Tuesday, September 4, 2012

'Are Americans Any Better Off Today Than They Were Four Years Ago?'

Dean Baker tackles that inane question, which was recently asked by George Stephanopoulos (my spell checker complains about the Greek family name and suggests "postmenopausal") of David Plouffe:

... Suppose your house is on fire and the firefighters race to the scene. They set up their hoses and start spraying water on the blaze as quickly as possible. After the fire is put out, the courageous news reporter on the scene asks the chief firefighter, "is the house in better shape than when you got here?"

No doubt the same hypothetical reporter will seek out a family member whose house has been damaged and ask "How do you feel?" It is symptomatic of today's media that every line of questioning they pursue is either without substance or insulting both to the interviewee and the reader or viewer as well. I'll continue getting my news from the web, thank you.

As to the question, of course the real question is simpler: "Are Americans better off today than they would have been if John McCain had become president instead of Barack Obama?" Of course it is impossible, starting from such a counter-factual, to answer such a question definitively, but I'll make a best guess: Americans would only have been better off with McCain if you consider only people with incomes upward of, say, $500,000 a year. But such an answer contains no "gotcha," only a best estimate of the facts. So no reporter ever asks it.

Can we please, please have a better news media? or at least one not bought and paid for by the Party of the Wealthy?

ASIDE to younger readers: the graphic above depicts a "newspaper," a once-common news medium now quickly vanishing in today's electronic age. Newspapers had many advantages. You could spread them out on a table, or hold them in front of your face as you rode the bus to work (or as you sat in the bathroom), or, perhaps the best and most appropriate use of all, when you were done reading them, you could spread them in the bottom of a birdcage, where they would receive still more of the substance with which they were frequently already covered.

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