,” said one adviser, explaining how Clinton in a CNBC interview managed to say that the economy was in recession when it is not.
So I’m 67, reading this, and wondering why Politico would even print this. Should I worry about how I phrase assessments of the economy — or the American media — and have then screened by someone Harris’s age? Nah. The fact is, millions of Americans are in a depression, and it’s getting worse as government cuts back on the safety net and the spending that would lift the economy out of its doldrums. The technical definition of a “recession” is irrelevant to these people and should be irrelevant to our leaders and media. But neither party has a plausible platform for changing this reality.
Here’s a hint, Politico. The “political” story of the decade is not Clinton vs Obama, because there’s nothing really separating them but ego. The real story is that both parties have gone completely off the rails in understanding what ails the American economy and how to fix it. There’s no meaningful policy distance between Obama and Clinton, but there is a vast gulf between what we should be doing to change the economy and rescue its people . . . and what both men pursued as Presidents. Even worse, we have an opposition party with no better ideas but willing to destroy the economy and harm millions of Americans just to defeat a President whose actual policy preferences are little different from the man they’re about to nominate as their Presidential candidate.
In other words, this entire story is part of a distracting fraud on the American people, and Politico et ilk are vehicles for perpetrating this fraud. Now that’s a story.
For three years most of D.C. and the media have been focused on deficit hysteria, and the boys at Politico have been right up there in promoting/exploiting a phony debate between two parties who agree with the same harmful argument. In a time when millions of people are hurting and their collective loss of wealth, economic and health security cries out for support from the federal government, the media continues to tell us that the most important issue is how much we should undermine Americans’ collective economic security now by slashing whatever parts of America’s wealth that doesn’t go to the top 1% or so.
We’re told that to save the children, we must depress their future prospects by refusing to make investments in people now that would benefit everyone both now and later. That’s insane, but none of the Very Serious People who make these absurd arguments are called senile.