Sunday, March 08, 2009

Media Matters notes that the position that the recent stimulus bill was too small was almost completely excluded from the debate as mediated by network TV news.

Summary: A Media Matters review of the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news programs from January 25 through February 15 found that of the 59 broadcasts that addressed the economic stimulus package and debate in Congress during the three-week period leading up to and immediately following its passage, only three of those broadcasts included discussion of whether that package was big enough, despite statements from many economists that it may not be.

Paul Krugman comments that his broadcast voice and image made up one of the three cases. Clearly he thinks the media should get out of his way (I agree).

The odd thing is that the majority of US resident adults has also been excluded.

I vaguely recalled reading at that most people in a poll thought the stimulus plan was not large enough and that more would be needed.

The poll ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Feb. 19-22, 2009. N=1,001 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. is presented here
then search for "more will be needed," the answer chosen by 63 % of 1,001 adults nationwide (hmm that would be 631 wouldn't it ?). The question pushed in your direction as the only two options offered were "will be enough" (20%) and "more will be needed" so your criticism of the stimulus was the only one on offer. People bound and determined to criticize the Democrats had to agree with you or volunteer an answer that was not offered by the pollster (will make worse 6% or will not do anything 3%).

Still, a view expressed by 63% of respondents in a poll, oh and a lot of economists too, has been excluded from the debate as presented by network TV.

Now I speculate as to why this happens. Clearly the main issue is ballance. Any position to the left of the Democrats must be excluded, because, if an excellent case can be made that the stimulus was too small, then the Republicans look like idiots. This is not the networks' fault, but they are not allowed to let that happen.

However, I think another issue is that journalist opinion leaders are deficit hawks. People with a deep sincere belief that the public doesn't care enough about the national debt (that is people like me) are likely to suppress evidence from public opinion that the public doesn't care much and to suppress views which tell the public that, right now, due to extraordinary circumstances, their lack of concern is reasonable.

I should add (it will be clear to anyone who clicks the link) that poll respondents express concern about the deficit and, if they are given the option, more say the plan is too big than say it is too small. The ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Feb. 19-22 not only has the unusual question discussed above, it also has unusual answers on, more or less, ordinary too big/too small questions. So it might have happened to have an unusual sample.

"In terms of tax cuts, do you think the stimulus package goes too far, does not go far enough, or is it about right?" gives 15% "too far", 33% "not far enough" and
""In terms of spending on construction projects and aid to states and individuals, do you think the stimulus package goes too far, does not go far enough, or is it about right?" gives 24% each for "too far" and "not far enough".

In other polls I've just glanced at more say "too big" than say "not big enough". Of course part of what is going on here is that people want lower taxes and higher spending on all named programs *and* a lower deficit. There are good reasons that responses on polls are not taken seriously as contributions to the debate.

However, this is just one more fact which fits the pattern Krugman, Atrios, and the masses against the self appointed media elite.


Anonymous said...

Since I follow this closely, and I have no idea what the difference in between the stimulus plan and financial company rescue plans, an explanation that makes real sense by the President * would be awfully nice.

* I am already ruling out an explanation by the ever obscuring economic advisers. Lawrence Summers could however grimace a little, I suppose, if meaningful words are too much.

Anonymous said...

Goolsbee could call Canada, Oscar Canada if there is no other Canada. Geithner? Romer? Please.

Anonymous said...

March 9, 2009

Amity Shlaes was fired from the Financial Times for lying about the Bush administration's preparedness to deal with Hurricane Katrina. Surely this deserves a mention?

-- Brad DeLong

There must be a documenting of the cause of firing as lying, since I can find no record of such a cause and even though I do not care for the writings of the person I do not think that charges against a person's character should be set down without proof. Slander is not permitted simply because we do not care for a person's writing.

Slander is not permissible criticism.

Robert said...

Dear DeLong quoting anonymous

I see no connection between your comment and my post, making it a bit off topic.

More importantly, you clearly do not know the definition of "slander." An unproven claim is not necessarily slander. To be slander an assertion must be false.

You note that DeLong does not present proof of his claim that Shlaes was fired for lying. So ?

To make a case that she was slandered, Shlaes would have to demonstrate that she was not fired for lying. This is, uhm, difficult as the reasons for a job separation are often secret. People often resign because they are told they must or they will be fired. Other people can say that they were fired without slandering them, because, in the ordinary meaning of the word, they were.

Also, in the USA, she would probably be considered a public figure and would have to prove that DeLong knew she was not fired for lying or wrote his accusation with reckless disregard for the truth. I'm not even considering that aspect, as the US supreme does not own the word "slander" and you can perfectly well use its older definition.

However, you can't say that all unproven accusations are slanderous if you have any respect for the English language.

Personally, I think that DeLong's unproven claim is based on reasonable inference given the timing of events and the claims about Katrina made by Shlaes (which he quotes in another post on Shlaes sorry don't have the link).