Nov
02
2010

Listen to David Gergen. But REALLY Listen to Dean Baker

The ubiquitous CNN pundit on Larry King last night:

KING: Could the pundits be wrong?

DAVID GERGEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal this lastweek by Josh Lerner. He was a really interesting young man who went back to a lot of political science and said more often than not, pundits are wrong.

You know, we have a worse record than if you just did it randomly in terms of predicting the–you just flip a coin and you would come out with better predictions.

Take his advice, please.

But seriously: Dean Baker from CEPR has one of the best short takes onelections and media coverage over at the Politico, which is worth posting in full:

There is a serious problem with our political culture and 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 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 healthcare 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 healthcare system? If our healthcare costs were like those in any country with a longer life expectancy, then the U.S. 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 Smithbecause 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.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.