Which way is up?

Don’t count on mainstream media to lead us out of the economic downturn

Edward R. Murrow, where are you?

Edward R. Murrow, where are you?

Every so often, usually after some sort of life-altering event, I feel obliged to explain what this Race to the Bottom thing is all about. As it would happen, just such an event has befallen me recently. After three years of focused resistance, I’ve finally broken down and become a cable-television subscriber again. Woe is me.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. There’s nearly 1,000 channels nowadays, and there’s still nothing on. Exactly how many Law & Order and CSI spinoffs can there be? I can count the shows I tune into regularly on one hand: Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Burn Notice, Iron Chef and anything on the Speed Channel. The rest is pretty much a wash.

Nowhere is this more true than cable news. Despite what many of my good friends on the left insist, average Americans are not stupid. Poll after poll demonstrates they know what their own best interests are. Nevertheless, viewers seeking substantive discussion about how best to realize those interests will be sorely disappointed, no matter what channel they tune into, Fox News, CNN or MSNBC.

Case in point: This morning I watched a press conference featuring the nation’s Republican governors on CNN. Jim Douglas, the allegedly moderate Republican from Vermont, gingerly embraced the economic stimulus package passed by Congress last week, but insisted it was too early to tell whether a second economic stimulus package was necessary.

It was a flat-out lie, as anyone who understands the challenges posed by the worst economic downturn in 70 years can tell you. President Barack Obama’s administration is already planning the second stimulus package, and there will likely be a third before the year is out. Douglas undoubtedly knows this, but parroted the same old tired party line anyway, which was taken at face value by the Washington press corps in attendance.

That’s where Race to the Bottom comes in. I’m not a professional economist, but I’ve had some training, and all the data anyone needs to put the picture together has been readily available on the Internet for years. Obviously, you lead a busy life and don’t necessarily have time to do the research. Lucky for you, it’s my job.

Being ahead of the curve does provide me occasion to gloat every now and then, such as last Sunday morning, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the advice I offered to him several weeks ago. Responding to one of his more ideological Republican colleagues on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Schwarzenegger said, “I’m more than happy to take his money or any other governor in this country that doesn’t want to take this money.”

Damn, I think he finally gets it. Not that I really deserve any of the credit. If I’m able to see further ahead than my mainstream contemporaries, it’s only because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants such as liberal economist Robert Kuttner and former President Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts.

The two economists come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, but each offers useful, pragmatic solutions to the current economic crisis. Kuttner has been advocating for a $200 billion stimulus to relieve all 50 states of their present budget deficits, a move that would save tens of thousands of jobs, as Schwarzenegger has belatedly acknowledged. In Roberts, the father of Reaganomics, you’ll find no fiercer critic on the offshoring of American jobs.

Nevertheless, you’ll rarely find either economist on cable news or the pages of your local daily, which remain content with the obsolete left-right dynamic. There’s no question that this dynamic serves the interests of the privileged few, who’ve managed in three short decades to create the greatest disparity in wealth our nation has ever known.

It’s not that Americans are stupid. It’s that they’re up against the most powerful propaganda machine the world has ever known, mainstream media.

I’m here to help you cut through the crap.